‘Iran boasts will show world its danger’

PM heads to Moscow next week hoping Russia has registered the threat.

By BY HERB KEINON
February 12, 2010 03:35
4 minute read.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, speak

ahmadinejad speaks to the masses great 311 ap. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s public mention of “the bomb” on Thursday would likely convince the world of Iran’s true designs, a senior Israeli official said following his remarks at a rally in Teheran.

“When we say we do not manufacture the bomb, we mean it, and we do not believe in manufacturing a bomb,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying at the rally marking the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah. Speaking of the West, Ahmadinejad said, “The Iranian nation is brave enough that if one day we wanted to build nuclear bombs we would announce it publicly without being afraid of you.”

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Ahmadinejad’s reference to building a nuclear bomb – he has always claimed Iran’s nuclear program was for peaceful purposes – would likely serve to further convince the world of the true purpose of the country’s nuclear program, a senior Israeli government official said.

“The number of states in the international community that still believe the Iranian nuclear program is benign is rapidly approaching zero, if it is not zero already,” he said. “There is no logic to the Iranian nuclear program if it is not for a military purpose.”

As recently as December, however, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Saltanov, told The Jerusalem Post that Moscow was not convinced Iran planned to weaponize its nuclear program, and that Russia had not been shown evidence convincing it otherwise.

Likewise Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian prime minister and one of Moscow’s most widely-respected Middle East experts, said at a conference in Jordan that “Russia has no concrete information that Iran is planning to construct a weapon. It may be more like Japan, which has nuclear readiness but does not have a bomb.”

But now, according to a senior government source, even Russia – which together with China have been the two countries with vetoes on the UN Security Council that have advocated continued diplomatic engagement with Iran and have been opposed to sanctions – “has moved closer to the Western position at the moment.”



The recent developments in Iran are expected to dominate talks that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will hold next week in Moscow with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, with Israel hoping to hear from the Russians how the events of the past week have impacted on their thinking.

Iran’s brazen boasts of nuclear capability and its defiance of the world, coupled with its crackdown on protesters, have led to a sense in Jerusalem that for most of the international community the Iranians have “crossed the line,” and there is widespread support for another round of UN Security Council sanctions.

An indication of which way the overall diplomatic winds were blowing came Wednesday in the form of an EU Parliament resolution that took Iran to task both for its human rights abuses and nuclear program, saying that “a serious debate should be launched at the EU level on the possibility of introducing further targeted sanctions which do not harm the Iranian people as a whole.”

What Israeli officials found significant in the resolution – the first passed by the EU parliament since January 2008 – is that it was agreed upon by all of that body’s factions; put the onus on Iran for the nuclear crisis; called upon France, which is currently the president of the UN Security Council, to put he issue on the council’s agenda this month; and called on “the Chinese authorities to support the international community’s efforts to curtail Iran’s uranium enrichment program.”

According to one government official, Israel continues to engage the major powers, urging them to impose crippling sanctions on Teheran in the Security Council. The widespread expectation is that a resolution for “sharp sanctions” will be brought to the Security Council, and serious negotiations will be held about the nature of those sanctions.

Israel’s impression is that what the US cannot get in terms of sanctions inside the Security Council, it will put together outside the Council among like-minded countries.

Meanwhile, new US sanctions imposed on elements of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps on Wednesday reflect the Obama administration’s strategy of punishing the elite corps and not the Iranian people over the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday it was freezing the assets in US jurisdictions of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Rostam Qasemi and four subsidiaries of a previously penalized construction firm he runs because of their alleged involvement in producing and spreading weapons of mass destruction.

The US sanctions expand existing unilateral penalties against elements of the Guard Corps, or IRGC, which Western intelligence officials believe is spearheading Iran’s nuclear program. While the sanctions are aimed at changing the government’s behavior, it will be difficult to gauge their effect as it is not clear what holdings the targets may have in US jurisdictions.

The administration is pushing to internationalize such penalties so they will have greater impact, and the announcement came as US officials lobby for similar action at the UN Security Council.

AP contributed to this report.

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