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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Behind Iran’s Missile Tests

September 28, 2009 - 2:28 PM | by: Amy Kellogg

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards wrapped up three days of war games with a big bang, test-firing the longest range missiles in its arsenal, the Shahab-3 and the Sajjil.  They are still in the medium range, but according to Iran, can travel up to 1200 miles.

An arms control expert here in London tells Fox News it was already known that Iran had this technology—so this exercise should be viewed as saber-rattling, rather than progress.

 He also pointed out that while Iran claims these missiles have a range of 1200 miles, this has not been independently verified.

 The story may be more about timing than technology.  The war games in Iran, according to the Foreign Ministry spokesman, were pre-planned.  But they do come just days after Iran admitted to having a heretofore secret nuclear facility, days before a high profile meeting in Geneva on the nuclear issue, and just over a week after President Ahmadinejad made more loud statements denouncing Israel. 

 Sources in Iran tell Fox News that this show of strength, or defiance, may also have to do with Russia.  Russian President Dmitri Medvedev last week indicated a willingness to back further sanctions against Iran.  Iran has relied on Russia and China to block further sanctions.  Another bone of contention between Moscow and Tehran—Russia’s failure to ship S-300 air defense systems to Iran.  The military exercises of the last few days may have been a way of saying “we don’t need anyone’s assistance.”

 There are also analysts who predict this show of strength has to do with the regime’s weakness and legitimacy deficit in the wake of the disputed presidential elections.

 There were anti-government demonstrations at Tehran University today.  There were also some pro-regime demonstrationsj.  School has just re-convened.  It is likely there will be further demonstrations.  Ahmadinejad’s appointment of the man who was in charge of the June elections as Minister for Higher Education has just added fuel to the fire, according to Iranian journalists I have spoken with, when it comes to the grievances felt by Iranian youth.

Despite the massive crackdown on dissent in Iran, protestors are looking for any space they can crawl into to air their discontent with the outcome of the elections and the abuse of human rights in Iran.

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