debkafile: In a dramatic reverse swing, Putin decides to send uranium to fuel Iran’s atomic power station in Bushehr
The Russian president Vladimir Putin indicated Friday that Moscow would send uranium to Iran’s atomic reactor in Bushehr (a reactor unconnected with Iran’s suspect military program) after all. International Atomic Energy inspectors were invited to the Novosibirsk Plant on Nov. 26 to verify and seal the fuel before shipment. On that day, too, the US-promoted Middle East conference is provisionally set to open in Annapolis, Maryland. The Quartet of which Russia is a member will not be there.
debkafile‘s military sources report that by this step, Moscow has backed away from the commitments Putin gave President Bush and Israeli prime minister Olmert, after his mid-October talks with Iranian leaders in Tehran broke down in discord. He then promised to withhold the fuel from the Bushehr reactor and indeed pulled all the Russian staff out before they had completed work on the project’s final stages.
Olmert received Putin’s commitment to withhold the uranium fuel from Iran when they met in the Kremlin on Oct. 18 and passed it on to President Bush and later to French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British premier Gordon Brown in special trips he made to Paris and London. The Israeli prime minister announced then that Israel had a true friend in the Russian leader.
He is deeply embarrassed by Putin’s about-face. It also bodes ill for the third round of sanctions, for which the Bush administration is pushing at the UN Security Council, where Russian holds a veto, now that the nuclear watchdog confirmed in its latest report Nov. 15 that Iran had not given up uranium enrichment.
debkafile‘s Moscow sources report that the Russian president has reverted to his previous tactic of broadcasting to Muslim nations a message that Moscow has its own agenda and is willing, unlike Washington, to help them develop their nuclear programs.
The question mark hanging over UN sanctions also affects the decision on military action against Iran’s suspect military nuclear facilities, which President Bush had put on a back burner under the influence of Putin’s breach with Tehran. There was a brief thaw in the tense relations between Washington and Moscow and signs of a new willingness for compromise on both sides on such matters as the US plan to deploy anti-missile systems in East Europe.
The month-long detente was abruptly curtailed Friday, Nov. 16, with Moscow’s decision to let Iran have the uranium to fuel its Bushehr reactor six months before its scheduled start-up. The step was gladly welcomed in Tehran.