The Obama administration’s decision to shelve the plan to install US missile interceptors and radar systems in Poland and the Czech Republic is to be announced at a news conference later Thursday, Sept. 17 by defense secretary Robert Gates. In the face of strong Russian objections, the shield was promoted by the Bush administration to shield Europe from long-range Iranian ballistic missile attack.
DEBKAfile reports that Barack Obama’s decision prompted Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s surprise comment Monday, Sept. 14, that his government no longer rules out further sanctions against Iran – although the Kremlin has always denied its cooperation with the US on the Iranian nuclear issue was contingent on the removal of the US missile shield plan.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly in its coming issue (out Friday) will reveal how the shared US-Russian wish to avert an Israeli military strike against Iran produced Obama’s decision to ditch the missile shield in East Europe.
Our Washington sources report that the decision follows a 60-day assessment of the issue ordered by Obama. “The US will base its decision on a determination that Iran’s long-range missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental US and major European capitals,” said unnamed current and former US officials.
On Aug. 29, DEBKAfile reported exclusively from East European sources that Washington was considering the transfer of its missile plan from Poland and the Czech Republic possibly to Israel and Turkey. Click HERE
This decision is an important foreign policy step for Obama; it is a prize for Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, who fought the US shield plan on Russia’s doorstep tooth and nail, and a major strategic reversal for Iran.
Moscow’s cooperation would remove a key obstacle on the road to harsh sanctions against Iran. Acting in concert with Moscow, Washington could dispense with Beijing’s endorsement.
Nonetheless, DEBKAfile’s Moscow sources stress, it is not entirely clear how far the Kremlin is willing to go in partnering the US drive against Iran. Russian leaders will take good care not to appear to the Muslim and Arab world as Iran’s enemy or a trading and diplomatic partner who reneges on its commitments.