Katherine Butler: Iran, Russia and the missile chess game

Share
Related Topics

Did Barack Obama have a chat with Karpov and Kasparov before he announced last week that he was abandoning Bush-era plans to locate a missile shield in Eastern Europe? He was quick – and right in the view of many defence experts – to reassure critics that far from leaving America's allies more vulnerable, his policy shift would clear the way for a much smarter system that would actually do more to shield southern Europe and the Middle East from short-range missile attack by Iran.

What he didn't state publicly was that his policy shift was also a carefully timed turn on the diplomatic chessboard that could arm him with a simultaneous weapon to contain Iran, not via interceptors and radars, but economic sanctions.

Containing Iran's nuclear ambitions peacefully is in turn part of a bigger jigsaw aimed at convincing Israel not to bomb Iran's nuclear plants, kick-start the moribund Middle East peace process and maybe even eventually establish the basis for a "grand bargain" around a future settlement in Afghanistan. Much of the above, especially any real progress between Israel and the Palestinians remains blocked for the time being. Benjamin Netanyahu's intransigence on settlements has made sure of that.

But against the backdrop of the theatrics of the UN General Assembly, Obama can still claim he has secured two big gains on Iran. He persuaded yesterday's special summit of the Security Council to back a resolution that ratchets up pressure on the Islamic Republic. And he extracted a strong hint from Russia that Moscow might back economic sanctions if nuclear talks with Iran next month make no progress. Nobody realistically expects those talks to deliver the kind of concessions from Tehran that would constitute "progress".

Moscow has long made clear its total hostility to the idea of what Hillary Clinton calls "crippling" sanctions or even of isolating Iran in the absence of proof that it is manufacturing a nuclear bomb. This week Dmitry Medvedev uttered the words Mr Obama wanted to hear. Sanctions rarely deliver results, said Mr Medvedev, but in some cases "they are inevitable".

It was hardly a coincidence the U- turn came so soon after Washington shelved the missile defence plan in Russia's backyard. Whether Russia would actually go along with an oil embargo when the time comes, is another matter. There is also the obstacle of China's veto. But if Russia joined the Western-led move, China could at least be persuaded to abstain.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

SharePoint Engineer - Bishop's Stortford

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organ...

Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a Teaching Assistant...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: eurogloom, Ed in Red and Cameron's Wilsonian U-turn on control orders

John Rentoul
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering