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Real danger of US strike on Iran: Russia

Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev during nuclear talks with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on August 15

By Agencies : Moscow | 12 Jan 2012


Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev warned that military escalation is likely in Iran, with "real danger" of a US strike, in an interview published on Thursday.

He added that Syria, which has refused to break its ties with Tehran, could also be a target for Western intervention. "There is a likelihood of military escalation of the conflict, and Israel is pushing the Americans towards it," said Patrushev said in an interview published on the website of the daily Kommersant.

"There is a real danger of a US military strike on Iran," the senior Russian security official said.

"At present, the US sees Iran as its main problem. They are trying to turn Tehran from an enemy into a supportive partner, and to achieve this, to change the current regime by whatever means," he added.

"They use both economic embargo and massive help to the opposition forces."

Patrushev said that "for years we have been hearing practically next week that the Iranians are going to create an atomic bomb, (but) still nobody has proved the existence of a military component of Iran's nuclear programme."

Iran said yesterday it had firm evidence that 'foreign quarters' were behind the killings of Iranian nuclear experts and demanded UN Security Council condemnation of the deaths.

Patrushev said the current tension over Syria was linked to the Iran issue. "They want to punish Damascus not so much for the repression of the opposition, but rather for its refusal to break off relations with Tehran," he insisted.

"There is information that NATO members and some Arab states of the Persian Gulf, acting in line with the scenario seen in Libya, intend to turn the current interference with Syrian affairs into a direct military intervention."

In this instance, the Russian official said, "the main strike forces will be supplied not by France, Britain and Italy, but possibly by neighbouring Turkey."

Washington and Ankara may already be working on plans for a no-fly zone to enable armed Syrian rebel units to build up, he said.

The United States said on Wednesday it would reduce the number of staff at its embassy in Damascus amid fears for their safety over the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Meanwhile, a second US aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has arrived in the Gulf region, the Pentagon has said, calling the move "routine" and denying any link to mounting tensions with Iran.

Backed by a cruiser, destroyer and with almost 80 planes and helicopters on board, the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group "arrived in the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR)" on January 9," a Fifth Fleet statement said.

That area covers the Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby had told reporters that the Carl Vinson was "not in the Gulf" and had not gone through the Strait of Hormuz -- a key oil route which Iran has threatened to close as tensions with the West flare.

The Carl Vinson was due to relieve another aircraft carrier, the USS John Stennis, which is in the region, Kirby said. "Her deployment in that area is routine, long-planned – there's nothing unusual about that," Kirby explained.

"The numbers of carrier strike groups attached to the Centcom AOR change all the time and it's been consistently that way," he said. "The fact that there are two carriers in that AOR is not an indication of anything specific in respect to Iran," the spokesman stressed, insisting: "There is no change to force posture in the region."

Despite the Pentagon's denials of a build-up in the region, the USS Abraham Lincoln was in the Indian Ocean and en route to join the Carl Vinson, according to the US Navy.

International confrontation over Iran's nuclear program has grown more tense as threats and counter-threats are being increasingly backed with displays of military muscle.

Western nations, with the United States at the fore, are steadily ratcheting up sanctions on Iran with the aim of fracturing its oil-dependent economy.

Iran has responded by saying it could easily close the Strait of Hormuz -- a chokepoint for 20 per cent of the world's tanker-carried oil at the entrance to the Gulf -- if it is attacked or if sanctions halt its petroleum exports.

It has also threatened to unleash the "full force" of its navy should the United States redeploy an aircraft carrier to the Gulf, where the US Fifth Fleet is based.

Washington said closing the strait is a "red line" that should not be crossed and said it would keep sending warships to the region.


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