Thursday, March 20, 2014
The Bear Ponders Iran
Russia Warns: We’ll Play the Iran Card - Walter Russell Mead
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia could "raise the stakes" in its confrontation with the West over Ukraine by revising its stance on Iran.
The threat has teeth. If Russia switches its stance from pushing Iran, however lightly, toward abandoning its nuclear program toward tacitly or overtly promising to support Iran regardless of the nuclear issue, the West's strategy toward Iran could rapidly unravel.
Linking the Ukraine crisis with the Iran negotiation is an American nightmare; it might just be a Russian dream come true. If Russia shifts into active cooperation with Iran, it is hard to see how the White House can keep hope alive.
If this statement really represents Russian policy rather than rhetoric, President Obama may have to choose between a shattering humiliation in the Black Sea, or a significantly greater risk of war in the Persian Gulf.
How Vladimir Putin Sees the Middle East - Michael Doran
When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stepped forward last September with an offer to strip Syria's Bashar al-Assad of his chemical weapons, President Obama saw the move as a breakthrough. Secretary of State John Kerry and Lavrov also conspired to launch Geneva II, a peace conference designed to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war. In the dawning new era, Syria was seen by the White House as a prototype: a model for stabilizing the Middle East. If successful, it could be applied to other problems in the region, including the Iranian nuclear program.
Just six months later, the new model is collapsing. In fact, it never had a chance. In Putin's view, all accommodations with the U.S. are tactical maneuvers in a struggle for the upper hand. The Kremlin sees itself as the great-power patron not just of the Assad regime but also of Iran and Hizbullah - the entire Resistance Alliance.
In the end, Putin will never sell out Tehran and Damascus in order to win compliments in Washington; if forced to choose, he will always side with the former against the latter, and will certainly leave them in no doubt that Russia is their most dependable friend in the UN Security Council. It is this fact that makes Russia a revisionist power in the Middle East and the permanent adversary of the U.S.
The writer, a senior fellow of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the U.S. National Security Council.