By Boris Pavlishchev
Passions have been flying high around Iran throughout this past week. Signs are Iran’s silent war against Israel has been gaining momentum. – Attempts on the life of Israeli diplomats in a number of countries are alleged to have Iranian connection. Tehran has made public, against this background, its “new breakthrough achievements” in uranium enrichment in what is clear evidence that Iran ignores the world community demands concerning its nuclear programme. Meanwhile, Russia has warned that the situation is volatile in the Persian Gulf area, where the US and its allies have been concentrating troops. Russia has urged the West to start looking in earnest for a compromise with Tehran.
On Monday, the bomb that was planted in the car of the Israeli military attaché in Delhi went off and injured his wife. A similar bomb was found under an Israeli diplomat’s car in Tbilisi and subsequently defused. On Tuesday, blasts resounded in the Bangkok quarter where the local Jewish Centre and synagogue are situated. Still another explosion tore through a hired flat. Two people carrying Iranian passports have been detained. Israel claims that the militants targeted the Israeli Ambassador, and that Iran is behind all three attacks. But Tehran rejects the accusations, insisting that this kind of provocation is typical of Tel Aviv. This is what Iranian Ambassador to Moscow, Seyed Mahmmoud-Reza Sajjadi, said in a comment on the accusations.
“Israel is notorious for its refusal to recognize any principles or rules in launching terrorist attacks, the Iranian Ambassador says. Israeli agents with the US and European passports have recently staged an act of terror against a Palestinian leader in the United Arab Emirates. But they want to shift the blame for their own terrorist attacks on Iran, trying to picture it as Iran’s retaliation for the recent murder of Iranian scientist by the Israeli Intelligence Service. But Tehran does not resort to terror to retaliate. Tehran will retaliate economically and politically,” Ambassador Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi says in conclusion.
The developments around Israeli diplomats could serve to further aggravate the situation around Iran, following Tehran’s refusal to submit all evidence to the IAEA that Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful in character. To add fuel to the fire, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran now boasts breakthrough achievements in nuclear physics. – Iran’s new-generation centrifuges are capable of enriching uranium three times faster than before. 20%-enriched nuclear fuel rods have been loaded into the Tehran research reactor, which produces isotopes for medical purposes.
Experts are aware that it is a lot easier to obtain the 90% weapons-grade uranium from the uranium that’s been enriched to 20%, than to get 20% enriched uranium from natural uranium. In this context, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said that Moscow is very much concerned about Iran’s nuclear activities, although Russia is strongly opposed to toughening sanctions in a move that has thus far proved ineffective. Now is the time for looking for a compromise, rather than considering a military operation.
The Chief of the Russian General Staff, Nikolai Makarov, believes that this kind of operation is likely to break out by this summer. The US, its allies and Iran are building up their military potential in the Gulf area. Iran is increasing the number of high-speed boats and small-size submarines for kamikaze attacks.
But Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, has said suddenly that Tehran has not yet passed the point of no return in its nuclear programme, so there is no need for a hasty “surgical strike” on Iran. This runs counter to the statements that other Israeli Government members made earlier in February, namely that the point of no return has been passed. The point of no return is a political decision to develop a nuclear bomb, decision that Tehran has obviously not made yet. An expert with the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Azhdar Kurtov, is mulling over the reasons that have prompted Israel’s swift change of heart.
“The most veritable explanation, Azhdar Kurtov says, is that Israeli eagerness to fight was cooled down during some talks with the United States that were held behind closed doors a while ago. Obviously, the Democrats behind President Obama decided that they cannot benefit by delivering a strike in the pre-election period. It seems that the United States has reached agreement with Israel to whip up tension and toughen sanctions, but not to cross the line beyond which an overt act of war becomes inevitable.”
You may also remember that the Pentagon sent a high-ranking emissary to Israel in January. Some speculated that the official was to persuade Israel to abstain from delivering strikes until spring.
But Tehran, too, has carefully avoided provoking excessive aggravation of the situation. Initial reports about an end to oil exports to six European countries in response to the EU sanctions caused a minor world price jump. But the Oil Ministry disavowed the reports just hours later. Teheran said that it would abstain from retaliating for a while, given that the West is living through a cold weather spell. The price has returned to where it was.
Some Western experts believe that one should not take Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements about “nuclear breakthroughs” too seriously. The list of candidates that will run for parliament in the March 2nd elections is due to be made public on February 21st . But the Council of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has disqualified 45% of the presidential team’s candidates. Given that uranium enrichment has a nationwide support in Iran, Ahmadinejad could well have made his statement by way of consolidating the positions of his Alliance of Builders’ candidates.
Tehran said in written form a few days ago that it was prepared for fresh talks on the nuclear problem. The last round of talks in Turkey in January last year proved futile. The chief European diplomat, Catherine Ashton, has confirmed that the dialogue might resume soon. Meanwhile, an IAEA delegation is due to visit Tehran on the 20th and 21st of this month. International inspectors were promised access to all facilities, materials and experts that they are interested in and who are believed to be engaged in the military aspect of Iran’s nuclear programme. The IAEA claims, for example, that Iran carries out its nuclear experiments at the Parchin special weapons facility. But IAEA experts have so far been unable to inspect it. The Iranian Ambassador to Moscow says the reason can be easily explained.
“Ambassador Sajjadi says that Parchin is a military installation, rather than a nuclear facility. Once the inspectors were allowed to visit Parchin but failed to find any things nuclear there. So now we are undecided whether IAEA wants to settle nuclear problems or tries to spy on our military potential.”
Meanwhile, the US has given up efforts to launch its drones to Iran after one such secret drone was landed there in December. Washington fears leaks of secret technology to third countries via Iran. But what makes things worse for the US is Pakistan’s warning that it will come to the rescue if Iran comes under attack. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said as much in a statement on Friday following three-hour talks with his Afghan and Iranian counterparts.