So what is Russia up to? Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst, suggests that Russia’s oil and gas oligarchs wouldn’t shed any tears over a war in the Middle East, especially if it’s a war that ensnares the U.S. and keeps oil prices high.

Even so, it may not be too late to avert a new war in the Middle East. A quiet but firm U.S. threat to boycott the G-8 summit in July in St. Petersburg might inspire Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to freeze the missile transfer. And a promise to facilitate Russian entry into the World Trade Organization might even get Russia’s oil and gas oligarchs on board. Freezing the missile sale would buy crucial time to find a diplomatic solution to the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration appears to be asleep at the wheel, too distracted by Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices and plummeting approval ratings to devote any attention to Russia’s potentially catastrophic mischief.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. ~Rosa Brooks, The Los Angeles Times

Via Kevin Drum

The Russians are taking advantage of our needless hostility towards Iran and Iran’s increasingly understandable fear of being bombed. Near as I can tell, this makes them just about the most rational actor among the nations involved in this standoff. Typical that an American pundit, for whom Russophobia is the last excusable prejudice, can get away with somehow pinning the escalation of the situation on the Russian sale of a missile defense system to Iran when it is Washington that has been declaring that “no options are off the table” and there is speculation, all together too plausible with this crowd, that “tactical” nukes could be used to strike at deeply buried Iranian nuclear facilities. If there is a war between now and September involving Israel and Iran, it will probably be because Washington has worsened the situation and may have launched strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.