U.S. cuts Israel out of Iran intelligence loop

December 13, 1996 - Intelligence Digest

It has been reported in Jerusalem that the US administration has stopped sharing intelligence with Israel on Iran's nuclear plans for fear of damaging US relations with Russia.

This is about as odd a decision as can be imagined.

As we argued in last week's leading article, the one place where Russia still poses a serious threat to Western interests is the Middle East, primarily through its alliance with Iran.

Moscow needs stopping, not appeasing.

Russian arms sales to Iran are escalating: Russia has reaffirmed its commitment to finish the $800 million construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, and Russia has just signed a major new agreement on economic co-operation with Iran.

Speaking after the signing of the economic pact on 5 December, Russian Minister for Foreign Economic Relations Oleg Davydov talked about Iran as "Russia's strategic economic power."

Trade turnover between Russia and Iran has doubled in 1996 to $400 million, having already doubled in 1995. It will increase to $4 billion by 2000.

This is all happening at a time when Iran is rapidly increasing its military capabilities, with the expansion of both its Navy (Tehran's third Russian-made Kiloclass submarine is en route from Russia) and its missile forces in the Gulf. It is now thought Iran is only a few years away from developing a nuclear capability and might well already have some ex-Soviet nuclear bombs.

Strategic objectives

Underlying the Russia-Iran co-operation are two principal factors.

The first is Russia's overwhelming need to prevent Iran from spreading Islamic fundamentalism into Central Asia, the Transcaucasus, and into Russia itself. Moscow can do this only by earning Tehran's goodwill.

The second factor is Iran's strategic ambition to become the undisputed leader of the Islamic world. Iran cannot gain this position by right - because of its adherence to the minority Shi'ite creed - and so it must earn it by its unwavering commitment to the liberation of Jerusalem.

By far the best way Tehran can help this endeavour is by neutralizing Israel's nuclear deterrent through the acquisition of one of its own.

Against this background,

it is hard to understand how Washington has calculated that it is more important to appease Moscow than to keep Israel informed about Iran's nuclear ambitions

  • See also: Is Israel Again Being Deprived of Vital Intelligence Data?