Analysis: Russia’s Veiled Threat Toward Iran

In Russian diplomatic codes, the denouncement of the uranium enrichment in the facility near Qom is a clear message to Iran to start cooperating with the international community.

Eli Shvidler
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Eli Shvidler

In a rare announcement Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed ‘regret’ over Iran's nuclear development program. This announcement serves, in Russian diplomatic language, as a severe warning to the Iranian leadership far beyond the simple "regret and concern" it stated over the commencement of uranium enrichment at an underground site at Fordo, near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom.

The comment, which says that Russia “recognizes that Iran is continuing to ignore the demands of the international community” that it respond to their concerns regarding its nuclear program, in effect carries a harsh denunciation of a country adamantly supported by Russia until just a few days ago.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listens to Russia's new ambassador to Tehran, Levan Djhagaryan, at the presidency office in Tehran, Dec. 13, 2011.Credit: AP

Iran’s claim that it notified the International Atomic Energy Agency about works near Qom getting underway cannot hide Russia’s severe lack of satisfaction with Iran. According to Russia, Iran continues to push itself into a corner in the international arena, and that it will be very difficult to extract itself from there in times of need.

Experts on the history of Russian diplomacy would notice the heavy weight of the word "Tehran" in the condemning message. It is a known practice of Russian diplomacy to use the name of a country's capital many times in a statement, in order to present a particular subject in a negative light. Those with a good memory will certainly remember the diplomatic cables of the Soviet era, which starred Washington and Tel Aviv as in aggressive contexts.

“Hopefully, Iran will listen to our opinion about the need for further close cooperation with the Agency and the soonest beginning of serious negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program with the Sextet without preconditions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. This wording presents a clear – if not scathing – warning in Russian diplomatic terms, as the Foreign Ministry called on all sides to prevent harsh and uncalculated steps.

Without expressing sympathy toward the opposing side, Russia chose on Tuesday to clarify to Iran that it would be solely responsible for troubles that are likely to come its way in the near future. Russia made it clear that it no longer takes for granted Iran’s claims that the West’s reaction to its nuclear program is “exaggerated and fueled for years by clear political motives.”