Iran's Valuable Asset in Eurasia

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mohammad Bakhshandeh

Despite all the efforts made during the recent two decades with an aim to undermine bilateral relations and mutual interests between the Central Asian nations and Iran, the tone of friendship and "convergence" still exists in the outlook of those countries towards Iran.

In the neck-to-neck rivalry which started immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union among big powers to capture the untouched and intact markets of the region, the Iranians neither had the huge capital of the Western consortiums nor the hidden power levers of the Russians. The capital and instruments of Iran in this competition field was nothing but "historical confidence and interest", something the regional and trans-regional rivals did not possess.

In the Central Asian political arena, confidence is the rarest commodity. Heartrending events occurred in the two decades of transition in this region which gave rise to mistrust and pessimism in the foreign parties in the diplomacy of the governments in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

During this period, the US, Europe and other international actors, each offered experiences of ill-fated friendships to the leaders of these countries.

The foreign policy of Central Asia and Caucasus countries has been used as a scapegoat by Western and Eastern actors and each of the regional states was entrapped in a chain of crises and conflicts.

Over this period, the Iranian diplomacy has distanced from factionalism and campaigns that were launched with the aim of “regime change” or gaining oil and trade concessions in this region and has avoided the opportunism and dealings others were entangled in. The outcome of this policy is that leaders in Central Asia and Caucasus from Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in Ashgabat and President Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev all respect Iran. The point was raised in several important meetings these leaders had with their Iranian counterpart.

They said that none of the foreign powers remained loyal to the extent Tehran was faithful to the ideal of welfare and development of this region.

The Iranian diplomacy team has now been dispatched to the most important Central Asian capital at a time when all obstacles on the way of convergence with the Iranian nation have been removed. The thoughts of political leaders in Tehran and Astana as well as the geopolitical opportunities in the region have joined hands so that the two sides would lay the foundations of new ventures.

Kazakhstan, which has now opened its arms to welcome high-ranking Iranian officials, has expressed confidence over rapprochement with Tehran more than other Central Asian states.

This can be realized from the list of projects launched by Kazakhstan with Iran’s participation in the Caspian Sea region, the Shanghai Organization and the Central Asian Security.

At present, Astana plays the role of the heart of Eurasia thanks to the natural resources (owning a reserve of over 40 billion barrels) and geographical status (as the vastest republic of the former Soviet Union). For this reason, the tendency of this republic towards Tehran has a serious impact on the regional scene.

Although Western companies and consortiums have made legendary investment in the oil fields of the country so that the volume of foreign investment has been estimated to exceed 40 billion dollars, leaders in Astana did not accept partnership with the West at the cost of distancing from Ian.

In the midst of the nuclear tension, the Americans even tried to bring Kazakhstan, which itself is a nuclear fuel exporter, to the circle of those opposing Iran’s nuclear program.  However, they failed.

In the current stage, Iran’s achievements in political equations of the Middle East have made Astana leaders decisive to deepen their bonds of friendship and confidence.

Statistics on mutual trade exchanges, which have been estimated at 3 billion dollars, indicate the fast trend of convergence of these two regional powers. However, there are still potentials and opportunities in the region which have remained intact and should be taken into consideration in engineering the regional convergence.


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