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Putting the monkey on Lavrov’s back

June 13th, 2012
05:04 PM ET

By Lucky Gold

(CNN) – Why doesn’t the United States apply more pressure to Russia to end its support of the Assad regime? The answer, according to a former US. Assistant Secretary of State, can be found, not in Damascus but in Tehran.

“Ultimately, I think we’re going to have to decide which one is more important to us,” said Martin Indyk, appearing Wednesday on Amanpour. “And I suspect that at the end of the day, it will be the Iranian issue and the nuclear weapons program of Iran that trumps concern about what’s happening in Syria.”

Indyk, the author of “Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy,” talked about the effect U.S. actions have had on Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: “We are in the process of putting the monkey on Lavrov’s back,” he said

“On the one hand,” said Indyk, “we’re expecting Lavrov to go off to Tehran…and deliver a more flexible position on the part of the Iranians toward the offer that’s on the table in the nuclear talks…in which we are heavily dependent on the Russians to cooperate with us and pressure the Iranians.”

“And at the same time,” said Indyk, “we’re beating them (the Russians) over the head for being too supportive of the Assad regime, particularly by providing these attack helicopters. And it’s a very hard balancing game.”

Seeing the Russia’s point of view, Indyk added: “I think the most important thing that they’re concerned about, Christiane, is that at the end of the day, Syria not be taken out from the Russian column and put in the American column. And we don’t have a very good track record on reassuring them of that.”

He promised too much and delivered too little

President Obama’s foreign policy is not only questioned in Russia, but in other parts of the world. Indyk offered an explanation: “The key is that President Obama really excited the world, particularly Europeans who were very against George Bush’s type of American foreign policy. But more broadly as well. Remember his Cairo speech to the Muslim world. He raised expectations high and inevitably he disappointed them.”

“Because in the world of today,” Indyk continued, “it’s really hard for the United States to get its way. And a lot of the issues that he was hoping to deal with and achieve, transformational breakthroughs, don’t lend themselves to that. But in some ways, he promised too much and delivered too little.”

A different kettle of fish

Again, Indyk spoke of a balancing act: “There’s a world audience and an American audience. And sometimes you can’t please both. And certainly around election time, pleasing the American audience is for more important.”

Asked what President Obama’s foreign policy might look like in a second term, Indyk said, “Well, a second term, if he should have it, and I hope he will, is a very different kettle of fish….More experience on his part will lead him to promise less and try to deliver more.”

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