Putin appeases Tehran
A change in Russia's position - which would be reflected in exerting diplomatic pressure on Iran and supporting further sanctions - would contribute to Tehran?s effective isolation, and could also persuade Iran?s leaders to abandon the nuclear program.
Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Iran yesterday to take part in the summit of Caspian Sea countries. Thus Putin became the first Kremlin leader to visit Iran since Joseph Stalin attended the Tehran Conference in 1943.
In a direct reference to Iran's nuclear program, Putin said that "the Iranians are cooperating with Russia's nuclear agencies, and the main objectives are peaceful objectives."
Before his arrival, Putin ruled out military action against Iran, saying "we were patient and consistently looked for solutions, and it looks like we are finding them."
Russia and China have for too long been able to stall UN moves toward tougher sanctions on Iran. Aside from them, the international community is by and large united against any Iranian effort to acquire nuclear weapons.
United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Monday that all possibilities for solving the crisis with Iran are still on the agenda, and he also called for an increase in international pressure on Tehran. One month ago, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the world must prepare for a possible war against Iran. London and Berlin have also come out with sharp statements against the continued development of Iran's nuclear program.
Despite the hard line presented by the U.S. and European states, Russia continues its calm talks with Iran - after meeting his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Putin met with Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Last week Putin again said there is no proof Iran wants nuclear weapons. This contradicts the insistence of American, Israeli and other Western intelligence services. Last weekend U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iranian policy is definitely "vigorous progress toward nuclear weapons."
A change in Russia's position - which would be reflected in exerting diplomatic pressure on Iran and supporting further sanctions - would contribute to Tehran's effective isolation, and could also persuade Iran's leaders to abandon the nuclear program. Russia has suspended the construction of the nuclear reactor in Bushehr, claiming belated payments from Iran, but only yesterday closed a deal with Tehran to sell 50 jet engines to Iran's air force. Ahmadinejad commended the cooperation with Russia, calling it "Iran's ally" in an interview with the Russian news agency.
As a state wishing to regain a significant international role and wield influence on Israeli public opinion, Russia must present an unequivocal position against the Iranian nuclear program, and add its weight to the campaign pressuring Iran to respond to the international community's demands.