Russia is the one exception to U.S. success in dissuading nuclear cooperation with Iran - success, which includes China and Ukraine, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Non-proliferation, Robert Einhorn. In testimony before a U.S Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on October 5, he blamed Moscow's "lack of determination" in failing to stop Iran's procurement of nuclear materials in Russia.
Mr. Einhorn hoped that Moscow's decision to suspend the transfer of uranium-enriching laser technology, pending an investigation, is a "forerunner of concrete and decisive steps to halt" Russian assistance to Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
John A. Lauder, Special Assistant on Non-proliferation at the CIA, said Russian assistance plays a "crucial role" in Tehran's quest to "develop more sophisticated and longer-range missiles." He said Iran is 'actively pursuing the acquisition of fissile material" and the requisite technology "to form the material into nuclear weapons." He added that Russia is the most notable foreign source, and assistance from "Russian entities" has "helped Iran save years" in developing the 1,300-km range Shahab III missile, which was first flight-tested in 1998, and has been tested twice this year, with one successful test in July.
"The situation is even worse," on the nuclear side, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation, Robert Einhorn, testifying that Moscow's "weak" enforcement of export control laws is "unsatisfactory" even though it has "come quite a distance." He did not, however, consider it "inevitable" that Tehran "will acquire nuclear weapons deliverable by long-range missiles," pointing to Washington's success in "complicating and driving up the costs" of Tehran's quest. Mr. Einhorn added that U.S efforts have been critical in gaining "additional time."
The most visible Russian nuclear assistance to Iran is the 1,000 MW light-water reactor in Bushehr, under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. (This reactor is similar to that being constructed in North Korea under the terms of the "Agreed Framework" to halt Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons program). Mr. Lauder said, "the expertise and technology gained-along with contacts established-could be used to advance Iran's nuclear weapons efforts." Further, Russia's assistance extends beyond the reactor to projects "ostensibly for civilian use," but with "direct application to the production of weapons-grade fissile material."
In addition to 'weak enforcement" both men asserted that financial interests motivated Russia's assistance to Iran. With Moscow's budgetary support no longer forthcoming, "Russian entities" are looking for ways "of staying in business," added Mr. Einhorn.
Mr. Lauder submitted that Iran's nuclear and missile development programs are "viewed across the [Iranian] political spectrum as an integral part of Iranian national security and part of Iran's right of self-defense." Mr. Einhorn, added, given Iran's experience during the Iran-Iraq war, "a potential future threat from Iraq" is the "main reason" Iran seeks deliverable weapons of mass destruction.