Israel names Russians helping
Iran build nuclear bombUzi Mahanimi in Tel Aviv, Mark Franchetti and Jon
The Sunday Times. October 4, 2009. Israel's prime minister, Binyamin
Netanyahu, has handed the Kremlin a list of Russian scientists believed
by the Israelis to be helping Iran to develop a nuclear warhead. He is
said to have delivered the list during a mysterious visit to Moscow.
Netanyahu flew to the Russian capital with Uzi Arad, his national
security adviser, last month in a private jet.
His office claimed he was in Israel, visiting a secret military
establishment at the time. It later emerged that he was holding talks
with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and President Dmitry
“We have heard that Netanyahu came with a list and concrete evidence
showing that Russians are helping the Iranians to develop a bomb,” said
a source close to the Russian defense minister last week.
“That is why it was kept secret. The point is not to embarrass Moscow,
rather to spur it into action.”
Israeli sources said it was a short, tense meeting at which Netanyahu
named the Russian experts said to be assisting Iran in its nuclear
In western capitals the latest claims were treated with caution.
American and British officials argued that the involvement of freelance
Russian scientists belonged to the past.
American officials said concern about Russian experts acting without
official approval, had been raised by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) in a report more than a year ago.
“There has been Russian help. It is not the government, it is
individuals, at least one helping Iran on weaponisation activities and
it is worrisome,” said David Albright, a former weapons inspector who is
president of the Institute for Science and International Security.
However, Israeli officials insist that any Russian scientists working in
Iran could do so only with official approval.
Robert Einhorn, the special adviser for non-proliferation and arms
control to Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is understood to
believe that Russian companies have also supplied material that has been
used by Iran in the production of ballistic missiles.
The disclosures came as Iran agreed at talks in Geneva to submit to IAEA
inspections of its newly disclosed enrichment plant, which is being
built under a mountain on a military base at Qom. Iran revealed the
plant to the IAEA to pre-empt being caught out by an imminent
announcement from western governments, which had discovered its
The West says the plant is tailor-made for a secret weapons programme
and proves Iran’s claim that its nuclear programme is intended only for
peaceful purposes is a lie. The plant is designed to hold 3,000
centrifuges — enough to produce the material needed for one bomb a year.
Iran’s conduct over the next few weeks will determine whether the West
continues its new dialogue or is compelled to increase pressure with
tougher United Nations and other sanctions.
Ephraim Sneh, a former Israeli deputy defense minister, warned that time
was running out for action to stop the programme. “If no crippling
sanctions are introduced by Christmas, Israel will strike,” he said. “If
we are left alone, we will act alone.”
A key test for the West will be whether Iran allows IAEA inspectors
unfettered access to the Qom plant. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the
IAEA, was in Tehran this weekend to discuss this and Iran’s agreement,
in principle, to ship most of its current stocks of low-enriched uranium
to Russia so it can be used in medical research. President Barack Obama
has told Iran he wants to see concrete results within two weeks.
While there is consensus in the West that Iran is trying to acquire the
capability to build a weapon, the progress of its weaponisation
programme is a matter of fierce debate among intelligence agencies.
The Americans believe secret work to develop a nuclear warhead stopped
in 2003. British, French and German intelligence believe it was either
continuing or has restarted. The Israelis believe the Iranians have
“cold-tested” a nuclear warhead, without fissile material, for its
Shahab-3B and Sejjil-2 rockets at Parchin, a top-secret military complex
southeast of Tehran.
The vast site is officially dedicated to the research, development and
production of ammunition, rockets and explosives. Satellite imagery as
early as 2003 has shown Parchin to be suitable for research into the
development of a nuclear weapon, say western experts.
The Shahab-3B, which the Iranians test-fired last Monday, is capable of
carrying a 2,200lb warhead. Its 1,250-mile range puts parts of Europe,
Israel and US bases in the Middle East within its reach.
According to the Israelis, Russian scientists may have been responsible
for the nuclear warhead design. But western experts have also pointed
the finger at North Korea.
Michael Smith, Christina Lamb
Source: Fox News.