Russian Official: Israeli 'Talk' on Iran Dangerous

A Russian official warned Israel that its tough stance on Iran's nuclear weapons program could have “catastrophic consequences.”

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David Lev,

Barak at the Herzliya Conference
Barak at the Herzliya Conference
IDC Herzliya

A top Russian official on Thursday warned Israel that its tough stance on Iran's development of nuclear weapons could have “catastrophic consequences.” Mikhail Ulyanov, a top official in the Russian foreign ministry, said that Israel was “inventing” stories about Iran's nuclear capabilities that "are increasing the tension and could encourage moves towards a military solution with catastrophic consequences.”

Israel, he said, was seeking to aggravate the situation for its purposes. Israel has “political and propaganda objectives which are far from being inoffensive,”  Ulyanov said, adding that the ongoing statements by Israeli officials about Iran's nuclear development were “noise” designed to raise tensions, and continuing to issue veiled threats could have unforeseen results – that may not be in Israel's interests in the long run.

Ulyanov was speaking in an interview with Russia's Interfax News Agency, and his comments were reported by AFP.

Speaking at last week's Herzliya Conference, IDF Intelligence head Aviv Kochavi said that Israel has lost the battle to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons; Tehran already has enough uranium for four atomic bombs, with over 100 kilos enriched to a level of 20% - more than enough for the one bomb Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he would need to “rid the world of the Zionist entity.”

Whether or not Iran actually builds these bombs is not a question of technical capability, Kochavi said, but a question of political will. The ability to build the bombs is there, and whether or not they will actually be assembled is a decision that top Iranian officials, especially Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, has yet to make. “From the moment the order is given, it will take about a year to assemble the bombs,” Kochavi said. “Developing them into warheads will take a little longer.”

Speaking at the same conference, Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted that a military strike on Iran could be imminent. “Today, unlike the past, the world has no doubt that the military nuclear program is steadily nearing ripeness and is about to enter the 'immunity zone.' From that point on, the Iranian regime will be able to act to complete the program, with no effective disturbance and a time that is convenient for it.” The latest round of sanctions on Iran are "a step in the right direction and they should gradually be made more severe until the goal of stopping the nuclear program is reached – if it is reached," Barak said.

On Wednesday, a report in Ma'ariv said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has told his top officials to stop "blabbing" about a potential military strike targeting Iran's nuclear program. "Stop blabbing, already," he reportedly told the officials. "This chit-chat causes huge damage, puts Israel on the front line, and undermines sanctions" imposed by the United States and Europe.