Russia has priorities, not difficult to determine: energy production and transportation, regional hegemony, tacit U.S. agreement to a broadened Russian sphere of influence, eliminate or negate NATO expansion, eliminate defensive weapons systems, creating an essential Russian commonwealth in the region and the attraction of U.S. capital back into the Russian economy while continuing to minimize the U.S. politically. The punctuation for these intentions is an expanding military, energy and weapons manufacturing capability. Alliances and dependencies have been created across the globe, with high presence in the Middle East, Central Asia and the former Soviet republics.
Russia’s nuclear use policy of 2009 is a warning, “how about another Cold War comrade? Russia’s strategy related to Iran has been an elegant waltz along the line defining Russian diplomatic and economic self interest. The U.S. needs Russia’s vote in the Security Council, the Euros won’t budge without a resolution. Iran depends on Russia for reactor completion, engineering expertise and potentially the S300 anti aircraft system. The S300 system is the greatest threat to an attacking air force, should an attack be launched against Iran. While the Russians negotiated an exception for the S300 in the U.N. resolution, the Russians said nyet to Iran……….. for the moment.
The Iranians have been fighting with the Russians over completion schedules and work progress for years, including public statements by the Supreme Leader about Russian complicity. Iran however, has no where else to go, save North Korea which is a little busy at the moment.
Iran may be a little frantic, last week a plane load of Russian nuclear engineers went home for a while without notification to Iranian officials. The S300’s may or may not arrive; the reactor is nearly complete but not fully operational. Russia has had access to, at least, a majority of the Iranian nuclear facilities. Have they seen them all? Intelligence gathering is a Russian art, what have they got? Are there shadows within shadows regarding the Iranian program? Experience would say yes, that there are parallel facilities no one knows about, even the Russians.
Russia is perfectly positioned to stick it to someone. Geopolitically in the short term, it’s best to stick it to us, over the longer term very much less so as Russia wants access to U.S. capital. Regionally it’s hard to see how Iran with a nuclear weapon is in Russian interests; Russians are infidels too. Russians have horrific experience with radical Islam and radical Islam harbors no doubt about Russian response for a step over the red line. The revised Russian nuclear strategy was a message to the Middle East and Europe as well as to us.
Some reports indicate that Russia had no intention of allowing Iran to get to the point of a weapon. If true one has to believe they have a method for assuring that outcome should it become in their self interests to do so. Russia appears to be the only nation, short of military action, that might pull it off. China, despite it’s recalcitrance over sanctions does not maintain anywhere near Russian leverage in Iran. The E.U. delegation failed, U.S. pressure failed, the invasion of Iraq did not slow things down, sanctions have and will fail and Arab nations are in no position to stop Iran.
The potential blow back from the perceived need for Israel to “stop” the Iranian program is potentially a catastrophe and everyone knows it. U.S. movement away from Israel will not mitigate the “shared blame” the U.S. will suffer in the Middle East. From the Middle Easter point of view the fact that U.S. support put Israel in the position it is in today is a permanent sin worthy of death. Other U.S. sins include support for Egypt and Jordan. In other words whether or not we support Israel in an attack we will be painted with the same brush.
Iranian reaction to an attack, will not be devastating but will be problematic. Iran can activate their gulf defenses, attempt to close the Straights of Hormuz as well as unleashing Hamas, Hiz’bAllah and their international networks. The only favorable result of an Israeli strike is the 50/50 chance of pushing the Iranian program back five or ten years.
The long term appeasement of Iran leads to predictable outcomes. In this outcome solutions are never better or good, they are only less bad. Which is the lesser of evils? What concessions and “understandings” does Russia extract in return for keeping Iran off nuclear weapons and from whom? What guarantees can be offered, have all the cockroaches been eliminated? There is always a price tag and this will not be priced to go.
On the surface, the U.S. has more of value to offer than Iran but questions remain. Is a resurgent Russia, under strong man rule, fresh from winning the Iran game, politically positioned as hero to the civilized world, a better or worse alternative than Iran with a nuclear weapon in the short term?
Let’s go talk to the Russians and be fully prepared to have “it” handed to us because it will be!