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TNR: Putin's Game

Author: Seth Robinson
October 27, 2009

Seth Roberts writes that Moscow's close economic ties with Tehran will make it hard to convince Putin to put pressure on Iran's nuclear program.

After years of stalemate, negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear development program seemed to progress last week when an Iranian delegation in Vienna agreed to the export and modification of its low-enriched uranium. The resulting optimism did not last. Officials in Tehran demurred, insisting that they needed more time to study the proposal and could not meet Friday's deadline to ratify the agreement. While Iran's stonewalling came as a disappointment to the United States, it did not come as a surprise. Over the past month, the White House has signaled that it is preparing a new, more severe round of sanctions in case current negotiations fail.

The United States has reached out to many countries for help in implementing its strategy, but none more so than Russia, which has come to play an increasingly central role in the battle over the Iranian nuclear program. In September, President Dmitri Medvedev stirred hopes after he emerged from a meeting with President Barack Obama and hinted that the Kremlin might be open to the idea of new sanctions on Iran. Together with China, Russia has long been considered Tehran's patron at the UN, and many U.S. analysts believe that sincere Russian cooperation may prove to be the key component in bringing the program in line with international strictures.

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