Iranian soldiers chant anti-Israeli and anti-US slogans in Tehran on February 1, 2012.

Story highlights

A deputy head of Iran's armed forces said his country won't wait for enemy action

The supreme leader previously said anyone thinking of invading should prepare "to receive strong blows"

IAEA talks with Iran are a chance to get clarity about possible military elements in the nuclear program

CNN  — 

Iran warned Tuesday it would strike against an “enemy” threatening it if needed to protect its national interests – even if the enemy didn’t attack first.

Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, a deputy head of Iran’s armed forces, said his country “will no more wait to see enemy action against us,” according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

“Given this strategy, we will make use of all our means to protect our national interests and hit a retaliatory blow at them whenever we feel that enemies want to endanger our national interests,” Hejazi said.

5 voices: Will tensions lead to war?

Fars added that in November, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had “warned enemies about Iran’s tough response to any aggression or even threat.”

“Iran is not a nation to sit still and just observe threats from fragile materialist powers which are being eaten by worms from inside,” Khamenei told students at a military college in Tehran, according to Fars.

“Anyone who harbors any thought of invading the Islamic Republic of Iran – or even if the thought crosses their mind – should be prepared to receive strong blows and the steel fists of the military, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and the Basij (volunteer) force, backed by the entire Iranian nation,” Khamenei said, according to the report.

Hejazi’s remarks come amid high tensions between Iran and much of the world. The United States, European powers, and Israel have helped lead efforts to pressure Iran into taking part in serious negotiations over its nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for civilian purposes, but numerous countries are concerned Tehran is working to build a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Israel has made clear it is considering an attack on Iran’s nuclear program. Both countries often openly antagonize each other.

On Sunday, Tehran cut off crude exports to British and French companies in retaliation for a new round of sanctions imposed on the regime.

Officials with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, began a second round of talks Monday with Iranian officials. The IAEA said the talks were an opportunity to get more clarity about the “possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”