Blame Russia, Not Iran

The focus of Israel’s diplomacy to halt the Iranian nuclear program has been shouting in the mass media about Iran. Well actually, it has been saying that the P5+1 group should achieve a better deal since Israel has no diplomatic contact with Iran. Well actually, it has been asking and then blaming the American President for not having succeeded. The American President is not directly involved having delegated the task to subordinates. So now you see why Iran is continuing unabated on its nuclear program. Tehran may not have even heard Israel’s opinions

Israel should be focusing its diplomatic efforts on asking the Russian President to curtail and end the Iranian nuclear program, and if need be blame him. Russia is Iran’s supplier. Today Sergey Kiriyenko who heads Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom informed that he has authorized full-scale work on the construction of the second and third units of Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant which will produce 1,000 megawatts each, tripling Iran’s nuclear power production capacity. The American President and the P5+1, that includes Russia as a member, have not asked the Russian President to stop supplying Iran.

Does Israel have leverage over Russia? The answer is – Yes! A few weeks ago Russia said it would supply Iran with the S-300 air defense system. This would have endangered Israeli aircraft should have they implemented a military strike against Iran. In response Israel threatened to supply Ukrainian rebels with military equipment. Russia backed down from supplying Iran with the S-300 air defense system. So why can’t Israel use the same leverage to make Russia back down from supplying Iran with nuclear reactors?

Russia is one of the P5+1 states engaged in negotiations with Iran. This seems an absurdity and a dichotomy. Russia is supplying Iran in a bi-lateral contract knowing the purposes and intentions of Iran. At the same time Russia is negotiating in a multi-lateral forum to curtail its own bi-lateral agreement with Iran. Russian interests lie as a supplier not as a curtailer. The June 30 deadline is approaching for the P5+1 and Iran agreement where the view of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov is only to stress the importance of recognizing Iran’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, including uranium enrichment under effective international control. Whose control? Does this mean that Russia as the supplier will control its own supply? No one has questioned this!

So Israel sits on the side-lines chastising the American President, while the US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose son-in-law is Iranian, talks to the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, while the P5+1 talks down-graded to the deputy level meet in the Austrian capital of Vienna and while Russia continues to build the reactors. To my eyes this is no way to ensure that within the next 28 days Iran will change its intentions and actions. In my opinion at this rate the June 30 deadline will not produce an important landmark in the history of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Israel needs to become proactive before this deadline. Israel’s new Foreign Minister, who is also the Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, and Cabinet Minister Dr Yuval Steinitz who apparently has responsibility for the “Iranian issue” need to move against Russia. It is Russia who is to be blamed. Iran is not a rational actor in the international system. Iran is rogue. Russia on the other hand is the legacy of the Soviet Union and understands that nuclear capability doesn’t bring victory. It will be Russia who can force Iran to sign an agreement on 30 June. It is Russia who can stop supplying Iran with nuclear reactors. It is Russia who can curtail Iranian intentions.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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