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Iran's nuclear test firing provokes global an -

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EMMA ALBERICI: It's being described as a shot across the bows of US foreign policy in the Middle
East and the latest example of sabre-rattling in the region.

Iran's test-firing of nine missiles yesterday has provoked global condemnation.

The test by Iran's Revolutionary Guards comes after last month's military exercise by Israel, that
analysts said appeared to have been a rehearsal for an air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

It also comes straight after Washington announced the latest part of its plan to develop a missile
defence shield in Eastern Europe, aimed primarily, the US says, against so-called rogue states such
as Iran.

Dr Robert Ayson is a nuclear strategist and the director of graduate studies at the Australian
National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

I spoke to him a short time ago:

Dr Robert Ayson, just how powerful are these nine missiles Iran has tested? Which countries are
they actually capable of hitting?

ROBERT AYSON: They're not super long range. They are capable of, one of the missiles is potentially
capable for example of reaching Israel, countries like Turkey.

And they're not the sort of missiles that can strike at inter-continental range. Most reports
suggest that they are fairly older missiles, so Iran is kind of clearing its older inventory. So
these are not the missiles that the international community is most worried about.

EMMA ALBERICI: The United Nations as well as the US has for some time now been demanding that Iran
roll back its nuclear program, indeed as far back 2003. Eventually they're going to have to make
good on their threats or risk losing face, losing credibility on the international stage, aren't
they?

ROBERT AYSON: There aren't very many good choices here or particularly good outcomes because it
does seem that Iran is determined to continue with some sort of at least low level enrichment of
uranium and that is a matter of national pride and prestige. And it's unlikely that there is an
easy diplomatic negotiation that can be done to get Iran to desist from doing that.

And on the other hand if we're thinking about some sort of more provocative action - military
action to respond to Iran, it's unlikely that that military action would actually get rid of all of
Iran's complex.

And so what we have is basically no easy answers, because of course military action, Iran is
threatening to set the countries that do that on fire, and the missile tests are just a sense of a
sign of Iran's determination to suggest that it is able to do that.

So really we don't have a situation where there is a very nice outcome that we can say well that's
the way we should be preceding here.

EMMA ALBERICI: But Iran could be pretty confident I imagine that the last thing the US is likely to
do is to launch another war.

ROBERT AYSON: Well, the US is not going to get itself into a major war, a kind of a repeat of the
Iraq situation. But I don't think that we should completely discount the possibility that
Washington would consider some sort of very limited action against Iran.

Not to remove Iran's facilities because that's very difficult as I've already said, but to send a
pretty clear signal to Iran and to suggest that Iran's nuclear posturing is not going to be taken
lightly.

There's also the question of course of what Israel might do. And the more that Israel feels that
the US is unlikely to act, the more Israel will feel it may be necessary for it to act. And we've
got a track record there of course. In the early 1980s Israel struck Iraq's nuclear complex and
then most recently of course Israel struck a facility in Syria.

EMMA ALBERICI: Now the timing here of course is quite curious, coming as it does a day after the US
announced the deal with the Czech Republic for a missile defence system in Eastern Europe.

ROBERT AYSON: Yes, it does curious. I think in a sense those two are not too closely related. I
think the missile launches by Iran are a response to concerns that the US and particularly Israel
are indicating that some sort of military action is not off the table, to use diplomatic language.

So I think Iran is really saying to Israel and to the US: don't try, don't try, don't even think
about military action because we can strike back.

The missile defence situation in Europe; there is a connection there but I don't think that Iran is
responding to that.

EMMA ALBERICI: And just quickly, are the foreign policy objectives of the presidential candidates
clear on this? We heard Barack Obama talk about his preference for what he calls aggressive
diplomacy. What does that mean?

ROBERT AYSON: That's a good question, and I think obviously as a candidate and then as a president,
there are going to be differences.

Mr Obama had talked earlier about the possibility of direct negotiations with Iran and came under
quite a bit of pressure in the US for that statement because the US on the whole has a tradition
since 1979 of not really dealing with Iran directly.

But I think Mr Obama has kind of moved back a little bit from that and in an attempt to show that
he is the sort of person that you'd want as the commander in chief, his approach on Iran has
toughened slightly.

Mr McCain is famous for repeating the Beach Boys tune, the bomb-bomb-bomb Iran sort of version of
the song. So I think actually the differences between the two are not absolutely vast.

And I think that basically if Iran feels that it just has to wait for the Bush administration to
leave and then it won't come under pressure in the future, I wouldn't advise that as what they
should be thinking.

EMMA ALBERICI: Dr Robert Ayson, thank you so much for your time.

ROBERT AYSON: No worries.

EMMA ALBERICI: And that's Dr Robert Ayson from the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.