Of minor concern is a US-planted story that Russians are leaving the Bushehr nuclear plant. The obvious fear would be that the stated financial reasons for abandoning the project are just covering for a pre-attack evacuation by Russian nationals; an excerpt is shown at the bottom of the post. I don’t think this is any more than an attempt by the US to keep up the general pressure.
Overall, as noted yesterday, I think “fire danger” continues to fall. The Israelis keep up their clamor against Iranian aid to Hamas, but that story has pretty well lost traction. Iran’s president will get his visa to speak to the UN, and South Africa has indicated some support for going easy on Iran at this point. Both the Saudis and influential American military analyst Anthony Cordesman throw some water on the idea that Iran is much of a regional threat:
Refuting earlier UPI analysis that stated Saudi Arabia would be dependent on the U.S. military to guarantee its independence, the Saudi source said: “Saudi Arabia does not need to be supported by anyone to deal directly with Iran.”
Saudi Arabia’s lack of fear of Iran has been proven “over and over again over the past several weeks,” added the source, referencing a “dressing down” of Ahmadinejad during his recent visit to the kingdom by King Abdullah as “the most recent and visible example of this.”
Iran is more focused on national defense than using military power to boost its influence in the region,” he said. Iran represents “a force that has to be taken seriously in the defense of its country, but it has very little capacity to project outside the country,” Cordesman said.
He maintained that Iran’s nuclear program could someday pose a danger but that “any serious threat lies a decade or so away.”
VIENNA, Austria — Russia is pulling out its experts from the Iranian nuclear reactor site they were helping build, U.S. and European officials said Tuesday. The move reflected a growing rift between Iran and Russia that could lead to harsher U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic for its refusal to stop uranium enrichment.
The representatives — a European diplomat and a U.S. official — said a large number of Russian technicians, engineers and other specialists have returned to Moscow in the past week, at about the same time senior Russian and Iranian officials tried unsuccessfully to resolve financial differences over the Bushehr nuclear reactor. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because their information was confidential.
“A good number of them have left recently,” said the U.S. official, of the approximately 2,000 Russian workers on site of the nearly completed reactor outside the southern city of Bushehr. The European diplomat, who is accredited to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said a large number had left as recently as last week.
Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Rosatom, Russia’s Federal Nuclear Power Agency, confirmed that the number of Russian workers at the Bushehr plant had dwindled because of what he said were Iranian payment delays. He would not say how many had left.