Iran's 'Teeth and Claws' approach likely to backfire, say experts

     Iran's 'Teeth and Claws' approach on the issue of missile tests and talks on nuclear proliferation are likely to backfire, as only one in ten Iranians support the existence and use of nuclear weapons. According to a Chritian Science Monitor (CSM) report, many are questioning the government's legitimacy after the June 12 presidential elections, and the Islamic republic's decision to launch its longest-range missiles in a show of force ahead of nuclear talks scheduled for Oct. 1 in Geneva, has been criticised. While the Iranian state media heralded the successful launch of a new generation of Shahab-3 and Sajjil ballistic missiles on Monday, missiles that are capable of reaching Israel, US bases in the Middle East, and southeastern Europe, the buzz in the media and in the international community has been mixed. "Whenever foreign pressure on Iran rises, the hard-liners respond by testing missiles - a threat specifically leveled at Israel," CSM quoted a political analyst in Tehran with reformist sympathies, as saying. "The legitimacy of the entire regime is under question for a large swath of Iranians. Many now consider the nuclear program a core propaganda element of Ahmadinejad's administration, trumpeted as an inviolable national interest to divert attention from the political and economic failures of the Iranian government," he added. A survey released on September 25 confirms the analyst's assessment that many Iranians do not support the pursuit of nuclear weapons. The poll, conducted between August 27 and September 10 by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland found that two-thirds of Iranians favored precluding the development of nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against Iran. Half of those polled were willing to halt enrichment activities altogether. A separate PIPA poll from early 2008 and republished just ahead of the June elections found that more than 70 percent of Iranians across the political spectrum - conservatives included - opposed their development. The missile program is run under the auspices of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a parallel army established in 1979 to preserve the Islamic revolution's ideals. After Monday's missile launch, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force issued an implicit threat to Israel and other players in the region with the missiles' 1,200-mile range. "All targets within the region will be within range of these missiles," said General Hossein Salami, the commander. The show of force comes three days ahead of key talks with major world powers over Iran's disputed nuclear program, slated to open Thursday in Geneva, and less than a week after Tehran revealed it has been constructing a covert second uranium enrichment facility. At last week's G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Western powers warned Iran it must open up the new site - located on a military base near the city of Qom, roughly 100 miles southwest of the capital - to international inspectors or face harsher sanctions.

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