The stand-off between the US and Iran over what the US regards are Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions has reached a new turning point which could greatly escalate tensions between the US and Russia. Not only is Russia not going to support the US in the UN over new sanctions against Iran, support that is essential if the US is be successful in pushing for new sanctions, but, according to a recent report in Asia Times Online by informed reporter Pepe Escobar, Putin has told the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that ‘an American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia’.
Escobar also reports that the Supreme Leader isn’t all that happy with President Ahmadinejad’s leadership style. Escobar has quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying “I approve of this government but this does not mean that I approve of everything they do.” However, the Supreme Leader does continue to support Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
While sanctions are beginning to pinch in Iran, they are not likely to deter Iran from pressing ahead with its civilian nuclear program. For the US this is not really a problem inasmuch that, while Iran pushes ahead with its enrichment program, albeit for peaceful purposes, the US and Israel can continue with their propaganda about Iran seeking nuclear weapons. The last thing the US and Israel really want is for Iran to actually give up its nuclear enrichment program because that would deny at least Israel a casus belli to attack Iran though the US could still attack over the alleged help that the Iranians are giving to the Iraqi insurgents.
The problem, of course, is not so much Irans nuclear plans since Israel concedes that Iran has no nuclear ambitions that are an existential threat to Israel, but the Israeli and US desire for regime change in Iran. Even if internal pressures were to topple Ahmadinejad from office this would not be enough for the US and the Israelis as there would still remain the problem of strong Iranian support for Hizbollah in Lebanon via Syria, and Hamas in the occupied territories. These remain the principle reasons for Israel and the US demanding regime change in Iran.
If the report of Putin’s statement about an American attack on Iran being viewed in Moscow as an attack on Russia is true then this changes entirely the face of Middle East posturing by the West. Firstly, any attack plans the US and/or Israel had for action against Iran will now need to be put on hold or discarded altogether. More importantly, Russia’s new policy of alliance with Iran now positions Russia as another major player for hegemony in the region, a situation that the US will need to consider very carefully before taking any further action anywhere in the Middle East.
What the US and Israel do next is going to be interesting.