The Corner

Iran Goes Nuclear with Russian Help and Western Silence

Berlin — Iran’s drive to jump-start an operational nuclear program reached a turning point today. Speaking of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, Vladislav Bochkov, a spokesman for the Russian state company Rosatom which constructed the plant, said, “This means that a nuclear reaction has begun. This is one of the final stages in the physical launch of the reactor.”

In other words, it is business as usual for Iran’s mad dash to become a nuclear powerhouse. The international community, particularly the Obama administration, simply ignores the Russian-Iranian duo’s nuclear plant in the southwestern port town of Bushehr. As part of its “reset” strategy with the Russians, the Obama administration appears to have chalked up the Bushehr plant to a harmless desire for Iranian civilian nuclear energy. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton’s naïve departure point is that the Russians can housebreak any renegade Iranian military proliferation activity at Bushehr.

Given that the Russian government has consistently watered down sanctions against Iran for its illicit nuclear program, and that its country’s gas and oil companies continue to violate U.S. Energy sanctions targeting Tehran, one wonders what the Obama administration’s “reset” policy has achieved.

The Islamic Republic’s road to becoming a nuclear civilian power (and — absent tough Western action — a soon-to-be-military nuclear actor) meandered through Russia with help from its Western nuclear-technology enablers

Lax export-control laws in Germany, for example, allowed the famous “atom brothers” to transport vital nuclear technology via Russia to Iran. The Germans delivered “the project of a control system for the polar crane” to be utilized for the reactor’s dome in Bushehr.

The instability associated with the plant, including woefully inadequate safety measures and Bushehr’s vulnerability to shifting plate tectonics, has not rankled the international community either. 

Bushehr’s active operation will breed new inspiration for Iran to advance its nuclear-weapons program. The nuclear reaction at Bushehr ought to be a day that shook the world, rather than a news item that drifts off into media and political oblivion. Perhaps President Obama will reset his reset strategy with Russia and clamp down on one of Iran’s greatest nuclear enablers.

— Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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