Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov warned Israel about striking Iran

Russia, which has contributed substantially to Iran’s nuclear ambitions by selling it billions of dollars of nuclear technology and obstructing international efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program by acting as Iran’s “diplomatic godfather, is now cynically criticizing Israel for contemplating military options to defuse the threat that Moscow helped to create.

Yesterday, the Russian government warned Israel not to launch a military strike at Iran’s nuclear program, which it predicted would have disastrous consequences for the Middle East and the world economy. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told a news conference, “Of course any possible military scenario against Iran will be catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations.”

Gatilov also downplayed Iran’s latest failure to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which yesterday withdrew a visiting delegation after Tehran denied them access to an Iranian facility suspected of conducting research on nuclear weapons. Despite Iran’s continued nuclear defiance, Gatilov rosily proclaimed, “I think we still have opportunity to continue diplomatic efforts, to renew the six-nation talks.”

The Russian government delivered its warning to Israel shortly after the Obama Administration stepped up its public efforts to warn Israel against an attack last weekend. Russian officials may have reasoned that there was little downside to upbraiding Israel after Washington also did so.

Piling on Israel also benefits Moscow by improving its tarnished image in the Arab Middle East, where it is increasingly criticized for backing the Assad dictatorship against a popular rebellion by the Syrian people. In addition, Moscow benefits economically from stoking concerns about Middle East tensions to push up the price of oil, its principal export, on the nervous world oil market.

Washington should remind Moscow that it bears substantial responsibility for helping to create Iran’s nuclear program. And both Washington and Moscow should focus on halting Iran’s growing nuclear menace rather than restraining Israel’s right to self defense.

For more on the Iran nuclear confrontation, see “If Israel Attacks.”