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The Race for Iran

Straight Talk From Dimitri Simes On Russia’s Position on Sanctions

(Photo Credit: New America Foundation’s Photostream)

Nixon Center President Dimitri Simes has an important article in Time Magazine that raises questions about the START follow-on treaty signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev earlier this month and casts doubt upon the Obama administration’s efforts to enlist Russian support for serious sanctions against Iran.

Here is what Simes says about Russia’s position on sanctions:

Whether the treaty will really help to get tough sanctions on Iran is another matter entirely, however. There is no mystery of what might make Moscow more cooperative on Iran. Far-reaching sanctions would cost Russia billions. To compensate Russia, Washington would need to facilitate greater economic cooperation, and as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has stressed on several occasions, this would require canceling the Jackson-Vanik amendment and helping Russia gain membership in the WTO. However, these moves would face opposition in Congress. The administration has indicated that this would be the right direction to take but has not yet made an effort to make that happen.

Although United Nations Security Council sanctions seem increasingly likely (even the Bush Administration succeeded three times at that), there is a difference between getting a deal and getting results. The new arms control treaty demonstrates that it is easier to produce nice-sounding diplomatic documents than to take major steps toward advancing American security. Iran will be the key test of U.S.-Russian relations and, unfortunately, watered-down sanctions from a divided Security Council are unlikely to move Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Simes’ suggestion that the Obama administration may be exaggerating Russia’s willingness to support serious sanctions on Iran echoes arguments made by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett on this blog. (see here, here, here and here).

— Ben Katcher


15 Responses to “Straight Talk From Dimitri Simes On Russia’s Position on Sanctions”

  1. Fiorangela Leone says:

    James, Rehmat has done some important digging to uncover US and Israeli eagerness to push Iran out of the pipelines in the Caspian region. Daniel Yergin is STILL essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what’s going on in the region. The Caspian is the hotspot; it’s in Iran’s territory, and that drives the people whose creed is “Thou shalt not covet” into a covetous frenzy. I recall during the time of the wars in the Balkans that a World Affairs Council foreign policy study group that met at my church concluded that Clinton used those wars to secure pipeline transits.

    Review, another time, Petraeus’s statement: the US could have purchased 10 years’ worth of Iraqi oil for the cost of one year of US war on Iraq. I suspect it is not functionally possible for a military man to form the idea that war is NOT a good idea. What’s Hillary’s excuse? Is his name Maiman? or Saban? Is he a large donor to Clinton’s presidential library?

  2. James Canning says:


    Yes, it appears Ronal Lauder is someone very dangerous for the best interests of the American people.

    Reading Stephen Maher’s piece again, I am stunned at so many of his contentions. That “US elites” control Middle East energy reserves, thanks to help from Israel! My goodness gracious, what total crap!

  3. Fiorangela Leone says:

    James Canning, I think Simes’ statement about the danger of Trotskyite utopian messianic world-changers that I quoted below, answers your question about Ronald Lauder: he is a zionist ideologue. “Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.”

  4. James Canning says:

    Those who claim the US invaded Iraq to secure oil supplies are talking total crap, because the US was the primary buyer of Iraqi crude from Saddam Hussein.

  5. James Canning says:


    The Qatari PM met with leaders of Hezbollah, Lebanon and Syria recently, and confirmed Qatar regards Israel as the primary threat to peace in the region.

  6. James Canning says:


    I read Steven Maher’s piece (posted on electronic intifada site) and thought it utter rubbish.

  7. Fiorangela Leone says:

    On Apr 27 2010 Steven Maher, a master’s degree candidate at American Univ in Wash, DC, posted an article on Electronic Intifada, [see electronicintifada dot net/v2/article11232.shtml, American Hegemony, Not the Israel Lobby,Behind Complicity with Israel] The argument is that “US foreign policy in ME is similar to that carried out elsewhere in the world” where the Israel lobby has no “corrupting” effects. The US interests for which Israel acts as an ” ‘offshore US military base’ ” in the ME, the thesis continues, is US “dominance over much of the world’s remaining energy resources, a major lever of global power.”

    Chas Freeman shredded the candidate’s thesis in a private email exchange that was published on the Mondoweiss website, Israel is Useless to US Power Projection . Freeman’s bullet points include the observations that:

    “– the US has no bases or troop presence in Israel and stores only minimal military supplies in the country (and these under terms that allow these supplies to be used essentially at will by the IDF).

    — Israeli bases are not available for US use.

    — none of Israel’s neighbors will facilitate overflight for military aircraft transiting Israeli territory, let alone taking off from there. Israel is useless for purposes of strategic logistics or power projection.

    — Israel is worse than irrelevant to the defense of Middle Eastern energy supplies; the US relationship with Israel has jeopardized these supplies (as in 1973), not contributed to securing them.

    — US relations with Israel do not bolster US prestige in Middle Eastern oil-producing countries or assist the US to “dominate” them, they complicate and weaken US influence; they have at times resulted in the suspension of US relations with such countries.

    — Israel does not have the diplomatic prestige or capacity to marshal support for US interests or policies globally or in its own region and does not do so; on the contrary, it requires constant American defense against political condemnation and sanctions by the international community.

    — Israel does not fund aid programs in third countries to complement and support US foreign or military policy as other allies and strategic partners do.”

    While Maher marshalls examples of hegemonic actions US has taken in Indonesia and even Iran, that were undertaken without Israel lobby influence, Freeman argues from the another perspective that US allies (less burdensome and “iniquitous” (Freeman’s word) than Israel, DO support US projection-of-force, citing Japan and Qatar, among others, as US strategic allies.

    Maher’s arguments were seductive.

    However, a statement David Petraeus made in an interview at Wilson Center about 2 weeks ago provides overwhelming evidence that the Leverett thesis is the most appropriate analysis of US-Middle East relations (that is, that facet of the Leveretts’s analysis that says US policy is incoherent; I would say, out of alignment with US strategic interests. Petraeus said:

    “It’s undercut that argument that Al Qaida in Iraq used to use that, “The Americans are here. You know, they want to occupy us, they want to steal our oil.”
    I pointed out to a couple of Iraqi leaders at various times that for the price of one year of our operations in Iraq we could have bought all of Iraq’s oil for the next 10 years and we wouldn’t have had to go in there and do what we did.” www dot wilsoncenter.org/news/docs/Petraeus dot pdf

    Got that? David Petraeus, the golden boy, the Renaissance man handling the speartip of US projection of force, says, in essence, that use of military force to protect US interests in the Middle East region has wasted a decade of US treasure: THE US COULD HAVE BOUGHT THE OIL FOR 1/10 of the dollar amount expended in US treasure. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, US oil men registered their dismay at the proposal.

    So the question remains: Why did the US invade Iraq, and why does the US seek to take down Iran in much the same way? Maher’s thesis does not hold water.

    But comments Dimitri Simes made at the conclusion of a roundtable discussion featuring Jacob Heilbrunn and his book, “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons.” www dot c-spanvideo dot org/program/200665-1 Heilbrunn characterized himself as a “former neocon,” and stated that he was rather uniquely qualified to examine their motives and thought processes because he had been one of them. The neocons are primarily 2nd-generation Americans, children of Russian Jews who had been Trotskyites but left and became ‘liberal Democrats. (Many of these neocons were ‘Scoop’ Jackson Democrats, where they used Jackson to pass the Jackson-Vanik Amendment that allowed Russian Jews to migrate to Israel without compensating the Russian state for the education that the emigres took with them to Israel and that formed the intellectual capital that is the core of Israel’s current technological prosperity.)
    Heilbrunn explains that neocnos harbor resentment that they were unable to matriculate in US Ivy League schools but were relegated to City College of NY, and they also harbored a burning resentment that FDR had not done enough for Jews in Europe. Heilbrunn described the “mindset” of these neocons, and it is that thought that Simes chose to remark upon in concluding the discussion:

    Simes: “I’m glad to hear that the neocons are a small, elitist group and that the president, not the neocons, makes decisions. I do remember there was a country called Russia where a small group of public intellectuals, contrary to everybody’s expectations, came to power. That country was called the Soviet Union. I also do remember that there was a split among the Bolsheviks: one part of the Bolsheviks called the Trotskyites was a utopian messianic cult with global ambitions for whom Russia was essentially an instrument to remake the universe. When a group like that has an impact on global politics, when people who share this mindset become advisers to presidents, there is something to think about.”

    As I mentioned in another comment elsewhere, Ilan Berman, who echoes Michael Ledeen’s “utopian, messianic” vision of remaking the world, using the US as an instrument, is the next generational iteration of the neocon ‘mindset.’

    Straight talk indeed from Dimitri Simes.

  8. Sh says:

    Mr. Simes tells you nothing but bullshit. Russia always has sided with US and Israel on Iran and voted for sanction and this time will do the same damn thing. These racists has gained many concessions using Iran card at and then squeezed Iran at the same time for more concessions worth billions of dollar. Down with Ruissia. The stupid American leaders, Black and white, who are zionist servants and serve the interest of Israel first, are following a stupid policy which serves eveyone’s interest except US and Iran. This kind of ‘leaders’ in other countries will be viewed as TRAITORS which is punishable by death sentence. No Iranians TRUST RUSSIA, in fact, majority of Iranians hates Russia because Russia has robbed Iran and insulted her people. Iranians are waiting fot some changes in international politics to kick all Russians out of Iran for ever. Iranians from all walks of life think Russia has used Iran over and over and insulted them. We have NO respect for these racists any more. Do you know that Russia after US is the most racist country against Palestinians? Shame on Russia. American people must force the zionist puppet OBAMA, out before is too late. Obama like Bush has no respect in the world especially in the the region which goies from India to Africa. According to NYT Journalist who escaped Afghanistan from captivity said people in the region spit at Obama’s picture where ever they see one. Soon Iranians will do the same. America is directed by the zionist lobby, a fifth column. Down with zionism and their puppets black and white.

  9. James Canning says:


    A central fallacy of US policy makers, is to think a close alliance with Israel strengthens the US in the Middle East. This is the direct opposite of the truth. I would suggest that many US policy makers privately recognize the close linkage with Israel is disastrous for American interests in the Middle East and South Asia.

  10. James Canning says:


    Bravo! What absolute rubbish, to claim the US faces a nuclear threat from Iran! Time magazine was always the great friend of the armaments manufacturers, needing a frightened American populace to further their effective theft of hundreds of billions of dollars from the people every year.

  11. Rehmat says:

    In addition to the economic carrot – the last thing Moscow need is Tehran supporting Muslim resistance in Chechnya. This is the only Muslim cause which has not received an official support from Tehran – the other is Muslim-majority Estern Turkistan under Chinese occupation.

    Both Moscow and Tehran have their regional political, economical and security interests which will play a deterrant to American-Israeli domination of the region for a long time in the future. However, my personal thoughts are that even if Moscow decide to come on board of US-Israel ship – it will still fail to stop Iran’s peaceful nuclear program – which is very important for Iran to join world’s industrialized nations in the future.

    World’s greatest “nuclear threat” hoax

  12. Fiorangela Leone says:

    I had a hard time getting past the first paragraph of the Times article:

    “”the danger from Iran, the most likely nuclear threat to America and its allies.””

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1984882,00.html#ixzz0mQ8r3s7M

    Is this Simes’ version of “straight talk,” did Ben read something different from what I read? Last night while I was watching reruns of Law & Order did IRGC troop into Israel, subdue Mossad, ShinBet, IDF and all of Dimona’s guards, dismantle Israel’s nuclear facilities at Dimona, load all 180 or 200 or 400 of Israel’s nuclear weapons plus uranium stockpiles, centrifuges, and assorted paraphenalia on trucks and spirit it away to Tehran?

    Here’s a plea from one American who is disdainful of many other Americans who register fear of an attack from — from where/who, exactly? Certainly not Iran, they can’t even keep their Boeing’s in the air; no, I’m not afraid of Iran.

    But I am genuinely, really, truly afraid of Israel.

    Mr. Obama, it’s your sworn job to defend me, an American citizen, from threats to my security in my country. Gen. Petraeus, the bargain we citizens make is that we will give you permission to kill in our names in exchange for us, citizens, refraining from killing.

    It would be helpful if both of you could identify the threat properly. That threat is Israel.
    Israel has demonstrated its willingness to act irrationally and outside the bounds of international law;
    Israel has stated the intention to do so in the future;
    Israel has the means to follow up on its rhetoric.
    Israel has structured Israeli philosophy, doctrine, and culture such that Israeli society has become brainwashed to the point that Israelis believe Iran poses an “existential threat” to Israel. Thus, Israel has created a motive for using its weapons to act outside the bounds of international law.

    Means, motive, opportunity. On Law and Order, that’s enough to “book ’em,” Obamo.

    Mr. Obama, I think you’ve got the wrong perp in your crosshairs.

  13. James Canning says:


    Yes, indeed. And how did the Bush administration assemble the “Coalition of the Willing”? For the idiotic invasion of Iraq. Bribery, threats, etc etc etc. Total claptrap and hogwash.

  14. Cyrus says:

    Interesting. Until now our media assures us that the only reason that Russia and China are resisting sanctions is because they’re a bunch of short-sighted, self-interested powers that are only interested in their economic contracts with Iran (suggesting, therefore, that the US and other sanctions-supporters are noble and selfless powers who are interested only in the greater good of humanity, etc.) but here we have it, from the horse’s mouth, that the entire issue of Iran and sactions is simply horse-trading and not based on any real threats.

  15. James Canning says:

    Russia and China both think, for good reason, that sanctions interfere with diplomacy, and that diplomacy to resolve the Iranian question can succeed if the US acts in good faith.