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Iran and US: Could they talk war into happening?

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And the United Nations nuclear watchdog had just published details of alleged "systematic" nuclear weapons-related work by Iran through late 2003, and declared of "particular concern" more episodic work as recently as 2009 – prompting fresh global opprobrium.

So Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a warning. "Iran is not a nation to sit still and just observe threats from fragile materialistic powers which are being eaten by worms from inside," he told military college students in Tehran. "Iran will respond with full force to any aggression or even threats in a way that will demolish the aggressors from within."

Since then, Mr. Khamenei has stayed true to his promise. When the US and Israel staged or announced military exercises in the neighborhood, so did Iran, unveiling new rocket and missile capabilities.

When the Obama administration said it would target Iran's Central Bank and oil flows with fresh sanctions, some Iranian officials warned they would respond by closing the Strait of Hormuz – the most important single choke point for global oil supplies. (Senior Iranian military officers later backtracked.)

And as the US, Israel, and the European Union stepped up pressure and sanctions began to bite, Iran repeated that its goal was producing peaceful energy – not bombs – and then enhanced its efforts earlier this month, when it not only began enriching uranium at a new, deeply buried facility, but produced a prototype fuel rod, its first.

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