Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:10 am (KSA) 21:10 pm (GMT)

Strike against Iran still on the table: experts

US said Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant was free of any 'proliferation risk'
US said Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant was free of any 'proliferation risk'

When Iran began loading nuclear fuel into its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor, the United States eased fears over a military strike by announcing that Iran’s move had no 'proliferation risk', but experts say a military action against Tehran is still high on U.S. and Israeli agendas.

“The threat to strike Iran is still going, however not in regards to its Bushehr nuclear reactor,” said Dr. Sami al-Faraj, head of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies.

The absence of a military action comes contrary to the charged climate in reaction to Iran’s nuclear fueling move, and the announcement made by John Bolton, a former U.S. envoy to the U.N., warned that Israel had only eight days to strike Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor.

He warned Israel that any late military response could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe by spreading nuclear radiation in the Gulf region.

“Nuclear reactors, per se, do not threaten the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and do not necessarily result in nuclear weapons programs,” said Michael Elleman, Senior Fellow for Missile Defense, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Iran’s neighboring Arab countries, such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan are on their way to build nuclear power plants to sustain their respective country’s energy needs.

No proliferation risk

 Russia looks at the Iranian nuclear deal as an opportunity to set its foot in Iran to influence the Iranian nuclear policy 
Dr. Sami al-Faraj, Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies

“The IAEA has a program that encourages the development of nuclear power, so long as the activities surrounding the nuclear industry are pursued transparently and with IAEA safeguards in place. This is why an operational Bushehr reactor is an accepted outcome by most countries,” added Michael Elleman.

On August 21 a U.S. department spokesman said that the United States recognized Bushehr reactor as a nuclear power plant made to produce electricity and it bears no nuclear ‘proliferation risk.’

Russia had cooperated with the West in imposing new sanction on Iran and refuses to to supply Iran with advanced S-300 air defense systems.

“Russia deals wisely with the Western world particularly with the United States and Israel, it did not provide Iran with S-300 missiles that can defend about any strike,” said Faraj.

“Russia looks at the Iranian nuclear deal as an opportunity to set its foot in Iran to influence the Iranian nuclear policy, because in the same time, Russia fears Iran to develop nuclear weapons and the best way to find out is by being inside Iran,” Farraj added.

The a lack of strong protest from Tel Aviv or Washington regarding Moscow’s decision to continue its work at Bushehr ,according to Elleman, seems to confirm the two countries’ collective trust in Russia’s ability to forestall Iranian abuse of the nuclear power plant.

Russia’s support of Iran’s reactor started in the 1990s, coinciding with the time when the Russian economy was dwindling.

“But one cannot dismiss Moscow’s desire to bolster its relations with Tehran. Iran represents a large potential market for Russian goods, and Iran’s energy resources are a target for Russian development. Moreover, Tehran could be a useful ally for Moscow as Russia attempts to stabilize Central Asia,” said Elleman.

Iraq-Iran parallel situation

In 1981 a number of Israeli F-15 interceptors and F-16 bombers destroyed the French-built Iraqi nuclear, Osirak, located 18 miles south of Baghdad. The Israeli strike against Osirak was meant to halt the completion of the Iraqi nuclear reactor which was expected to finish at the beginning of July or beginning of September 1981.

Israeli strike against Iraq’s Osirak did not stop Iraq from its quest to acquire nuclear weapons; on the contrary it drove Iraq covertly to further its nuclear ambitions.

“The 1981 Israeli strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq is frequently cited as a success, and is just as often used to justify similar strikes in the future. However, the attacks very likely did not delay substantially Iraq’s nuclear acquisition efforts,” said Elleman.

“And if not for the Gulf War in 1991, and the subsequent U.N. inspections, Iraq may have quietly succeeded in its efforts to enrich uranium for a national nuclear bomb,” he added.

Logistically, Bushehr’s location is at a far further point in comparison to Osirak. In 1981 Israeli warplanes passed through Jordan and Saudi Arabia to reach Iraq, but in order for Israel to send its fighter jets to Iran they have to pass through the airspace of several countries and the mission would be fraught with risk and danger, said Faraj.

Today, the United States, Israel’s staunch ally, is guided by a different diplomatic philosophy with President Barack Obama seeking to exploit all possible diplomatic channels, said Sami al-Nisf, a writer and political commentator.

Besides, Unlike Iraq, Iran has enemies to Israel as allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas that Iran can count on to retaliate against any Israeli attack. And Iraq was at a weaker position since it was at war with Iran during the 1980s, a factor that prompted Israel to strike.

Most importantly, to guarantee a non- catastrophic military strike to the environment against Iran is not guaranteed, said Faraj.

Possible Iranian response

 An Iranian retaliation if attacked is definitely much bigger in comparison to Iraq 

“An Iranian retaliation if attacked is definitely much bigger in comparison to Iraq,” said al-Nisf.

Intelligence leaks between 2004 and 2009 indicated that Iran was undergoing nuclear experiments to be later used for military nuclear applications decried from any civilian use, said Faraj.

Iran is also contravening with IAEA’s rules and is not accepting the new additional protocol set by the IAEA and that is for Iran to accept surprise visits to its nuclear sites.

“There are many questions that Iran until now not answered,” Dr. al-Faraj added.

According to the Iran-Russia agreement, Moscow will provide Tehran with nuclear fuel however under the supervision of IAEA.

Kuwait the closest Arab country to Iranian city Bushehr city has expressed concern over nuclear reactor possible leaks.

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