MOSCOW, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - The United States may attack Iran next year if it gains the support of the international community, a senior Russian international security expert said Monday.
"If [the U.S.] ventures a military operation, it will conduct it next year after thorough political, military and propaganda preparations," Alexei Arbatov, head of the International Security Center in Moscow, told RIA Novosti.
But he said unilateral American actions, including the invasion of Iraq, had undermined Washington's position on the Iranian issue.
"The Americans say Europe and Russia - with its proposal to enrich uranium for Iran - had an opportunity to reach and agreement with Iran. But these attempts have ended in failure, and therefore America will take another path," Arbatov said.
He also said the U.S. would try to reach agreements with China, the EU and Russia separately, and would make concessions to them and neighboring Arab countries to isolate the Islamic Republic, as preventing Iran from creating nuclear weapons is Washington's key aim.
Concessions to Russia could include non-opposition to Russia's dominance in the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose union of ex-Soviet republics, Arbatov said, adding that the U.S. could even start withdrawing troops from Iraq.
"The U.S. understands that Iran has strong regional positions while its troops are deployed in Iraq," Arbatov said, adding that Shiite Iran may become embroiled in conflict with neighboring Sunni countries as soon as U.S. troops leave Iraq.
"When Iran faces this chaos, the U.S. will be able to deliver air strikes against the country," he said.
Iran has been accused of pursuing a covert program to develop nuclear weapons, but has denied the accusations, insisting that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes and that it has the right to produce nuclear fuel on its own soil.
Last Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that Iran had joined the club of countries possessing nuclear technology by successfully enriching uranium to a level sufficient for use in nuclear power plants.
UN Security Council permanent members Russia and China held consultations Monday on the issue, and last week reiterated their opposition to any punitive measures against the country.
The other three permanent Security Council members - Britain, France and the United States - demanded that Tehran halt all enrichment activities immediately, and threatened to table a binding, militarily enforceable resolution if it fails to comply.
The three, plus Germany, will join Russia and China for talks in Moscow Tuesday.