Iran plans missile tests, threatens Israel

(JTA) — With tougher sanctions by the European Union taking effect, Iran announced new missile tests and threatened to obliterate Israel.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh told Reuters on Monday that the three days of missile tests this week aim to show that Iran will be "resolute in standing up to … bullying, and will respond to any possible evil decisively and strongly."

Hajizadeh also said that if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear sites, "they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth."

Reuters reported that the tougher sanctions, which took effect Sunday, ban European Union states from importing Iranian oil, among other measures. They were enacted earlier this year in a bid to pressure Iran to stop enriching uranium in its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The EU initiated its much anticipated embargo on Iranian crude oil imports and its prohibition on insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil.

The sanctions come days before talks restart between Iran and the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. The meetings are intended to find a compromise that would enable monitoring of the Iran’s nuclear facilities, which much of the West believes masks a clandestine effort to make nuclear weapons. 

Following the EU’s action, the White House released a statement in support of the EU oil embargo. 

“This action is an essential part of our concerted diplomatic efforts to present Iran with a clear choice between isolation or meetings its obligations,” the White House said. “Iran has an opportunity to pursue substantive negotiations, beginning with expert level talks this week in Istanbul, and must take concrete steps toward a comprehensive resolution of the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear activities.”  

Also, the Obama administration has begun prohibiting business with companies that continue to conduct oil transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions, which were passed by the U.S. Senate in December by a vote of 100-0, went into force last week.

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