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Iran Sanctions: Of Apocalyptics and Atheists

While the BBC reports that there has been UN 'progress' over Iran sanctions among diplomats with an agreement close, what will ultimately be agreed upon is almost sure to disappoint.
The measures are designed to tighten existing sanctions imposed in December.

Ambassadors admit privately that the nature of the sanctions being discussed is limited.

What is important, say Western diplomats, is to present a united front and show Iran there is disapproval at the UN over its uranium enrichment programme.
What is important, rather, is that if sanctions are to be levied, they should at least be effective in achieving the stated aims of the United Nations Security Council. Ostensibly, this is to prevent the maturation of the Iranian nuclear program until such safeguards can be introduced to ensure there is no weaponization capability being produced.

Short of that effectiveness - which the resultant additional sanctions are sure to be - the ongoing exercise is process for sake of process.

The Export Law Blog summarizes the principal contention in the Iran sanctions debate.

Although it seems certain that the [existing] list [of blocked firms and individuals] will be expanded, there is still some disagreement over who to include on that list. For example, the United States is pushing to include all firms owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on the list but is encountering some resistance. The Russians have whimsically argued that the Revolutionary Guard is an "€œinstitution€" in Iran and are hesitant to penalize an institution. There'€™s little point in trying to make sense of that argument because the Russians, of course, aren'€™t terribly keen on sanctioning Iran in the first place but can'€™t very well admit that.

However, while Russia may not be 'terribly keen' on sanctioning Iran - putting it in step with Putin's American rivals - there is at least some hope that, beneath the surface, Russia is not too 'terribly keen' on a nuclear-armed Caliphate-seeking Islamists, either. Perhaps there is more to the Bushehr nuclear fuel supply delays than rubles.

Russia surely does not trust Iran with nuclear weapons and Iran surely has no deep-seeded love for the atheists of Russia. Simply stated, each has just not finished exploiting the other to the point of exhausting their perceived usefulness.

At least one can hope. Perhaps even with some cause.

After all, surely Russia understands their limited usefulness to the principal exporters of Islamic revolution. An atheistic state, however helpful with arms and nuclear technology at present, is still at the end of the day another group of unbelievers. However frustrating and adversarial, Russia remains a rational actor. The same cannot be said for an Islamic Republic chock full of apocalyptic influentials who view Mutually Assured Destruction as a gateway to the return of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi, the Perfect One.

2 Comments

It is puzzling to me why Russia did an about face in respect to Iran's nuclear program. Iran has fulfilled their contractual obligations, so the Russian company is obviously postponing getting the Iranian nuclear plant on-line for political purposes (perhaps to prevent it from being operational when destroyed, causing a nuclear catastrophe, by an American/Israeli preventative attack).

Furthermore, the Russian government has signaled that they are going to stop protecting Iran in the UNSC because it wasn't worth the political price.

Frankly, it doesn't seem like Russia can afford to let America run the board in the Middle East (first Iraq, now Iran), yet Russia must have made the calculation that they can't stop a US preventative attack, so they might as well profit by seeing the price of their energy exports go up astronomically once Iran escalates any US military adventure.

I have truly given up trying to figure out how the Russians rationalize to themselves giving Iran the ability to develop nuclear weapons. I think it boils down to two things - money and (as Brad says above) offsetting the United States. This is all part of the "multipolar" agenda, which actually is an attempt to revive Russia as a major "pole." And since Russia has plenty of money these days, I think that undermining the U.S. is the real motive.

The only way to make sense of Russian actions is to think of them in terms of psychology and their sense of Russia's "proper" place in the world. Why were they so opposed to east Europe being in NATO? Why browbeat the poor (and practically defenseless) Georgians? Why did they recently make such a protest over the Czeck Republic (!) putting up a missile defense? We all know about those warmongering, bloodthirsty Czecks.

Seriously, there is no way to make sense of Russian actions any other way than as being driven by some sense of place in the world that requires this. If the Kremlin is having second thoughts about Iran, great, but I'm not getting my hopes up.