The rejoicing in Washington and major European capitals on Monday, July 12 was premature.
True, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev did finally come round to admitting that Iran is close to acquiring a nuclear weapons capacity, as the West alleges. President Barack Obama therefore felt vindicated in banking his Russian policy on Medvedev rather than the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after Moscow backed the expanded sanctions resolution passed by the UN Security Council on June 9.
"The friendship and trust between the two will yield many more benefits in the future," was the word at the White House.
In London, Paris, Berlin and Rome, the feeling was relief that Moscow had finally woken up to the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and added weight to the leverage for impressing on Tehran the imperative of abandoning its weapons program.
Indeed, they looked forward to Moscow giving the push to Tehran's demand to co-opt Turkey and Brazil to the nuclear talks the Five Permanent Security Council members plus Germany which are due to resume with Iran early September.
However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Moscow point out, none of them read Medvedev's comments right through to the end, which is where he buried the sting of a new Russian posture. Far from seconding American policy on Iran, Moscow has crossed over to the other side and now endorses Iran's right not only to enrich uranium but to actually acquire nuclear weapons.
Moscow sees sanctions as new basis for diplomacy – not a deterrent
Here are some of the quotes overlooked in the media rendition of the Russian president's key comments Monday, July 12, to Russian ambassadors and diplomats in Moscow:
Urging his audience to move away from "simplistic approaches," he maintained that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory, does not prohibit a nuclear weapons capability – only its dissemination to other nations or parties.
Sanctions, he said, "are not producing the desired results." Admitting Iran was "not behaving in the best manner," Medvedev stressed: "We are consistently urging Tehran to show the necessary openness and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency."
The main goal of the latest (sanctions) resolution was, he said, "to restart the negotiating process as soon as possible. If diplomacy misses this chance, it will be a collective failure."
Medvedev's and Obama's take on the UN sanctions resolution are clearly miles apart.
Whereas the US president sees them as a stick for persuading Iran to give up its drive for a nuclear bomb, the Russian president regards sanctions as a fulcrum for putting the dialogue on a new basis when it is resumed on September 1.
This basis would be very hard to swallow in the West, because the point Medvedev was really driving home is that is no longer any sense in rehashing the argument over Iran's right to enrich uranium, because that argument is moot; Iran has established its right as fact and amply demonstrated it can't be stopped by any means the West can conjure up.
The Russian president also made it clear that he did not regard international charters as prohibiting Tehran from developing and building a nuclear weapon with the enriched uranium it had accumulated.
Nothing left for dialogue but the size of Iran's arsenal
If this is where Moscow (and not just the tough-minded Putin) stands (with China expected to follow), there will not be much left to discuss in September other than the size of Iran's nuclear arsenal – hardly a cause for celebration in Washington, London, Paris or Jerusalem.
Senior Russian sources familiar with the new position President Medvedev touched on revealed to DEBKA-Net-Weekly that it stemmed most immediately from the outcome of Obama's talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on July 6.
They referred in particular to the US president's consent to grant Israel and its nuclear program the special status the US had awarded the nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – NSG.
This is a multinational body of 46 countries concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials usable in nuclear weapon development and by improving the safeguards securing existing materials.
In late 2009, Washington extended this status to India, despite its refusal to join the NPT or accept international supervision of its nuclear facilities and arsenal.
Now Israel has been accepted to the NSG.
Our Russian sources say that only after repeatedly evaluating the intelligence data they received on the Obama-Netanyahu talks did President Medvedev revise his attitude towards the prospect of Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb and switched over to positive.
Medvedev wants Iran to have the same special nuclear status US awarded Israel
He is now proposing to award Iran the same special dispensation for its nuclear weapons status in Moscow as Israel has gained in Washington – with one difference: Whereas Israel is backed only by the US, Iran's special status would have the support of most of the P5-plus-Germany group.
Our Washington sources report that after they were initially welcomed by US officials, the verbatim text of Medvedev's ground-breaking comments is now under close study by the National Security Council at the White House to dig out their real and implied import.
Moscow pulled further away from the American line with the signing Wednesday, July 14 of a "road map" of accords for long-term energy cooperation by the Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Iranian Petroleum Minister Masud Mir-Kazemi.
They established a joint bank to help fund bilateral projects that would "increase cooperation in transit, swaps and marketing of natural gas as well as sales of petroleum products and petrochemicals."
By this deal, the Russians will enable Iran to bypass or at least allay the effects of the new American embargo on refined oil product imports and Iran's international banking activities. The new Russian-Iranian joint mechanisms aim at sabotaging the Obama administration's most radical deterrent to date to keep Tehran from taking its last leap toward a nuclear weapons capacity.