Saturday, November 10, 2007

Did Putin Feel The Fear?

Three weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin drops by Tehran for a little face to face time with the Iranian leadership. At the time, the speculation was that Russia wanted to strengthen relationships with the Islamic Republic to insure Russia remains a world player as the world continues to try and figure out how to deal with the Mullahs. The usual photographs are taken, pledges of support are made in public then Vlad, the impish player, goes home.

Asia Times 10/26/07: The barely reported highlight of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the Caspian Sea summit last week was a key face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. … In itself, the Putin-Khamenei meeting was extraordinary, because the Supreme Leader rarely receives foreign statesmen for closed talks, even one as crucial as Putin. The Russian president, according to the diplomatic source, told the Supreme Leader he may hold the ultimate solution regarding the endlessly controversial Iranian nuclear dossier. According to IRNA, the Supreme Leader, after stressing that the Iranian civilian nuclear program will continue unabated, said. "We will ponder your words and proposal."

Shortly after the “Supreme Leader” agrees to ponder the infidel words, long time Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani resigns unexpectedly. For western diplomats, the devil they know is suddenly out of the mix. The New York Post publishes an article insinuating the Russians now want the West to know that Putin’s inner circle has concerns about the Iranian leadership after all.

Mad Mullahs Puzzled Putin: In fact, the visit seems to have persuaded Putin and his closest advisers that the Tehran leadership is culturally and temperamentally incapable of playing the classical Cold War-style power games that the Russians are interested in.

"This was the first time that Putin was talking to senior Islamic Republic leaders in a substantive and focused way," says a senior Russian official familiar with what happened. "The president found his Iranian interlocutor weird, to say the least. The Iranians mouthed a lot of eschatological nonsense and came close to urging Putin to convert to Islam. It was clear they lived in a world of their own."

Russian sources say that both Ahmadinejad and "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei gave the impression that they settle matters "in the metaphysical space" and with "the help of the Hidden Imam."

"The Iranians think they have already won," reports one Russian source who witnessed the visit. "So intoxicated they appeared with hubris that they did not even ask Putin to help them ward off further United Nations sanctions."

The old Bolsheviks, secular pragmatists to the core, may have looked into eyes filled with messianic obsession for the very first time and emerged with a more adult understanding about the true dangers. It is precisely because the high priests of the hidden Imam aren’t playing world politics that makes them dangerous to the whole world.