Russia warns that Iran nuclear talks too slow to forestall conflict
Russian is uniquely placed to mediate between Iran and world powers, but analysts say Moscow's role is limited in part by a lack of compromise from Washington and Tehran.
Although progress was made at Iran nuclear talks in Moscow this week, Russian analysts are concerned that the pace may be too slow to forestall a military conflict. They also caution that Russia's ability to mediate, a role for which it is uniquely suited, is limited by the lack of compromise from both Washington and Tehran – and Moscow's own variable relations with the Islamic Republic.Skip to next paragraph
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Western diplomats are anonymously spinning the line that Iran doesn't really want a deal that would restrict its nuclear program. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that some in Iran see an attack is the "best thing ... because that would unify [Iran], it would legitimize the regime."
The Iranian media, likewise, charged that plans of the P5+1 group (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) were "built on an axis of destruction," and that Israel sabotaged the talks. One Iranian lawmaker said failure was inevitable if "Westerners want to move under the instructions of the Zionist regime."
Russia straddles both camps like no other. As part of the P5+1, it has joined in ever-increasing sanctions on Iran. Yet it also built Iran's only nuclear power reactor, and sold sophisticated armaments to Iran for years.
Like all the members of the P5+1, Russia does not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. But it argues that diplomacy is the only way to ensure that end. So Russia's pessimistic assessment may matter, because of the wide chasm that remains as experts gather for technical meetings in Istanbul on July 3.
"For Russia the result is moderately positive," says Sergei Markov, a Kremlin adviser and vice president of the Plekhanov Economic University in Moscow. "It showed Iran is more ready to express its views and compromise, and the Western side did not issue an ultimatum."
Yet the talks need a "more clear advance and quicker developments" if they are to forestall a conflict, says Mr. Markov, who calculates that there is a "quite high" chance of an Israeli attack on Iran in July or August – just months before the US presidential election in November.
"If we would have three more years of such moderately positive results, it would be good," says Markov. "But in this much tighter time-frame, it is not enough."