Moscow & Tehran Have No Choice But To Expand Cooperation After Qarabagh Declaration, Areshov Suggests

Feature 7 December 2020
Moscow & Tehran Have No Choice But To Expand Cooperation After Qarabagh Declaration, Areshov Suggests

Confronted by the continuing presence of Sunni terrorists in the South Caucasus and the growing power of Azerbaijan and behind it Israel and the West there, Moscow and Tehran have no choice but to expand their cooperation to counter these threats, Andrey Areshov of the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies says.

The changes in the South Caucasus as a result of the November 10 declaration are far from favorable in all respects to the Russian Federation and Iran, the Caucasus expert says. As a result, leaders in both places must work more closely together to prevent further losses.

Both countries, Russia immediately because of its peacekeeping contingent and Iran ultimately because of leadership of the world’s Shiites, are threatened by the continued presence in Qarabagh of militant Islamists who came to fight on Azerbaijan’s side in the course of the conflict that has now been suspended, Areshov says.

And both are worried about the growing power of Turkey which is projecting new power into the region, Israel which has been supplying weaponry to Azerbaijan, and the West more generally because it is only too pleased to see Russia and Iran lose some of their positions in the South Caucasus.

Iran has particular concerns. There is the danger of a rise in separatist attitudes among the ethnic Azeris in the northwestern portion of the country, attitudes that have been intensified by Azerbaijan’s victory and Baku’s status as an alternative Shiite state given that the Azeris of Iran are overwhelmingly Shiite.

But Areshov suggests that the Sunni Islamist radicals who had been fighting for Baku may play a negative role in this regard because they can destabilize the situation and present themselves as supporters of Azerbaijan rather than in the first instance as opponents of Shiite Iran.

To counter this, the Moscow expert says, Iran will have to devote significant “time and economic and force resources in order to ‘adapt to the new geopolitical reality along its northern border with Azerbaijan’” lest Iran find itself more isolated from the outside world. The possible opening of new corridors presents Tehran with another problem.

“Up to now, Baku has used Iranian territory for its land transit to Nakhchivan.” If a transit corridor opens across Armenia’s Zengezur province, “Iran will become less important for Azerbaijan and probably the dynamic of bilateral relations will change in Baku’s favor,” something the Israelis and the Americans will be pleased to see.

Moreover, Areshov continues, plans to open new mines in western Azerbaijan under the control of British or Western firms “can have not only a purely economic dimension.” They may change the political balance across the region, and that in turn could entail the expansion of Western influence right up to the Iranian border across the Arax.

Iran is worried about the impact of a corridor across Zengezur, and Tehran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Arakchi, has said that “declarations abvout the supposed creation of a corridor inside Armenia or even inside Iran and about changes in the geopolitics of the region do not correspond to reality.”

That suggests Iran will oppose the corridors; and if Moscow and Tehran find themselves driven closer together, Moscow may drag its feet as well. Otherwise, it will be difficult for Russia and Iran to continue to find a common language against the spread of Turkish and Western influence in the region.

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