During his recent visit to Tehran, President Vladmir Putin attempted an end run around Ahmadinejad by speaking directly with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Even though Ahmadinejad was present in the room, Putin asked Khamenei to support his proposal of a pause in sanctions against Iran in return for Iran pausing in its own enrichment program. Putin also offered to have Iran join in an international atomic services center to be located in Russia which would explore new and alternative directions in peaceful use of atomic energy. The next day, Ahmadinejad did his own end run by denying any offer from Putin and allowing Ali Larijani to resign as the lead man in atomic energy discussions. Larijani had been supportive of the Putin proposal.
Putin increasingly is usurping America’s leadership in dealing with the Iranian situation. He offers innovative proposals while the United States utters threats. Perhaps, President Bush can learn from Putin that being an effective diplomat stands an improved chance of obtaining one’s foreign policy goals.