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03/27/2008

Seeking Russia''s Cooperation on Iran

Following up on our last discussion, below are a few further
words from former deputy national security advisor and U.S.
ambassador to India, 2001-2004, Robert D. Blackwill, on the
danger in Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, as Blackwill spells out
in an essay for the Jan./Feb. 2008 edition of The National
Interest.

Blackwill notes that Mao once advised his cadres during the
Chinese civil war to “Talk, talk – Fight, fight.” “The Iranian
version of this for the period ahead is clearly, ‘Talk, talk –
Enrich, enrich.’”

Only severe sanctions may change Iran’s policy at this point,
according to Blackwill, and those appear unlikely. So what
would happen if the United States opts to attack Iran’s facilities
preemptively?

“Tehran would respond with a variety of countermeasures
against the United States and any nation that was seen to be
assisting it – both in the region and in the world at large,
including probably in the American homeland. This would be a
long war, likely lasting for years, since Iran would not surrender.
It would inflame the entire Islamic world, strengthen terrorist
forces everywhere and, given the projected meteoric rise in oil
prices, could well trigger a global recession. As columnist Anne
Applebaum observed in the Washington Post, ‘International
support would be minimal, fury maximal, diplomatic
consequences appalling.’”

A prominent Asian leader told Blackwill, “If Iran acquires
nuclear weapons, it will change the world.” And a Middle East
monarch noted, “If the United States attacks Iran there will be
serious trouble in the region for 18 months. If Iran gets nuclear
weapons, there will be serious trouble in the region for thirty
years and beyond.”

If Iran went nuclear, clearly Sunni Arab regimes would follow
suit and the odds for a nuclear conflict would skyrocket.

Blackwill notes that if catastrophe is to be avoided, Russia would
have to play a critical role, seeing as Iran has a closer
relationship with the Kremlin than any Western nation, starting
with the fact it’s Russia that is aiding the civilian nuclear
industry in Iran.

But these days, Russia and the West, specifically, the United
States, have all kinds of issues. For starters, the Russian elite are
not happy at the criticisms as Putin has sought to “reassert
Russia’s traditional role as a great power; reestablish its
dominant position in the former Soviet sphere; and promote and
secure markets for its energy exports which advance its
geopolitical and geoeconomic objectives.”

Putin sees Western meddling in Georgia and Ukraine as a direct
threat to its national interests, and, of course, you’ve seen how
the Kremlin opposes U.S. plans to install missile-defense
systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, though recent talks
on the topic have been mildly positive.

Russia and the West differ on the future of the Conventional
Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, disagreements on past arms
control treaties as well as arms sales to Syria and Iran. And then
there are the issues involving Russia’s energy policy and the
monopoly over natural gas to Europe, for example. But as
Blackwill notes:

“Most of these substantive differences between Moscow and
Western governments shrink in centrality when compared to the
short- and long-term costs that the West would incur through a
war with Iran or Tehran’s possession of a nuclear arsenal. And
therein lies our current core problem: Persuading Russia to
cooperate fully regarding Iran. Do we in the West really believe
that we can acquire Russian cooperation on issues that matter
most to us, while ignoring issues that matter most to them? Do
we actually think that is the way things work between and among
strong nation-states? That is certainly consistent with neither my
reading of history nor my long experience in government .

“Let me stress here that I am not suggesting that the West give
Russia a free hand in neo-imperialist instincts that Moscow
might have in the former Soviet sphere, allow Western security
policy to be designed by the FSB or permit Russia to take
unimpeded advantage of current U.S. difficulties in the Greater
Middle East. Of course not. But there are strategic priorities,
tactical trade-offs and creative compromises possible here that
need to be considered by Western governments.”

Last fall, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Japan
that “North Korea poses a fundamental threat, but Iran does not.”
Blackwill says, “It seems doubtful that the Russian government
actually believes this.”

Putin also concedes, in Blackwill’s words, “not only is a nuclear-
armed Iran not in Russia’s interest, but (he) opined that it would
pose a greater threat to Russian national security than to
European or U.S. vital national interests.”

So there is room to maneuver Russian opinion and support, but
only if the United States and the West doesn’t try to ram its
overall agenda down Moscow’s throat, though Putin “may
conclude that it is inevitable that Iran will acquire nuclear
weapons and that joining Washington and its allies in a self-
defeating enterprise makes no sense. Moscow may wonder if the
next American president will follow the same muscular policies
regarding Iran as the current one. So such a Western initiative
could well fail.”

Personally, I remain convinced Israel will be forced to act on its
own before year end, with approval from the White House, of
course. I just don’t see how Israel can afford to wait until 2009
or 2010 to act since no one can possibly know just how close
Iran is to shocking the world.

Hot Spots returns in two weeks, April 10.

Brian Trumbore


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Hot Spots

03/27/2008

Seeking Russia''s Cooperation on Iran

Following up on our last discussion, below are a few further
words from former deputy national security advisor and U.S.
ambassador to India, 2001-2004, Robert D. Blackwill, on the
danger in Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, as Blackwill spells out
in an essay for the Jan./Feb. 2008 edition of The National
Interest.

Blackwill notes that Mao once advised his cadres during the
Chinese civil war to “Talk, talk – Fight, fight.” “The Iranian
version of this for the period ahead is clearly, ‘Talk, talk –
Enrich, enrich.’”

Only severe sanctions may change Iran’s policy at this point,
according to Blackwill, and those appear unlikely. So what
would happen if the United States opts to attack Iran’s facilities
preemptively?

“Tehran would respond with a variety of countermeasures
against the United States and any nation that was seen to be
assisting it – both in the region and in the world at large,
including probably in the American homeland. This would be a
long war, likely lasting for years, since Iran would not surrender.
It would inflame the entire Islamic world, strengthen terrorist
forces everywhere and, given the projected meteoric rise in oil
prices, could well trigger a global recession. As columnist Anne
Applebaum observed in the Washington Post, ‘International
support would be minimal, fury maximal, diplomatic
consequences appalling.’”

A prominent Asian leader told Blackwill, “If Iran acquires
nuclear weapons, it will change the world.” And a Middle East
monarch noted, “If the United States attacks Iran there will be
serious trouble in the region for 18 months. If Iran gets nuclear
weapons, there will be serious trouble in the region for thirty
years and beyond.”

If Iran went nuclear, clearly Sunni Arab regimes would follow
suit and the odds for a nuclear conflict would skyrocket.

Blackwill notes that if catastrophe is to be avoided, Russia would
have to play a critical role, seeing as Iran has a closer
relationship with the Kremlin than any Western nation, starting
with the fact it’s Russia that is aiding the civilian nuclear
industry in Iran.

But these days, Russia and the West, specifically, the United
States, have all kinds of issues. For starters, the Russian elite are
not happy at the criticisms as Putin has sought to “reassert
Russia’s traditional role as a great power; reestablish its
dominant position in the former Soviet sphere; and promote and
secure markets for its energy exports which advance its
geopolitical and geoeconomic objectives.”

Putin sees Western meddling in Georgia and Ukraine as a direct
threat to its national interests, and, of course, you’ve seen how
the Kremlin opposes U.S. plans to install missile-defense
systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, though recent talks
on the topic have been mildly positive.

Russia and the West differ on the future of the Conventional
Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, disagreements on past arms
control treaties as well as arms sales to Syria and Iran. And then
there are the issues involving Russia’s energy policy and the
monopoly over natural gas to Europe, for example. But as
Blackwill notes:

“Most of these substantive differences between Moscow and
Western governments shrink in centrality when compared to the
short- and long-term costs that the West would incur through a
war with Iran or Tehran’s possession of a nuclear arsenal. And
therein lies our current core problem: Persuading Russia to
cooperate fully regarding Iran. Do we in the West really believe
that we can acquire Russian cooperation on issues that matter
most to us, while ignoring issues that matter most to them? Do
we actually think that is the way things work between and among
strong nation-states? That is certainly consistent with neither my
reading of history nor my long experience in government .

“Let me stress here that I am not suggesting that the West give
Russia a free hand in neo-imperialist instincts that Moscow
might have in the former Soviet sphere, allow Western security
policy to be designed by the FSB or permit Russia to take
unimpeded advantage of current U.S. difficulties in the Greater
Middle East. Of course not. But there are strategic priorities,
tactical trade-offs and creative compromises possible here that
need to be considered by Western governments.”

Last fall, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Japan
that “North Korea poses a fundamental threat, but Iran does not.”
Blackwill says, “It seems doubtful that the Russian government
actually believes this.”

Putin also concedes, in Blackwill’s words, “not only is a nuclear-
armed Iran not in Russia’s interest, but (he) opined that it would
pose a greater threat to Russian national security than to
European or U.S. vital national interests.”

So there is room to maneuver Russian opinion and support, but
only if the United States and the West doesn’t try to ram its
overall agenda down Moscow’s throat, though Putin “may
conclude that it is inevitable that Iran will acquire nuclear
weapons and that joining Washington and its allies in a self-
defeating enterprise makes no sense. Moscow may wonder if the
next American president will follow the same muscular policies
regarding Iran as the current one. So such a Western initiative
could well fail.”

Personally, I remain convinced Israel will be forced to act on its
own before year end, with approval from the White House, of
course. I just don’t see how Israel can afford to wait until 2009
or 2010 to act since no one can possibly know just how close
Iran is to shocking the world.

Hot Spots returns in two weeks, April 10.

Brian Trumbore