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The New York Times reported that Russia joined the leaders of Turkey and Iran at a nuclear arms summit in Istanbul on Tuesday — not a good sign for the Obama administration’s Iran policy which is entirely dependent on support for sanctions from Russia and China. More worrisome were the comments from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who expressed doubts about the UN Security Council sanctions resolution scheduled to be debated this week. “I hold the opinion that this resolution should not be unnecessary, should not put Iran’s leadership or the Iranian people into difficulty,” he said. Putin also warned against “excessive” measures on Iran.
The administration has believed for months that Russia — and China — would support some US-backed sanctions designed to further choke the ability of the leadership to conduct international business. And, indeed, the administration drafted the new round of sanctions with heavy input from (and sweet deals for) from Russia and China.
There were, of course, many reasons to be skeptical that any sanctions at this point would change Iran’s behavior or change it in time to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. But even if you accept the Obama administration’s arguments on their own terms, if Russia backs off of its support for these modest new sanctions, it will be a dramatic diplomatic failure for Obama.