Budding Alliance: Iran-Russia Cooperation Deepens
While the United States, Britain and France are said to begin a push to finally bring a sanctions vote on Iran before the United Nations Security Council, Russia and Iran today announced the deepening nature of their nuclear partnership. In meetings between the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Golam Reza Agazade, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Kiriyenko, the two increasingly close countries discussed ways to move forward and solidify their existing nuclear bond.
Iran’s Agazade said afterward that “Our cooperation has broad possibilities, and we are therefore determined to expand peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” Kiriyenko agreed, calling the discussions “successful,” and stressed that “The core element of our work is cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. So our meeting today is of special importance.”
In the face of looming sanctions, the “special importance” of the growing bonds between Iran and Russia goes beyond their own relationships and have increasing impact on long-term security concerns for the Middle East. Those security concerns transcend nuclear cooperation. Various weapons of Russian design and/or origin are employed by terrorist and insurgent forces throughout the region, from Russian anti-aircraft missiles used to shoot down a British Lynx helicopter in Basra to the Katyusha rockets used by Hizballah to bombard Israel’s civilian population.
Both Hamas and Hizballah have employed advanced Russian Kornet anti-tank rockets in attacks on Israeli Merkava tanks and in Iraq against American M1 Abrams tanks. With Hamas and Hizballah, some of the anti-tank rockets are believed to be Syrian rockets purchased from Russia and some are known to have been manufactured in Iran.
However, the growing Russian partnership with the world’s chief state sponsor of international terrorism goes largely unnoted unless it pertains to the Iranian nuclear program. Russia’s bond with Iran and its veto power and influence within the Security Council manifests itself in the revisions made to the already-sensitive original text of the sanctions proposals expected to be put forth to the UNSC for vote.
It was reported that all reference to the Russian construction of Iran’s nuclear facilities at Bushehr had been expunged from the initial sanctions proposal’s language. The revelations made by an anonymous source are now confirmed, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has now said that the Iran sanctions will not affect the $1 billion Russian nuclear project on Iran’s Persian Gulf coast. Lavrov stated that “As far as Bushehr is concerned, Bushehr has no relation to the current resolution.”
An emboldened Iran – buttressed by their seemingly unwavering Russian support – continues to bound forward in its nuclear pursuits and has announced that it intends to create a 100,000-centrifuge cascade for enriching uranium, up significantly from its previous claims of wanting a 60,000 centrifuge cascade. Ahmadinejad also announced that Iran is currently installing a 3,000 centrifuge cascade as a step in that direction. This is a significant claimed upgrade from its current 164-centrifuge cascade that is said to be plagued with setbacks not unlike other countries who have developed nuclear weapons capabilities.
But as far as overall Middle Eastern security issues are concerned, Lavrov’s words should serve as an indirect clarion, warning of an increasing closeness between an returning American nemesis and the world’s foremost state sponsor of international terrorism. The budding Russia-Iran alliance has direct relation to not only Iran’s ability to bound towards the capability to produce nuclear weapons but also a direct relation to Iran’s ability to arm terrorists throughout the region, Shi’a and Sunni alike.