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Minas Morgul? The palantir is under the spire at the top.

“According to Mr. Google”:http://translate.google.com, the classical Greek word _skepsis_ is also the preferred Russian term for “skepticism.”

You can color me скептический after reading “this article in today’s Post”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/17/AR2009031703033.html.

As President Obama seeks to recast relations with Russia and persuade it to help contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he must win over leaders who are deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions and who have long been reluctant to damage what they consider a strategic partnership with Iran. But the Kremlin has indicated it is willing to explore a deal with Washington, and analysts say it may be more open to new sanctions against Iran than expected.

The Obama administration has all but decided not to make a new push for sanctions until after it tries engaging Iran diplomatically and improving ties with Moscow, according to administration officials and Russia analysts. If the overture to Iran fails, as many expect, administration officials believe they will be able to make a stronger case for sanctions to Russian leaders they hope will be more invested in a new relationship with the United States.

Russian support is crucial on nonproliferation issues, particularly Iran. It’s really, really difficult to imagine this issue being resolved peacefully if Moscow doesn’t play a constructive role, so it’s encouraging to see someone “trying to win the Russian side over”:http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1068299.html, “for a change”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6658633.stm. But let’s not imagine that an American charm offensive could suddenly melt hearts in “Minas Morgul”:http://www.tuckborough.net/fortress.html#Minas%20Morgul or instill a sense of urgency that did not exist before.

Reaching an understanding on really tough sanctions will be hard. After control of energy supplies, “arms sales”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1911/playing-the-gargoyle-card and “nuclear sales”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1836/bushehr-update are the core of Russian influence abroad, and Russia hasn’t escaped the global economic crisis, either. There is also some risk of, ahem, _overcharging_ the agenda, where “strategic arms talks”:http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/pavel-podvig/formulating-the-next-us-russian-arms-control-agreement are already at “center stage”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1896/like-shooting-monkeys-in-a-barrel.

After years of butting heads, seducing the Kremlin away from an “oppositional”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/05/world/europe/05kyrgyz.html, “zero-sum view of NATO”:http://www.kremlin.ru/eng/speeches/2008/07/15/1121_type82912type84779_204155.shtml that seems to pay dividends at home may be too much even for America’s intrepid Secretary of State, but I wish her good luck. Better press that “reset button”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GdLClHAMB0 a few more times, just to be sure.

_Note for the perplexed: if you don’t recognize the building in the photo at the top, it’s the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs._

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