Troops of Ground Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Great Prophet 12 military drills in the Persian Gulf, December 21, 2018 (Tasnim)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have issued a chest-thumping message of defiance of the US, with commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Ja’fari proclaiming that American power is on the decline as it faces the Islamic Republic’s increasing might.

Speaking at a ceremony in Tehran on Thursday, Ja’fari proclaimed: “We have distanced ourselves from the security threat since many years ago and no superpower even dreams of aggression….[All of them] are extremely afraid of a conflict with Iran and its consequences.” He continued:

When we compare the US power now with 40 years ago, we see that — as put by the [Supreme] Leader — America is on the decline and today they themselves confess to their weakness in the face of Iran. Iran is now so powerful that they do not dare mention the military option against Iran anymore.

Iran is facing long-term economic problems and comprehensive US sanctions imposed on November 5. Oil exports have halved since April, the currency is still more than 60% lower than in January, and many Iranians are struggling to sustain their households.

But Ja’fari played down any difficulties. He said that, although Iran is in an “economic war” with its enemies, “the overall conditions in the country are not comparable to other regional countries”.

The commander’s rhetoric echoed the repeated insistence of the Supreme Leader that the US is failing. In early November, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “Many acclaimed American politicians believe that America’s soft war has been worn out. Its hard power, namely America’s economic and military power, is also declining.”

Earlier this week the Guards issued a challenge to US military power through its deputy chief, Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari. Following large-scale Iranian military exercises and the return of the US aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to the Persian Gulf, Sayyari announced, “The response of the Armed Forces and the Army of the Islamic Republic is that we will never allow them [US warships] to come near our territorial waters.”