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Moscow's influence over Tehran overstated
05-16-2009, 04:03 AM,
Moscow's influence over Tehran overstated
Moscow's influence over Tehran overstated
Published: May 14, 2009 at 5:53 PM

WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) -- A Moscow decision to delay shipment of anti-aircraft systems to Iran may be a political shift but should be of little concern to Washington, a scholar noted.

Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill said engagement with Moscow is key to successful engagement with Iran.

"Vital to our efforts toward a nuclear-free world will be a greater effort from Russia to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Meanwhile, reports surfaced in March claiming officials in Moscow were reluctant to move ahead with a negotiated sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran, citing political complications. This brought hope from several lawmakers, who saw it as a sign Moscow was moving closer to Washington on the Iranian issue.

But Mark Katz, professor of government and politics at George Mason University, writes for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that the emphasis on Moscow is largely unfounded.

Katz noted that while Moscow does not want to see Tehran armed with nuclear weapons, Russian leaders are reluctant to act too prominently on the issue for fear of upsetting delicate commercial ties with Iran.

Meanwhile, although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has offered some conciliatory messages to Washington on the Iranian issue, it is ultimately Prime Minister Vladimir Putin directing Russian foreign policy.

Katz noted that while Russian support is needed, it should not be the center point of U.S.-Iranian disputes.

"The degree of effort necessary to secure Russia's limited help is not worth Washington's time or resources," he concluded.

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