The West takes notice as Russia and Iran get closer - December, 2007

The West takes notice as Russia and Iran get closer

December, 2007

The West appears amazed to see Russian-Iranian strategic partnership surviving and even strengthening. This partnership is quite logical, but the West turned its attention to it only with supplies of Russian long range surface-to-air S-300 missiles. Due to start in January, these supplies were agreed upon a long time ago. Judging by the response of the media, the West is panicky to see Russia stick to the promise.

The Guardian warns that modernized Russian air defense missile systems can hit U.S. and Israeli war aircraft, and S-300 are even better than Patriots at intercepting cruise missiles and IBM. But then, why would Iran need such weapons? Will they come on friendly visits or what? The New York Times regards the upcoming deal as another arbitrary Russian step and reproaches President Bush for his tolerance as Russia starts fuel exports to the Bushehr nuclear plant. The newspaper could have regarded the fuel and missile supplies as an asymmetrical response to the American ABM in Europe. The same logic could also apply to the Kosovo issue.

Besides, the United States is also capable of arbitrary moves. In 2002, it banged the door on the ABM Treaty without giving any thought to Russia's reaction. Now, it is spreading its anti-missile defense to Europe despite the problems it would cause for Russia and, for that matter, to Europe if Russia hit back. But then, why is Moscow to believe Washington that the European ABM system is targeted at Iran and not Russia? Is the U.S. any better than Iran, which is trying to convince the world that it will have no nuclear weapons because they go against Muslim precepts? With a recent shift of policy toward Iran, Russia is now determined to comply with its pledges on the Iranian nuclear program, though within limits set by the IAEA.

Whatever crisis may befall Iran, Russia stands to lose-for instance, if the UN Security Council toughens its sanctions and the United States and the European Union wind down partnership with Iran. The world went through a similar situation when Russia did much to stop the isolation of Iran. No better to Russia would be a limited U.S. missile strike on Iran, which would overthrow its president. Things would be downright disastrous if America unleashed a total war. Russia would not gain, either, with a secret U.S.-Iranian agreement-which appears the least probable option of all. Russia would also lose if Iran obtained nuclear arms. That would be a danger no smaller than the American ABM in Europe.

There is only one wise thing Russia can do: join efforts with its partners to settle the Iranian problem without radical measures. This is what Moscow is trying to do now-suffice it to say that fuel supplies to Bushehr have been coordinated with the White House. Now, is it possible at all to settle the Iranian problem without acting tough? Is Moscow ready to do so? And is Iran gambling on its contacts with Russia? There are no clear answers to those burning questions, and it is hard to say whether S-300s have any bearing on them. Be that as it may, Russia will certainly bring its missiles to Iran.


In related news:

Outside View: Russia's Iran nuke role

According to Zalmay Khalilzad, the permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations, the Iranian Six -- the United States, Russia, China and the European trio of Britain, France and Germany -- have at last reached a consensus. The situation around the Iranian nuclear file reads like a crime novel, especially in view of the latest surprise moves by Tehran. Iran has found an original method of protecting its uranium enrichment program and avoiding sanctions for doing so. Or at least of making the sanctions look illegitimate in the eyes of Iran and the world community. Gholamreza Agazade, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, has said that Iran is currently building its own nuclear power plant with a 360 megawatts capacity and intends to produce fuel for that plant itself, at an enrichment center in Natanz. In light of the "natural requirements" of nuclear fuel, Iran will not only lessen the curtailment of its enrichment program, but, on the contrary, possibly increase the number of centrifuges at Natanz from 3,000 to 50,000 units.

According to Agazade, 3,000 centrifuges can supply only one nuclear plant of 100 megawatts. Agazade's timing for his sensational statement was perfect. It came after Moscow and Washington made public their stands on the start of nuclear fuel deliveries to the Bushehr plant from Russia. They said that the deliveries created the necessary conditions for Iran to fulfill the U.N. Security Council resolutions and International Atomic Energy Agency recommendations "to restore confidence in the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program." It was further said that Iran did not need its own enrichment facility, because the Bushehr plant, according to contract terms, would always be provided with Russian fuel. Tehran jumped at the chance offered by such placatory remarks from Washington and said it was building yet another nuclear plant on its own and will produce the fuel for it itself. Iran is formally correct by saying that nuclear fuel deliveries to the Bushehr plant are not connected with its nuclear program. To judge by everything, the Iranian leadership held the nuclear plant at Darkhovin, which is the plant concerned, as an ace in the hole.

It is a different matter if that "formality" will be enough to avoid sanctions. The Persian language has a saying that fits the Darkhovin situation perfectly: A smart duck is trapped twice. The same fate may await Iran. But there is one "but" that Tehran prefers to avoid. In line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA recommendations, Iran should have informed the agency of the project. Tehran could not have known that. Most likely, the Darkhovin scenario is a little trick. If it is established that Iran did some work secretly, sanctions are unavoidable. Meanwhile, the U.S. response to the Russia-Iran agreement on fuel supplies to Bushehr has been mixed: While the American administration welcomed it, the expert community again accused Moscow of "collusion with Tehran." The New York Times described the first shipment of low-enriched uranium to Bushehr as all but a body blow to U.S. prestige. Journalists said that the American administration, by supporting the Russian deliveries to Bushehr, lost its "long-going battle with Russia." Now, they say, the Iranian Six has no teeth to enforce punishment on Tehran for refusing to freeze its uranium enrichment program.

Why should an influential newspaper start scattering the ashes so soon? It emerges, as diplomats and administration representatives told The New York Times privately, that Russia's decision to supply nuclear fuel means support for Iran. In December of last year Moscow backed sanctions against Iran, and some Russian experts accused it of an anti-Iranian plot with the United States. Now the supplies of nuclear fuel to Iran, especially in agreement with Washington, can be interpreted at will -- including as a well-played spectacle by Russia and Tehran. Given the wish, this scenario can easily fit in both the American missile defense shield in Europe and the Kosovo situation.


Russia Lends a Hand

There were echoes of the cold war yesterday, as Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar announced that Russia would supply his country with an S-300 air defense system, capable of shooting down aircraft, as well as ballistic and cruise missiles. The White House, of course, expressed concern about the agreement, coming at a time when it has asked for a new round of United Nations sanctions on Iran. Russia, meanwhile, hasn't acknowledged the sale. But earlier this month, Russian military cooperation chief Mikhail Dmitriev argued that defense ties between Russia and Iran "reinforces stability in the region." While there's a certain amount of nose-thumbing in Russia's position, there's also some merit. An improved Iranian air defense system could improve security in the region, particularly by deterring a unilateral Israeli attack. But while there are some upsides to Russian-Iranian cooperation on defensive systems, cooperation on offensive military equipment is something to worry about.

With a 90-mile maximum range, the S-300 is similar to the U.S. Patriot system. Along with the short-range Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system that Russia delivered to Iran earlier this year, it would modernize Iranian air defenses -- previously based largely on deteriorating 1970s American technology. And it would pretty much put the kibosh on Israel's ability to attack Iran on its own. Former Israeli Air Force Commander Eitan Ben-Eliyahu has said that the Russian missiles would make it significantly harder for Israel to attack from the air. And, even if an Iranian nuclear weapons program some day crossed a line that justified preemptive attack, the world would be far safer if there were technological and other constraints on unilateral action. Adopting these systems would also make the Iranian military somewhat more transparent and make Iran more dependent on outside sources of military goods, both of which could be positive in the long-run if U.S.-Russian relations stay warm.

But those benefits are counterbalanced, though, when you move from talking about defensive military systems to offensive ones. And, indeed, Iran and Russia are in negotiations to expand military cooperation beyond air defenses, including attack helicopters and jet engines for a fleet of indigenous Iranian fighters. There have also been reports that Iran intends to purchase Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighters. Despite the cold-war-like response to the S-300 announcement, these other negotiations have gone on without much notice. But the buildup of Iranian military capabilities is far more likely than the buildup of its air defenses to be the spark of future conflict.


Russia Helps Iran Keep Balance of Power

A meeting of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation took place n Tehran at the end of last week. The commission discussed leasing Russian helicopters and deliveries of modified RD-33 engines for Iranian jet fighters. Head of the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service Mikhail Dmitriev stated that cooperation with Iran would continue with the goal of maintaining the balance of power in the region. The engines will power multipurpose supersonic fighter jets developed in Iran to replace American F-5 models obtained in the 1970s and the Iranian modification of them, called the Azarakhsh (Lightening). The deal was discussed during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Iran in October. A modification of the Ka-32 helicopter is also being considered. Iran began negotiations on the serial assembly of the Ka-32 two years ago, but those negotiations were discontinued. In 2006 and 2007, Russia supplied Iran with Tor-M1 air defense systems to defend the atomic power plant being built at Bushehr by the Russians. Talks on deliveries of S-300V air defense systems and MiG-29 and Su-30 fighter jets were also discontinued about a year ago. A delay in the U.S.-Iranian war is implied by the recent publication of a U.S. intelligence report indicating that Iran closed down its military nuclear program in 2003. Russia is clearly taking advantage of the situation to sell as many weapons as possible. Dmitriev stated that “Russia and Iran are strengthening stability in the region.” He added that “We are talking about defensive types of weapons… Iran has never asked for and Russia would never give Iran offensive weapons to encourage any, conditionally speaking, aggression against anyone.”


Russian official: Russia, Iran should bolster all-out ties

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said on Thursday that Iran has a special position in Russia's foreign policy. Speaking to reporters, he said the two sides' leaders especially after the recent visit of Russian leader Vladimir Putin to Iran have called for bolstering of ties between the two countries. Iran is regarded as Russia's most important and powerful neighbor, he said, adding that Russia gives priority to expansion of cooperation with Asian countries including Iran, China, India and Japan. Mutual cooperation between Iran and Russia would help restore security to the region, he pointed out. Iran and Russia have closely cooperated in anti-drug fight and terrorism in Afghanistan, he said. On Iran's nuclear programs, he said since the two countries enjoy very close ties, Moscow has played a special role to this end. On international cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, he said the two countries have adopted close stands on international developments and are determined to pursue the same path.


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Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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