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Iran missile test: glimpse of what's ahead if nuclear talks fail

An Iran missile test Monday sent a clear warning to the US: Attack our nuclear facilities, and we'll target your military bases. It showed what US-Iran military gamesmanship might look like. 

By Staff writer / July 2, 2012

Iranian workers make repairs to a unit at Tehran's oil refinery in this file photo. EU sanctions targeting the country's vital oil sector went into effect Sunday.

Vahid Salemi/AP/File

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WASHINGTON

The United States and the European Union began imposing tough new sanctions on Iran’s oil industry this month, with one goal in mind: inflict such economic pain that Iran’s leaders get serious about an international deal to curtail the country’s advancing nuclear program.

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But with low-level officials from six world powers meeting with their Iranian counterparts in Istanbul Tuesday to gauge prospects for an agreement, Iran appeared to blast its answer into the skies Monday with the first of three days of ballistic missile drills.

The message: Launch airstrikes on our nuclear facilities, and rest assured we’ll hit you back. And P.S.: Your sanctions may hurt us, but they will never cause us to fold.

The European Union on Sunday imposed a full embargo on imports of Iranian crude oil – last year, the EU purchased about 18 percent of Iran’s oil exports – while the US has begun imposing measures against Iran’s central bank and foreign financial institutions that continue to work with it.

Those sanctions follow a series of negotiations since April between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom – plus Germany, which have so far failed to reach agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama administration officials point to the impact that previously existing sanctions have had on Iran – including a significant drop in oil exports, which cost the country more than $30 billion in revenue last year alone – and they insist that these new sanctions can mean only more hardship.

“Sanctions are having a major adverse impact on Iran’s economy, and things will go from bad to worse unless Iran gets serious about addressing international concerns about its nuclear program,” says a senior administration official, who joined several other administration officials in discussing the impact of sanctions on Iran on condition of anonymity.

Yet while Iran and sanctions experts agree that the West’s measures are having a deep economic impact in Iran – something even Iran’s leaders are increasingly willing to acknowledge – they are less certain that this will lead to concessions at the negotiating table.

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