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Karabakh war: America leaves, Russia remains Iran craves
Material posted: Pankratenko Igor N.Publication date: 11-04-2016
The recent events associated with the actions of Baku on restoration of territorial integrity of the country and the liberation of the occupied territories, demonstrated that the political map of the South Caucasus has seriously changed. And traditional players in the region should think about how to integrate into these changes.

Naturally, under the above-mentioned “political card” refers to a certain scheme are not coated with her boundaries – are all still intact. It dressed is more complicated – on the balance of powers, system of checks and balances, changes in positions and potential traditional players – Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and, of course, the US and the EU. In addition to the list of players in the region have added China, whose presence may physically still a little noticeable, but the impact of the strategic plan – create through the South Caucasus one of the branches of the “New silk road” already carefully considered policies.


A little bit about the developments on the regional map

That showed the events of recent days, apart from parts of the conflict? First of all, the obvious was the change in the political “weight” of Baku in the eyes of the European Union. By Western standards the Azerbaijan remains a state that does not comply with the standards of Western democracy, and sometimes have a tendency to “totalitarianism”. But if earlier it influenced policy, led to restrictions in cooperation, but now, it seems, accusations of lack of democracy moving into the category of ritual spells, do not lead to practical consequences.

The aggravation of the situation in Karabakh, the European elite – the people with real influence on decisions, rather than “talking heads” on TV – reacted not as expected the anti-writers campaign. The ceasefire demanded, but from the condemnation of Baku gracefully dodged it. The need to diversify the sources of energy for Europe outperformed the existing anti-Brussels sentiment.

Washington's reaction also proved to be quite vague. But if the caution of Europe has a tangible aspect, in the case of the US it is obvious that the problems of the South Caucasus have left the list of priorities of American foreign policy, and the White house chose a position quite neutral observer, not experiencing the need to somehow actively influence the events in the region.


Moscow demonstrated that it was clear to objective researchers a few years ago – the lack of strategy and goal setting, chaotic throwing in attempting to reconcile the hardly compatible national interests, requiring intensive development of cooperation with Azerbaijan and ambitions “of the gathering of the Eurasian space” under the wing of the Kremlin, partly to meet agreed only Yerevan. And agreed in exchange for promises that neither in economic nor in political terms was for Russia in recent years is frankly unsupportable. The result – the loss of positions in the region and reduced leverage on activities taking place.

And as a result – the emergence of the vacuum that fills more than successful Ankara, demonstrating what is in fact “soft power” and not talk about it. While the U.S. and EU talked about “undemocratic” Baku, while Moscow reveled in the role of a military and political leader in the region – Ankara without much propaganda hype, no loud declarations, created and creates real integration field in the region, including Azerbaijan and Georgia, with the ultimate goal not just to expand its sphere of influence, but to create “TRANS-Caspian corridor” in which Ankara will be for Beijing another “window to Europe”, Turkey and the Union States of the South Caucasus – Georgia and Azerbaijan will receive additional impulse for development due to the creation of infrastructure, providing transit.


Iran and the problem of regional competition

The shifts on the political map of the South Caucasus, form new challenges for Tehran, partly freed from international sanctions. The definition of Iran's relations with Turkey, despite their diversity, the angles a and mutual interest, fit into one word – competition, and post-Soviet space it is, without exaggeration, global in nature, encompassing the South Caucasus, and Central Asia with Kazakhstan.

Of course, that Tehran without looking at what caused the reduction of the Russian presence in the region the vacuum is successfully populated with Ankara. As natural that Iran considers this situation undesirable and would expand its presence in the South Caucasus. The Vienna agreements an obstacle for these plans served as international sanctions. Today is needed to implement the revision of a number of foreign policy priorities, in particular the lines in the relations between Tehran and Baku.


In the part of the official returns is, seemingly, quite well. But in practical terms is far from rosy. Last year's bilateral trade volume - $500 million (in 2013 – one billion dollars) is a diagnosis of serious problems, the solution of which is, in particular, and in the political arena.

Iran's foreign policy is quite pragmatic and has got rid of the ideology of “exporting the Islamic revolution”. Of the few problems inherent in Iranian diplomacy, it is worth noting the difficulty with Tehran the diversity of its foreign partners. And not that this created an insuperable obstacle, has been the cause of conflict, but certain problems specific to the Iranian approach to this multi-vector the other hand still creates. Which in recent years has affected Iranian-Azerbaijani relations, already burdened by a number of pressing issues, from the demarcation of the Caspian sea to the proverbial “Pro-Western orientation” of Baku, the degree of which, in my opinion, was Tehran is somewhat exaggerated.

In the end, mutual distrust, tensions and other related manifestations in the form of the same increased activity of special services of the two countries. Than and used for hostile and Baku, and Tehran's foreign players, skillfully mastering emerging in the bilateral relations of the problem in their own interests.


That Iran seriously intends to enter new relations with Azerbaijan, the relations, built on mutually beneficial partnership and partially purified from the problems of past years, has become visible almost immediately after the signing of the Vienna accords. There are at least two economic factors that make the rapprochement between Baku and Tehran is inevitable. First, through Azerbaijan, Iranian Industrialists and entrepreneurs expect to receive another channel of access to modern Western technology. The service “black knights”, that took these technologies through Turkey, the Emirates and dummy European firm was effective, but too expensive. After Baku it will make it easier.

Second, Iran faces a choice – or to invest in the corridor “North-South”, or to find ways of interfacing with the tracks “New silk road”. The only problem is that in one and in other case Azerbaijan remains a key element, without which it is difficult to do.

You can outplay is real and mutually beneficial Iranian-Azerbaijani economic projects, but they confirm the trend – Tehran is increasingly interested in cooperation with Baku that means and his commitment to certain political steps. In the conflict around Karabakh Iran is, of course, is not my intention to openly declare its support for the Azerbaijani position. I will say more – the official announcement about “excluding” Armenia from among significant partners of Tehran will not follow.


But between official declarations and political-economic reality always there is a serious distance. The Iranian economy today requires intensive development of relations with Azerbaijan. For the policy of Tehran in the region the partnership with Azerbaijan is becoming a key factor, otherwise there is a risk of loss of positions.

And what about Yerevan? In the face of intensifying regional competition, he needs only to Iran for propaganda purposes. Politicians in Tehran will demonstrate a willingness to mediate in Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations, if any, are planned. Gaining additional political points in regional competition. Actually, this value of relations with Armenia to Iran and exhausted. The stakes in the unfolding before our eyes the struggle for leadership, influence and rightful place in the new political map of the region, the Tehran refused partnership with Baku in favor of local outsider.

Igor Pankratenko


Tags: Iran , USA , Armenia , Azerbaijan

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