Report: US asked Russia to deliver ultimatum to Iran
A leading Russian newspaper reported today that US Secretary of State Clinton requested that Russia tell Iran upcoming talks are the 'last chance' before it pursues a military option.
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"The April talks could be a watershed, and the Americans are obviously staking a lot on them," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow foreign policy journal. "If nothing comes out of them, it will be seen as a sign of weakness on the part of the Obama administration. So maybe the US does see this as an important opportunity [to avert war]. Russia can play its part by informing the Iranians that our capacities to help them have been exhausted. As long as it was a matter before the Security Council, we could always wield our veto. But once it comes to unilateral action, they're on their own."Skip to next paragraph
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But, Mr. Suslov adds, "I don't see much hope that this can be turned around. Russia would like to prevent military action, but our establishment now appears convinced that war is inevitable."
A mixed record on intervention
Russia has played a peripheral, but occasionally influential, role in previous conflicts. In 1999, after weeks of a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, Russian emissary Viktor Chernomyrdin finally convinced Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to give up. In February 2003, former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov visited Iraq with a message from then-president Vladimir Putin, urging the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to step down in the interest of peace.
It was Russia's acquiescence in the UN Security Council a year ago that allowed Resolution 1973, which authorized military force to protect civilians in Libya, to be passed. That decision led to an open rift among Russia's top leaders, with Mr. Putin publicly slamming the decision as authorizing a Western-backed "crusade" against Libya.
Russia has agreed to previous rounds of sanctions against Iran, including an arms ban that cost Moscow billions in contracts with Tehran and recently signaled that it will continue to honor that decision. But Moscow has also made clear that it believes harsh sanctions don't work and it will not support any further tough measures against Iran.
"The ball is now in the Iranian court, and much will depend upon the moods of Iranian leaders," says Georgy Mirski, an expert at the official Institute of International Relations and World Economy, which trains Russian diplomats.
"I was in Iran not long ago, and observed that while most people didn't seem happy with their leaders, the nuclear program seems to have become a national idea, a symbol of national dignity. It's rather clear that Iran is committed to getting at least the capacity to produce a bomb, even though they might not actually want to build one."
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