TEHRAN, Iran - Vladimir Putin issued a veiled warning Tuesday against any attack on Iran as he began the first visit by a Kremlin leader to Tehran in six decades — a mission reflecting Russian-Iranian efforts to curb U.S. influence.
He also suggested Moscow and Tehran should have a veto on Western plans for new pipelines to carry oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea, using routes that would bypass Russian soil and break the Kremlin's monopoly on energy deliveries from the region.
Those first two paragraphs really sum this up.
I have painted a picture of corrupt elements in the US government who are using US military deployments and US foreign policy to help secure heroin production and transportation. As we know from the Sibel Edmonds case, these elements are working in conjunction with the Turkish Deep State and corrupt elements in other Turkic countries in Central Asia; in fact, the trail leads all the way back to Al Qaeda.
That is only part of the picture, however.
The War on Terror has also been an opportunity for the US to make some strategic moves toward the fossil fuel reserves that are in the Caspian Sea Basin.
Unlike heroin, which is pure crime and corruption, oil and gas reserves are legitimate objectives of US foreign policy initiatives and military deployments, though they are certainly not carte blanche for whatever certain elements in the US want to do.
This mix of oil, heroin and mujahideen is a potent one indeed.
Putin came to Tehran for a summit of the five nations bordering the Caspian, but his visit was aimed more at strengthening efforts to blunt U.S. economic and military ties in the area. Yet he also refused to set a date for completing Iran's first nuclear reactor, trying to avoid an outright show of support for Iran's defiance over its nuclear program.
Putin strongly warned outside powers against use of force in the region, a clear reference to the United States, which many in Iran fear will attack over the West's suspicions that the Iranians are secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.
In the wake of 9/11, the US established a network of military bases in Central Asia on what used to be Russian stomping grounds during the Cold War, and even before. This is naturally going to be of concern to Moscow.
In a strict battle against terrorism, Moscow, while not warming up to the presence of US troops in its backyard, may at least not be too cold to it. But, as the leaders in the Kremlin see Washington overstepping the bounds that Russia considers appropriate, a new Cold War looms.
Imagine by comparison if the perpetrators of spectacular terrorist attacks in Russia, such as Beslan, had been based in, say, Chiapas. We would perhaps understand if Russia came into "our" hemisphere to get them, and Americans might even be supportive, though there would also be some suspicion. If, however, we saw Russia establishing a network of bases along our southern border and near Mexico's oil fields, the Monroe Doctrine would inevitably be mentioned as relations cooled with Moscow.
The mirror image of that is kind of what is happening here.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made similar comments.
"We are saying that no (Caspian) nations should offer their territory to outside powers for aggression or any military action against any of the Caspian states," Putin said.
Iran is now ringed in US bases, from Afghanistan, through the Persian Gulf, and into Iraq. With US bases in Central Asia to the north, Iran is literally surrounded.
Much of this happened due to 9/11, and Iran was a charter member of "The Axis of Evil" -- but, not one of the members of The Axis of Evil was involved in 9/11, and not one Iranian was among the hijackers. In fact, 9/11 leads back to Riyadh and Islamabad more than to Baghdad and Tehran.
The five national leaders at the summit later signed a declaration that included a similar statement — an apparent reflection of Iranian fears that the United States could use Azerbaijan's territory as a staging ground for military strikes in Iran.
Putin has warned against such attacks previously, but reiterating them in Tehran gave them greater resonance — particularly at a summit for a region where Moscow deeply resents U.S. and European attempts at greater influence.
The Russian leader also used the occasion to make a nod to Iran's national pride — describing it as a "world power" and referring to the might of the ancient Persian empire.
"Shmoozing".... I wonder if Bush has considered that? He certainly knows how to shmooze Democrats like Ted Kennedy.
In Iran's confrontation with the West, Russia has tread a fine line, warning against heavy pressure on Iran and protecting it — for now — from a third round of U.N. sanctions, while urging Tehran to heed the Security Council's demand that it halt uranium enrichment.
Putin's careful stance on completing the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran suggested the Kremlin is seeking to preserve solid ties with Tehran without angering the West.
"Russia is trying to sit in two chairs at the same time," Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, told The Associated Press. A pledge to quickly complete the plant would send a "strong signal to the West that Russia is with Iran," he said.
Russia has always been in the middle between the East and the West, and has always been a crossroads politically. Russia has historically been very astute in surviving challenges it faces, and even manipulating them to its advantage -- necessity has been the mother of "inventive" Russian politics.
Putin showed he wouldn't be pressed into speeding up completion of the $1 billion contract to build Bushehr.
"I only gave promises to my mom when I was a small boy," he snapped when Iranian reporters prodded him to promise a quick launch.
At the same time, Putin — on the first trip to Iran by a Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin visited in 1943 for talks with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II — said Moscow wouldn't back down on its obligation to finish the plant.
"Russia has clearly stated that it's going to complete this work," Putin said. "We are not renouncing this obligation."
Sounds like a promise to me.
Russia has warned that the Bushehr plant would not go on line this fall as originally planned, saying Iran was slow in making payments. Iranian officials have angrily denied being behind in its payments and accuse the Kremlin of caving in to Western pressure.
Moscow also has ignored Iranian demands to ship nuclear reactor fuel for the plant, saying it would be delivered only six months before the Bushehr plant begins operation. The launch date has been delayed indefinitely amid the payment dispute.
Putin said the two sides were negotiating revisions to the Bushehr contract, and once agreed a decision on fuel can be made.
Putin is an astute politician of the kind Russia has always been able to produce.
The Caspian leaders offered a degree of support for the Iranian nuclear program, stressing in their joint statement that any country like Iran which has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has the right to "carry out research and can use nuclear energy for peaceful means without discrimination."
Putin underlined his disagreements with Washington on Iran last week, saying he had seen no "objective data" showing Tehran is trying to construct nuclear weapons. Iran says it need enriched uranium to fuel nuclear reactors that will generate electricity.
The message here is "We won't be stampeded into a war on Iran the way we were stampeded into a war on Iraq."
The main issue before the summit was the Caspian Sea itself.
Divvying up territory in and around the inland sea — believed to contain the world's third-largest reserves of oil and natural gas — has been a divisive issue among the five nations, and the leaders showed no signs of progress toward resolving the dispute.
A divisive issue not just among those five nations!
The Caspian's offshore borders have been in limbo since the 1991 Soviet collapse. The lack of agreement has led to tensions and conflicts over oil deposits, but Putin and Ahmadinejad strongly warned outside powers to stay away from the region.
"All issues related to the Caspian should be settled exclusively by littoral nations," Ahmadinejad said.
Moscow strongly opposes U.S.- and European-backed efforts to build pipelines to deliver Central Asian and Caspian oil and gas to the West by bypassing Russia, through which all the region's pipelines now flow. Russia has pushed for new pipelines to cross its territory as well.
Of course the Russian president opposes the efforts to break an effective Russian monopoly.
Putin argued that all pipeline projects in the region should require the approval by all five Caspian nations to take effect, a view that would give each capital a veto.
Wouldn't that be nice, for Moscow to be able to veto a deal that Tehran might cut.
This is the real issue here -- this is why Putin is so concerned about Iran.
"Projects which may inflict a serious damage to the Caspian environment can't be and mustn't be implemented without a preliminary discussion by the Caspian five and making a consensus decision in the interests of our common sea," Putin said.
Putin the tree-hugger??
But the idea was barely mentioned in comments by the leaders of the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which are striving to balance their relations with Russia, the West and Asia.
In Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, political analyst Ilgar Mamedov said the veto idea was only "Putin's opinion." Caspian nations "are independent and act in accordance with their own interests," he said.
Nations acting in accordance with their own interests. Imagine that!
Russia is, unfortunately, a bit of a threat to US interests. The US could, with imaginative efforts, get Iran to offset that a little.
In any case, we should have back in the 1990's been proactive in helping the former Soviet republics of Central Asia integrate into the world as democratic republics, but Clinton was too busy with his intern; Clinton's main interest in Asia was Beijing's funding for his re-election.
Now Bush is cozying up to leaders like Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, whose government has been accused of boiling at least one dissident to death.
President George W. Bush, Thursday, September 20, 2001:
"Every nation, in every region, now has a
decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
Since Karimov is with us, that doesn't leave much choice, does it?
No wonder Putin and Adminijihad are cozying up together.
I predict the rise of more failed states, this time around the Caspian Sea, as the mix of oil, heroin and mujahideen thrives in conditions created by Bush's foreign policy.