- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 15, 2006

There’s a very famous German expression that loosely translates as, “Who starts something must finish it.”

I can’t help thinking this pertains to the Russian stance on Iran this past week, hearing the news that newly “elected” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has succeeded in enriching uranium with the purported purpose of developing atomic weapons.

After all, it was the former Soviet Union who is responsible. Today, Russia’s reluctance to seriously condemn Iran or threaten the country with economic sanctions is a critical mistake, and one that will surely end in catastrophe.

Russia has been the major supplier of nuclear power technology for Iran. In a halfhearted attempt to appease the West, Russia offered Iran a deal: develop your uranium at our own Russian factories and we’ll send it to you when it’s done. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must have had a belly laugh. Russia is indeed acting like Rick in “Casablanca”; shocked, shocked that uranium enrichment is going on in Iran. What did they think Iran needed it for? Electricity?

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, every country must declare if it is starting nuclear enrichment. Iran did not declare the start of construction of the Natanz facility — with Russia’s assistance — until 1998, which was illegal. Only then did Iran admit it had the “right to develop research production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and acquire equipment, materials and scientific and technological information.”

The Kremlin has already decided it is against military intervention. As Iran’s major trading partner, along with China, they are hesitant to punish the country, but indeed they are the only ones who can stop Iran. Diplomacy is out of the question. The president of Iran is a maniac, who sees a halo around his head every time he addresses an audience. What might be going on behind closed doors is anyone’s guess. He is determined to wipe Israel off the map and doesn’t care if his 80 million fellow countrymen suffer the consequences.

Some facts: In January 1995, Iran signed a contract with Russia’s Atomic Energy Ministry to finish the reactors at Busher, Iran. These reactors could produce up to 180 kilograms yearly of plutonium in their spent fuel. The agreement calls for Russia to complete the first reactor in Busher by December 2006. The contract includes providing a 30/50 megawatt thermal light-water research reactor, 2,000 tons of natural uranium and training about 15 Iranian nuclear scientists yearly.

According to the IAEA, Russia is “completing construction of nuclear reactors in Busher and hoping to build many more reactors.”

The Russian newspaper Pravda (April 5) declared, “Iran unveils secret super weapons,” designed by former Soviet scientists. The newspaper said Iran was able to get hold of the “Tornado” underwater missile from Kyrgyzstan, which was testing the missiles. Pravda mentions the site on Lake Issyk-Kul. Pravda also said Iran’s so- called latest “super weapon” is nothing more than a similar machine in the former Soviet naval forces called “Eaglet.”

According to Professor Rensselaer Lee of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Iran has employed 2,200 Russian scientists since 1999, most of them with expertise in weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Also, he estimated Russia nets upward of $800 million a year from Iran for military cooperation. In Iran, the tanks are Soviet-made T-72s. The military planes are also Russian-made MiG-29s and Su-24s.

Whether America and Russia will see eye-to-eye on this development is unknown. But it’s up to President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to solve the crisis.

It is clear Russia created a monster: Even the Russians aren’t convinced of the genuineness of Iran’s promises not to develop a nuclear warhead.

Alexei Arbatov, deputy chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, recently warned “technology transferred to Iran will have backfired.”

He predicts that within 10 to 15 years, Russian technology could be used by radical Islamic terrorists. Even against Russia.

We can hope this is the end of a beautiful friendship.

Tsotne Bakuria is a former member of Parliament in the Republic of Georgia and a visiting scholar at George Washington University.

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