US missile defense plans may signal strike on Iran, Russia warns
"The formation of the missile defense system is a new step to signal the possibility of a military strike on Iran, at least in a political context," Alexey Pushkov told a round table conference on Iran at the State Duma.
Pushkov was commenting on reports that the Pentagon has agreed to form a single missile defense system with six Arab states – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.
"A missile defense system is only needed in the event that Iran decides to retaliate, since there are no reasons to think that Iran would be the first to launch a strike all of a sudden," Pushkov said.
These latest developments come as the sextet of international mediators – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – are preparing for talks with Iran on April 13-14. The talks will focus on Iran’s nuclear research activities, which some countries, including the United States and Israel, believe are being pursued with the aim of building a nuclear weapon.
Tehran vehemently denies the accusations, and says it is developing nuclear energy for the civilian sector.
Some experts say that Israel may be more inclined to launch a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons sites at this time, as the United States is occupied with its presidential election season, and President Obama is not in a position to appear weak before the pro-Israeli Republican opposition. Other factors, including Germany’s decision to sell six Dolphin-class submarines to the Israeli Navy, also seem to point to a worst-case scenario brewing.
Pushkov believes Tehran may be underestimating the dangers it faces.
"Iran is underestimating the seriousness of the military threat, I think," he said. "The surgical operation the public opinion is being prepared for may deteriorate into a vast and full-scale regional war."
Pushkov went on to express what could best be described as cautious optimism over the chances of a breakthrough during the upcoming negotiations.
"Much will depend on the talks on Iran's problem," Pushkov told the Russian lawmakers. "Everyone hopes that these talks will be effective. But there is skepticism, too, given that the situation is not abating, but deteriorating, despite a flurry of political and diplomatic activity surrounding the Iranian problem.”
There are indications that the situation around Iran's nuclear work could develop according to the worst-case scenario, he said.
"As you know, we have several scenarios on the table, among them the so-called military scenario of settling the Iranian problem,” Pushkov noted. “Judging by statements made by some countries, this military scenario is becoming increasingly probable."
This arouses serious concerns for Russia, he added.