How would Russians react to a picture of George Bush proudly shaking hands with Shamil Basayev in Grozny? While the whole world condemns the maniacal despot in Tehran, Vladimir Putin makes friends with him and seeks to protect him. It’s barbarism, pure and simple. The Tehran Times reports:
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Iran will lead to an important leap in Tehran-Moscow relations, and at this juncture, when the West is making the utmost efforts to isolate Iran, it is even more important, Central Asia expert Hossein Ahmadi said here on Sunday.
Putin is slated to attend the 2nd Summit of Caspian Sea littoral states in Tehran on October 16 along with the presidents of the other four countries bordering the Caspian Sea, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. The heads of state are scheduled to discuss the sea’s legal regime and other regional and international issues. Some of the issues of common interest of Iran and Russia are their opposition to the U.S. presence in Azerbaijan and Georgia, their opposition to the proposal to demarcate the Caspian Sea, and their consensus on the need to confront Al-Qaeda’s activities and deal with the expansion of extremist Wahhabism and the resurgence of the Taleban in the region, Ahmadi told the Mehr News Agency. He also noted that now that the Islamist Justice and Development (AK) Party is in power in Turkey, the Iran-Turkey-Russia triangle can become a new alliance of powers in the region.
Russia and Central Asia expert Jafar Qamat told MNA that Russia is trying to connect the issue of the Caspian Sea legal regime to Iran’s nuclear issue. The main reason Putin is visiting Iran in the final months of his term as president is to resolve some of the problems in Tehran-Moscow relations, he stated. Putin wants to negotiate with Iran to clear up ambiguities about the nuclear program and to ensure that Russia is able to continue to play an influential role in the issue of the country’s nuclear dossier, he said. In the event that the UN Security Council issues a third resolution against Tehran, the most that Russia can do for Iran is to abstain from the vote, Qamat added.
Islamic Coalition Party member Hamid-Reza Taraqi stated, “Cooperation and interaction with Russia will increase Iran’s security, and reduce U.S. influence in the region” because Tehran and Moscow are both opposed to the U.S. plan to build more military bases in the region. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto power and is a serious rival of the U.S. in the region; hence the United States is opposed to Putin’s trip to Tehran, he noted. The Russian president’s visit runs contrary to the U.S. policy to isolate Iran, and the agreement that that Caspian Sea littoral states are expected to make at the summit will be a crushing blow for Washington, he added.
Putin hunts diplomatic solution in Iran
Putin will show his preference for dialogue with Iran when he visits Tehran on Tuesday, amid calls from the West for stronger pressure on Iran to cease its nuclear program. Putin is the first Kremlin chief to visit Iran since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin went in 1943. But a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could give the Kremlin leader a chance to seek a peaceful compromise over Tehran’s nuclear program and to demonstrate his independence from Washington on Middle East issues. “Putin is going to Iran to show the importance of continuing diplomacy,” Kremlin deputy spokesman Dmitry Peskov said as carried by Reuters. Putin will tell Ahmadinejad that Russia accepts Iran’s right to use nuclear energy but wants it to open up its nuclear program to international inspectors to prove it is peaceful, Peskov added. Iran says its program is intended to generate power so it can export more oil and gas.
Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has backed two sets of mild sanctions against Iran to encourage it to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). But Moscow says it will not back further sanctions unless the IAEA says Iran is not cooperating or proves it is working on weapons. “We have no real data to claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, which makes us believe the country has no such plans. But we agree that Iran’s programs must be transparent,” Putin said after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week.
Critics say Moscow has other reasons for wanting to soft-pedal the Iran issue. These may include a large contract to build a nuclear power plant at Bushehr in Iran, as well as lucrative military deals. Another is that a standoff with the West over Iran would fit in with Moscow’s newly assertive foreign policy aimed at building Russia’s profile, particularly among developing nations, in the post-Cold War world.
The European Union is expected to step up pressure on Iran next week, warning Tehran it will face tougher sanctions unless it halts uranium enrichment. As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Iran has right to enrichment for civilian purposes. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday against sanctioning Iran bypassing the United Nations. But he also pledged that Putin would in Tehran “continue the current line of work with the Iranian leadership, which reflects the collective position of the Six (states in talks with Iran) and the UN Security Council.” The six nations negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program are the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain. Russia argues that excessive pressure against Tehran could be counter-productive, as well as destabilizing the mainly Muslim region next to its southern borders. Ahead of Tehran, Putin will visit Germany on Sunday and Monday for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and a traditional business conference known as the “St Petersburg dialogue.”