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Iran and Russia: The Games People Play By: Micah Halpern
MicahHalpern.com | Monday, March 12, 2007

Aesop told a fable about a fox and crow. The crow, a rather ugly crow, held a piece of cheese in its mouth. The fox, a rather wily fox, wanted that cheese. The fox had a plan. He flattered the crow, describing the beautiful voice it had. Flattered, the crow opened its mouth to sing, the cheese fell out, the fox ate the cheese, the crow was left with false flattery and an empty belly. The moral: Never trust a fox.

The Iranians have defaulted on their payments to the Russians. The Russians have stopped construction on the Iranian nuclear plant in Busher. Who's the winner and who is the loser in this scenario - think like a fox, not like a crow.

Iran cut a deal with the Russians to pay a monthly payment of 25 million dollars in order to build them a nuclear power plant. The last payment was made in January, as of February the Iranians had not paid so on February 17th, the Russians halted their work. Now there are re-negotiations going on for late payments and penalties.

Did the Iranians run out of money? Of course not. Did the Iranians change their minds? No. This is all part of a game plan - a diabolical game plan hatched by Iran to take advantage of Russian know-how and then, when they had enough, when they had learned enough, to dump them.

Are the Russians being taken advantage of? Sure they are, but no more so than the advantage they were taking of the Iranians. The Russians had a game plan, a master game plan, too.

Iran and Russia are playing mind games with each other and by extension with the entire international community.

The Russians know that their country does not have many products enticing enough to export - but they do have weapons and technology. And weapons and technology are not only enticing, they provide a lucrative profit. Sure, some of the weapons are rusty and some of the technology is outdated, but there is always a market even for that. The Russians have always felt that they were the masters of Iran's nuclear development projects. The Iranians paid the bills for services rendered and services delivered, but Russia was in control. Russia controlled the time line.

The Russians are beginning to feel the pressure of the international community. Their response was to slow down the workings of Atomstroiexport, the company that is building the Iranian nuclear plant. Not stopping, just slowing down, missing deadlines, dragging out the process, readjusting commitments, adding other features and claiming that there are more complications than originally planned. It is a typical stalling technique used by the Russians in order to draw out more time, gain more revenue or transform a one-time project into a never ending project.

The Iranians began to complain, but to no avail - so they did the next best thing. The Iranians chose to exercise their power as the client and to withhold payment. The situation started spiraling out of control.

The Iranians understood the Russian game plan and called their bluff. In order to make certain that they do not ever again fall prey to the whim and whimsy of the Russians, the Iranians have broken ground on another new nuclear power plant, this one built entirely, exclusively, completely by Iran. In all probability, to the chagrin and embarrassment of the Russians, this new plant will probably be completed - up and running, even before the Busher plant.

Iranians are very good at taking technology from the Russians and making it their own. They have done it with missiles and with rockets. They have done it with satellites. They have done it with cars and trucks and now they will do it with nuclear power plants. That means the Russians will have no input and no control. It means that the Russians will have lost their international trump card.

Russia always assumed that by building and then maintaining the Iranian nuclear plant they would automatically have first hand knowledge of everything nuclear within Iran. And they would get paid for it. There would be no need for intelligence and speculation. The Russians always believed that they could torpedo any Security Council decisions by comforting the Chinese with the words "we are there on the ground," "we are monitoring the situation." And actually, in the past Russian inspectors under the rubric of the United Nations were the only officials permitted access into Iran while all others were shunned.

Russia wants money. Iran wants a plant. Neither country is getting what they want. The world should be a better place. The international community should rejoice. Not so quickly ...

There's still that piece of cheese.

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Micah Halpern maintains The Micah Report.

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