ON THE REGIONAL POLICY OF IRAN
http://noravank.am/eng/articles/detail.php?ELEMENT_ID=6577
28.06.2012

Sevak Sarukhanyan
Deputy Director of `Noravank' Foundation,
head of the Center for the Political Studies, Candidate of Science
(Political Studies)*


The passed parliamentary elections in Iran which fortified political
stability in the country after the 2009 elections, created fertile ground
for Tehran to stir up regional policy. This article covered such issues as
Iranian-Turkish, Iranian-Russian and Iranian-Azerbaijani relations.
Iran-Turkey: Iraqi factor

Since 2002 when pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party came to power in
Turkey the relations between Tehran and Ankara have shifted to a new
development stage. Most of the political contradictions between the states
have been smoothed over, Turkey and Iran managed to develop `Kurdish
policy' which would take into consideration the interests of both states,
Ankara made a step in a direction of normalization of the relationship with
Syria and Iranian-Turkish economic relations recorded an unprecedented
growth. If in 2000 the general volume of goods turnover between Iran and
Turkey was $1 billion, in 2011 it reached $16 billion.

But the `Arab spring' and Turkish policy in the Arab countries in 2011
returned the old problems to the Iranian-Turkish relations. It became
obvious that Turkey and Iran have two cardinally different ideas of the
region they both are targeted on. And this first of all regards three
states: Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

If support of the anti-Shiite powers in Lebanon and anti-governmental
powers in Syria by Ankara is directed to the provision of the political
changes which are advantageous to Turkey and the Iranian factor has
indirectly become a condition which counterworks Turkey, the situation in
Iraq is different. Ankara's actions against the central authorities of Iraq
constitute a direct menace to Iran i.e. the weakening and overthrowing of
pro-Iranian government in Iraq may cause destabilization in Iran and close
geopolitical and political route to Syria and Lebanon going through Iraq.
The Iraqi factor has become one of the main reasons that set Tehran and
Ankara against each other.

The aggravation of the Iraqi-Turkish relations over the recent months has
been connected with several main domestic and external developments. In the
Syrian crisis Iraq took the side of the Syrian authorities and did its best
to deteriorate the formation of the Arab anti-Syrian front. No other
approach of the Iraqi authorities can be expected as overthrowing of the
Assad government and victory of the Islamist powers in Syria will directly
bring to the strengthening of anti-Shiite powers in the region, in the
direct proximity of Iraq and will break the balance in the country which is
based on the alliance between the Shiite and Kurdish communities. Both of
them constitute direct menace to Turkey as in case with Shiite they openly
take pro-Iranian stance in all the processes in the region and in case with
the Kurds it may cause stirring up of the Kurdish factor in Turkey and
bring to the destabilization of the situation in the east of the country.
Over the recent months Ankara's policy in Iraq was directed to the
criticism of the central authorities of Iraq and was abundant with calls to
create a government of real solidarity which should include more
representatives of Sunnite and Turkman communities of the country.

It should be mentioned that the Turkish criticism of the Iraqi government
is supported by the president of the Kurdish autonomy Masoud Barzani who
made statement back in March that the structure of the coalition government
should be changed. Most probably, Barzani wanted to get a bigger share for
the Kurdish powers in the central authorities of Iraq and showing a united
front with Turkey was simply a means to an end. Barzani who met the
prime-minister of Turkey R.T. Erdogan even hardened the criticism of Iraqi
prime-minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Kurdish self-confidence in Iraq can be
conditioned by several factors and first among them, in our opinion, is the
developments in Syria in which local Kurds are directly involved. Barzani
acknowledges that destabilization in Syria in a result of which in the
neighborhood of Iraq Kurdish and Sunnite armed groups are formed constitute
serious menace to the Shiite community in Iraq and its representative
prime-minster al-Maliki. Barzani indirectly offers a `deal' to Baghdad:
more places for Kurds in your government on your part and prevention of
transferring Kurdish destabilization from Syria to Iraq on our part.

Recently it has been said in Iraq that al-Maliki and Shiite powers,
supported by Iran, refused such a deal. On April 2 - on the next day after
Erdogan-Barzai meeting - the prime-minster of Iraq al-Maliki at his meeting
with the journalists, harshly criticized Barzani but in the first place he
criticized Turkey. Maliki mentioned that Ankara is an `enemy state' which
interfered into Iraq's domestic affairs `and if it continues the same way,
Turkey will become enemy number one for the whole region'. On the next day
after that the prime-minister of Turkey Erdogan characterized Maliki's
statement as `dirty threat' and on April 23 al-Maliki arrived in Tehran to
have talks with the president of Iran. However, the aforementioned
chronology is already conspicuous. Let us mention that agreements were
acquired during al-Maliki's visit to Tehran which would drastically reduce
the dependence of the Iraqi economy on Turkey; Iran promised to increase
the investments into Iraq's economy and boost goods turnover. Today Turkey
is Iraq's first trade partner - $11 billion turnover annually. The turnover
between Iran and Iraq in 2010 was $8.1 and in 2011 - $9.7 billion and it is
planned to reach $12 billion this year. It is obvious for Iran the
reduction of the economic dependence of Iraq on Turkey is a necessity and
the Iranian authorities work actively in this direction.
Iran-Azerbaijan

In recent months the Iranian-Azerbaijani relationship has aggravated.
Azerbaijan bought armament from Israel at a cost of $1.6 billion which was
taken by Tehran as step directed against Iran. The Israeli-Azerbaijani
relations have always caused discontent of Iran, but today when possible
Israeli strikes at the Iranian nuclear and military objects are acquiring
real outlines Tehran started considering Baku as a real threat which can
provide its territory to Israel for carrying out military actions.

Baku also is discontented with Iran, taking into consideration the
circumstance that Tehran is eagerly furthering Islamization of Azerbaijan
which indirectly threatens the ruling secular Aliyev family regime. This
causes discontent of the religious segment of the society not only due to
its secular character but also due to its autocratic mechanisms which
contradict to Islamic ethics and religious and political culture. Over the
recent decade the destruction of the secular opposition by the authorities
caused a situation when the only opposition left in the country is the
Islamic one which is rather difficult to control: the religious life and
activity are proceeding underground apart from the political institutions.
The network character of the Islamization of Azerbaijan in fact partially
takes it out of the state control. In this case Iran's support of the
Islamic renaissance in Azerbaijan constitutes direct menace to Baku.

This month the Iranian-Azerbaijani relations have even aggravated. Taking
advantage of `Eurovision' song contest held in Baku, different Iranian
media issued material devoted to the pro-Western orientation of Baku,
presenting this song contest as anti-Islamic and anti-traditional event. A
number of media characterized the contest as a sexual minorities' parade.
And in May pro-Islamic and pro-Iranian powers in Azerbaijan joined
anti-governmental rallies and in consequence some activists were arrested.
As a result, Baku connected the aggravation of the political situation in
the country with Tehran and after that anti-Iranian protest action under
the slogan `Against the anti-Azerbaijani policy of Iran' took place in
front of the Iranian embassy in Baku on May 11. The protest action was the
most anti-Iranian one in the history of Azerbaijan, as not only classical
appeals, such as a call to stop cooperation with Armenia, but also the
insults to the Iranian state (Iranian flag was burnt) and its leader Ali
Khamenei were voiced. In consequence, on May 20 Tehran ambassador to Baku
was withdrawn back to Tehran. According to press-release spread by the
Iranian embassy in Baku, the ambassador Mohamed Bahrami was recalled to
Tehran to conduct a consultation connected with insulting the Muslim
saints.

Though this is rather serious aggravation of relations, Baku, nevertheless,
does not stop disseminating anti-Iranian statements, so that it seems that
Baku does not want to mend the differences. Thus on May 22 the
press-secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan stated
that: `Iran cannot normally take appearing of thousands of tourists in our
country, including Iranian tourists who see the success of Azerbaijan. Our
independent policy bothers some people, but we are going to continue it'.
And the member of Azerbaijani Majlis G. Hasanguliyev took it a further step
and stated that: `homosexuality is an integral part of Iran's culture'.
Judging by the recent impressions, Baku does nothing to smooth over
differences with Tehran and even more it tries to escalate the situation.
This is, maybe, an expression of the geopolitical choice of Azerbaijan, by
which Baku hints to Tehran that in case of possible Iranian-Israeli
(American) collision no friendly attitude can be expected on behalf of
Baku.
Iran-Russia

Iranian media reacted to the election of Vladimir Putin as a president of
the Russian Federation rather heartily. During the presidency of Dmitri
Medvedev the Russian-Iranian relations were in crisis which was connected
with Medvedev's policy directed to the development and deepening of the
relations with the US.

The perception of Vladimir Putin in Iran and Iranian press differs from the
one of Medvedev. If the latter was referred either neutrally or with mild
criticism, Putin mainly deserves positive evaluations.

Today Iran and Russia face a necessity of setting their relations and in
this direction definite steps will be taken in the months to come. And the
fact that the relations will be set is obvious, taking into consideration
that Tehran and Moscow face the same challenges in the region. The most
important among them is the provision of the stability in Syria and
exclusion of the western military interference. Form this point of view
Russia and Iran are all in the same boat while West, Arab world and Turkey
are in the other. Today the normalization of the Iranian-Russian relations
is accompanied by another process - both Tehran and Moscow actively
reconsider their `Turkish policies'. In May Russian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs made two harsh statements concerning Turkish policy. The first
regarded the decision of Turkey to initiate gas drilling in Cyprus water
area which should be accompanied by maneuvers in the same district. The
second one regarded International Conference on Caucasus Studies held in
Istanbul, at which the declaration calling to `continue sacred war against
Russia' for the liberation of Caucasus was accepted in the presence of the
representatives of the Turkish government.

In a consequence, the Iranian-Russian relations will be reconsidered in
order to deepen them even more. On March 2 V. Putin stated that he would do
everything to `Prevent military actions directed against Iran'. On March 4
the president of Iran M. Akhmadinejad called to V. Putin and congratulated
him with this victory at the elections. According to official
press-releases of two states the parties also discussed regional issues,
mentioning inadmissibility of military interference of the third states
into the domestic affairs of the Arab states.

However, it will be clear in the months to come in what direction the
Russian-Iranian relationship will deepen, but setting of those relations
does not generate any doubts.
*`Globus' analytical journal, # 6, 2012*

Return
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*Another materials of author*

- TURKISH FACTOR IN `LEVIATHAN' AND `APHRODITE' ENERGY
`WARS'
[03.05.2012]
- POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAN AND POSSIBLE IRAN-US
COLLISION
[22.03.2012]
- IRAN AND DEVELOPMENTS IN
SYRIA
[26.01.2012]
- ON REGIONAL ENERGY
DEVELOPMENTS
[05.12.2011]