Russia has warned that a military attack on Iran risks triggering a “chain reaction” that would destabilise the whole world. Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow was “seriously worried” about the prospect of military action against Iran and was doing all it could to prevent it.
He said: “The consequences will be extremely grave. It’s not going to be an easy walk. It will trigger a chain reaction and I don’t know where it will stop.” Mr Lavrov – a former ambassador to the United Nations – predicted a wave of refugees fleeing Iran, first into Azerbaijan and then on to Russia.
“But that is just one and not the main part of the problem… It’s impossible to predict all the consequences,” he said. Mr Lavrov voiced concerns that an attack would exacerbate Muslim sectarian conflict in the Middle East – shown to have deadly consequences following the US and UK-led invasion in neighbouring Iraq.
“I have no doubt that it will add fuel to the smouldering confrontation between Sunnis and Shi’ites.”
The Sunni Arab monarchical states in the Gulf, such as US-backed Saudi Arabia, are locked in decades-old rivalries with Iran’s Shi’ite-led Islamic republic.
The Jewish state of Israel also opposes the fundamentalist Iranian regime’s alleged nuclear-armed ambitions but has halted planned war games with the US amid security fears. Mr Lavrov also warned that sanctions on Iranian oil exports now being considered by the EU could scupper efforts to solve the Iranian nuclear standoff through talks.
“It has nothing to do with a desire to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation,” Mr Lavrov said. “It’s aimed at stifling the Iranian economy and the population in an apparent hope to provoke discontent.”
Russia has walked a fine line on the Iranian nuclear crisis. Having sold nuclear reactors to Iran it also mixes careful criticism with praise for its approach to the issue. The EU is debating whether to impose sanctions on buying Iranian oil, the natural resource providing more than 80% of Tehran’s foreign revenue.
The US has already imposed new sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank, which strategically thwarts its refiners’ ability to buy and pay for crude oil. The sanctions are linked to Iran’s disputed uranium enrichment programme, which the US and its allies suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges, saying the programme is solely about generating energy and research.