Iran Has 'Bought' Russian and Chinese Vetoes, Senator Says

Monisha Bansal | Staff Writer | Thursday, February 16, 2006

Iran Has 'Bought' Russian and Chinese Vetoes, Senator Says

( - With growing concern about Iran's uranium enrichment program and its presumed plans to produce nuclear weapons, experts gathered in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss Chinese and Russian interests in the program.

"This is a crisis which is global in its scope," said Stephen Blank, research professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Army War College, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's anti-American and anti-Israeli views.

Igor Zevelev of the Russian News Information Agency Novosti insisted that Russia is opposed to a nuclear-armed Iran, but both Russia and China have significant investments in the country, which may prompt them to veto any sanctions that may be proposed by the United Nations Security Council.

Both countries have permanent positions on the Security Council.

"The two countries that are sending the wrong signals today are Russia and China," said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

He added that Iran "has effectively bought U.N. Security Council vetoes from China and, very likely, Russia."

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency has reported Iran's uranium activities to the Security Council, which may take action in March to discourage Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Russia has proposed an alternative for Iran, offering to enrich Iranian uranium on Russian soil and send it back for fuel purposes. The two nations will continue negotiations on the program Thursday in Moscow.

Ilan Berman, vice president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council, called the Russian plan a "colossally bad idea," but he also noted that Iran had "resuscitated" Russia's defense industry. He said that in addition to the enrichment plan, Russia also sells missiles to Iran.

The panel sees the current enrichment proposal as Russia's chance to show the United States and the world that it is a global power again, able to handle its regional conflicts.

Blank said Russia and China want the U.S. out of Central Asia, especially since American military forces have been moving farther east with the war on terror. "We are now playing in Russia's geopolitical backyard," said Berman.

China also has an "extensive relationship" with Iran, said Leland Miller, an associate with Sidley Austin Brown and Wood, LLP.

Heavily reliant on Iran for oil, China would be reluctant to sever those ties by imposing sanctions.

China currently imports 40 percent of the world's oil, with demand growing at 5 percent a year. Much of China's energy needs are supplied by Iran.

Miller added that China trades oil for weapons, to ensure that its investment is sustained.

The panel's moderator, Ariel Cohen, senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, concluded that "the interplay of the Russian and Chinese interests is weakening the U.S.," considering that both China and Russia could derail further action to oppose Iran's nuclear capabilities.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted there is no "common view" on when or how to impose sanctions on Iran, even though Iran "is giving the world a very good set of reasons to take serious measures."

She hinted, however, that Russia and China would balk at tough sanctions against Iran.

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