Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Mike Sigov

Russian gamesmanship enriches Iran's ambitions

The Iranian uranium controversy is giving no signs of ending anytime soon.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to gain a Russian commitment to helping pressure Iran to give up uranium enrichment when meeting with her Russian counterpart in Moscow. Western security experts believe the program is a part of the country's nuclear weapons program.

Standing in front of a microphone at a press conference in Pittsburgh on the final day of the G-20 economic summit last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would participate in "other measures" (read economic sanctions) regarding Iran, once everything else has failed.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reneged even on that rather equivocal promise at his meeting with Mrs. Clinton, reviving fears that Russia might veto United Nations sanctions against Iran.

Ironically - and quite contrary to U.S. expectations - there was simply no other option left for him when the Obama Administration scrapped the Bush-era plans to place radars and land-based missiles in Eastern Europe, which the Kremlin used to cast as a threat to Russia.

Simply put, the Kremlin is interested in keeping the Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions going as long as possible - now more than ever. That's because the Kremlin had successfully used the original missile shield project to vilify the United States in order to justify the near-absolute power Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Mr. Medvedev have usurped in rigged elections - just like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - with essentially a shared policy of casting the United States as "the Great Satan."

True, Iran did offer access to its second uranium enrichment plant, in Qom. But this is just a diversion to buy more time for its nuclear weapons ambitions by keeping the same observers from looking for even more compelling evidence elsewhere.

The same goes for Moscow's offer to process Iran's enriched nuclear fuel.

Though designed to delay Tehran's ability to make nuclear weapons by sending most of its known enriched uranium to Russia for processing into fuel for medical isotopes, the deal would effectively put the sanction threat on hold, thus effectively helping that ability. Second, it may well be that most of Iran's enriched uranium stockpiles are hidden from the international community.

No wonder Iranian negotiators expressed support for the proposed deal last week.

Likewise, whatever inspectors see or don't see at Qom doesn't change the fact that it is just one of a number of possible sites. Experts have said it's unlikely that Iran would confine uranium enrichment to just two sites, given the Israeli strike capability.

Moreover, Russia - blessed with its veto power in the U.N. Security Council inherited from the glory days of the late Soviet Union - can keep blackmailing the United States and its allies every step of the way, delaying sanctions against Iran and buying the Iranians time to finish their nuclear weapons program.

Some may ask why Russia doesn't mind Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, seeing that Iranian leadership contains a powerful militant Islamic faction that can be a threat to Russia.

In short, that's because Russia is ruled by kleptocrats, whose greed rivals their instinct of self-preservation. As the world's largest exporter of fossil fuels, the Kremlin sees instability in the Persian Gulf region as helpful in filling its coffers. As for self-preservation, it relies upon the United States' taxpayers to foot the war bill when push comes to shove in Iran, just like in Afghanistan.

On the bright side, there is something that the White House and the State Department can do in the long run to stop perpetuating the Kremlin's influence in the world.

It would be practical to actively expose the spoil-sport role the Kremlin plays in the world so that the U.N. starts questioning the permanent status of Russia's membership in the Security Council, potentially stripping Russia of its veto power in the council.

Mike Sigov, a former Russian journalist in Moscow, is a naturalized U.S. citizen and a staff writer for The Blade.

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