Putin, Obama and Iran: A Choice in the Absence of Choice

Obama’s deal with Iran opened a "Pandora's box" not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe and America.

Alexander Maistrovoy ,

OpEds A. Maistrovoy
A. Maistrovoy
INN: AM

"The prospects are bright, but the road has twists and turns". These are the words of Mao Zedong, but they could have belonged to Obama.

Unfortunately, with regard to the Iran deal, the "twists and turns" will be so numerous, that not many will manage to see the “bright prospects”.

Obama believes that the agreement with Iran is a unique opportunity to limit the escalation of war in the Middle East. In reality, having created "New Middle East", where Iranian ayatollahs play the role of the hegemon and covert ally of America, he not only threw dynamite into an already raging fire, but provoked a chain reaction of uncontrollable explosions thousands of kilometers away from the region.

Consequences of the deal with Iran will be ominous, and not only to the Middle East: the West will have to deal not only with the ayatollahs, but with a rival incomparably more powerful and uncontrollable than the ayatollahs - Russia.

At first glance, the conflict between the West and Moscow seems to have nothing to do with the Iran deal. But only at first glance.


Due to ignorance, mediocrity and conceit, Obama’s administration encroached on existential interests of Moscow, and the response was decisive and immediate...
It is not clear what exactly prompted Obama to bet on Iran, betraying American strategic allies - Israel and Saudi Arabia, and it’s also past all understanding why he would be engaged in political manipulations in the backyard of Russia - Ukraine.

Due to ignorance, mediocrity and conceit, Obama’s administration encroached on existential interests of Moscow, and the response was decisive and immediate: the occupation of the Crimea and a part of the Eastern Ukraine, the rise of imperial ambitions and anti-American hysteria.

Retaliatory sanctions have become painful to Moscow, but what is much more dangerous for Russians and Putin is the fall of oil prices - the main source of income and power of Russia.

At this point, Obama decided to lift the sanctions against Iran. Russia was against lifting the sanctions, realizing that the ejection of Iran's oil to the global market would immediately lead to a drop of oil prices. Moscow was forced to support the deal, so as not to obstruct its ally, but the collapse of oil prices coupled with the sanctions could have extremely dangerous consequences for the Kremlin.

The economy is stuck, life is becoming more expensive, and rising prices have already affected the standard of living. The price of some basic goods has risen by about 50% in early 2015.

Besides, the appeasement of Iran allows USA and EU to begin switching their full attention to Ukraine. This doesn’t match up with Kremlin’s plans. Moscow must return oil prices to an acceptable level and distract the West from the conflict in Eastern Europe.

How? The only way is to provoke a new outburst of violence in the Middle East. The stronger the fire, the higher oil prices rise, and the more unstable the global economy becomes. The more the West is engaged in the Middle East, the less strength and desire it possesses to confront Russia for the post-Soviet space so vital for Kremlin - from the Baltics, Ukraine and Moldova to the Caucasus; and the easier it will be to subjugate Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

The West has teased the bear by its clumsy, inept policy, and a wounded bear is a beast that will never allow anyone to play games with it.

Iran, from the point of view of the Kremlin, should and could pour fuel onto the fire in the Middle East, and this coincides with the interests of Iran itself. The window of opportunities opened before Tehran is unique, but short-term – the next USA president perhaps will reject the deal and maybe will try to return America to its place in the world. Iran cannot afford the luxury of waiting – it must act without a delay.

The aims of the two states are the same. All Moscow needs is to support Iranians diplomatically, provide them with modern weapons, and free their hands, giving them a shield against attacks from outside. Such shield will be an advanced version of the S-300 that deprives Israel and Arab states of the possibility to attack Tehran. Iran, in its turn, with the tacit approval of Moscow, can transfer the S-300 to its main ally - "Hezbollah" with its 50,000 missiles. "Hezbollah" has been weakened by "jihadists", but another round of the successful war with Israel will raise the prestige of this group in the Arab world and will explode the Middle East.

Iran is now trying to transfer modern Russian weapons to "Hezbollah", like the anti-ship cruise missile “Yakhont” and the medium range surface-to-air missile “Pantsir-S1”.

Having S-300's  in place, "Hezbollah" will not only cause considerable damage to Israel, but will create a "smoke screen", under which Iranians will feel free to destabilize pro-Western Gulf monarchies with their Shiite minorities. Yemeni rebels have already used Soviet missiles "OTR-21 Tochka", apparently obtained from Iran, and these have killed 60 servicemen from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. An escalation of the conflicts in the whole Middle East will provoke a rise in the price of oil, which works in favor of Russia.

The current chaos in Europe caused by crowds of refugees was hardly left unnoticed in Tehran and Moscow. The new wave of refugees from Lebanon (there are about 1.5 million Syrian refugees there) will paralyze Europe, and this is exactly what the both states wish. Panic-stricken Europeans would no longer care about the Russian claims. Oil prices would go up, and the threat from Moscow would be dissolved in the face of hordes from the East.

For the Kremlin such a progression of events is not just a preferable option. It is a matter of life and death. So far Putin has achieved the peak of his popularity, but the steady decline of prices for "black gold" and prolonged sanctions act like a noose around his neck.

In Russia, unfortunate czars never retired “with honors". They were sent to obscurity, as happened to Peter III and Khrushchev, or murdered in the course of palace coups, like Paul I, and revolutions, like Nicholas II. It is hardly probable that such an outcome satisfies Putin. He has become the ruler returning Russia its glory, power and primordial lands, and he must continue this mission, whether he wants to do it or not.

However, the idea of the "Third Rome", so popular in Russia today, and the growing power of Moscow against the backdrop of Europe plunging into anarchy, cannot remain without a response from the US. This means the conflict will develop according to its own laws, far beyond the power of Obama.

Obama opened a "Pandora's box" with his Iran deal, and repercussions will be gloomy for the chicken-hearted, naive, and short-sighted West.




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