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Iran: Is the Dream Vanishing?

by Staff Reporter

NOTE: Iran's dream is to establish itself as a regional superpower. The American victory in Iraq, certainly, is Iran's nightmare. Americans, the sons of Satan, are based in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. Iran, the mother of modern terrorism, can try to use it inside Iraq to push America into a defensive posture. The vacuum if or when America evacuates the region is Iran's last hope. It is important to expose Iran's friends. One of them is... Russia! The following background story is MEMRI's research which was published on March 26, 2002: Background: Iran's Strategic Considerations Since the days of Muhammad Reza Shah, Iran has perceived itself as a regional superpower. In accordance with this view, it aspires to arm itself with both conventional and non-conventional weapons (long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons), even though publicly Iran disavows its intention to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran's strategic goals in its effort to become a regional superpower are: First, to establish a superior regional position amongst states which neighbor it, such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, as well as the Muslim republics of Central Asia; amongst regional neighbors such as Turkey, Egypt, and Israel; and finally, to establish an equal status with the other regional nuclear superpowers, Pakistan and India. Second, to strengthen its position as an Asian-Islamic center of power recognized as such by the U.S. and Europe, and amongst the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

In addition, Iran desires to compete with Turkey and Russia for influence in Afghanistan and Central Asian countries and to influence the agenda of the Muslim world. Lastly, Iran strives to influence Palestinian strategy and policy. Iranian - Russian Cooperation on Conventional Arms Since the cutting off of American military supplies to Iran following the Islamic Revolution, and the sanctions posed by the U.S. on commerce with third party companies, Iran began to rely primarily on Soviet and Russian made weaponry. From the Russian point of view, its cooperation with Iran is helping rebuild the Russian military industry (including Research and Development of strategic weapons) which has faced financial difficulties emanating from the end of the Cold War. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed public satisfaction regarding the cooperation between the two countries on this issue. During their separate visits to Moscow, both Iran's President Muhammad Khatami, in March 2001, and Minister of Defense Ali Shamkhani, in October 2001, signed military cooperation agreements and arms deals with Russia valued at $7 billion dollars over the coming years. Iran and Russia have arms contracts dating back to the 1990s, when Iran received over one hundred T-72 tanks from Russia and even began indigenous manufacturing of tanks upon obtaining Russian license. Iran was also equipped with artillery, anti-aircraft and air-defense systems, armored vehicles, M1-17 helicopters and other military supplies.

In 2000, Iran made a strategic decision to modernize its military build-up in a twenty-five year program, relying on Russian technology and weaponry. The program includes the following elements: The creation of an integrated anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system, including the antiaircraft missile system S-300, and aerial defense system of medium and short-range missiles (SA-11, and SA- 15 respectively), the creation of an aerial defense system for the defense of nuclear and military facilities, the licensed production of weapons artillery, airplanes, and warships, modernization of aircraft and aviation equipment, and modernization of three Kilo-type submarines purchased from Russia. The plan also calls (or the establishment of training, repair, and service centers for Iran's land, sea, and air forces, a space program with the goal of launching six satellites and the training of hundreds of military and technical experts in Russian training facilities. A close examination of the program indicates that Iran aspires to establish a powerful industrial military complex, which will also be used for manufacturing weapons for export.

Nuclear Cooperation In the mid 1990's, Iran signed an $800 million contract with Russia to build a water-cooled nuclear reactor In Busheht. The framework agreement between the two nations mentions the possible construction of four nuclear reactors, two of the VVER-1000 type, similar to the one currently under construction in Busheht, and two additional VVER-440 types amounting all together to $3 billion. Last November, Iran received the reactor's shell and other components of the first reactor. In February 2002, the Tehran based Iran Daily reported that Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy announced that the reactor would be inaugurated in September 2002. "However, two high-ranking Russian officials stated that the date would be far later. Russian Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgeny Reshetnikov stated that the first unit of the power plant would be activated by the end of 2003, and Russian Deputy Nuclear Energy Minister Valeril Lebedov said Russia plans to complete construction by late 2004 or early 2005, in addition, recent media reports claimed that Russia would build another nuclear reactor in Iran." In his visit to Moscow in March 2001, Khatami expressed concern with the mounting delays in the construction of the Busheht nuclear power plant, but Moscow recently announced that it fully intends to fulfill its side of the contract. Member of the Majlis, Kazem Jalali, who belongs to the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said: "We [Iran] have nuclear cooperation with Russia and they have acted positively in this regard? He added that "the Russians want to work with us and we should encourage them." Both Russia and Iran repeatedly claimed that their nuclear cooperation is for peaceful purposes. Iran has emphasized that it arms itself only for self-defense and that its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes such as "energy, agriculture and environment and therefore it is legitimate. In statements and in editorials in the Iranian media, high-level Iranian officials stressed that Iran's nuclear facilities ate subject to regular inspection and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. The spokesmen further emphasized that Iran is a signatory to the various international aims control and disarmament conventions.

Iran is also developing medium and long-range missiles, which are perceived as strategic weapons. In 1985, former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani signed an agreement with North Korea for the delivery of North Korean missiles at a value of $500 million. Iran is also engaged in indigenous development of engines and other components for the Shihab missile. The Shihab missile is considered by Iran as a means of deterrence and defense primarily against Iraq, in an interview with the London Arabic Daily Al Sharq Al-Awsat, Iranian Defense Minister Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani, underlined that Iran Is working on development of its ballistic capabilities, especially the Shihab 3, with an 800 mile range: "We focus now on making this missile extremely accurate and extremely fast from a tactical perspective, [we also try to] shorten its pre-launching time, [as well as] its destructive and explosive capability in accordance with the internationally accepted standard for defense weapons."

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