Bush Seeks New Pact with Putin for Crackdown on Iran
A radical policy reassessment is underway at the White House.
US President George W. Bush is in the process of restoring his old alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin to clear the way for getting at Iran. For the sake of this switch, the US president must carry out repairs on their frayed relations and let go of certain fundamental diplomatic and military policies, objectives and values which he has held dear throughout his seven years in office, primarily the hard push for democracy in Muslim and Arab societies.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources report exclusively that the Bush administration is already on the move in this new direction. it has started with slowdowns of America’s competition with Russia for natural resources, energy pipelines and a military presence in Central Asia and the Caspian region. Bush is edging away from his determination to deploy missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic in consideration of Russian ire.
The administration is broaching second thoughts on the definition of Russia’s Chechen separatist problem and Islamist terror in Russia at large. Syria and its president Bashar Assad are also in the sights of the newly-emerging American strategy.
These changes will be analyzed in detail in this and other articles in this issue. For now, DEBKA-Net-Weekly outlines their rationale:
1. Iran’s timeline for attaining a nuclear weapon has been drastically shortened from five-to- eight years to two, i.e. late 2009.
The new estimate is based on of plans and components of the North Korean reactor and nuclear elements which Israeli soldiers carried off from their raid on the Syrian reactor on Sept. 6.
Harnessing Putin for extreme sanctions
After studying them and other related data, American nuclear and intelligence experts came to the following conclusion: If after four years of preparation, followed by 10 months of on-site construction, Syria came close to a capability for manufacturing radioactive materials from plutonium, it stands to reason that a similar installation is buried somewhere in the bowels of Iran’s clandestine nuclear program and already turning out dangerous radioactive substances. This would means that Iran already possesses the makings of “dirty bombs.”
The experts’ second conclusion was that, since the North Koreans were employed earlier and more extensively in Iran than they were in Syria, Iran must be inferred to be capable of producing enough plutonium for a nuclear weapon of the type North Korea has made. Therefore, Iran should be taken to be much closer to a nuclear bomb than believed until very recently.
It is even possible that late 2009 date is over-optimistic and Tehran will get there sooner.
2. Bush has made his mind up that, before resorting to military action against Iran’s nuclear installation, now is the right and possibly the last moment for extreme international pressure to compel Iran to dismantle its military program as did North Korea.
To swing this, Bush’s strategic planners agree that President Putin must be harnessed to the endeavor. Inducing Moscow to play along with the United States for the harshest possible sanctions against Tehran has a good chance of ultimately carrying Beijing along – just as China eventually joined up with Washington and Moscow to bring North Korea to heel.
3. The first step on the road to inducing Moscow to cooperate with Washington in an economic, financial and if necessary maritime siege on Iran would be to sweeten Washington-Moscow relations and reconstitute the personal friendship between the two presidents.
From amity in Afghanistan to animus over Central Asia
Since the new estimate for Iran’s timeline to a nuclear weapon substantially shortens the leeway for action – and the end of the Bush presidency is around the corner – the process of rapprochement between Bush and Putin has been put well in hand, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources.
It entails a rewind of the Bush presidency to its early days when, after the shock of al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Putin stood by (as DEBKA-Net-Weekly revealed in its first issues) with an offer to share data on al Qaeda contained in Russian intelligence bases, which US undercover agencies lacked, as well as valuable updates on Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Russian military support was also there for the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in Oct. 2001. The tank columns dashing into northern Afghanistan from Uzbekistan in the early days of the war carried mostly Uzbek special forces, but some were manned by Russian crews. Those Russian tanks spearheaded the race south from the northern town of Konduz and were first to enter Kabul and force the Taliban to flee.
In those days, Bush talked about his personal chemistry with Putin and complete trust in the Russian president words in their private conversations.
Their relations soured over the years – not because Bush suspended his trust but because Putin quickly became disenchanted. In the process of firming up his rule at the time, the Russian ruler had counted on US recognition for his support in the al Qaeda crisis by making his strategic Afghan pact with Bush the first step in Washington-Moscow collaboration over Europe and Asia, especially in Central Asia.
But the Bush administration had other fish to fry. In the wake of the Afghan invasion, Putin found the Bush administration intent on going it alone to further America’s strategic interests in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Bush decides enough is enough
The sparring between them accelerated prior to America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Putin stood by Saddam Hussein with intelligence and strategic counsel. One piece of advice to the Iraqi dictator – to prepare for the US invasion with legions of guerrilla fighters and terrorists – Putin also relayed to Washington as a warning of what lay ahead.
As the United States pushed the boundaries of NATO influence up to Russia’s European borders, Moscow sold Iran and Syria nuclear technology and arms. While the Bushehr atomic reactor Russian built for Iran never impinged directly on its military program, Russian nuclear engineers’ answers to the questions put them by Iranian scientists represented technologically valuable guidance for the clandestine sections of their nuclear program.
Georgia’s Velvet Revolution (2003) and the Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), were seen in Moscow as engineered by Washington to further alienate these former Soviet republics from Moscow and bring them under Western influence. Bush’s plan to deploy anti-missile interceptors and radio stations in Poland and the Czech Republic trod on these still-unhealed scars while also seen as posing a direct military threat to Russian ballistic missile deployments.
The row over this step fueled headlines about the revival of the Cold War.
The moment had come for Bush to make a U-turn in his relations with his erstwhile strategic partner, both because the animosity had gone too far and because it had ballooned dangerously into a major obstacle for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Washington and Moscow sources report that Bush, on the recommendation of his advisers, is ready to admit to blunders committed with regard to Moscow and President Putin during six years. He is willing to turn the clock back to their early alliance and easy personal ties for the sake of restoring their strategic collaboration and working together for a single overriding cause: to strip Iran of its nuclear weapons capacity.