Another Nuclear Carrot for Russia Despite Its Troublesome Ties with Iran

COMMENTARY Middle East

Another Nuclear Carrot for Russia Despite Its Troublesome Ties with Iran

May 17th, 2010 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James Phillips

Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

Since hitting the “reset button” on Russian-American relations last year, the Obama Administration has signed a flawed START nuclear arms control treaty with Moscow, and last week submitted a controversial accord on Russian-American civilian nuclear cooperation to Congress for approval. The Russia 123 agreement, first submitted by the Bush Administration to Congress but pulled back after Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, would come into force unless both houses of congress vote to disapprove it within 90 days.

Although congressional leaders from both parties had urged the administration to hold off from submitting the 123 agreement, administration officials have argued that moving ahead on it would encourage Moscow to be more supportive of sanctions against Iran at the United Nations Security Council.

Yet the administration’s latest diplomatic carrot for Moscow is likely to produce little more than another round of weak U.N. sanctions against Iran’s defiant dictatorship. It is likely to be too little too late to halt Iran’s steadily advancing nuclear weapons program.

Moreover, there are longstanding concerns about Russian assistance for Iran’s nuclear program, beyond its involvement in building Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power reactor, slated to start operations later this year. But last week, Gary Samore, the Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism at the National Security Council, told reporters that, “As long as I’ve been in this job, there’s been no concern about Russian entities providing nuclear assistance to Iran.”

Samore apparently disagrees with persistent reports that Russian scientists, possibly working independently of the Russian government, are assisting Iran’s nuclear program. Last September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly was so concerned about the Russian-Iranian link that he flew to Moscow for a secret meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and presented him with a list of Russian scientists that Israel believes are assisting Iran to build a nuclear warhead.

The Obama Administration also appears to be turning a blind eye on Russian-Iranian cooperation in a wide variety of other fields, including arms sales, energy cooperation and foreign policy. Unfortunately, while the administration has hit the “reset button” on U.S. relations with Russia, Moscow has failed to alter its unhelpful and dangerous policies on Iran.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal