TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's supreme leader said Saturday that his country will defeat a combination of sanctions, military threats and "soft wars" launched by enemies trying to weaken Iran and force it to back down over its nuclear program.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's remarks, his third public speech in a week, came as tensions rise in the standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear program.
They follow a precipitous decline in Iran's currency linked to economic sanctions imposed by the West, as well as remarks by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta highlighting the possibility of a cyberwar between Iran and the United States.
"We should not neglect the enemy. The enemy enters through various ways. One day it's talk of sanctions. Another day it's talk of military aggression. And one day, it's talk of soft war ... We have to be vigilant," state TV quoted Khamenei as saying during a speech in northeast Iran Saturday. "But they should rest assured that ... our enemies will fail in all their conspiracies and tricks."
The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charges, saying its program is peaceful and geared toward generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
The West are pursuing a two-pronged strategy that includes a mix of sanctions and diplomacy to try to force Tehran to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or materials for use in a warhead.
But the West has not ruled out the possibility of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, and Panetta made a pointed warning on Thursday that the U.S. will strike back against a cyberattack, underscoring the Obama administration's growing concern that Iran could be the first country to unleash cyberterrorism on America.
Tehran for its part announces the discovery of computer viruses at nuclear, industrial and government sites. It blames the West and Israel. Israel has said little to deflect suspicion that it tries to infect some Iranian systems.
Iranian leaders have been consistently defiant, announcing measures they say the Islamic Republic is taking to evade sanctions, defeat cyberattacks, and prepare to repulse or retaliate for a military strike.
"Many politicians ... in the U.S., Britain and other countries ... employed all their might and designs with the assumption they could bring the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation to its knees. They are gone and even their names are forgotten but the Iranian nation is present by the grace of God," Khamenei said.
Iranian leaders have also argued that it can always find customers for its oil and that the West is hurting itself, more than Iran, by cutting itself off from Iranian crude exports. Khamenei said Wednesday that European countries are "foolish" to support sanctions against Tehran, telling them they are sacrificing themselves for the sake of the United States.
But they also admit that sanctions are taking a bite.
Iran's currency — already in steady decline for months — lost nearly 40 percent of its value earlier this month. It reached an all-time low of 35,500 to the dollar, down from 24,000 rials days earlier and close to 10,000 rials as recently as early 2011. It's now fluctuating between 29,000 rials to 32,000 rials in the open market. The decline set off limited, one-day protests in Tehran's market district.
The plummet of the rial was blamed on a combination of Iranian government mismanagement and the bite from tighter sanctions. Both measures have reduced the amount of foreign currency coming into the country.
Khamenei urged the nation to consume Iranian products and shun foreign goods to support domestic production.
"We should choose what we consume from among our own products. That some are always after foreign brands and names is wrong," he said. "Domestic consumption increases domestic production. When domestic production is increased, it will tackle unemployment and reduces inflation. These are all connected to each other."