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Could there be an upside to Iran's acknowledgment that it is operating two secret facilities to enrich uranium? Adrian Pabst, writing for the Guardian, considers the long-term implications for Iran's facilities and for the dynamics of the UN Security Council, which can bring international pressure to bear on Iran. For some time, the Security Council has failed to persuade Russia and China (both hold veto power) to move against Iran's nuclear programs. Pabst makes a compelling case that Iran may have presented the Security Council with an opportunity to finally bring Russia and China into the fold.

But now that the Obama administration is moving its anti-ballistic missile shield from land-based installations in eastern Europe to mobile vehicles closer to Iran, the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, declared on Wednesday at the UN in New York that "sanctions are seldom productive but they are sometimes inevitable".

With the "reset" of US-Russian relations, the Kremlin has performed a spectacular "rethink" of its Iran policy. The "secret" Moscow visit by Binyamin Netanyahu on 7 September seemed to reassure the Russian leadership that Israel would not launch unilateral pre-emptive strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear installations – on the condition that Moscow promise not to equip Iran with the advanced S-300 system, an offensive missile capability that could deliver nuclear warheads.

If Russia drops its opposition to further sanctions, China is likely to agree or at least to abstain because Beijing's policy is to avoid isolation within the UN security council – except to block international interference in Chinese interests in Sudan or foreign meddling in "internal" issues such as Taiwan and Tibet.

Pabst explained why Russian involvement could help reform Iran after its recent disastrous election:

US-led punitive measures also tend to be counter-productive, as they turn countries into pariah states and embolden repressive regimes. Here Russia has a key role to play. Moscow is better placed than the west to help Iran develop its domestic economy by modernising the oil and gas sectors.

Without renewed Russian investment in Iran's largely obsolete energy industry, the oil-funded Mullah theocracy will struggle to hold on to power in the face of growing resistance – especially since the fraudulent re-election of President Ahmadinejad.

While others speculated about whether three-party sanctions demonstrate weakness, or whether Bush's "axis of evil" policy hurt U.S. interests, Pabst spotted opportunity in a difficult moment. The combination of his knowledge of the UN and shrewd thinking on how Iran's disclosure could be used for good are why Pabst carries the day.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.