In a fiery Friday sermon on the occasion of "Quds Day" — an Iranian Islamic holiday that commemorates the expected "liberation of Jerusalem" and which falls every year on the last Friday of Ramadan — Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel a "not a country, but a terrorist base".
The Islamic Republic's top cleric and leader also asserted that Israel's "downfall" is "imminent" and that it remains every Iranian and Muslim's duty to fight it. "Israel is not a country, but a terrorist base against the nation of Palestine and other Muslim nations," Khamenei said in the live televised remarks.
"Fighting this despotic regime... is everyone's duty," he added. For over the past week the rhetoric coming from Iran's top leaders has grown more noticeably threatening and bellicose towards Tel Aviv and Washington (or rather even more than usual), including the release of at least two state media clips depicting the imagined destruction of the Capitol Building in Washington and the Dimona nuclear reactor in southern Israel.
The confrontational uptick in anti-US and anti-Israeli messaging is likely intended as a warning to stave off more sabotage attacks, such as the April 11 Natanz nuclear sabotage incident widely blamed on Israeli intelligence, at a sensitive moment that nuclear talks are said to be progressing in Vienna. It's been no secret that Tel Aviv is seeking to do everything possible to derail the talks, in order to stall and prevent US reentry into the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.
Concerning the Vienna talks, in which Iran and the United States are engaged indirectly via shuttle diplomacy, a fourth round began Friday as there's been widespread reports that the Biden administration is readying a major rollback in sanctions. While Iranian leaders vowed to not let things drag on (as they have concrete and so far unwavering demands of a complete rollback in sanctions as a condition to talk with the US directly), Russia has weighed in to urge that the talks continue for "as long as necessary":
The talks began in early April and Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted following Friday's meeting that "the participants agreed on the need to intensify the process."
"The delegations seem to be ready to stay in Vienna as long as necessary to achieve the goal," he wrote.
But the clock is ticking in terms of the building pressure of potential Iran-Israel conflict. For example, Israel's military has struck targets inside Syria for two consecutive days and is unlikely to sit idly by while Tehran issues its latest threats.
Israel has also been sending high-level delegations to Washington in order to persuade the Biden White House to impose as strict a requirements as possible on the Iranians - again likely in the hopes that a deal cannot be reached, given the Israelis see the "weak" JCPOA deal as a "sure" path to an Iranian bomb.