News / Europe

Israel Fails to Move Russia on Iran Nuclear Talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in a joint news conference in Moscow, Nov. 20, 2013.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in a joint news conference in Moscow, Nov. 20, 2013.
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— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left Moscow on Thursday after failing in a last minute attempt to move Russian President Vladimir Putin away from backing a Iranian nuclear deal taking shape in Geneva.
 
After four hours of talks in Moscow, Russia’s leader told reporters, “We, in Russia, have an optimistic view on the Iranian nuclear problem."
 
The Israeli leader faced an uphill battle in Moscow.
 
Russia is a northern neighbor of Iran and is known for sitting on the fence about Iran’s nuclear program.
 
On Monday, Putin talked by telephone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.  Afterwards, a Kremlin statement said: “Putin stressed that there is now a real chance to find a solution to this long-standing problem.”
 
Israel supports tighter economic sanctions and total dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program.  In Moscow, Netanyahu tried flattery, publicly praising Putin for brokering a chemical weapons disarmament deal for Syria. He argued that Russia should now try to negotiate a similar nuclear disarmament deal for Iran.
 
“In the case of Syria, Russia and other powers quite justifiably insisted on full the disarmament of Syria,"  he said at the news conference. At the Geneva talks, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany appear to be shaping a deal that would allow Iran to keep low level uranium enrichment capacity, under international controls.
 
While the Kremlin says it does not want Iran to get a nuclear bomb, Russia does not share Israel’s insecurity over the issue. Russia has 8,500 nuclear warheads.  Some Russians say they do not feel threatened if Iran has one or two nuclear bombs.
 
George Mirsky, a Mideast expert at Russia’s Academy of Sciences, recalls hearing a Russian diplomat talk a few months ago at a Foreign Ministry conference here in Moscow.
 
“One of the officials said, quite outright, that it is better to have a nuclear Iran, than a pro-American Iran,” Mirsky recalled. “Can you imagine this?  Better a nuclear Iran for Russia, than a pro-American Iran.  Because, after all, Russia can never be afraid of Iranian nuclear weapons.”
 
But Russia does fear the nonconventional weapons that Iran could use.
 
Iran shares a Caspian Sea coastline with Dagestan, an overwhelmingly Muslim Russian republic, where anti-government bombings and shootings occur daily. Dagestan is the gateway to Russia’s Caucasus, a mountainous region where Russia has waged two all out wars against secessionists in the two decades since the Soviet Union collapsed.
 
Mirsky said, “Iran has some means to make life very miserable for Russia in the Caucasus, but Iran was very loyal and never did a single thing to damage Russian interests in the Caucasus.  And it is appreciated in Moscow”
 
Tehran also appreciates that Moscow, decades ago, stopped supporting secessionist Azeri and Kurdish groups in Northern Iran.
 
In the Shiite-Sunni split in the Muslim world, Iran and Moscow share a common opposition to armed Sunni groups, whether in the Russian Caucasus or in Shiite-controlled Syria, an Iranian ally.
 
For Russia, there have also been economic benefits to the status quo of economic sanctions on Iran.  Sanctions keep Iranian oil and gas off world markets, boosting prices of Russia’s primary exports. Sanctions prevent the landlocked, energy rich nations of the Caspian from using Iranian pipelines to export their oil and gas to the outside world.
 
So the Israeli leader faced a big challenge when he flew to Moscow on Wednesday, but, undoubtedly, he also had few illusions.
 
On the surface, Russia and Israel have good relations: visa free tourism and one million Russian speakers in Israel. But Israelis have a deep skepticism of Russia.
 
Last April, the Pew Research Center asked people around the world about their attitudes towards Russia.  Of people surveyed in 38 countries, the highest level of unfavorable opinion - 77 percent - was recorded in Israel.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

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by: Aldebaran from: Rancho Mirage
November 22, 2013 8:56 AM
Without Russia's backing, Iran and Syria, wouldn't be much of a problem. In a nutshell, Putin, is the most evil leader on the planet.
Putin's mentality is to serve as a counter balance to anything good the US try's to do around the world. You can count on Putin to always do the opposite of US and world interests. I hope he suffers a fatal embolism ASAP!


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
November 22, 2013 8:24 AM
If Russia refuses to see reason to persuade Iran to drop the idea of uranium enrichment and wishes Iran goes forward, then it will share the blame for the consequences of Iran's recalcitrant pursuit of war. For as long as Iran retains capability to enrich uranium, there is very little anyone can do to convince other concerned parties in the region and elsewhere that they can sleep with their two eyes closed. If Iran goes ahead with uranium enrichment capability – to whatever level, whatever guise is used to confuse the rest of watchers - it is a murder of sleep and no one will be able to sleep anymore from thence.

Whatever gain Russia may wish to have made from it will turn to turmoil and discredit everyone who has been party to it, including the administration in Washington DC that will be called to give account of the stewardship toward restraining Iranian impudence. When Obama made a show of himself and USA as toothless bulldog, the rest of the world can now dictate for it how they conduct their diplomacy. Which is why Iran is on the driving seat dictating both direction and pace. And why not Russia which is itself a superpower element.

I miss Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton, George Bush! If they do not go to war, they know the right actions to take to achieve a diplomatic solution without lowering America’s image. Now the reverse is the case. Today I watched a Hollywood classical film (courtesy MultiChoice DSTV) titled Battle Ship; It was a game. I remember Ronald Regan’s Star Wars. It was also made in Hollywood. But the Israel-Iran war may not have been thought of in Hollywood, though everyone thinks that Washington DC’s inaction and NAIVE compromises in the ‘substantial nuisance’ of the Day2 negotiations at Geneva may be the point of no return in the drift toward an avoidable war. Israel’s national motto is NEVER AGAIN, and that includes allowing Iran produce and possess atomic weapon of mass destruction targeted at Israel. If you think Israel wishes to live with this mortal threat, I do not belong in your camp.


by: Papa Jo from: Killarney
November 21, 2013 10:50 PM
If Iran is the mortal enemy of both Arab states and Israel then why these knuckleheads politicians of Israelis and Arabs cooperate on their common interest and eliminate their common enemy, instead of relying heavily on other countries to do the job for them!


by: Martin Nesbitt from: USA
November 21, 2013 2:36 PM
Russians in Israel know exactly what absolute crap the "new" Russia is. And there is an implacable and undeniable genetic link between Israel and the US - the two are simply inseparable.

The truth is that Russia is disintegrating faster than the brutal hold of the Iranian Mullahs through the fear of their citizenry... Russia doesn't care if Iran has a nuclear bomb or two, but they would care if Saudi Arabia has them...

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