Russia Supports Iranian Program As US Flounders
While Russia holds much power in the UN Security Council proceedings concerning Iran’s nuclear program and Western fears of a weapons program, Russia continues to display its closer relationship with its cash customer Islamic Republic than the West. Iran and Russia have agreed to launch the Bushehr nuclear plant in November 2007, a plant built by Russia under a lucrative construction contract. Also included in that contract is the initial supply of nuclear fuel until Iran can produce enough of their own indigenously to support it. Russia is not only building Iran’s nuclear facilities and supplying them the nuclear fuel beginning in March – despite Iranian claims of its own abilities and intent – but Russia is also selling the regime advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to protect their various nuclear facilities from any attack by Western powers. The deep Iranian-Russian economic ties are further exemplified today by the sale of five Russian Tu-204-100 passenger airliners.
But that is only part of what appears to be a losing battle with the steadfast Iranian regime over its nuclear ambitions. The state-sponsor of terrorism is reaping the benefits that come with the West’s own divide, a forming gulf more and more evident between Europe and America.
While Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expresses confidence that President Bush is ‘absolutely determined to prevent’ a nuclear armed Iran and that Israel and America would together prevent such an outcome, few nations appear to share Israel’s determination, perhaps including the America he praises for its stalwartness.
The European Union’s Javier Solana, among others, continues talks with Iran after the regime ignored the UN Security Council mandate that it halt enrichment activities at the end of August. His office claims to be close to a deal with Iran on the nuclear issue in secretive talks between Solana and Iranian chief negotiator Ali Larijani, himself a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander who still holds leadership sway within the IRGC that founded Hizballah in Lebanon.
What the EU-Iranian deal entails is shrouded in mystery, but many would presume that it include a cessation of enrichment activities. But according to the vice president of the Iranian National Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saeedi, any potentially pending deal will not include a cessation of enrichment. In response to reports of the two sides nearing agreement, Saeedi said in Tehran, “The imposition of a three-month moratorium on [uranium] enrichment activities will not be discussed during the upcoming talks between Larijani and Solana.”
In a meeting between Australian and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq, Iranian state-controlled news reports that the Australian ambassador referred to Iran’s current role in Iraqi affairs as “constructive and positive.” The meeting between the two took place at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad.
Even the American position exhibits signs of moderation and weakening, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserted that she does not think a gasoline embargo on Iran should be considered as part of any potential sanctions. She said, “You want to stay away from things that have a bad effect on the Iranian people to the degree that you can. That’s something we really do have to fight against and some believe a gasoline embargo might play into that.” While her concerns are seen by most as not without some merit, the only sanctions against the regime that appear on the table revolve around freezing certain assets and the pulling of visas and limiting the regime’s travel abroad – a move that may have pleased many Americans had it been imposed before Ahmadinejad’s performance at the UN General Assembly and former Iranian president Khattami’s cross-country US speaking tour.
So while the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, speaks of confidence that America and Israel will not allow a nuclear-armed Iran, there appear few options the US administration is willing to support in order to qualify for such praise and confidence amid dissolving resolve.
The question on the minds of many is: Is there an emerging ‘Persian Gulf’ between the US and Europe, or is America experiencing a dissolving resolve and actually drifting closer to European acquiescence?