Moscow and Tehran Deepen Nuclear and Military Ties

From August 24 to 29, Russian military forces staged a large-scale war exercise in which the armies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan took part. It was commanded jointly by Russia’s deputy chief of staff Colonel-General Vladimir Bulgakov and Kazakh defense minister Army General Mukhtar Altynbayev.

The object of the exercise was to test their combined readiness for an American attack on Iran’s nuclear installations from bases in Azerbaijan.

Codenamed Rubezh 2006, the war game was held in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

American military sources who watched the maneuvers told DEBKA-Net-Weekly they had concluded that the real object of the exercise was to block any possible US attempt to use the attack on Iran to take over the oil-rich Caspian Sea region.

The mistrust is mutual.

In Washington it is suspected that the joint Russian-Central Asian exercise has been coordinated with Iran. It is no coincidence, some US officials say, that it is being held at the same time as Iran’s Blow of Zolfaqar war games in the Persian Gulf and appears to be staged to instill in the troops a sense of real-life battle conditions.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report the participation of the 77th Russian Guards Marine Brigade which is stationed in Kaspisk. It is drilling alongside the reconnaissance and sabotage platoon of the 37th Assault-Landing Brigade of Kazakh Airmobile Troops. They are practicing landings on the Caspian Sea coast near the Kazakh port city of Aktau, but according to our military sources, also holding maneuvers mocking sabotage operations behind the lines of American units assigned with the assault mission against Iran.

The Kazakh unit is composed entirely of women fighters trained by Russian instructors. It is reputed to be the most professional special operations unit of any Caspian nation.

Kazakhstan prizes its Caspian oil infrastructure highly; its ambition to step up energy exports in the coming years depends heavily on Caspian shelf production.

According to a local paper – the press is tightly controlled by the ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev’s daughter Darigha: “It is possible that the exercise conducted by the CSTO, which is dominated by Russia, represents a response to concerns about United States involvement in developing Kazakhstan’s navy.

“Observers say Russia is leaning more and more towards the Iranian view that countries from outside should be banned from having armed forces in the Caspian Sea region.”

Another Kazakh paper describes the war games, which are officially labeled as a counter-terrorist exercise, as being in direct response to “US military threats in the region including planned attacks on Iran.”

DEBKA-Net-Weekly notes incidentally that the United States has extended aid to Kazakhstan for building its navy.

Parallel to the war games, our intelligence sources confirm that a few weeks ago, Ukraine sold Iran the most advanced early warning system available in the world today called Kolchuga. Our military sources report its deployment at the Bushehr nuclear reactor and the Isfahan and Natanz nuclear sites where uranium enrichment is carried out.

This sale seriously upgrades Iran’s preparation for attack and raises to a new level Russian and Moscow-approved Ukrainian military assistance to Iran in readiness for an American attack.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources describe the Kolchuga – meaning “hauberk”

which is a short tunic made of a mesh of interlinked metal rings worn by medieval knights – as a complex consisting of three Kolchuga radar stations able to spot ground targets and track their movements within a radius of 600 km and aerial targets up to 800 km, making it an effective early warning defense system against incoming US aircraft.

Russia for its part signed a deal to ship fuel to Bushehr on Tuesday, Sept. 26. It was signed in the Kremlin by Sergei Shmatko, head of the state-owned Atomstroiexport, and Mahmoud Hanatian, vice president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

This deal was offered by Moscow to salve Tehran’s irritation over Russian foot-dragging on the supply of fuel for Bushehr. But there is no doubt that it will have the opposite effect in Washington. Not only is Moscow standing firmly against any UN sanctions to punish Iran for its nuclear misdeeds, but Russian-Iranian nuclear and military cooperation is expanding apace.

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