[Marxism] Russia, Iran harden against West

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 17 22:52:00 MDT 2007

The world political realignment which has accelerated since 9/11 is
making it much more difficult for Washington to impose its will on
a reluctant planet. The countries which are most under the gun are
strengthened in various ways when larger and more powerful states
stand by them, as we see here with Putin's visit to the Islamic
Republic of Iran. It will certainly oblige the warmakers to think
a bit more about whether or not it a military strike against Iran
would bring whatever perceived benefits they fantasize that it might
bring. Russia today is a capitalist country and has a nationalist  
leadership. It's neither socialist nor even Stalinist, but Russia's
NATIONAL interests are at loggerheads with Washington's strategic
interests. Russia doesn't think that Washington's installing missile
bases near its borders is good for world peace. And why should they?

Washington's aggressive policies are more and more uniting the world
in new and surprising ways. The Cubans weren't happen when Putin
closed the Lourdes base, but the mutual interests of the two sides
led them to find ways to work closely in subsequent years despite
the different class natures of the two states. 

Walter Lippmann

from the October 18, 2007 edition -
Russia, Iran harden against West

In a historic first visit to Iran, Russian President Putin affirmed
support for Tehran's nuclear program and rebuffed any militarization
in the Caspian region.

By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Istanbul, Turkey

The diplomatic fireworks were few. But the sheer presence of Russian
President Vladimir Putin in Iran Tuesday has hardened both Moscow's
and Tehran's strategies of confronting the West, as he reinforced
support for the Islamic Republic and its nuclear program.

Mr. Putin told a summit of five Caspian Sea nations, "We should not
even think of using force in this region" – a veiled warning to the
US not to strike Iran. But the Russian leader also sought a delicate
balance on the nuclear issue, after a week of rebuffing top American
officials over Washington's missile defense plans for Europe, and
despite French and German leaders' hopes for a tougher line against

"From Iran's vantage point, this could not have come at a better time
to drastically improve the geostrategic climate in Iran's favor, when
Iran is under escalating pressure from the US and some allies," says
Kaveh Afrasiabi, an Iran expert at Bentley College near Boston. "This
summit works as an antidote to these pressures."

Putin reassured Iran that the Bushehr nuclear reactor, a $1 billion
energy project being built by Russia and dogged by delays, would be
completed. But he refused to say when Russia might supply the needed
nuclear fuel. Russia opposes a third round of UN sanctions against
Iran unless presented with proof of a secret atomic weapons program.

"This [Putin] visit is a PR visit with an accent of propaganda," says
Alexey Malashenko, a Russia and Islam specialist at the Carnegie
Moscow Center. "I don't think the Americans are afraid of this,
because they understand Russia really is against the possibility of
creation of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Indeed, it's very dangerous
for Russia."

In Washington, officials noted that Russia has already taken part in
two unanimous UN Security Council votes to place modest sanctions on
Iran for not suspending uranium enrichment efforts – a process to
make nuclear fuel for power reactors that can be enhanced to make
weapons-grade fissile material.

"I don't think the Russian government has been, in any way, shape, or
form, trying to encourage Iran's nuclear developments," said Tom
Casey, a State Department spokesman. "In fact, they've been very
concerned about it."

While stated US policy remains a diplomatic path, Bush administration
officials continue to talk tough against Iran. "With a government of
this nature, only a united front of nations will be able to exert
enough pressure to make Iran abandon its nuclear aspirations," US
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the Jewish Institute for
National Security Affairs in Washington this week. While pitching
more sanctions, he also said: "With this regime, we must also keep
all options on the table."

Putin received a red carpet welcome in Tehran, meeting with President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme religious leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali
Khamenei – rare for any non-Muslim leader. Reuters quoted state
television reporting that Putin had asked for "deeper" ties with
Iran; weapons sales and a commercial aircraft deal were also high on
the Russian agenda.

"We must not see this as a zero-sum game," says Mr. Afrasiabi, a
former adviser to Iran's nuclear negotiating team. "It would be sheer
error on the part of US officials to berate President Putin for this
trip to Iran, and extending an olive branch to the Iranian leadership

 given the fact that Russia has been influential in steering Iran
toward greater cooperation with the [International Atomic Energy
Agency] to answer key questions."

In a joint statement, the two presidents noted the "closeness" of
their positions "over the key world questions," and the "necessity of
solving as quickly as possible the situation over the Iranian nuclear
program through politics and diplomacy."

Analysts say Iran hopes the summit will help shift its nuclear
dossier from the Security Council to the normal purview of the UN's
nuclear watchdog agency. Last week, Putin said, "We have no real data
to claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, which makes us
believe the country has no such plans."

Still, Iran has accused Russia of caving in to the West, and dragging
its feet on completion of Bushehr. In turn, Moscow has accused Iran
of being slow on payments – a charge Iran denies – and has delayed
the start-up of the power reactor planned for this fall.

And amid the controversy over the final intent of Iran's program,
there has been little progress on a deal to ship Russian nuclear fuel
– or fuel from a joint Iranian-Russian program on Russian soil – to
the Bushehr reactor. Moscow says that will happen six months before
the reactor goes on line.

When pressed on the timing of the opening, Putin told Iranian
reporters, "I only gave promises to my mom when I was a small boy."

The visit underscores an increasingly similar global outlook between
the two nations.

"Growing anxiety about the post-9/11 US interventionist and
militarist policies 
 explains the lion's share of why we witness
President Putin in Tehran," says Afrasiabi. "That is the binding
factor between Iran and Russia, both of which are objects of coercive
diplomacy by the US today."

Indeed, Putin has reacted strongly to US plans to deploy a
missile-defense system in eastern Europe. In July he notified NATO
that Russia was pulling out of a cold-war treaty to limit
conventional forces in Europe, and in August relaunching long-range
strategic bomber patrols.

After complaining this summer that the US "overstepped its national
borders in every way," last week Putin rebuked both US Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in
Moscow: "We may decide someday to put missile defense systems on the
moon, but before we get to that we may lose a chance for agreement
because of you implementing your own plans."

In Iran, right-leaning newspapers hailed the visit as a breakthrough.
"Maybe the most important result of Putin's trip is to show the
independence of Russia toward America and the West," wrote Kayhan.
Jomhuri Islami highlighted a "deep difference of opinion between
Russia on the one side and America and France on the other side in
dealing with Iran's nuclear case."

Such a reception is worlds away from Tehran's past ties with Moscow.
The last Russian leader to visit Tehran in 1943 was Josef Stalin, in
a World War II meeting with fellow Allied leaders Franklin Roosevelt
and Winston Churchill. During the cold war, Iran, led by the
pro-Western shah, was in the American orbit.

A decade after the 1979 Islamic revolution – when the Soviet Union
was excoriated in Iran almost as much as the US and Israel were –
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wrote his first-ever letter to a head of
state, telling Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that communism was
dead and that he should “study Islam earnestly.”

Today, the two countries have much to talk about, but mutual
suspicions remain, enough for some analysts to call Moscow-Tehran
ties as more business than a close alliance. Speculation in Iran
before the visit, that Mr. Ahmadinejad wanted to forge a strategic
link between the two nations – as he has done with anti-US leaders
like Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez – may prove premature.

"What I know is there is no strategic alliance between Russia and
Iran, and that is forever, and for a lot of reasons," says Mr.
Malashenko. "The main one is that Iran considers Russia a part of the
Western world, of Europe, of Christianity."

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