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Iran: the Factor of Instability in the Region

TheTehranregime has become a problem for all, includingAzerbaijanandArmenia

By Rauf MIRKADYROV
Political observer of Zerkalo newspaper
Baku

Recently being inBaku, the speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani has once again proposedTehranas a mediator for the settlement of the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict for Nagorno Karabakh. None of experts or politicians has taken the statement of the speaker of the Iranian parliament seriously.

And the point is not that by the opinion of many inBaky,Iranholds a pro-Armenian position in the conflict concerning Nagorno Karabakh. However, many inBakualso think thatMoscowsupportsArmeniain the settlement of this conflict as well, but almost nobody insists that the Russian mediation should be rejected. Armenia is also not so eager to see Tehran as a mediator despite the fact that, on the one hand, Iran is one of the leading regional powers, and on the other hand, the official Yerevan considers  Tehran displaying  a “balanced position” on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. So what is the matter?

First, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Russia in Global Affairs, the famous Russian politologist Fyodor Lukyanov recognized the increasing role of regional powers in international affairs, at the same noting the following: “The problem is that the ambitions of such regional actors as Turkey and Iran are really increasing, their weight is growing, but that does not mean that they are capable to establish any order. The same can be said about such initiatives, not approved by the leading powers of the world.

For example, last year two strong regional states –TurkeyandBrazil– tried to solve the problem of the Iranian nuclear program.  The Turkish and Brazilian leaders visitedTehran, where they declared that they succeeded in solving the problem of the Iranian atom. However, the leading powers looked at it with enmity and ignored the arrangements that had been achieved there. More precisely, they were not taken seriously. As a result, nothing has been changed in the Iranian issue, showing quite clearly that regional powers are lacking appropriate political traditions or sufficient authority to solve such important issues. They simply will not be allowed to do it. They can initiate something, although being unable to solve the problem.”

 

This is it. The point is that such regional actors asTurkeyandIran, in the end, find themselves in the situation while it is they who are being led. Suffice it to pay attention toTurkey’s behaviour before and after the NATO operations againstLibya. Just a month prior to the military operation the Turkish Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan, who was awarded an international prize for human rights protection, instituted by Qaddafi,  and received it just from his hands not long before, declared that NATO’s participation in the operations was unacceptable. But a month later, after two conversations tête-a-tête with the U.S. President Barack Obama he voted in NATO as required, now appealing to Qaddafi to give up power.

In short, bothYerevanandBakuknow very well thatIranis not in the “premiere league” yet to have a decisive word in the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Second, anyway, it is necessary to remember that Iran has an imperial past and today it would like to have the decisive word in the resolution of, at least, regional issues. But unlike Russia, Turkey and, finally, the Arab world, which also have the imperial past and the same ambitions for the future, Iran by some reasons is incapable to create a sustainable association of states, headed by Tehran, with the potential to become the holder of the “controlling  stake” in the settlement  of the regional  issues in the South Caucasus and the Middle East.  It is these regions that Iran considers a sphere of its own interests. In fact, there is no-one with whom Iran might create such an association, i.e. Iran’s desire does not correspond to its possibilities.

Persians are surrounded by three ethnic groups, having far-reaching imperial ambitions: Slavic, Turkic and Arab, outnumbering the Persians by population and excelling them by resources.  As a matter of fact, Iran feels itself in the hostile surroundings and perceives the leading neighbouring groups as a threat to the existence of the Persian state.  Only the existence of weak neighbours, engaged into various conflicts, guarantees Iran’s unity as a state and its regional significance, at least for the present. Simply speaking, Iran is not interested in the settlement of the Iraqi, Afghani, Palestinian-Israeli and, finally, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflicts.  It is just the existence of these conflicts that allows Iran, on the one hand, to resist the competition with the other leading ethnic groups in the region, and on the other hand, to get temporary allies by means of the “divide and rule” strategy. It is well-known that Iran’s allied relations with most of the Arab states are explained solely by the confrontation between the Arab-Muslim world and U.S.-Israeli block. Without such confrontation, Iran would no have any ally in the Arab world.

The Iranian policy regarding the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is shaped by the same scheme. Tehran’s “balanced position” regarding the conflict is exclusively related to the threat, which it sees in the strengthening Turkic element in the region. Everything is very simple. Iran’s and Azerbaijan’s interests are completely opposite to each other, at least as they are seen by the strategists of the Tehran regime. The appearance of a strong, prosperous, free and democratic Azerbaijan so close (may God help us really see our Homeland just like that) poses a threat to the Iranian statehood, at least in the shape, existing now.

The problem is not just in no coincidence of interests, it is much deeper. However, even the seemingly diametrically opposite interests are not an insurmountable barrier for relations between the states.  Interests are also changed or the approaches to their implementation do not remain the same. And finally, sooner or later the sides have to get used to the existing realities. But when one of the sides considers just the existence of the other as a threat to its own statehood, there is no room for compromises.  So this is the main difference of the relations of Azerbaijan, in particular, and the Turkic world, as a whole, with Russia and Iran. Russia, despite substantial differences in the interests, does not see the existence of Azerbaijan and the whole Turkic world as a threat to its own statehood.

Thus, it seems for Iran that it would be better, if the independent Azerbaijan did not exist at all, but as far as it does exist, it should be always weak and problem-ridden.

In short, one should not pretend to be a naive virgin, not knowing where and how children are created. Simply to say, despite the diametrically opposite  relations, as they seem from the first sight, Iran is trying to use Armenia as an “ally” in its confrontation with the Turkic world, just like Israel in the relations with the Arab Muslim world.

As for the attempts to link up this issue to the inability and unwillingness of the “off-regional forces,” first of all, the United States, to settle the conflict for the Nagorno Karabakh, it is absolutely beneath the criticism. Maybe somebody has forgotten the outcome of the Iranian initiative to settle the Karabakh problem, but the author of these lines remembers it very well.  However, it is possible to say that during the recent three years the search for the way out for the deadlocked settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict has been some sort of entrusted to Russia, as the biggest and most influential power in the region. So what? It is extremely difficult to achieve progress in the settlement of the conflict, despite already held nine meeting of the heads of state exclusively in the “regional format.” So it is very unlikely that Iran might have been able to elaborate an absolutely unknown and unique recipe for settlement of such conflicts.

The energy interests of the sides also do not coincide.  Iran with Russia has their reasons to be against the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline for transportation of energy resources from the Central Asia to Europe.  Tehran knows very well that sooner or later, one way or another relation between Iran and the West will be normalized.  And then Iran can become a transit hub for transportation of oil and gas from the Central Asia to Europe via Turkey. In this case, the fraternal Turkey would lose nothing, meanwhile Azerbaijan’s geopolitical importance will be reduced quite a lot. Armenia will lose much either, including the chance to join Nabucco in case if the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is settled.

And finally, most probably, Tehran thinks that only possession of the nuclear weapon can turn Iran into a regionally significant state, to be taken into consideration by everybody.  But the emergence of a neighbour in possession of the nuclear weapon is in contradiction to the interests of not only Azerbaijan, Armenia, but also Russia,Turkey, and even more, the U.S. interests.  As matter of fact the medium range rockets that Iran has now, are unable to reach the United States, but they can reach Russia and Turkey, to say nothing of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

At the same time Tehran understands that in case if the off-regional, first of all the U.S. forces, appear in the South Caucasus, it would be absolutely impossible to make this idea come true. That is why Iran is against the presence of so called “off-regional forces” (not only from the USA, but also from Turkey) in the South Caucasus, as a whole, and in Azerbaijan, in particular.

The editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine Fyodor Lukyanov is correct, stating that sooner or later the international community will have to solve the Iranian problem. At the same time, as it was mentioned above, the problem is not only, or maybe,  not so much in the Iranian nuclear program. The Russian politologist  “entrusts” Americans with this task, noting that the attempts to solve the problem, related to the Iranian nuclear program, can be a decisive factor, impacting the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.