Report: Putin to travel to Iran for nuclear strategy talks

Reza Kahlili Contributor
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted Iran’s invitation to visit Tehran to work out a strategy for the Islamic regime’s nuclear program, Fars News Agency reported Saturday. The West believes the Iranian program is a front for developing nuclear weapons.

Putin, seen by Iran’s clerical establishment as a strong opponent to America and the West — especially after his successful political play on averting a U.S. missile strike on Syria — was approached by Iran to protect the Islamic regime in the face of continued pressure by the West over its illicit nuclear program. Russia and the U.S. reached agreement Saturday to take control of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal by mid-2014.

Fars, the media outlet run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said Putin will soon travel to Tehran, although details of the trip have yet to be announced. Fars said Iranian President Hassan Rowhani issued the invitation to Putin on Friday while both leaders were attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian president accepted.

“Russia could possibly take new steps in solving the Iranian nuclear dossier,” Rowhani said. “The Russian initiative in relation to the Syrian chemical weapons and the steps taken by the Syrian officials provide this hope that a new war can be averted in the region.”

“Russia looks at Iran like a good neighbor,” Putin was quoted as saying. “I am very happy meeting the new Iranian president and personally congratulate him for his [recent presidential] victory. … We are aware of the opinions on the world’s stage in relation with Iran’s nuclear program; however, we have to also consider that Iran is our neighbor, a good neighbor.”

There were conflicting reports last week that Russia might increase its arms sales to Iran should Syria be attacked, including the delivery of its sophisticated surface-to-air missile system, the S300.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant had reported that Putin had decided to deliver five battalions of the S300s should Iran withdraw its claim of $4 billion in damages due to a breach of an original contract by Russia signed in 2007 worth $800 million.

In September 2010, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, under pressure by America and the West, signed a decree that banned the delivery of the S300 systems to the Islamic Republic. Iranian leaders, infuriated by this action, then filed a complaint against Russia’s arms export company, Rosoboronexport, with the International Court in Geneva.

Both Russia and Iran have strongly supported Syria’s Bashar Assad, with Iranian leaders warning that any intervention in Syria would cross a red line.

Meanwhile on Saturday, the leader of Iran’s proxy militia group in Iraq, Al-Mukhtar, warned that if America at any time attacks Syria, its forces would attack the oilfields of Saudi Arabia, thereby cutting off the “economic jugular” of the West.

“America’s attack on Syria will be the end of Saudi Arabia because the Saudi leaders promote the Syrian attack,” Wathiq al-Battat said, according to Keyhan newspaper, which is directly supervised by Iran’s supreme leader.

Battat threatened that his group would target the Saudi ports of Abqaiq, Juaymah and Ras Tanura, one of the largest in the world, and that his militants would also attack Saudi gas and oil pipelines, power lines and communication towers.

Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Forces, addressing a forum on Saturday, boasted about the power of the “Resistance Front” [Iran, Syria and Hezbollah] and stated, “In the eyes of the West, Zionists and the reactionary regimes, Syria’s real problem is not the ruling of the minority Alawites [who rule Syria] or the lack of democracy, but the reality is that the West and the reactionary regimes know that the Resistance’s powerful position in the region is indebted to the Syrian government.”

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and author of the award-winning book ”A Time to Betray“ (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).