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Mideast trauma gives Russia back a role

RUSSIAN attempts to mediate in the Middle East and Iran reflect the Kremlin’s desire to recover a truly influential role in world affairs that largely evaporated with the Soviet Union, analysts say.
Russia is offering to enrich uranium for Iran and so defuse internation

al crisis fuelled by Western suspicions that Tehran plans to build its own nuclear weapons. Iranian negotiators arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for fresh talks.
Today, Moscow will greet delegates of Islamist militant group Hamas, whose crushing victory in Palestinian parliamentary polls in January shocked the West and brought the Middle East peace process to a halt.
Despite Washington’s scepticism about the chances of striking a deal with Iran and Israeli objections to contacts with Hamas, listed as a “terrorist” group in many countries, the Kremlin’s mediation has won a cautious nod from the West.
“It turns out that Russia is no longer a player getting in everybody’s way,” Sergei Kazennov, an analyst for the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said. “Everyone seems happy about Russia doing the job no one else dares to.”
The pain of defeat in the Cold War and loss of its global superpower role remains a powerful theme in Russian politics.
But fears of a new Pax Americana with no place for Moscow are giving way to suggestions among many Russian politicians that a stand-off between the rich West and the impoverished rest will dominate the international agenda for years to come and is where the Kremlin could play a role.
“Even geographically, we are caught between three aggressively expanding civilisations — the West, the Islamic South and China,” Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute of Globalisation Problems, said.
“We have to balance between them to survive.”
Russia’s mediation is also intended to defend pragmatic interests — to safeguard energy cooperation and arms trade with Iran against possible international sanctions and to win better political standing at lucrative Arab markets.
And the start of uranium enrichment, Moscow hopes, could spawn a service industry in Russia for the growing number of countries who also want nuclear energy.
Successful mediation would also be a lift for President Vladimir Putin’s chairmanship in the G8 group of leading industrialised nations this year, which the Russian leader has warned against turning into a “club for fat cats”.
Many analysts believe Moscow’s efforts are also part of Putin’s wider strategy of departing from a Western-oriented policy of his predecessor Boris Yeltsin and trying to make Russia more diplomatically balanced.
And while its mediation efforts may not resolve the crisis, Moscow is conducting them in such a way as to be seen as taking an independent line.
It is resisting US demands to refer Iran’s nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council. But it has also made Iran’s return to a moratorium on enrichment is a precondition for moving its initiative to enrich uranium for Tehran.
By the same token, the Kremlin has warned the United States and Israel not to isolate Hamas but has urged Hamas to stop its military activities and acknowledge commitments of the previous Palestinian government.
“Whatever, Russia will score in the eyes of Arabs because it has shown it is not a Western puppet,” Delyagin said. “The West will also have nothing to complain about because Russia played by the rules.” — Reuter.

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