Soleimani's assassination has raised the risk of Iran going nuclear 'immeasurably', says defense expert

Soleimani's assassination has raised the risk of Iran going nuclear 'immeasurably', says defense expert
Donald Trump (Getty Images) and Qassem Soleimani (AP)

On January 3, President Donald Trump ordered from his vacation in Florida the elimination of top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. The latter was subsequently killed in an airstrike in Baghdad where he had been present for negotiations with the Saudis. The episode led to a massive reaction from several quarters and the Iranians launched missile attacks on the American bases in Iraq in retaliation. 

As the world worried over where the Iran-US conflict could head, experts came up with their analytical takes on the situation.

Mark Almond, director of Crisis Research Institute, Oxford, is of the opinion that the killing of Soleimani “immeasurably” raised the risk of war and even nuclear destruction. 

Writing for Daily Mail, Almond said: “At the root of the crisis lies America's fear that Iran is bent on making atomic weapons. It is a terrible irony that President Trump's efforts to stop the country from doing so could now provoke the Ayatollahs in Iran to go for broke to get the Bomb — to protect themselves from further US attacks and to threaten their regional rivals, especially Israel.


Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone strike on Friday, in the city of Kerman, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (Erfan Kouchari/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

Almond also questioned the clarity in America’s foreign policy saying Washington needed to have a clear direction at such a time to not only prevent Iran from carrying out a “rash revenge” but also to reassure its own allies about what it is trying to accomplish. He also criticized the Pentagon saying it only spread confusion when a letter saying that it intended to pull American troops out of Iraq got leaked on Monday, January 6. The defense establishment denied such a plan and said it was a misunderstanding but speculation was already rife that the Americans were eventually considering a pull-out from Iraq, the country it had invaded in 2003 and has remained stuck in ever since. 

Almond feels the scenario is a deadly one.

“This ‘misunderstanding’ will give succor to hardline Iranian leaders in Tehran who will see the U.S. floundering as evidence of chaos at the White House. Which, in turn, can only encourage them to press on with plans to use the killing of Soleimani to 'complete his work' in the Middle East — threatening Western interests and cementing the Iranian influence Trump abhors,” he wrote.


Soleimani killing sealed alliance between foes Iran and Iraq

Conceding that Trump has a method to his madness, Almond said the assassination of Soleimani was different as it sealed an alliance between Iran and Iraq who had fought an eight-year war in the 1980s. 

Trump holds up a memorandum that reinstates sanctions on Iran in the Diplomatic Room at the White House on May 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On the question of Iran going nuclear in the aftermath of the Soleimani episode, Almond said Tehran has already announced that it is planning to resume production of enriched uranium. “This is done with spinning centrifuges little different from the methods used in the Forties. Conventional bombing might disable these machines. But even before it manages to produce uranium, Iran could have access to another radioactive material used for atomic weapons — plutonium.”

“On the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf, at Bushehr across the water from Kuwait, there is a Russian-built nuclear power station. Russian scientists control the nuclear fuel rods, which are periodically transported to Russia for reprocessing. The spent fuel is the raw material needed for nuclear warheads.”

“As I say, this plutonium is on Iranian soil. What if the Islamic Revolutionary Guard seized the spent fuel and spirited it away to a weapons lab?” Almond asked.


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