Moscow can bring Tehran to heel, if the US price is right. Is Obama ready to give up missile defense to make that happen?
A few months ago, at a small private luncheon I attended, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, one of the wisest men in the foreign affairs community, was asked about the Iran problem. "Iran can't be solved," he replied, "without Russia."
Someone from the Obama administration must have been eavesdropping.
All the signs suggest that in return for Russian pressure upon Iran to end its military nuclear program, the Obama White House quid pro quo would abandon the missile defense project the Bush White House had planned to build on Russia's doorstep.
From the beginning the Russians have hated the project, to be located in Poland and the Czech Republic, and have threatened various kinds of retaliation. The Bush administration argued it was intended as a defense against potential Iranian missiles, and posed no threat to Russia.
In a speech in Munich earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden suggested the US was willing to talk with the Russians about the project. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US "will reconsider where we stand" on the ballistic missile defense project if Iran curbs its military nuclear program.
In his interview with the Al-Arabiya TV network, President Obama said: "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."