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The Bear Lurking in the Desert

 Putin’s Iran plan

By RALPH PETERS

Iran’s traditional emblem has been the Persian lion. Russia’s should be a vulture: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin intends to feed on the carcass left by any confrontation with Iran.

For Moscow, this crisis isn’t about Tehran’s acquisition of nukes. It’s about Russia’s acquisition of a stranglehold on global energy markets.

Putin’s playing with fire — but he’s sure we’ll be the ones burned.

As for the Obama administration’s desperate (and stunningly naive) hope that economic sanctions can deter President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and his fellow thugs-for-Allah from pursuing nuclear weapons, forget it.

Even were Putin to permit his front-man, President Dmitri Medvedev, to agree to half-baked sanctions, Moscow would violate them before Obama could step out of Air Force One with a piece of paper in his hand guaranteeing peace in our time.

The current crisis is a win-win-win for Putin. But before laying out his plan, let’s run the numbers:

The Persian Gulf’s littoral states hold over 60 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 40 percent of the natural gas. Russia has “just” 10 percent of the oil reserves and 35 percent of the world’s natural gas.

Do the math: Iran and its neighbors, along with Russia, own two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves and 70 percent of the natural gas. And the global economy still runs on oil and gas, folks.

Despite the State Department’s compartmentalization mentality, Russia and Iran don’t exist in separate worlds. It’s less than a day’s drive from Russia’s southern border through Azerbaijan to Iran’s northwestern border. I’ve driven it.

This is one macro-region for energy, the zone of ultimate control. Putin gets it, even if we don’t. Here’s Czar Vladimir’s strategic trifecta:

* For now, Russia profits wonderfully from its trade, both legal and illicit, with Iran, while the West talks itself to death. Life is good.

* But life could get even better: If Iran’s nuclear quest isn’t blocked, a nuclear arsenal will give Iran de facto control of all Persian Gulf oil. Putin envisions a Moscow-Tehran axis, an energy cartel that dramatically increases the value of his oil and gas — the only economic props keeping the corpse of Russia upright.

* If Israel’s driven to a forlorn-hope attack on Iran’s nuke program, Iran will respond by striking Gulf Arab oil fields and facilities, while closing the Strait of Hormuz. The US military will be in it, like it or not. Oil and gas prices will soar unimaginably — and the bear will have its paws on the golden tap.

So the worst outcome for Putin — more of the same — is still good. A bad outcome for everybody else is even better in Putin’s strategy to renew Russia’s superpower status.

Why on earth would this guy help us stop Iran? When he hates us, anyway? (It isn’t you, Barack. It’s just business.)

For all his viciousness, Putin’s a serious strategist. We don’t have any high-level strategists. Not one. On either side of the Potomac.

In his first decade on the throne, Czar Vladimir focused on addicting Europe to Russian gas, while moving successfully to exert control over as many pipelines as possible. That was the constructive decade.

The second decade in the reign of Vladimir I is the energy-cartel-building phase. This will be the confrontational phase.

Energy’s the only real power Putin has, so he’s maximizing it.

It’s no accident that a strategic triangle has emerged between Moscow, Tehran and Caracas — home of the great Latin mischief-lover, Hugo Chavez, who thrives on his own nation’s petro-wealth.

For us, the Iran crisis is about peace. For Putin, it’s about power. Yet the self-deluding Obama administration really believes that Moscow’s going to support us. After our president gave away our only serious bargaining chip, the missile-defense system promised to our European allies.

Putin thinks in 10-year-plans. We can’t think past the next congressional roll-call vote.

The Obama administration’s primary legacy to the world is going to be a nuclear-armed Iran.

Ralph Peters’ new bestseller is “The War After Armageddon.”

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  1. Mitchell
    October 27, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    “For us, the Iran crisis is about peace. For Putin, it’s about power.” Previous occupation American Solider by any chance!

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