Can Moscow save Iran from sanctions?


MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov)

Apparently, the debates around the Iranian nuclear program have reached the homestretch. Although neither deputy foreign ministers of UN Security Council permanent members and Germany (which is a member of the EU trio in talks with Tehran), who met in Paris on Tuesday, nor the UN Security Council at its consultations later managed to come to terms on a draft resolution on Iran.

The stumbling block is the application of Article 7 of the UN Charter, which provides for both sanctions and possibility of using military force. The United States and the European trio supported the idea, while Russia and China opposed it. Now the draft is being developed by technical experts from the UN Security Council 15 members. The voting is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Even if Russia and China manage to defend a draft that will rule out force, it will most probably be Iran's last chance to prevent international isolation. Russia is the only country that can give Iran this chance, according to Rose Gottemoeller, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center and non-proliferation expert. At the same time, very much, if not everything, will depend on Iran.

Tehran should agree to Moscow's proposal to set up a joint venture on Russian territory to enrich uranium for the Bushehr nuclear plant. All the more so, as the venture's importance has increased in the context of the Russian initiative to create international centers to provide nuclear services, which is supported by leading nuclear powers. This means that a Russian-Iranian JV could be a pilot version of the multilateral international nuclear project.

Tehran should also agree to resume full moratorium on all uranium enrichment activity, all the more so, as it has a suitable excuse. Having recently announced that it reached the 4.8% enrichment, Iran also said it did not intend to go beyond 5%. Then why not take a break and allow inspectors to see once again that Iranian nuclear research is peaceful? This approach would definitely gain support from Moscow and Beijing. Nikolay Spassky, deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, who attended an international conference in Moscow titled "Global Security and G8: Challenges and Interests", underlined that Russia saw the moratorium as meant solely to restore trust in the nuclear program and that it could last from several years to several months.

There are some other aspects, in which Tehran could use a broader range of diplomatic instruments. Somehow, it prefers the tactics of a steam engine whose maneuvers are limited by the rail-track.

Of course, Washington is pushing Iran to such policies. After all, it was U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice who during her visit to Europe early last year persuaded the European trio to replace the demand of a "temporary" moratorium on uranium enrichment in talks on the Iranian nuclear program with a "permanent" one, which led to some dead-end situations and conflicts.

Apparently, Washington does not mean to give up its horse-in-blinkers tactics towards Iran, seeing it solely as a representative of the "axis of evil", where it was put by the United States itself.

On the other hand, it is hard to argue with Ms. Gottemoeller, who said that "Tehran follows a firm and consistent policy of crossing one red line after another," which, "apparently, leads to the end of diplomacy."

This is true in many aspects. At the above-mentioned forum in Moscow, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's permanent representative to the IAEA, said that Moscow's proposal on a joint venture was being worked on and only waited for some financial and technical details to be agreed on. Yet next day the Iranian president disavowed this statement, saying that the Russian initiative was no longer on Iran's agenda.

This is not the only example. At the summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization in Baku, Azerbaijan, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would continue its activities in the nuclear sphere "on the basis of international principles and laws and under the IAEA control until it is able to produce industrial fuel for its nuclear power plants."

This is what the world is warning Iran against.

Given such uncompromising statements, Russia will have a hard job trying to save Iran from sanctions and from Article 7 of the UN Charter.

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