(photo credit: Reuters)
MOSCOW - Russia fears Israel will push the United States into a military conflict with Iran which could retaliate by blocking oil shipments from the Gulf, a confidant of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.
RELATED:EU moves towards agreement on details of Iran oil embargo
"There is a likelihood of military escalation of the conflict, towards which Israel is pushing the Americans," Nikolai Patrushev, who heads the Kremlin's Security Council, told Interfax news agency.
Iran urges UN to condemn killing of nuclear scientist
Patrushev, a former head of the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said Tehran could respond by blocking the Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran, through which 35 percent of the world's seaborne traded oil passes.
"It cannot be ruled out that the Iranians will be able to carry out their threat to shut exports of Saudi oil through the Strait of Hormuz if faced with military actions against them," Patrushev said in an interview published on Thursday.
Tension over Iranian uranium enrichment, which has moved to a mountain bunker better protected from possible air strikes, has raised fears for world oil supplies and even of war.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful while Western powers believe it has military aims. Israel, which sees an Iranian atom bomb as a threat to its existence, is willing to attack Iranian nuclear sites with or without US backing.
However, Patrushev said there was still no proof that Iran was on the brink of creating nuclear weapons.
"Talk about Iran creating an atomic bomb by next week we have heard for
many years," he said, adding that the United States was trying to topple
the Iran's leadership using "all available means" to make the country
into "a loyal partner".
Russia, the world's biggest energy producer, opposes further UN Security
Council sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program and has sharply
criticized US and European Union sanctions.
The United States has said it would use force if Iran carried out its
threat to block the strait and moved a new aircraft carrier strike group
to the Arabian Sea this week.
Four more years for Obama?
In remarks clearly aimed at signaling Russian foreign policy after
presidential elections in March, Patrushev said Putin would work well
with President Barack Obama if he is re-elected when the United States
votes later this year.
Patrushev said Obama's chances in the November election were good
despite the United States' problems. "With all the difficulties faced by
the Democratic administration, President Obama has a good chance of
keeping his post," Patrushev said.
Putin himself is almost certain to return to the Russian presidency,
something which diplomats see as a setback for Obama's policy of
improving relations with Moscow.
But Patrushev said Putin, who is known for his anti-American rhetoric, would work well with Obama.
"In the case of Vladimir Putin and then Barack Obama coming to power,
the Russian-US relationship, as well as the situation in the world as a
whole, may see a strengthening trend," Patrushev said.
Patrushev, a hardliner, said US plans to build a missile defense
shield, a source of tension between the two former Cold War foes, did
not "pose a serious threat today," although it could weaken Russia's
"strategic potential" in the future.