Russia has apparently barged into America's nuclear negotiations with Iran, and is threatening to undermine the U.S.-led sanctions effort by working on a new oil deal with Tehran.
While any such deal could offer some short-term financial succor to Iran, and score a geopolitical victory for Russia, it would create a whole host of headaches elsewhere.
A potential energy pact between Moscow and Tehran promises to complicate the Obama administration's efforts to forestall fresh Iran sanctions coming out of Congress. If the deal comes to pass, and is allowed to stand, it could also undermine the existing sanctions regime on Iran. But the oil deal also raises questions about Russia's long-term strategy in the region.
"This deal is a jaw-dropper, and will make it a lot tougher for the Obama administration to veto that bill now," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a big advocate of tougher sanctions on Iran.
"The market apparently no longer has to fear the economic minefield put around Iran. This puts lie to the claim that you can turn sanctions on and off like a spigot," he added.