Russia today made clear that it stands solidly in defense of Iran if Israel or the West decided to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, the Russian foreign minister also urged Tehran to cooperate with inspections of its nuclear sites.
“Attempts to prepare and implement strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities and on its infrastructure as a whole are a very, very dangerous idea. We hope these ideas will not come to fruition,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, speaking at his annual news conference.
In a re-election victory speech earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted strongly that he might pursue military action to stop Iran from developing an atomic bomb. Netanyahu said stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons would be the main challenge for a new government.
The Russian foreign minister said Iran should move faster in allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its nuclear sites, which they say are being used exclusively to develop nuclear power, not weapons.
While Netanyahu has been signaling to the world that he favors a strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, President Obama has been more interested in using sanctions and external pressure to keep Iran from developing weaponry.
He said that unless there is a diplomatic breakthrough — or, alternatively, an attack on Iran — “you really are looking at a scenario where Iran is going to rush very quickly towards nuclear power, because they also think, like North Korea, that (then) you have much more leverage to get rid of these sanctions.”
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Three months ago, countries in the European Union announced that they were imposing sanctions on major Iranian oil and gas companies and restrictions on Iran’s central bank. They are intended to limit Iran’s access to cash, which would be a severe blow to the country’s ability to develop a nuclear weapons system.
Back in October, a U.S. think tank that is a respected authority on Iran released a report indicating that Iran has the capability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to make a nuclear bomb in two to four months. But the country is much further away from making the other components to make a functioning warhead, the report said. The report came from the Institute for Science and International Security, which frequently advises Congress and other branches of government on Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
As Iran claims its nuclear plant will only be used for energy, there are fears among other states in the region that the plant is unsafe. According to The National website, the Russian-built reactor in Bushehr contains aging German components from the 1970s; was bombed by Iraq in the 1980s; and is in an earthquake-prone area at the juncture of three tectonic plates on the coast.
In March, Russian technicians are scheduled to hand over control of the 1,000-megawatt plant to Iran. This is cause for celebration in Tehran because the Bushehr plant serves as a symbol of resilience, resourcefulness and resistance to U.S.-led sanctions.
Tehran guarantees the safety of its “quake-proof” plant, which was plugged into the national grid in September 2011. Any claims that it is unsafe are dismissed by the country as Western propaganda.