Monday, January 31, 2011

Russia’s new policy shift on Iran’s nuclear issue

 *This article is simulatenously published in the Middle East Online and American Chronicle.

Russian officials have made a series of statements on Iran’s nuclear program over the past several weeks which highlight a significant shift in their balancing position between Iran and the West. The most recent statement to that end was made by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In a statement countering the dominant conception of Iran’s nuclear program in the West, Medvedev remarked that there is no proof that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons . This statement came a few days after President Medvedev held a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, discussing bilateral relations and Iran’s nuclear program and after Iran’s Vienna-based envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, traveled to Moscow in mid January to hold talks with Russian policy-makers over Iran’s nuclear program.

As in the case of similar statements challenging the conventional view of the Western political elites toward Iran’s nuclear program, Medvedev’s recent statement unsurprisingly did not receive coverage by the mainstream Western media. The censorship of Medvedev’s recent statement by the mainstream Western media does not of course detract from the importance of Russia’s new position on Iran’s nuclear issue.

Medvedev’s recent statement on Iran’s nuclear issue is not the only evidence pointing to a shift in Russia’s balancing act between Iran and the West. Other lower Russian officials have also made similar statements with the same effect regarding Iran’s nuclear issue over the past several weeks. The recent warm-up in Russia-Iran relations follows a period of tensions between the two countries which emerged after Russia, under pressure from Israel and the Unites States, reneged on its commitment to deliver S-300 surface to air missile system to Iran and after it joined the Western powers in voting for another round of Security Council sanctions against Iran in June 2010 .

The recent shift in Russia’s policy toward Iran’s nuclear issue can be understood in the context of the changing international circumstances overseeing Iran’s nuclear issue. Since Iran’s nuclear activities turned into a full-blown international issue several years ago, Russia has played a double game in order to secure its national interests in relation to both Iran and the West . First, Russia has had to be cooperative with the Western powers at the UN Security Council in order to have a say in formulating international policies shaping political outcomes around the world and also to use its cooperation with the West as a bargaining tool to gain concessions from it in other issue areas, such as its relations with the NATO and economic cooperation with the Western countries. This would make particular sense for Russia’s interests as its non-cooperation with the Western powers would have induced them to bypass the Security Council and to seek alternative arrangements dealing with Iran‘s nuclear issue , which would exclude Russia. Second, Russia , at the same time, also had to appear supportive of Iran by watering down the tone of the sanctions resolutions in order to preserve its strategic relations with it.
In practice, however, walking a fine line between Iran and the West has not always played out safely for Russia as it has involved the constant risk of alienating one party to the benefit of the other. Indeed this turned out to be the case last June when President Ahmadinejad of Iran publicly expressed his frustration with Russia over its vote for the last Security Council resolution against Iran, even after it had significantly watered down the language of the resolution. Iran’s anger at Russia for its perceived betrayal was not confined to public statements by Iranian officials. Iran’s initial practical response to Russia’s shifting position on Iran’s nuclear issue as well as its refusal to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to it was to order all Russian commercial pilots working in Iran to leave . Even though, non-political reasons were mentioned for terminating the work contract of Russian pilots in Iran, the timing and the publicity surrounding this announcement could not fail to reveal Iran’s political motives.

Apart from concerns about further backlash against its economic interests in Iran and its eagerness to maintain its strategic ties with it, the recent shift in Russia’s policy toward Iran’s nuclear program is also driven by the US unilateral approach to dealing with Iran’s nuclear issue in recent months, including imposing further tough sanctions on Iran through bilateral arrangements with other countries. At a recent press conference held jointly with Turkish foreign minister, Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, referred to unilateral sanctions against Iran as a spoiler and expressed hope that they would be lifted in the nuclear talks between Iran and the P-5+1 countries, which was held recently in Istanbul . Along the same lines, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also stated recently that sanctions against Iran are futile and that the only way to deal with Iran's nuclear issue is diplomacy.

Regardless of Russia’s principled opposition to crippling economic sanctions against Iran, it would particularly oppose any arrangements dealing with Iran’s nuclear issue to which Russia is not a part. As the US takes a more unilateral approach to dealing with Iran’s nuclear issue, Russia will find itself more leaning toward Iran and is expected to work to undermine those additional punitive measures against Iran which are formulated outside the context of the UN Security Council.


Anonymous said...

for the love of god russia, save the world from american/zionist tyrany, and before anyone starts to scream anti-israel/jew, 47% of americas congress is run by jews, but thats not he main point, the main point is america is trying to rule the world, i once thought you russian were bad as the americans made you out to be, i now see it's actually the other way around, god bless russia, putin and medvevev.

GarryB said...

The west claims Iran is trying to create nuclear weapons for itself.
This is a very serious accusation that cannot be taken lightly but the burden of proof does not lie with the Iranians to prove they are not, it lies with the west to prove they are.
Without this evidence, and it must be unambiguous, then Iran is merely exercising its right as outlined by the IAEA.
Unlike Israel, the Iranians have signed the non-proliferation treaty and as far as anyone can prove they are abiding by this contract, which gives them the right to free access to civilian nuclear technology to generate electricity.
They have followed the rules but the US continues to bully them... I guess that is because that is what a bully does.
If Iran does attack the US of course all Iran has to do is open its borders to Iraq and Afghanistan and let the MANPADS and ATGMs flow... and American imperialism that has taken decades in the region will be rolled back in weeks if not months.

Abolghasem Bayyenat said...

That's a very good point you've made Garry! I have made an argument along the same lines in one of my earlier articles published last January which can be read at the following link ( I cannot help agreeing with your points because they are not mere opinions but are grounded in objective facts.

GarryB said...

It is ironic that by removing the Sunni party from power in Iraq and the Taleban in Afghanistan the US and its lackeys have actually done Iran a huge favour because neither regime was very friendly to Iran.
A Shia majority government in Iraq should be a more sensible and stable neighbour for Iran, though any US presence will be destabilising.

In Afghanistan eventually the US will leave... they have said 2014 is the date so Osama just has to continue hiding in Pakistan till then and he will be fine...
The NATO forces will leave and the installed government will likely collapse and there will be a civil war there for a few years.

Hopefully someone will take power that is actually Afghan that can create stability, but I doubt they will get peace any time soon.

The country has been the victim of superpower invasions for the last century but the west will blame the afghans for the failure of democracy there.

Back on topic, I think Iran should be smart and look at the letter of international demands.

I mean ignore US or Israeli demands as they are silly and unreasonable.

Look at the demands other countries are putting forward as their reasons to support sanctions and if you can meet those demands for now and get a few more power stations up and running then that will be good for Iran.

Personally I really don't mind Iran getting nuclear weapons. I personally blame the US and Israel for their actions that would make any country in the region want such weapons to protect themselves.

Iran has signed the NPT and by signing it has the right to civilian nuclear energy technology.

That is the purpose of the NPT.

If Iran is to be punished then where it the punnishment for Israel which didn't sign anything and has nuclear weapons... or Pakistan, or India?

The double standard can only be explained by the fact that the US and Israel want to retain the capability to attack Iran with impunity and Iran being a nuclear power would negate that capability.

The huge irony is that the treatment of women and regards to voting Iran is about the only democracy in the region.

The same irony as the US supporting military dictatorship in Pakistan over the worlds largest democracy in India.

The same irony as today the US has a better trade relationship with communist China than it does with a democratic Russia.

Anonymous said...

If Iranian leaders didn't openly and often suggest the destruction of Israel and spread so much anti-west brain wash propaganda, we'd back off. Iran can prove its nuclear program is peaceful through greater transparency, they've resisted. The world teeters and both sides distrust each other, they are both just people. We know each others motives and we don't know who will act first, but someone eventually will, I hope its a peaceful, logical, ethical solution.

Keep your west hating propaganda, its not winning allies, learn from Gandhi a man who acted, the Quran is just words.

Abolghasem Bayyenat said...

Anonymous! Please give specific examples from my writings, if you believe this site is spreading any West-hating propaganda!

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