President Hassan Rouhani urged Iran's military leaders on Saturday to let diplomacy prevail in dealing with potential foreign threats, in a clear reference to efforts to end the nuclear dispute and decades of hostile relations with the West. "It is very important to formulate one's sentences and speeches in a way that is not construed as threat, intention to strike a blow," Rouhani said in a meeting with Iran's top military echelon.
"We must be very careful in our calculations. Launching missiles and staging military exercises to scare off the other side is not good deterrence, although a necessity in its proper place," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying. "A misfire could burst into flames and wreak havoc to everything."
A moderate elected by landslide last June, Rouhani has broken with tradition and pursued compromise with the United States and its allies on uranium enrichment, a sensitive issue that resulted in global economic sanctions against Iran.
But these efforts run counter to belligerent slogans from Islamic hardliners who dominate the elite Revolutionary Guards and the regular army to a lesser extent.
While Iranian nuclear negotiators were haggling with world powers in Vienna last month, many generals were beating war drums at home and flexing their military muscles. "Our forefathers primed us for the final epic battle," said the chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad-Ali Jafari last month.
Such belligerence was absent from Rouhani's speech on Saturday. "Our foreign policy is based on detente and trust-building with the world. This is not just a slogan," he said "Iran is sincere in saying it is not out to attack anyone. Aggression is our red line. Weapons of mass destructions are our red line."