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Behind Iran's Stern Response to US Threats

Confronting recent US threats, Iran's senior officials have delivered unprecedented stern verbal refutations, which analysts believe are linked with its June 17 presidential election and the situation in Iraq.  

US President George W. Bush said on Monday he would not rule out military actions against Iran in his second term. Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday threatened to refer Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council. Tehran was not surprised by these remarks as they echoed the same stance Washington has adopted toward Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


But in contrast with the past, Tehran's reaction to the verbal hostility was tougher.


On Tuesday, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of Iran's powerful Expediency Council and former president, said Iran was "not a proper place for adventurism."


One day later, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi, in a written statement, said Iran would "respond strongly to any kind of unwise acts."


President Mohammad Khatami, who was then on a tour in Africa, said on Thursday that Iran would stand up to any aggression, a message reported by the official IRNA news agency as a piece of urgent news.


Analysts reckon that with the presidential polls only six months away, Khatami's government, which has failed to fulfill its promises of reforms in the past eight years, was taking the chance to show to the people that the reformists were also ready to fight when the national security was threatened.


The conservatives in Iran often criticize the government's weak stance in negotiations with Western countries. Besides, the upcoming Iraqi elections slated for January 30 is also one of Iran's top concerns.


Even though Tehran has categorically rejected an allegation of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs, it cannot deny that a friendly Iraqi authority would be warmly welcomed. At this critical juncture, Tehran must build a strong and determined image to instill confidence into the minds of the Iraqi Shiites who are religiously close to Iran, and any sign of weakness might promote an adverse result, said analysts.


Iran is also keeping vigilance over the newly elected hawkish US cabinet.


Just days before the new cabinet took office, Bush and Rice's remarks were viewed as the keynote of the US policy toward Iran in the next four years.


Iran, being challenged, had no choice but to warn the hawks and encourage US doves with its strong reply, said analysts. All in all, the vehement reaction of Tehran was determined by the current sensitive situations.


It is believed the coming months will witness new conflicts between Washington and Tehran with the new cabinets of the United States, Iraq and Iran coming into power.


(Xinhua News Agency January 24, 2005)

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