Opposition figure Kasparov may be the chess master, but Vlad the soft totalitarian is proving time and again, as he creates his Nu-Soviet, that he's a master of political chess. He's adroit at manouvering enemies and allies alike into situations where his true intent is suddenly unmasked and they find themselves in a no-win situation. Here's the latest:
Russia's delivery of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr power station makes it unnecessary for Iran to pursue its enrichment program, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on Wednesday.If Iran doesn't play its part in Putin's plan then Russia will stop helping Iran stave off sanctions, according to Lavrov. If it does, there must be no further sanctions and no regime change attempts.
Lavrov, interviewed by the Moscow daily Vremya Novostei, also said any suggestion of "regime change" in Tehran had to be ruled out in discussions on verifying Iran's nuclear program.
"We believe that Iran has no economic need to proceed with its program of uranium enrichment," Lavrov told the daily.
"We are trying to persuade the Iranians that freezing the program is to their advantage as it would immediately lead to talks with all countries of the "six," including the United States."
Such talks, he said, would aim to end any suspicion that Iran had any secret aim to produce nuclear weapons. "Iran's agreement to this proposal is in everyone's interest."
Putin's Russia has successfully, thereby, put a spanner in the works of both Western and Iranian plans and left itself as the fulcrum and lever of how this issue plays out. Putin has also tried to steal one of the primary "carrots" the West could offer, security guarantees,out from under Bush's nose, seriously weakening any US ability to re-take the diplomatic initiative. Instead, if Iran agrees, it would move irrevocably into the status of a Nu-Soviet client state. However if Iran doesn't agree then the implied stick is obvious.
From an Iranian point of view, agreeing to the Russian plan may well be impossible. There's a lot of rhetorical and domestic political capital now invested in continuing enrichment activities. Refusal also makes sense from a national security angle - Russia's off and on again pronouncements about fuel supply wouldn't be countenanced by any nation serious about energy security as the supply is quite obviously not a reliable one and is attached to too many political strings.
Which means that in due course, Russia will ride to the West's rescue and back further sanctions - perhaps even regime change attempts under UNSC resolutions, despite their assertion that such should be off the table. Russia wins, no matter what, it seems.
Checkmate? Not quite. If America was to abandon attempts to keep control of Bush's envisioned fuel cartel so that it can be used to apply political pressure and instead hand the whole plan to the UN, under an expanded IAEA's control, Russia and Iran would both be left floundering. That's just so not going to happen while Bush and Cheney are still around, but it's something the current candidates should be thinking about, sounding out the American companies involved with guarantees of preserving their profits.