Annals of Cold War II: Russia and Iran

The International Herald Tribune‘s John Vinocur explains how Cold War II is heating up over Iran, highlighting how obviously bone-headed the Bush administration’s “trust Putin” mantra really was:

Suppose the Russians, as Iran’s monopoly supplier of nuclear wherewithal, decided they could live with a few atomic weapons in the hands of the mullahs. Suppose the Russians, flush with money and superpower fantasies, believed that weakening and humiliating the United States was well worth the instability that might come with Moscow’s refusal to help block Iran’s drive toward nuclear arms. Where’s the downside? From Vladimir Putin’s point of view, it’s win-win.

With Russia’s obstructive tactics encouraging Iran to plunge ahead, he may figure the Americans will eventually strike Iranian nuclear installations. The Yanks would harvest opprobrium in much of the world. Still, if their strike does eradicate the Iranian nuclear program, that’s fine, too. Russia’s oil and gas prices are sure to shoot up. Russia becomes Iran’s key reconstruction contractor, and sets out a rare claim to international righteousness.

What’s irrational about the above scenario? Or its counterpart, which is that Russian now calculates the United States in the end will sit on its hands concerning Iran? Nothing. Multiple versions of them get discussed within the Bush Administration, all stamped, Non Whacko.

It’s exemplary of the misery of the American situation.

On one hand, the Administration sticks to the notion – recall, please, George W. Bush’s magnanimous first-term reading of Putin’s soul in his KGB eyes – that somehow, someday, but in the nick of time, the Russians are going to come around to joining an international effort to halt Iran’s nuclear drive. On the other hand, important areas of the administration are offering a hardened assessment of what Russia ultimately wants. After a couple of years of talking about how Putin’s richer Russia (reasonably) craved respect, a senior administration policymaker, in a private conversation, now asserts the “overwhelming evidence” is a Russia that seeks to weaken the United States. Wherever possible internationally, he says, Moscow will work to stop America from achieving success. The hitch is that concerning Iran, these two administration notions, expecting good from Russia while regarding it as a gathering, noxious force, are contradictory to the point of incompatibility.

The summer showed just how much.

In June, the Americans said they expected a United Nations Security Council resolution in July that would add a new round of modest sanctions to those already in effect against Iran. It never happened. The Russians, with Chinese assistance, sidetracked the measure. Reality now says the United Nations is not going to be the place where Iran’s nuclear dreams die. Almost in the same stride, the Russians in July used the threat of a Security Council veto to dismantle an American-backed motion on Kosovo’s independence. The combined effect is not only an American defeat. It’s a demonstration that, unlike in the Cold War, there are no clear limits on how far this Russia feels it can push this America. Forget the grandiloquence of Moscow’s planting flags in the Arctic and re-establishing world-wide strategic bomber patrols.

But as the United States flails in Iraq, and faces a financial crisis that may affect command-economies and authoritarian regimes less than democracies, why shouldn’t Russia see the Iran issue as a strategic hole for achieving a new global status? After all, Jacques Chirac, whose vision of a multipolar world consigning America to the role of everyone’s opponent gets applause in Moscow, argued in his last months as French president that a few Iranian nukes shouldn’t cause much lost sleep for anyone sharing his take on a remade global hierarchy. Chirac didn’t say it, but he could have rationalized that a limited number of atomic weapons at Iran’s disposal would be a reasonable price to pay for disabling an American world order that he, like Putin, reviles.

It’s a reflection of America’s current incapacities that Nicolas Sarkozy, who might have interesting notions of Putin’s calculations from Élysée Palace files, two weeks ago detailed the Iran situation in a tougher and more concise way than Washington. Sarkozy knows that some Westerners who have talked directly to Putin have been told that Russia does not want a nuclear-armed Iran. He also knows the deceit of Russia’s official position that it has no evidence indicating Iran’s nuclear activities are anything but peaceful. Draw this conclusion: If Sarkozy has been informed that Putin will act to halt Iran’s drive short of a bomb, then he would not be calling the prospect of Iranian atomic bomb capability the world’s biggest menace.

There are, on good evidence, officials within the Bush administration frustrated by its own bollixed approach – hoping that the Russians will turn responsible after their “elections” next year while acknowledging Moscow is now in full confrontational mode. Assume they could only leap to praise Sarkozy for saying in a speech a couple of weeks ago what Bush would not: If sanctions fail, the alternatives are an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran. As for Russia, Sarko described its behavior as marked by a “certain brutality.” The sanctions Sarkozy is talking about are hard, new measures outside the United Nations that would probably involve an ad hoc group including the United States, Britain, France and Japan at its core.

This approach specifically means forgetting about the Security Council, and giving up on Russia, barring sudden and unlikely cooperation. The sanctions have to be so penalizing, obviously disadvantaging Western banks and industry, to become truly dissuasive. This requires real resolve. It also requires the underpinning of a tacit yet palpable threat: if these measures don’t work, there’s real unpleasantness to come. With a phrase, Sarkozy marked out the Iranian choice with a sharper edge than the Americans have.

That’s a significant advance.

But unless Bush first gets publicly tougher on Russia as Iran’s protector and international obstructionist, the mullahs may take America’s insistence on skirting this reality as the surest sign they can get that they’re home free.

One response to “Annals of Cold War II: Russia and Iran

  1. the more this heats up this way, the more i realize that i may have been VERY correct in noting that Iran is the doorway for soviet expansion into the middle east, and africa.

    that without Iran in their quiver, everything suddenly will get much much harder for them.

    in fact, Iran is such a strategic key and the ONLY door left open, that the loss of this would hurt so much that hiding their nature as they tried before is no longer, to ues their favorite concept, pragmatic.

    in fact losing Iran is such a biggie, that they are willing to take a risk on their internal progress everywhere else than lose that door.

    most would think this foolish, but there are two levels of games here. the level played in nuclear protected countries is not one that they can clean out since the nature of their states do not allow such removals. look at what happened to mcarthy (and he was right). so even if they go back a ways in the progress of communist socialism emerging from democratic socialism, they cant stop them from entering and starting it all up again as they wish (again because the wests system no longer can judge harmful thoughts and voluntarily choose not to entertain them).

    on the other side countries like the middle east and africa are still in play in the old fashioned way. depending on the states, they are either stable and harried, but are still affected by the old fashioned ways which are not an option against more developed states. many of these other states are also not stable, and so the methods that would work in a very stable system in which the best outcome is a exchange of leadership and preservation of infrastructure and value.

    its not possible to effect a political change in a western country by shipping in arms, and such. they are strong enough to retaliate for such overt action, while the states that Iran would cap off are not strong enough to make issue of such weapons, and in fact, make use of them.

    so the game of geopolitics is PROFITABLE in these other states as each side hocks their peoples futures in an attempt to convince the suppliers to give them a weapon advanced enough to actually allow them to consolodate and hold the prize.

    while the state is up for grabs the US and the west cant benifit, and as long as its unstable, they make profit on the actions. so in a way they would rather milk them this way then actually let them win and turn and be like chavez.

    they dont gain much if they do that do they? which is why in many states (depending on neigbors and such), the constant is flux. a perversion of almost that keeps them comming back for more cause it ALMOST worked, or ALMOST was good…

    in fact hell may be just an existence of almosts, and never wins. in such a hell, the ones that are in heaven are sadists who sit above and get to complete things, and enjoy the misery of almost given to everyone else.

    i want to also point out that given the actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and soon to plug the hole Iran. The constant bringing up of Bush looking into Putins eyes may actually not be the way they are reading it.

    to the mundane world words mean more than actions… but in the REAL world, actions mean more than words.

    his saying means less if his actions were meaning more.

    he may have seen him for what he is, and he might have said what he said because of what he saw. would him turning and running yelling “i see evil” work better? after all what are they actually asking him to say? and what would happen if he did?

    if you go back to the stuff i said and note it you will note that i said that if i was right, then every burner will be turned on. every distraction possible to either attract, keep busy, etc.

    kim jong postures, when that doesnt destract, he says well make nice nice. syria comes out of nowhere.

    the key one is that terrorists were caught driving a truck of explosives through all the opem borders of the EU, from sweden to turkey. and turkey is the ONLY state in play that could be affected by such an action and withdraw support, and if they flip, then the line in the sand crumbles.

    i will bet anything that your going to next see Iran try nice nice…

    russia and its games are gearing up so that if we do try something they can be the shadow of the threat of expansion that will hold america to fight with one hand behind its back or draw a line…

    on the issue of nuclear iran.. no, russia or china does not want other nuclear players. it would mean not only independence from take over from the US, but also the ability to thumb their noses to their masters in russia as well.

    so as i said, they deal in almosts. they turn technology in a trickle to them. this actually keeps them from making progress since they are not actually doing the work that gives them real understanding. so not only does dribbling this to them keep them on another profitable addiction, it also keeps them on a leash made of almosts… (to which Iran thinks that they can turn the tables and close the almost and get what they want. the truth is that that is when researchers that do understand get disappeared, and things are again set back)

    the dishonest socialist capitalist does not see business as a double positive, but as a zero sum game in which tricks to siphon your customer are a good way to do business (as defined by how much loot you can get). [anyone note that as we become more socialist our capitalists think this morally vacant perversion of capitalism is what is right]

    its no wonder that people who deal like that think capitalism is bad, their version of it is bad, and they dont deal up and up.

    a friend of the family was a very famous photographer for doing the pictures of the russian ballet told me when i was young.

    when you do business with soviets (or those who grew up under that), ALWAYS get paid up front or they will never pay you and give you every excuse, stall, till they wear you down and you give up (or they twist it around). he said that this was his secret to those famous photographs, no one else got paid first, and so their work was never completed. so his are are the only pictures that exist. Now he is famous.

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