Iran Worried Ukraine Crisis Could Derail Nuclear Talks

Iran Worried Ukraine Crisis Could Derail Nuclear Talks

In Tehran, concern is growing that tensions between Western capitals and Moscow over the showdown in Ukraine could undermine progress on resolving Iran's own standoff with the West over its nuclear program.

Several political observers worried about the possible weakening of Russian influence should it face sanctions or diplomatic isolation concerning in response to its challenging of the new Ukrainian government, and given its ostensible support for Iran in the diplomatic arena.

Tehran University lecturer Sadeq Zibakalam said that confrontation between Russia and the West would not benefit Iran since "Russia's position is weakening," and presumably, it could lose its ability to thwart Western pressures on Iran.

Nevertheless in comments published by the reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd, Zibakalam described the recent protests "boosting democracy" there as "very positive." He apologized to Ukrainians for official media's coverage of events with a distinct bias in favor of Russia, and deplored how "certain media" in Iran "take the Russians' side in every issue."

The daily cited a former reformist parliamentarian, Ahmad Shirzad, as saying "we shouldn't imagine all popular protests to be the result of Western maneuvering."

Commentators oberved that the issue was "big enough" to impact Iran's own talks with the West. Specialist Hassan Hanizadeh said that in any confrontation with the West, the Russians "will definitely use Iran's potential and move closer to Iran," and "stand up to America" in the context of the nuclear dossier. Still, in the short term, pressures on Iran would decrease while tensions in Ukraine remain high.

Former parliamentarian Shirzad said Iran may win "greater room to maneuver" on the nuclear dossier, but this should not be overestimated. Not for the first time, his comments showed one of the divisions existing among Iranian politicians, in this case in their attitude to Russia: Hardliners tend to favor Russia.

Shirzad cautioned against trusting Russia, saying it might "appear to move toward us" to "strike at America," but could later "come to an agreement" with the West just when Iran needed its backing.

"We have to be vigilant and make sure we do not become an instrument in the settling of accounts between them," he said. Iran needed "serious planning" he said, to duly exploit divisions between the world's major powers.

Another former legislator, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, also cautioned that the Russians had so far "played too much" in favor of Western interests when it came to Iran's nuclear program.

Separately, Russia's Deputy Prime-Minister Dmitry Rogozin stressed the importance of ties and continued collaborations with Iran, in a meeting Wednesday with Iran's ambassador in Moscow, Mehdi Sanayi. Rogozin deplored the "negative role of certain powers in raising tensions" in Ukraine and Afghanistan, and urged "vigilance against Western plots," the semi-official ISNA agency reported.

— Ahmad Shayegan

Photo: Iranian and Russian presidents meeting last September — Source:

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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