Commentary Magazine


Russian Plan to Appease Iran Meets With Tehran’s Approval … and Obama’s

For the past several years, Iran has led the Western powers on a merry dance as it appeared to agree to talk on its program to obtain nuclear capability and then rebuffed them. President Obama wasted his first year in office trying to “engage” Iran on the issue of its nuclear program only to be repeatedly embarrassed by Tehran. Since then the United States and its friends and allies have focused on diplomacy aimed at building a coalition in favor of sanctions on Iran but the impulse to appease the ayatollahs has never been entirely suppressed. So it is no surprise to learn that a new Russian initiative aimed at cajoling Iran into talks about nukes was apparently approved by the United States.

The Iranians were delighted with the plan. The multi-step scheme calls for concessions to Iran on the issue in return for Iranian moves meant to reassure the world that it is complying with their demands. As they have shown time and again, the Iranians like any plan that allows them to string the West along so they can continue their nuclear development work unmolested.

A coalition of six powers — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — have been working to persuade the Iranians to comply with United Nations demands to stop uranium enrichment. But this effort has been undermined by the less than enthusiastic support for the goal from both Russia and China. Though both Moscow and Beijing aren’t happy with the idea of a nuclear Iran, they are also like to thwart the United States, a factor that accounts for their equivocal stance on the issue. It was Russia and China that forced the Western powers to accept watered down UN sanctions on Iran rather than the more draconian measures that might have actually gotten the Islamist regime’s attention.

Now they are at it again in the form of an initiative designed in theory to bring Tehran into compliance with the UN directives but which is tailor-made for their own purposes of delay and prevarication. The process envisioned by the Russian plan will not only be a long drawn out process that won’t actually stop the Iranians from continuing to accelerate their enrichment program and covert weapons research. It will also have the added bonus of putting any effort to enforce the current sanctions in place (which are not even being observed by the United States, let alone the Europeans, Russians and Chinese who have serious business dealings with Iran) or to ratchet them up to increase the pressure.

This Obama-approved Russian plan to appease Iran will, if it is allowed to proceed, set back any effort to impress upon Tehran that there will be serious consequences if they do not abandon their nuclear ambitions. Instead, it will only reinforce the impression that the United States and its president are too weak and distracted to do anything about a nuclear Iran. With the clock already inexorably ticking down to the day when the ayatollahs will announce the success of a nuclear test, President Obama seems to be demonstrating that the United States is not prepared to do anything about a threat which could imperil the entire Middle East as well as the rest of the world.