Iran is "the last serious issue where the Bush administration has decisions to make in terms of changing policy," says Mr. McFaul. It is also "the one place … of high national security interest to the United States where Russia plays a direct role in what we are trying to do. In that sense, it towers over all these other things."
US and European officials are scrambling for ways to punish Russia for moving armed forces into separatist, pro-Russian enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in pro-West Georgia, and then into Georgia itself, to counter a Georgian military invasion late last week.
After five days of fighting that routed Georgia's small, US-advised forces, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said the "aggressors" had been "punished" and ordered an end to operations. Russia lambasted Georgia's US-educated President Mikheil Saakashvili as a "terrorist" and "lunatic" who should be tried for "genocide."
But the rhetoric has also been unusually blunt between the US and Russia. President Bush this week demanded Russia end a "dramatic and brutal escalation of violence."