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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Russia steps into a power vacuum

At the White House on Tuesday, spokesman Jay Carney said:
National security adviser Tom Donilon told Israeli officials that Washington shares their concern about Iran's nuclear push but also stressed the need to let sanctions work, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

"We certainly understand the heightened concern that Israel has given its geographic location and other circumstances that are involved here for Israel," Carney told reporters, discussing Donilon's visit and the White House view on Iran's ambitions.

"Having said that, we believe that the approach this administration has taken has resulted in a level of consensus within the international community regarding Iranian behavior that has never been attained before that's resulted in a level of punitive sanctions that have never been attained before ... and that that has had an impact," he said. "We believe that there is time and space to attempt to resolve this peacefully."
What consensus? The most punitive sanctions have never been brought to the UN out of fear that the Russians will veto them. As a result, putative US allies like Turkey are ignoring US and European sanctions on oil purchases and banking transactions.

But the Obama administration does not seem to have gone beyond the sanctions to what happens if the sanctions don't work, unless of course they have concluded that they are willing to live with a nuclear Iran. As it turns out, the Russians have gone there and have stepped into the power vacuum created by American unwillingness - under Obama - to resort to military force if the sanctions don't stop Iran, as appears increasingly likely.
Russia warned Israel not to attack Iran over its nuclear program, saying on Wednesday that military action would have catastrophic consequences.

"Of course any possible military scenario against Iran will be catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.

"Therefore I hope Israel understands all these consequences ... and they should also consider the consequences of such action for themselves," Gatilov said at a news conference.

Gatilov's comments came as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that Tehran's nuclear course would not change regardless of international sanctions, assassinations or other pressures.
In a way, Gatilov was just repeating what the Obama administration has been saying, albeit in a tone that is more adversarial to Israel. But he's also indicating that Russia will not tolerate an American attack on Iran either and he's raising the specter of a World War. Would the Russians have talked that way to George W. Bush? I'd say that it's a lot less likely than their talking that way to Obama. But didn't Obama 're-set' relations with the Russians because Bush offended them? The truth is that Bush had some things that Obama doesn't have.

The only country Obama knows how to bully is Israel. It's not Israel who needs bullying. It's the Russians and the Arab/Muslim countries.

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