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Secret U.S.-Russian Deal On Bushehr?

Analyst Menashe Amir: 'U.S. & Russia Concluded Secret Deal on Activating Iran's Nuclear Reactor At Bushehr

'In June, Russia Supported Latest U.N. Security Council Sanctions On Iran In Return For America's Agreement On Russia's Activating Bushehr'

IsraCast Assessment: Israel Apparently Informed Of Deal - Netanyahu Government Apparently Ready To Go Along After Reassured Of Safeguards Against Iranians Exploiting Bushehr For Producing Nuclear Weapons

The Iranian Nuclear Reactor

Iran is set to join the 'Nuclear Club' on August 21st - that's when Russia will install nuclear fuel rods in the core of Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr. Surprisingly, Israeli government officials have not condemned the step that will upgrade Iran's nuclear capability and that could, if unchecked, even provide plutonium from the spent fuel rods for the eventual production of a nuclear bomb. Iranian affairs analyst Menashe Amir believes there is more to the Bushehr case than meets the eye.

'There is an under the table agreement between the U.S. and Russia on the the activating of the Bushehr reactor!' Analyst Menashe Amir told IsraCast that in June, Russia agreed to support the U.S. drive for stiffer sanctions against Iran- this in return for America's turning a blind eye to Russia's activating the Bushehr reactor. For years Moscow had dragged its feet on starting up Bushehr on different pretexts. This enabled the Russians to play the 'Iranian card' in its rivalry with the U.S. and to also extract more money from Tehran. But time for stalling ran out and the Russians cut a secret deal with the Americans. Now the U.S. State Department has issued a statement to the effect that safeguards will be in place to forestall any immediate danger from Bushehr. And these according to Menashe Amir are the undisclosed details: the Russians will still hold 'the key' to Bushehr by controlling the spent nuclear fuel that is to be shipped back to Russia. Otherwise, that fuel could be converted into plutonium for making a nuclear weapon. (Gen.Uzi Eilam, the former head of Israel's Atomic Energy Agency, said recently the plutonium process could be a greater threat than the uranium enrichment that is currently underway).

Menashe Amir at IsraCast Studios

Menashe Amir also says the Russians may not be ready to supply all the technical know-how that would enable Iranian tecnicians to run Bushehr independently. In his view, the 'launch' of Bushehr as a nuclear power plant will have a greater psychological impact inside Iran than any real military threat at this stage. The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna will play a monitoring role at Bushehr. IAEA inspectors, now equipped with more sophisticated measuring technology, will be expected to guarantee that neither the Iranians nor Russians cheat on the arrangement.

It would appear the deal is based on the premise that the Russians will be leery about letting their fanatical Islamist neighbor from acquiring the bomb. If this assessment is true it explains why Israeli leaders have virtually ignored Bushehr. Apparently, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is following President Barack Obama's lead and still counting on the U.S. to lead the campaign against a nuclear armed Iran. It is impossible to ascertain where all this will end. An up and running Bushehr will be heralded by the Iranian regime as a major victory, and rightly so. The U.S. may be pushing for sanctions and Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, may refer to a contingency plan for attacking Iran, but in Iranian eyes: 'The dogs bark but our caravan moves on!' And what must they be thinking in Tehran, after National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones suggested that Obama was still ready to meet with Achmadenijad, after the Iranian leader ran diplomatic rings around the U.S. President for sixteen months in a fruitless policy of engagement?

So where is all this leading? Some American pundits see signs that June's financial sanctions are having an impact on Tehran. However CIA Director Leon Panetta is not of that view. Recently he told ABC TV: 'Will it deter the Iranians from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not'. Moreover, Panetta revised the U.S. Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that said the Iranians had stopped their nuclear 'weaponization' work in 2003. Panetta is more in synch with the Israeli estimate that Iran now has enough enriched uranium, of low grade, to produce two nuclear weapons by mid 2012. But again, the uranium enrichment track is different than Bushehr and it apparently will continue to be in Israel's crosshairs.

The Obama administration appears bent on reassuring the Netanyahu cabinet. The U.S. has not capitulated to Palestinian preconditions for peace talks. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the conference table will ease strains with the Arab world against the backdrop of their joint concern over a nuclear Iran. America's agreement to supply 20 F-35 stealth combat aircraft to Israel and President Obama's tough talk to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is further reassurance for Netanyahu to hold off any unilateral Israeli decision about attacking Iran's nuclear sites. Despite Russia's activating of Bushehr, Israel is still biding its time before discussing this question: 'Are Putin and Obama playing Russian roulette' with the survival of the Jewish state?'

David Essing

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