In examining possible approaches to Iran policy in my last several columns, I concluded that "focusing on deterrence in the short run while increasing efforts to promote regime modification -- by internal means -- over the long haul" might end up being the most effective one. Some of the feedback I received suggested that I was being too pessimistic about current efforts to bring about a new round of punitive sanctions on Iran, and that there were signs that even Russia and China were moving closer to the U.S. position.
Those hopes received a serious setback on Thursday, when Russia appeared to throw cold water on the Obama administration's efforts to build a new coalition of great powers to enact tough sanctions on Iran. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quite blunt in his remarks yesterday: "There is no evidence that Iran has made a decision to produce nuclear weapons. . . . If we go with the sanctions, we'll not go beyond the goal of . . . defending the nonproliferation regime. We don't want the nonproliferation regime to be used for . . . strangling Iran, or taking some steps to deteriorate the situation [and] the living standards of people in Iran."
As for those who thought that President Dmitry Medvedev was moving closer to the U.S. position on Iran, his statements over the past week, coming in the wake of a sternly worded IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program, were not encouraging either. The Kremlin stressed that "Russia preserves the adherence to a serious dialogue with Iran in order to reach an agreement on efficient ways to lift the concerns of the international community over the nuclear program of this country. Indeed, the disclosed information that Iran has been building a new uranium enrichment plant just builds up our determination to achieve concrete and checked results in the near future."