Moscow signals harder position against nuclear-armed Iran

A Russian strategic arms control expert, Vladimir Dvorkin, said Thursday, March 12, that Iran could produce an atomic weapon in “one or two years,” allowing Tehran to broaden its support for Hamas and Hizballah. Dvorkin, as head of the strategic arms research center at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and a former general of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces, is a highly respected authority in the West.
This was the first time a Russian figure had predicted Iran would be nuclear-capable within so short a period, debkafile‘s Moscow sources stress. Its correlative linkage to a heightened threat from Hamas and Hizballah has never been heard from Moscow, or even explicitly from Washington or Jerusalem.
Dvorkin put it this way: “The threat is that Iran, which has effectively ignored all the resolutions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council, as a nuclear state would become untouchable, allowing it to broaden its support for terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah.”
Without mentioning Israel, this Russian warning implicitly put the Jewish state on notice, as the only country threatened by Hizballah and Hamas, that time was running out.
Dvorkin’s prediction of “one or two years” was also Moscow’s rejoinder to intelligence chief Dennis Blair’s forecast Tuesday that Iran would have a nuclear bomb capability within “one to five years.”
It was the second pointer to a tougher Russian stance on Iran’s nuclear weapon aspiratoins. On March 10, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted an unnamed Moscow source as stating that “Russia may shelve delivery of its advanced S-300 air defense missile system to Iran.”
Tehran wants this system to protect its nuclear sites against air or missile attack.
The Moscow source added: “Such a possibility is not excluded. The question must be decided at a political level…”
The final decision on the transaction has therefore been passed to president Dmitry Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin, say our Moscow sources.
The Dvorkin statement and Interfax disclosure lay down a hard new Kremlin line on the impasse over Iran’s quest for a nuclear bomb just ahead of the Russian president’s first summit with US president Barack Obama in London on April 1.
They also suggest that Russia would show some flexibility in the interests of cooperation with Washington.
Moscow has not lost sight of a possible quid pro quo with Obama over the deployment of a US missile shield close to its borders versus Russian involvement in the Iran nuclear issue – although both sides deny this was proposed.

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