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News | Former UN Atom Agency Chief: Attack Can't Stop Iran Nuclear Program


21 Mar 2012 22:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

AhmadinejadElBaradei.jpg10:30 p.m., 2 Farvardin/March 21 The "Iran" section of the website of Press TV, the English-language subsidiary of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, is currently featuring a story on remarks made by Mohamed ElBaradei, who was director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) between 1997 and 2009. According to Press TV, ElBaradei (seen here in a file photo with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) expressed the view that
a military attack on Iran may delay the country's nuclear energy program, but will never be able to stop it forever.

"You can bomb their [nuclear] facilities, but you cannot bomb their knowledge," Mohamed ElBaradei said in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

The former IAEA chief also warned Western countries and Israel that if Iran was attacked over its nuclear energy program, the country may choose to develop nuclear weapons as deterrence.

While Press TV credits the Bloomberg news service as its source, it chooses not to run the quote that appears in other reports on ElBaradei's comments, including Bloomberg Businessweek's: "If you were to bomb Iranian facilities, there will be a lesson for Iran -- to develop nuclear weapons." Press TV's item continues,

ElBaradei further stated that Western countries need Iran "to help stabilize a region dealing with conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon."

"They [Iran and the West] both need each other.... Right now, each one is waiting for the other side to blink first and that is not going to happen," he said.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a possible attack on Iran over its nuclear energy program will have disastrous consequences as it may lead to an arms race in the Middle East region.

"The CIA and other US officials admit they now have no information about the Iranian leadership taking the political decision to produce nuclear weapons.... But I am almost certain that such a decision will surely be taken after (any) strikes on Iran," he added in an interview with Moscow's Kommersant FM radio.

Lavrov stated that if a real attack happened, it "...will force a lot of Third World countries to pause and realize that if you have a nuclear bomb, no one will really bother you."

RIA Novosti provides a fuller account of the Russian foreign minister's remarks. Lavrov declared that airstrikes on Iran,

"will only slow down the nuclear program, but they will never cancel, close or abolish it." [...]

"Many analysts say that if Iran had a nuclear bomb, it wouldn't face threats or airstrikes," said Lavrov. "Moreover, some of Iran's neighbors are already starting to think that the story of Muammar Gaddafi would have had a different ending if he had possessed such weapons. This gives certain countries grounds to think about running their own nuclear program."

He added that the Iranian leadership's threats to eliminate Israel were "foreign policy rhetoric aimed at reaching domestic and Islamic global goals" and are highly unlikely ever to be implemented.

"I'm convinced that Iran won't ever decide to do this because the region is tiny. Eliminating Israel without hitting Palestinians is, probably, impossible," he said.

He also said that unilateral sanctions against Iran are directed primarily against the country's economy and will have no impact on its nuclear ambitions.

"If we all seek clarification about blank spots in the nuclear program, then we should resort to collective sanctions and a unified stance," Lavrov said. "Unilateral sanctions including Iranian oil deals ban...are not directed at pursuing non-proliferation goals but at strangling the economy."

The Georgian perspective on Russian interests in this realm is instructive. On February 13, an attempt to bomb an Israeli diplomat's car in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, was thwarted; that same day, a similar attack injured the wife of an Israeli military attaché and three other people in New Delhi. Indian police have issued arrest warrants for three Iranian nationals in that attack, which they have linked to an explosion the following day in Bangkok -- three Iranians are in custody, two in Thailand and one in Malaysia, on charges related to that blast.

The New York-based Georgian Daily is carrying a column that originally ran in the Wall Street Journal, written by Melik Kaylan, who describes the "iron-hard strategic calculations" behind Russian Prime Minister Valdimir Putin's support for the Syrian and Iranian regimes. "Syria is a domino," according to Kaylan.

Without its Syrian ally, Iran would be almost totally isolated and crucially weakened. That Moscow cannot allow.

Why is Iran so central to Mr. Putin's global pretensions? Take a look at the Caspian Sea area map and the strategic equations come into relief. Iran acts as a southern bottleneck to the geography of Central Asia. It could offer the West access to the region's resources that would bypass Russia. If Iran reverted to pro-Western alignment, the huge reserves of oil and gas landlocked in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and the like could flow directly out to the world without a veto from Moscow. [...] As things stand, these countries depend on Russian pipelines for their national income. [...]

Russia's gas and oil leverage over Turkey, Ukraine and much of Europe would evaporate. The Silk Road countries would finally reclaim their history since it was diverted forcibly toward Moscow in the 19th century. Their nominal post-Soviet independence would become a reality. [... Putin] would never recover from the triumph of freedom in Syria and Iran.

For the past two days, Iranian state and semiofficial media have been prominently featuring the Human Rights Watch report on abuses committed by the Syrian opposition in its struggle against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Those outlets have repeatedly quoted the declaration by Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, that Syrian "opposition leaders should make it clear to their followers that they must not torture, kidnap, or execute under any circumstances." None, however, have quoted or otherwise touched on Whitson's accompanying reference to the "Syrian government's brutal tactics."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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