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It's only a game, but Iran isn't laughing

A computer game that portrays a U.S. invasion of Iran has been downloaded thousands of times in that country, sparking protests.
"Assault on Iran" is one of a series of Kuma war game offerings in which players take on simulated military missions.
"Assault on Iran" is one of a series of Kuma war game offerings in which players take on simulated military
/ Source: Reuters

U.S. special forces dart through Iran's underground nuclear facilities, gunning down any hapless Iranians standing between them and centrifuges that must be blown to bits.

Much to Tehran's relief, this crack team exists only in a new U.S. computer game. But even these animated saboteurs are too close for comfort, downloadable into Iranian living rooms at the click of a mouse.

The cyberspace troopers have sparked bitter press comment in Iran and a petition asking that the game be shelved.

"Americans have a deep craving for an attack against Iran, but they are going to have to settle for this make-believe assault," wrote the Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed directly by Iran's Supreme Leader.

"Assault on Iran" is made by U.S. firm Kuma Reality Games whose war games often tie into top news stories.

Iran is at the center of a diplomatic maelstrom, flatly denying U.S. accusations it is seeking atomic warheads. It argues it needs underground nuclear facilities, such as one near the central town of Natanz, to make fuel for power stations.

The United States consistently declines to rule out a military strike against Iran, but has said such an option is "not on the agenda".

The game's trailer plays pounding music and starkly asks: "Diplomacy has failed ... Is nothing to be done?". U.S. troops then strafe a car, leap out of helicopters and prowl around menacingly before blowing things up.

The Web site, a forum for Persian speakers in Iran and abroad, posted a notice asking Kuma to withdraw the game on Oct. 12. Since then it has got more than 5,000 signatures.

"We must make the Americans understand that Iran is different from Iraq and Afghanistan, where they just did what they wanted," the petition read.

Kuma boss Keith Halper said he has no plans to take the game offline and that he had not realized the games were played in the Middle East as well.

"The controversy does surprise me. I just didn't expect that there were people from Iran who were going to become aware of it," he told Reuters.

Other Kuma games have been criticized in the United States for their realistic portrayal of current events, including recent battles.

The Iran game has been downloaded in Iran thousands of times, Halper said, and the company has received roughly 300 e-mail messages from Iran. Some criticized the game but others had asked how to get a copy without a broadband connection.

Iran has been prickly about the idea of U.S. special forces lurking around inside the Islamic Republic since U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh said in the New Yorker this year that U.S. "Black Ops" had ventured across Iran's borders.