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Is Iran a nuclear threat or not?

28/ 04/ 2008

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) - On May 2, the foreign ministers of Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany will meet in London to discuss a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear problem.

Sergei Kislyak, a Russian deputy foreign minister who has attended all the meetings on ballistic missile defense and Iran's nuclear problem, said they expect progress from each such meeting.

The United States is developing a missile defense system in Europe to counter the Iranian missile threat, and therefore progress on Iran may also help solve the ABM problem, the main obstacle hindering Russian-American relations. What the sides need is a coordinated policy regarding Iran's strategic missiles.

But Moscow and Washington have diametrically opposite views of Iran's current and future ballistic missile threat.

Before the NATO summit in Bucharest, President George W. Bush urged the development of the ballistic missile system in Europe because "Iran could test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. and all of Europe."

But Russia does not regard Iran's missiles as a serious threat. Kislyak said there is no threat from Iran. The Russian military, notably Chief of Staff Yury Baluyevsky, view the Iranian missile threat as hypothetical, unlike the very tangible U.S. interceptor missiles to be deployed in Poland and the early warning radar planned for the Czech Republic.

Russia would be glad if the United States could be convinced to postpone the deployment of its ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland after the international community develops a common stance on Iran's missile threat.

Russia keeps on trying to encourage Americans to work together on the issue. However, Acting Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Daniel Fried and Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Rood said on March 27 that the Bush administration was not ready to postpone ABM deployment in Poland until both Russia and the United States agree that Iran is a threat.

Iran has approximately 40 launchers for short- and intermediate-range missiles, such as the Shahab-3, which, with a range of 1,120-1,240 miles, can reach southern Russia. According to Western intelligence sources, Iran can produce up to 20 missiles a year.

On November 20, 2007, Tehran tested the Ashura ballistic missile, with a range of 1,240 miles, which, according to Israeli and U.S. intelligence, can carry MIRVed missiles.

On February 4, 2008, Iran tested the Kaveshgyar-1 (Explorer) missile and unveiled its first satellite, Omid (Hope), which is to be launched this year.

On the face of it, this may be cause for concern. But a missile without a nuclear payload is not very dangerous, and no intelligence service in the world can say without a doubt that Iran has nuclear bombs, or that it will create one soon.

On the other hand, it is no secret that Iran is pursuing a very active nuclear policy, although so far in the civilian sector.

Lev Feoktistov, a respected Russian nuclear physicist, said in Vladimir Gubarev's book "The Empire's Nuclear Shield" that while it would be far from easy to catch up with the established nuclear powers in weapons design, it is very easy indeed to make a simple bomb whose only task is to explode.

One only needs the correct reference and textbooks to create the simplest kind of bomb, such as the first American or Soviet bombs, which were based on simple physical principles formulated before World War II, the scientist writes.

In short, Russian and American specialists will have much to ponder and discuss at their London meeting.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. 

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