After the US, Britain and France announced last month that Iran had failed to disclose a uranium enrichment facility in Qom, President Dmitry Medvedev signalled a shift in position, saying sanctions were “sometimes” inevitable.
It was read in Washington as a direct reaction to revelations about the covert facility.
“Qom was a giant surprise for the Russians,” said one senior administration official.
Asked if they were angry when they were told by President Barack Obama about the facility during a meeting in New York last month, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, he said that would be an appropriate word to describe the reaction.
It is unclear why the Russians did not have any intelligence of their own about Qom.
“The people who were in the room [with Mr Obama] did not know about it, but I don’t know about other Russians.”
Pundits and experts wondered out loud whether Russia had finally come to see Iran the way Washington did and speculation grew about whether Moscow would support sanctions.