(photo credit: AP [file])
Russia sent messages to Israel through US intermediaries recently, voicing opposition to a possible military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
While Israel and Russia have good relations and a direct line of communications, the Russians chose to use the US to deliver this message of military restraint out of a belief that Jerusalem pays closer attention to messages from Washington.
According to assessments reaching Jerusalem, while the Russians don't want to see Iran get the bomb, they believe this may still be a decade away and that in the meantime diplomatic efforts might succeed in keeping Teheran from reaching that point.
Moscow is concerned any military conflagration would eventually spill over the Russian-Iranian border into the Caucasus, central Asia and even Chechnya, and be detrimental to Russian interests.
Washington, according to these assessments, does not believe that Russian opposition to UN Security Council sanctions against Iran is motivated by anti-American sentiment, but rather by the belief that a military action in Iran would severely destabilize the region.
The Russian concern, according to this assessment, is that UN sanctions would be the start of a "slippery slope" leading inevitably to military action, just as was the case with Iraq.
One source of Washington and Moscow's different tactical approaches toward Iran stems from different assessments regarding when Iran may "go on-line." While Washington is closer to Israel's position that the point of no return is when the Iranians have mastered the technology to create a bomb, for the Russians "D-Day" is when the Iranians have actually built a bomb.
Since the Russians believe this may be some five to 10 years down the line, they feel there is more time to exhaust the diplomatic approach. Despite this, the Russians, according to recent assessments, were taken by surprise at the pace of the Iranian nuclear program, and did not believe they were as far along as is apparently the case.
According to assessments reaching Jerusalem from Washington, the US has no intention of either allowing Teheran to enrich uranium on Iranian soil or to assist it in building civilian nuclear capabilities. These assessments contradict press reports this week claiming that the diplomatic package presented to Iran on Tuesday and supported by the US leaves open the possibility in the distant future that Teheran would be able to enrich uranium on its own soil.
According to a Washington Post report, this concession - along with a US promise of aid for Iran's civilian nuclear energy program - would be conditioned on Iran suspending its nuclear work until the International Atomic Energy Agency determined that the program was peaceful. In addition, Iran would also need to convince the UN Security Council that it was not seeking a nuclear weapon, a process that administration officials were quoted this week as saying could take as long as 30 years.
But according to the assessments reaching Jerusalem, Washington has no interest in letting Iran enrich any quantity of uranium, because even the enrichment of a small amount would necessitate research and development that could eventually allow Teheran to master the technology needed to create nuclear weapons.
These assessments say that it would also be extremely far-fetched to imagine the US assisting an Iranian civilian nuclear program. The US remains in favor of a Russian proposal of a joint Iranian-Russian venture whereby Russia would enrich the uranium on its own soil on Iran's behalf. This is a model that could be adopted elsewhere as well, as rising energy prices are expected to propel other countries into the development of nuclear energy.