An alleged Iranian weapons shipment to Syria could violate international penalties aimed at curbing Tehran's disputed atomic activities, a U.N. Security Council panel said on Wednesday (see GSN, March 21).
The Security Council to date has adopted four sanctions resolutions intended to pressure Iran to halt nuclear operations that could support weapons development; Tehran has insisted its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful.
The armaments delivery, which had been reported since Dec. 21, 2011, would contravene a 2007 council resolution's prohibition on Iranian sales and procurements of weapons and related items, said Colombian Ambassador to the United Nations Néstor Osorio, who heads the committee charged with overseeing implementation of the sanctions.
Iran's use of a Safir rocket last month to place its Navid spacecraft in orbit might also constitute a breach of the penalties, according to a document provided by four governments (see GSN, Feb. 29).
Iran has established an "unsustainable and dangerous status quo" by refusing to permit the advancement of an International Atomic Energy Agency probe intended to confirm any links in past and present Iranian activities to possible nuclear-bomb development, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Rosemary DiCarlo said. Representatives of other Security Council member nations issued similar statements of concern (United Nations release, March 21).
How to pragmatically time possible efforts to thwart the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran is a question on which the United States and Israel have not found full common ground, the Associated Press quoted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying on Thursday.
Israel "cannot afford" to delay, as its Persian Gulf regional rival is seeking to render its atomic assets less vulnerable to military force before making any final commitment to build nuclear explosives, Barak told Israel Radio (Associated Press/Google News, March 22).
"Since America has more capabilities than Israel has, it certainly is possible to imagine a point in time, in which Israel will already be very limited in its ability to deal with the issue, and the United States can argue ‘We still can for many months,‘" Deutsche Presse-Agentur quoted him as saying (Deutsche Presse-Agentur/Europe Online Magazine, March 22).
Still, Tel Aviv could defer possible action for several months to evaluate "if the Iranians intend or don't intend to stop their nuclear weapons program" in response to new economic pressure and attempts at diplomatic outreach, AP quoted him as saying (Associated Press).
"We are seeing with our own eyes the reason why Iran, which really wants to achieve a military nuclear capability, is not taking some of the steps defined by the IAEA as breaking the rules, why it is not breaking out," Barak added in comments reported by Agence France-Presse. "One of the reasons is the fear of what will happen if, God forbid, the United States or maybe someone else acts against them."
The "only way" of addressing differences on the matter between Tel Aviv and Washington, he said, is "by accelerating the sanctions, and by setting down a short timetable for the talks next month, to test if they mean to stop their nuclear program or not."
Reports have indicated that Iran would in April hold a new round of nuclear talks with global powers China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States (Agence France-Presse/Google News, March 22).
One-time Israeli intelligence chief Meir Dagan said he thinks his country would learn of a decisive Iranian step to complete a bomb, such as generating weapon-grade uranium, Haaretz reported on Wednesday. Such a development would require Israel to employ military force against Iranian atomic sites in the absence of global action to halt Tehran's nuclear operations, he said (Haaretz, March 21).
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, though, last week said an attack on Iran might produce severe repercussions.
"If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe," Gates said in remarks reported by the Jewish Exponent on Wednesday.
Still, Gates added he had "long been convinced that Iran is determined to develop nuclear-weapons capability." The heads of U.S. intelligence agencies have said recently they do not believe Iran's leaders have made an official decision to seek a nuclear weapon.
"I suspect there are a number [of Iranian atomic sites] we have not yet identified," potentially further complicating a potential assault that would involve numerous targets, Gates said.
"While the Iranian ability to attack us militarily here at home is virtually nonexistent for now," Gates said, the nation could still mount a significant retaliation that might entail cutting off petroleum supplies from the Persian Gulf and assaulting foreign petroleum facilities.
"Their capacity to wage a series of terror attacks across the Middle East aimed at us and our friends, and dramatically worsen the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and elsewhere is hard to overestimate," the former official added.
Economic penalties against Iran are "starting to really bite," and "our best chance" at forcing a change in Iran's atomic trajectory is to further tighten the punitive measures, he said (Lisa Hostein, Jewish Exponent, March 21).
Australia's top diplomat on Thursday urged the global community to rule out use of military force against Iran, the Australian Associated Press reported.
"It should be off the table as we persist with sanctions, and persist with seeking a negotiated settlement," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr told Sky News. Economic pressure was proving effective, the official contended (Australian Associated Press/Sydney Morning Herald, March 22).
South Korea has ensured it would receive sufficient petroleum from alternate suppliers to compensate for any reductions to purchases from Iran, Reuters quoted South Korean Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan as saying on Thursday (Shinhyung Lee, Reuters, March 22).
The preparation of Iran's Bushehr atomic energy site is moving forward in accordance with an established time line, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty quoted Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian atomic energy firm Rosatom, as saying on Wednesday.
The facility was running at three-fourths power and would reach full capacity in the middle of 2012, Rosatom deputy head Alexander Lokshin said in February (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 22).
Kiriyenko added that his firm is "not in talks with Iran over the construction" of additional atomic energy facilities, Interfax reported (Interfax, March 21).