Why Iran Won’t Budge

TEL AVIV – No one really believed that the latest round of international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program would produce a breakthrough. So it was no surprise that itdid not, despite the concessions that were made at the meeting in Kazakhstan by the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany). America’s belief that a harsh sanctions regime could coax Iran into a deal has proved – at least so far – to be unrealistic.

Despite being isolated and ostracized, Iran has managed to gain some strategic breathing room with the help of countries like China, Russia, India, Syria, and Venezuela, allowing it to resist Western pressure. More important, even though the severe sanctions regime led by the United States is bound to be imperfect – it only hardens further Iran’s resistance to “America’s designs.”

To be sure, Iran’s alliances are vulnerable to erosion and, in the case of two staunch allies, Syria and Venezuela, to outright collapse. The end of Chavismo would threaten Iran’s vast interests in Venezuela and its considerable presence in the Andes, while the fall of the Assad dynasty would be a devastating blow to Iran’s regional strategy.

Even so, Russia and China continue to take a much more lenient approach to Iran than Europe and the US have since the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report in November 2011 described in detail Iran’s activities in pursuing the capability to produce nuclear weapons. While the Western powers have embraced ever-harsher sanctions, Russia and China view Iran as a tool in their global competition with the US.