J'lem dismisses Russian warning against Iran attack

IAEA’s latest mission to Islamic Republic ends in failure; Khamenei: "Pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit."

By REUTERS
February 23, 2012 01:49
IAF plane takes part in maneuvers [file]

IDF jet 311. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson)

 
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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.

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“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 assessment.

“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.

Gatilov’s 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 West.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran’s nuclear policies would not change despite mounting international pressure.

“With God’s help, and without paying attention to propaganda, Iran’s nuclear course should continue firmly and seriously,” he said on state television.

“Pressures, 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.

The 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 West.

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 corner.

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.

A 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 weakness.

“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.

An IAEA report in November suggested Iran had pursued military nuclear technology. The document helped precipitate the latest sanctions by the European Union and the United States.

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 development.”

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 Wednesday.

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 preconditions.

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.

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