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Iran Conducts Missile Tests as U.S. Naval Force Gathers in Gulf
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran conducted missile tests Monday as its leadership stepped up warnings of possible military confrontation with the United States. Hard-liners said an American attack would spark "hell" for the U.S. and Israel, with some threatening suicide attacks against U.S. forces.
The drum-beating suggests Iran does not intend to back down as tensions mount on both fronts of its confrontation with the United States and the West — the nuclear issue and the turmoil in neighboring Iraq.
Iran's leaders have increasingly touted the possibility of a U.S. attack since President George W. Bush announced on Jan. 9 the deployment of a second aircraft carrier in the Gulf region, a move U.S. officials have said is a show of strength directed at Iran.
The leadership's warnings could aim to rally the public behind the government and silence increasingly bold criticism of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at home. Iranian reformers and conservatives have accused him of hurting Iran with his virulent anti-US rhetoric in the nuclear standoff with the West, while failing to repair Iran's weakening economy.
In a significant move, a paper close to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday joined the voices threatening retaliation for any U.S. military action — suggesting the highest levels are involved in ringing the alarm over the American deployment.