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Iranian Leaders Criticize New Threat of International Sanctions


Top Iranian leaders are again lashing out at Western nations over the threats of new sanctions.

It was another day of back-and-forth exchanges between Western leaders and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slammed remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama in Prague that Russia and the United States are "working together at the U.N. Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran."

According to Iran's official IRNA news agency, Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran does not welcome the idea or threat of sanctions, but would never beg to reverse them.

Iran's top military commander, General. Hassan Firouzabadi used more tough talk, warning Iran would strike back at U.S. forces in the Middle East if it is attacked. Iranian military commanders have made similar statements in the past and regularly threaten to punish Israel if it were to attack Iran.

Editor Alex Vatanka, of Janes' Islamic Affairs Analyst says Iranian leaders are exploiting every perceived threat by the West for internal political gain.

"When you have influential Fars News come out yesterday with the headline 'Obama threatens Iran with nuclear attack," it would be an absolute mistake to look at the Iranian response just in the context of U.S.-Iran relations or in the sort of stalemate over the nuclear issue," he said.

"You have to look at this clearly with a linkage to the domestic crisis that Iran still continues to face and the hardliners are trying to use these comments by American officials to shore up nationalist sentiment at home and therefore strengthen their own position," he continued.

Vatanka says Iran's top military officials often try to outdo the political leaders with their rhetoric because they have tried to position themselves as defenders of the Islamic Republic.

"The men in uniform in Iran, since the June elections of last year, have places themselves not just in defense of the country's national security as the armed forces are supposed to do, but also put themselves squarely in a central place to defend the Islamic Republic as a political system," he said.

"So, the pressure has been on them to respond to any kind of threats that they feel Iran is receiving. For them to have been silent, might have been the right thing to do, considered from an international relations point of view, but from a domestic political point of view they couldn't afford to be quiet," he added.

But analyst Meir Javendanfar of the MEEPAS Center in Tel Aviv says threats by the Iranian military are aimed more at the U.S. public, with the aim of scaring Americans away from President Obama's policy of tightening sanctions against Tehran.

"I think the main goal of this threat is to reduce American public support for President Obama's policy of placing Iran under sanctions and placing Iran under pressure. Iranians are aware how sensitive Americans are to casualties in the Middle East and they are playing on it," he said.

Javedanfar says he does not believe Iran is capable of inflicting serious damage on U.S. forces in the Middle East.

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