But now that the Obama administration is moving its anti-ballistic missile shield from land-based installations in eastern Europe to mobile vehicles closer to Iran, the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, declared on Wednesday at the UN in New York that "sanctions are seldom productive but they are sometimes inevitable".Pabst explained why Russian involvement could help reform Iran after its recent disastrous election:
With the "reset" of US-Russian relations, the Kremlin has performed a spectacular "rethink" of its Iran policy. The "secret" Moscow visit by Binyamin Netanyahu on 7 September seemed to reassure the Russian leadership that Israel would not launch unilateral pre-emptive strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear installations – on the condition that Moscow promise not to equip Iran with the advanced S-300 system, an offensive missile capability that could deliver nuclear warheads.If Russia drops its opposition to further sanctions, China is likely to agree or at least to abstain because Beijing's policy is to avoid isolation within the UN security council – except to block international interference in Chinese interests in Sudan or foreign meddling in "internal" issues such as Taiwan and Tibet.
While others speculated about whether three-party sanctions demonstrate weakness, or whether Bush's "axis of evil" policy hurt U.S. interests, Pabst spotted opportunity in a difficult moment. The combination of his knowledge of the UN and shrewd thinking on how Iran's disclosure could be used for good are why Pabst carries the day.
US-led punitive measures also tend to be counter-productive, as they turn countries into pariah states and embolden repressive regimes. Here Russia has a key role to play. Moscow is better placed than the west to help Iran develop its domestic economy by modernising the oil and gas sectors.
Without renewed Russian investment in Iran's largely obsolete energy industry, the oil-funded Mullah theocracy will struggle to hold on to power in the face of growing resistance – especially since the fraudulent re-election of President Ahmadinejad.