WASHINGTON – Israel has only mere days to launch an attack on Iran’s Bushehr
nuclear reactor if Russia makes good on its plan to deliver fuel there this
weekend, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton warned Tuesday.
said that once Russia has loaded the fuel into the reactor -- slated for
Saturday – Israel would no longer be willing to strike for fear of triggering
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“This is a very, very big victory for
Iran,” Bolton told The Jerusalem Post
. “This is a huge
Bolton, who also once oversaw US non-proliferation policy,
said that when Russia announced the plans to load the fuel last Friday, “the
element of surprise was essentially taken away” from Israeli
Bolton noted that he doesn’t “have a clue” as to whether
Israel would actually attack, but he said, “If Israel was right to destroy the
Osiraq reactor, is it right to allow this one to continue? You can’t have it
Israel took out Iraq’s Osiraq reactor during a stealth
mission in 1981. It is also believed to have conducted a similar strike on an
alleged Syria nuclear site in 2007.
Russia signed a contract with Iran to
construct the Bushehr reactor in 1995, but has several times delayed completion.
In announcing the long-overdue fuel installation, which should make Bushehr
operational in September, Russia did not indicate why it was going ahead with
the final stages now.
In addition to Bushehr -- for which Russia says it
has guarantees it will receive back the spent fuel, the material needed to make
a nuclear bomb -- Iran has its own uranium enrichment facilities.
expert Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council said that the uranium
enrichment plants are the real backbone of Iranian efforts and expenditures to
get a nuclear weapons capability, and he suspected that they, rather than
Bushehr, would be Israel’s primary targets in any attack.
that Bolton was setting up a “straw man” by focusing on the fuel delivery to the
“It’s not at all clear that Bushehr would be a high
value target because it’s only tangentially related to any conceivable Iranian
nuclear weapons program,” he said. “My suspicion is this isn’t a game changer.
This isn’t going to give Iran enough fissile material for a bomb
Berman added that since Bushehr is the most public Iranian
nuclear facility, and therefore well monitored by international inspectors, it
was also a less likely candidate for use by Iran to construct a bomb, though he
nevertheless said if it became operational it would be “an enormous PR coup for
Bolton dismissed the idea that international inspectors
would contain the threat from the Bushehr reactor, pointing to instances
inspectors had been kicked out.
He also said it was unlikely that Israel
would attack Bushehr now and make another sortie against the enrichment
facilities in later months because that would be a much more challenging task.
For one thing, he point out that an attack on Bushehr would likely spur the
Russians to transfer to Iran advanced missile defense systems it has agreed to
sell Tehran but refrained from actually delivering.
indicated, if Israel were to attack now it would probably hit multiple
Iran, for its part, dismissed talk of a possible Israel
On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was
quoted as saying that "these threats of attacks had become repetitive and lost
their meaning." He also reportedly told correspondents in Tehran, "According to
international law, installations which have real fuel cannot be attacked because
of the humanitarian consequences.”
The rhetoric comes as the US increased
sanctions on Iran as part of its ongoing efforts to ratchet up pressure on
On Tuesday the US Treasury announced dozens of additional names
of Iranian banks and individuals that fall under sanctions law.
Associated Press contributed to this report.