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In a sign of a thaw in US-Russian relations, Obama scrapped the useless ABM system in Poland and the Czech Republic, while the Russians stopped the deployment of Iskander missiles on their western border.

Then, however, Gates announced that scrapping the ABM was not a concession to the Russians, but that in fact a supposedly better system of interceptors is on its way. Gates’ words were meant for Obama critics who had accused him of bowing to Russian pressure.

The Russians took Gates’ words seriously. Their chief of staff announced that the decision to stop the Iskander deployment has not been made yet.

Iran announced that it is moving from dollar reserves to euros. The move sets an important precedent, which if followed by other regimes suspicious of the US, may take the dollar down as reserve currency.

The EU must be happy about Iran’s moves, and will distance itself from sanctions even further.

The fact that Iran managed to maintain dollar reserves despite the US financial sanctions testifies to their futility.

Speaking to the New York Times, the Defense Minister took the position we’ve been advocating for years: the North Korean threat is more important than the threat from Iran, and must be eliminated first.

But now it’s too late. If a decision must be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons rather than siding with nuclear Iran against Egypt, Israel has no time to wait for an American showdown with North Korea.

In a CNN interview, the Russian president asked the same question we did: if Israel does not expect to attack Iran, why the fuss about the S-300 sales?

Medvedev seemed to confirm that Russians might be supplying S-300s to Iran to prevent an Israeli attack and ensure regional quiet and stability—until Iran produces enough nuclear bombs.

The Russian position toward Iran is ambivalent. They do not want a nuclear neighbor which could influence Azerbaijan, but they expect Azerbaijan to lean closer to Russia when threatened by nuclear Iran. The Russians gain most by an undecided policy: they act as a regional lynchpin by threatening to sell S-300. At the same time, their prestige would suffer when Israel jammed their top export system during an attack, so they are not eager to deliver S-300s to Iran.

The Russians will decide on the sale based on the status of their confrontation with Obama and the oil concessions offered by Iran.

Instead of risking billions of dollars worth of aircraft against S-300 in Iran, Israel should purchase a sufficient volume of weapons in Russia to woo the Russians away from Iran. But the US does not let Israel buy Russian weapons.

September 2009
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