Israel scorned Moscow’s warning on Wednesday not to attack Iran, with one
diplomatic official asking whether the Russians were speaking from the moral
authority derived from their support of Syrian President Bashar Assad and
Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
“We will treat this warning with
all the moral merit it deserves,” the official said of Russian Deputy Foreign
Minister Gennady Gatilov’s statement that he hoped Israel understood the
consequences of an attack, and that there was still a chance for new talks over
Tehran’s nuclear program.
“They [Israel] should also consider the
consequences of such action for themselves,” Gatilov said at a news conference.
“I hope a realistic approach will prevail, along with a sensible
“Any possible military scenario against Iran will be
catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international
relations,” he said.
The Israeli official said that while there was good
bilateral cooperation between Russia and Israel, on the big security and
diplomatic issues Moscow – just as during the days of the Soviet Union – was
placing itself squarely on the side of Israel’s worst enemies.
comments represented one of Russia’s starkest warnings against resorting to
force to solve the Iranian issue.
The Israeli officials said that Moscow
decided to caution Israel, because it could not warn the US. “They can be tough
when it comes to Israel, because what are we going to do?” Russia, China and
many US allies are concerned that any military action against Iran could engulf
the Middle East in a war that would send oil prices rocketing at a time of
global economic troubles.
Iran has threatened to retaliate for any
attack, or even if it feels endangered, by closing the Strait of Hormuz, the
conduit for Gulf oil exports crucial to the global economy, and hitting Israel and US interests in
the Middle East.
The failure on Wednesday of two days of talks between
Iran and senior International Atomic Energy Agency officials, who were refused
access to a military site where they believe Iran tested explosives of use in
nuclear weapons, dimmed the chances of Western powers agreeing to renew broader
negotiations with Iran.
The UN nuclear watchdog ended its latest mission
to Iran after talks on Tehran’s suspected atomic weapons research failed, in a
setback likely to increase the risk of confrontation with the
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran’s nuclear policies
would not change despite mounting international pressure.
help, and without paying attention to propaganda, Iran’s nuclear course should
continue firmly and seriously,” he said on state television.
sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit.
No obstacles can stop
Iran’s nuclear work.”
As sanctions mount, ordinary Iranians are suffering
from the effects of soaring prices and a collapsing currency.
collapse of the nuclear talks came as Tehran seems increasingly isolated, with
some experts seeing the Islamic Republic’s mounting defiance in response to
sanctions against its oil industry and financial institutions as evidence that
it is in no mood to compromise with the West.
Legislative elections on
March 2 are expected to be won by supporters of Khamenei, an implacable enemy of
The failure of the two-day visit by the IAEA could now hamper
any resumption of wider nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six world
powers as the sense grows that Tehran feels it is being backed into a
In the view of some analysts, the Iranians may be trying to keep
their opponents guessing their capabilities, a diplomatic strategy that has
served them well in the past.
“But they may be overdoing the smoke and
mirrors and as a result leaving themselves more vulnerable,” Prof. Rosemary
Hollis of London’s City University said.
A team from the IAEA had hoped
to inspect a site at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, where the agency believes
there is a facility to test explosives.
“During both the first and second
round of discussions, the agency team requested access to the military site at
Parchin. Iran did not grant permission for this visit to take place,” the
Vienna-based IAEA said in a statement.
“It is disappointing that Iran did
not accept our request to visit Parchin. We engaged in a constructive spirit,
but no agreement was reached,” IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano said.
Western official added: “We think that if Iran has nothing to hide, why do they
behave in that way?” Iranian analyst Mohammad Marandi said providing the West
with any more access than necessary to nuclear sites would be a sign of
“Under the current conditions it is not in Iran’s interest to
cooperate more than is necessary, because the West is waging a war against the
Iranian nation,” he told Reuters.
Earlier, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali
Asghar Soltanieh, said Tehran expected to hold more talks with the UN agency,
but Amano’s spokeswoman said no further meetings were planned.
report in November suggested Iran had pursued military nuclear technology. The
document helped precipitate the latest sanctions by the European Union and the
One key finding was information that Iran had built a
large containment chamber at Parchin to conduct high-explosives tests. The UN
agency said there were “strong indicators of possible weapon
The IAEA said intensive efforts had been made to reach
agreement on a document “facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues” in
connection with Iran’s nuclear program.
“Unfortunately, agreement was not
reached on this document,” it said in an unusually blunt statement on
The West last week expressed some optimism at the prospect of
new talks, particularly after Iran sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton promising to bring “new initiatives,” without stating
But the US and its allies may be reluctant to meet with
Iran if they feel that the Islamic state is unlikely to engage in substantive
discussions about its nuclear activities.