According to U.S. intelligence sources, Iran is looking to Russia for assistance in strengthening its nuclear weapons development. It’s key to mention that Iran has reportedly asked Russia for assistance in getting more nuclear materials and producing atomic fuel, which may power its nuclear reactors and potentially decrease Iran’s so-called “breakout time” for developing nuclear weapons.
The Iranian proposal comes amid an expanding partnership between Iran and Russia. In recent months, Iran supplied combat drones and other military equipment to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine.
In response to this, Moscow provided Tehran with advice on how to put an end to the protest movement spreading Iran, according to U.S. officials.
How does Iran justify its position?
Iran claims its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes and has formally ended its weapons program. However, according to U.S. officials, Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have gone far beyond the restrictions of the 2015 nuclear agreement, and the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon has been cut down to just a few months.
In June US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned lawmakers that Iran’s nuclear “program is galloping forward … The longer this goes on, the more the breakout time gets down … it’s now down, by public reports, to a few months at best. And if this continues, it will get down to a matter of weeks.”
The nuclear problem worries the U.S.
The Biden administration strictly monitors any new collaboration areas between Iran and Russia. Given that Russia is a member of the P5+1 group of nations that have been engaged in negotiations to restrict Iran’s nuclear program, any covert Russian support to Iran that could strengthen Iranian efforts to produce nuclear weapons would likewise will mean a significant change in Russian policy.
According to James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Iran has the incentive to generate fuel faster and cheaper. According to Acton, they have strong incentives to request assistance, particularly on the gasoline side.
“I would have been quite suspicious that Russia would help Iran three or four years ago when ties between the U.S. and Russia were poor”, Acton continued. However, given the current climate, where ties between the United States and Russia are at an all-time low, and those between Russia and Iran are improving, I believe the equation looks very different for Russia.
The Russian position on a nuclear agreement
The International Atomic Energy Agency was able to conduct inspections at Iranian nuclear facilities thanks partly to arrangements Russia negotiated and played a crucial role in brokering throughout 2021. This helped to keep the negotiations on track.
But following its invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian officials seemed less committed to the agreement. A crucial issue contributing to the breakdown of discussions was Russia’s rejection of an IAEA resolution that condemned Iran for refusing to cooperate with inspections of uranium traces discovered at some of the country’s secret nuclear installations.
In the same month, a Russian delegation started going to an Iranian airfield to explore drones that might carry weapons, which Russia is now purchasing and employing in large numbers in Ukraine.
The U.S. is focused on other crucial issues
U.S. officials have emphasized in recent days and weeks that, at least temporarily, the nuclear deal negotiations are all but dead. Senior Biden administration officials have found it challenging to reach an agreement with Tehran that would give it financial crisis relief in the form of sanctions relaxation because of the Iranian regime’s ruthless and violent suppression of demonstrators and backing for Russian military actions in Ukraine.
Rob Malley, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, stated that although the United States is dedicated to diplomatic efforts to restrict Iran’s nuclear program, “if nothing happens,” U.S. officials will not “waste our time” on a nuclear deal.
According to Melley, the U.S. is now concentrating on matters that can be “useful,” like aiding Iranian demonstrators and figuring out how to deter Iran from transferring weapons to Russia. He stated that while dealing with Iran, the United States still has “the benefit of diplomacy.” To prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, he continued, “we will employ other measures, including as a last resort, the military option, if required.”
If Russia’s assistance to Iran in its nuclear program is confirmed, it creates a dangerous situation, as the nuclear agreement obliged Iran to stop any activities that could lead to producing nuclear weapons, and in exchange, the West lifted sanctions from Tehran. Should Iran obtain nuclear weapons it will create a major security threat in the Middle East, and Iran maintains tensions with two historical opponents – Israel and Saudi Arabia. We all remember, that former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened that “Israel will be wiped off the map”. So, this situation should be taken seriously by the West, these reports should be investigated, and measures taken accordingly.