Moscow again cool on sanctions, foists restraint on US-led line for Iran
Two days before the Six-Power bloc-Iranian meeting in Geneva, debkafile‘s Russian sources report Moscow appears to have taken a step back from the small opening allowed by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev for a fresh round of sanctions against Tehran. Monday night, Sept. 28, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian news agencies that although Iranian’s missile exercise was worrying, restraint was needed. An official communique urged “Western powers to restrain themselves.”
This is a setback to the tactic US president Barack Obama employed for bringing Russia aboard for stringent international sanctions when he announced Sept. 19 that he was scrapping the US missile shield planned in East Europe.
It is also one in the eye for the Netanyahu government and its latest policy of cooperation with international steps for bringing Iran to heel on its nuclear activities. Monday night, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a television interview: “Israel must not attack Iran’s nuclear installations. It must be left to world powers. debkafile‘s political sources report that Lieberman is increasingly criticized for aligning his policies with those of Moscow.
The Obama administration is working on broadened sanctions in the event that Iran fails to “come clean” on its nuclear activities and deliver on international requirements by the end of the year.
However, two days before Iran’s negotiator meets the world powers in Geneva, Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi made it clear in an interview Tuesday that Iran would never give up its uranium enrichment program. He described the second enrichment plant in a mountain near Qom as very small and explained it had been built underground to protect personnel and instruments in a possible attack. “But this does not mean we believe the worst case will ever come,” he said, “because any wrong steps would… start a fire they cannot extinguish.”
The sanctions under review in Washington might focus on maritime traffic to and from Iran – including pressure on shipping firms in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai, to stop doing direct or third-party business with Tehran, and raising insurance premiums. Foreign investments in Iran, its financial and telecommunications sectors and foreign travel might also be targeted for bans.
Earlier plans to ban refined petrol products and gasoline exports to Iran, which could indeed cripple parts of Iran’s economic and military capabilities, appear to have been dropped from the Obama administration’s review of possible sanctions. The debkafile‘s Gulf sources report that some of these options were tried unsuccessfully in the past with little impact on Iran’s economy – and certainly not on the regime’s determined adherence to its nuclear plans, most of all the rapid momentum of uranium enrichment. As in the past, the new steps under review would have to run the gauntlet of international consensus to fully succeed. Some would no doubt fall by the wayside while the bargaining would meanwhile consume time.
Moscow has moved back in position to delay the process.