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Central Asian Survey


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Iran and Central Asia: paradigm and policy


MOHIADDIN MESBAHI Available online: 21 Oct 2010

To cite this article: MOHIADDIN MESBAHI (2004): Iran and Central Asia: paradigm and policy, Central Asian Survey, 23:2, 109-139 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02634930410001310508

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Central Asian Survey (June, 2004) 23(2), 109139

Iran and Central Asia: paradigm and policy


MOHIADDIN MESBAHI
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Introduction A discussion of the foreign policy of young revolutionary states such as Iran poses the particularly complex challenge of reaching a conceptual balance between the importance of new ideological predilections on the one hand, and the expected pragmatic behavior of a presumed rational actor responding to a more xed historical geopolitical context, on the other. What makes this conceptual balance even more taxing is the occurrence of signicant historical events that have not only regional, but major global, signicance. Twice in the last two decades of the 20th century, events of historical proportion have dramatically affected the shape and direction of Iranian foreign policy. The February 1979 revolution was the most signicant development affecting the prism through which foreign policy values, motivations, ideals, priorities and commitments were dened. The perception of Iran as a revolutionary state placed an unprecedented burden on Iran's foreign policy. The difculty of the international system in accepting/recognizing the Iranian revolution had as much to do with the shape and scope of Iran's international options and choices, as with the aspirations and objectives of the new custodians of Iranian foreign policy. The construction of Iranian foreign policy identity thus took place not only in the hands of the revolutionaries or the new elite, but, and more so, in the hands of international actors responding to the revolution, regionally and globally. The December 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, a superpower bordering the Northern frontier of Iran, was the second seminal event that fundamentally altered the scope and dimension of Iran's foreign policy. The collapse of the Soviet Union not only changed Iran's policy towards Russia and the remnants of a once powerful empire, but also reactivated a totally new set of dynamics, affecting Iran's domestic national security on ethno-territorial lines. Five major regional wars since 1979, including one between Iran and Iraq, which directly or indirectly were the result of the Iranian revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union, established a completely new geopolitical and geoideological structure for the new Iranian republic. The historical instability of the West (Iraq), East (Afghanistan), and South (the Persian Gulf), was complimented by the North. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence
Professor Mohiaddin Mesbahi is at the Department of International Relations, Miami Florida International University (email: mesbahim@u.edu). ISSN 0263-4937 print/ISSN 1465-3354 online/04/02/0109-31 2004 Central Asian Survey DOI: 10.1080/02634930410001310508

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of new independent states, forced Iran, largely unprepared, to engage in unknown prospects or regional competitions, pressures and opportunities in the new Northern frontier. The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent US geopolitical responses, the downfall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq by the United States and the `coalition of the willing', were the nal signicant chapters that completed the revolution in Iran's international structure; the encirclement of Iran's regional security framework was now complete. This study explores the crucial elements of the conceptual framework within which the Iranian vision and foreign policy thinking towards Central Asia and the Caucasus are shaped.1 The paper is not designed to detail bilateral ties, but rather, to provide key generalizations regarding Iran's policy in the region. Iranian foreign policy: paradigm and conceptual framework Iran's view of its new Northern frontier, that is, its place in the Iranian foreign policy framework and objectives, is generally affected by the interactive dynamics of four issues: rst, the role of RussianIranian relations or Russian-centric aspects of Iranian foreign policy in Central Asia; second, the Islamic factor or the geopolitics and geocultural role of Islam; third, the global factor, namely the everpresence of the United States in shaping Iranian regional policy, and nally a vision of Iran's centrality in shaping Central Asian and Caucasian developments. Iran's bilateral ties and multilateral policies and initiatives, while issue/countryspecic at the micro level, will nevertheless be inuenced, at the macro level, by the uneven symbiosis of these four dynamics. These factors are all embedded in two permanent characteristics of Iranian foreign policy since 1979. First is the strategic loneliness of Iran in the international system and regional sub-system, and second, the securitization of Iran's identity; the impact of ideology and the perception of others which made the assessment of Iran's intentions, capability, threat, to be largely driven not by Iran's material capability and power projection, but by its intentions, message, identity and idea's. This has been largely an essentialist approach, which thus made a rational/realist assessment of Iran an impossibility. Therefore, Iran's security and foreign policy dilemma remained open-ended. Geopolitics and balance of power: relations with Russia Iran embraced the collapse of the Soviet Union with `mixed emotion'. The collapse of the Soviet Union relieved Iran in one stroke from the threats of both the military presence of a superpower and the ideological challenge of Marxism as a historical universalist rival claimant in the Muslim world. For more than a century, Iran's geopolitical calculation had been informed by the threat of Russian/Soviet imperialism pressing its considerable weight against its long Iranian border. Iran's historical gravitation toward alliance with distant powers, like the British Empire up to 1945 and the United States in the postwar years, was a result of this historical vulnerability and the perception of Russian expansionism. Iran became the buffer 110

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state between the presumed Russian southward thrust and the Western powers' historical geopolitical and economic interests (i.e. British India and Persian Gulf oil). Iran's territorial integrity was to a large extent dependent on the great powers' implicit understanding of its position as the buffer state. The Iranian revolution of 1979, and the subsequent hostility between Iran and the United States, signaled the beginning of change in the historical xation of the `buffer' concept and the balancing context of Iranian geopolitics. Somewhat unique in its foreign policy consequences, the anti-Western orientation of the Iranian revolution did not translate into a pro-Soviet stance. In fact, Iran, especially in light of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan and Moscow's support for Iraq, remained distant from and critical of the Soviet Union through most of the 1980s. Following a superpower policy that could be termed `radical negative equilibrium'an activist distance from and balance against the superpowersIran's radically independent position vis-a-vis both superpowers, beyond its ideological motives, was calculated to emphasize a message of nonalignment and thus recast Iran, not as a buffer, but rather as an active/activist neutral zone. Viewed from this perspective, Iran has had a stake in the maintenance of a certain balance in the regional and international structure and distribution of power. Given the increasing hostility between Iran and the United States in the 1980s, and the gradual and decisive consolidation of US power in the Persian Gulf, the presence of the less aggressive, yet functioning, `Gorbachevian' Soviet superpower would seem to have served Iran's overall geopolitical interests. The fear of a US-led unipolar world system was thus the underlying reason behind Iran's cautious and subdued attitude toward the unfolding process of the Soviet collapse in the 1990-91 period. A major editorial in the Tehran Times, the semiofcial mouthpiece of Iran's Foreign Ministry, assured the Soviet leadership that Iran, in contrast to other countries in the region, had a stake in the territorial and political integrity of the Soviet Union and would not utilize Soviet vulnerability.2 This consideration of Iran's vulnerability in a US-dominated regional/ international order was the key underlying factor in the development of Iran's Russo-centric policy toward the new independent states of Central Asia and the Caucasus in the post-Soviet period. To have a correct, if not warm, relationship with Russia remains critical to Iran's regional foreign policy.3 This Russiancentric policy was designed to respond to three sets of Iranian concerns and objectives, namely: the importance of bilateral RussianIranian relations; the impact of Russia on IranianCentral Asian relations; and the impact of the emergence of new states for Iran's domestic, i.e. territorial, integrity. First, bilaterally, Russia has been and will continue to be a source for purchasing arms and technology and for economic, trade and political cooperation.4 The Russian-centric policy, however, is not based on single issues or purely bilateral considerations, but also reects Iran's concern over multilateral and bilateral relations with Central Asian states. Second, this Russian-centrism reects Iran's recognition of Moscow's geopolitical inuence in the former republics and its impact on IranianCentral Asian 111

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relations. An anti-Russian policy in Central Asia on the part of Tehran will not serve Iran's immediate and long-term interests. Such a policy would create impediments to regional receptivity and further pave the way for more intensive regional coalitions against Iran. Third, Iran's vulnerability against regional conicts in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus, and its needs for regional stability, demand a closer cooperation with or understanding of Moscow. This is particularly important in view of the prominence that Iran has attached to its own role as a peacemaker and mediator. This regional perspective does not exclude conicts of interest and competitive policies, as has been the case in issues such as the conict in Tajikistan, Nagorno Karabakh and the tension over the nal status of the Caspian legal regime, but illustrates the continuous attempt by Tehran to accommodate the Russian factor, to minimize Moscow's obstructionism, and to solicit its acquiescence or cooperation. Furthermore, the multiplicity of issues concerning the RussianIranianCentral Asian triangle does not lend itself to a uniformity of interests in all situations. Conicts of interest between Iran and Russia in Tajikistan, for example, are simultaneously accompanied by the uctuating convergence and conict of interests of the two countries on the issues concerning the geopolitics of the Caspian Sea, Iran's `second Persian Gulf', the sovereignty over Caspian Sea energy and food resources and, especially, the long-term and very serious impact of the Caspian environmental crisis on Iran's northern provinces.5 The nature and impact of Russian-centrism in Iran's regional policy has and will be decided at the nexus of the bilateral and multilateral dimensions of Russian Iranian relations, and the nature of relations with the other key emerging actor, namely the United States. This latter factor has a particularly enormous implication for RussianIranian relations.6 Russia has decidedly elevated the Iranian factor in its regional policy, giving a high prole to this relationship in the domestic politics of foreign policy, and demonstrating its willingness to seriously test its relations with the United States, especially in view of Washington's serious concerns over transfer of nuclear and missile technology to Iran.7 RussianIranian nuclear cooperation has been the most important testing ground of RussianIranian relations and a focal point of USRussian negotiations since 1995 when Russia and Iran signed a protocol for the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.8 The Israeli stake in the Iranian nuclear project has further pushed the Russian nuclear deal with Iran to the top of the US policy agenda toward Russia and Tel Aviv's bilateral relations with Moscow. The nuclear issue has been subjected to the ebb and ow of Iran's economic limitations, Russia's hesitation, and above all, the impact of the US carrot,9 and stick10 policy to limit RussianIranian nuclear and military ties.11 The Russians have not been completely consistent in their promises of nuclear cooperation with Iran. They have been responsive to US pressure, uctuating from solid promises of not only publicly rejecting US accusations and pressures, and even promises of expansion of nuclear cooperation, to `delay tactics', and even cooperation with the United States, reected most signicantly in Moscow's acquiescence to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report in 112

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September of 2003, in which the IAEA, in a strongly worded document, raised concern about Iranian nuclear activities and demanded Iran's acceptance of the additional `93 + 2' Protocols. The Russian guarded support12 for the IAEA came after intense US lobbying and perhaps more importantly, the European decisions, especially by France and Germany and the EU to support the IAEA report. The EU `cover' was essential for Moscow's support, reecting Russia's willingness to distance itself from Iran when the international consensus is solid, or on the other hand, playing a supportive or neutral role towards Iran when the opposition is fragmented and mostly includes the United States alone. The Russians also continued to play the ne line on the nuclear issue by insisting that the joint nuclear project by Iran in Bushehr, in spite of the IAEA report had no connection with the newly raised concerns over Iran's independent nuclear energy program,13 and thus its continuation as a central Russian commitment towards Iran.14 Nevertheless, the nuclear and military cooperation with Iran will continue, not only because of economic incentives, but also because of the political symbolism attached to these ties. For Russia, they are symbols of an assertive and independent foreign policy, and for Iran, they are a critical barometer of Russia's intentions, and Moscow's desire to maintain Iran as a potential strategic partner in the face of NATO and US expansion, especially in the Caucasus.15 The controversy over Iran's nuclear and missile capability, like many other issues related to Iran, has acquired a life of its own. Independent from Russian Iranian relations, it now serves the interest of a complex web of military industrial and special interest groups who wish to reinvigorate the American strategic defense projects, previously known as SDI, to safeguard the United States against nuclear missiles from `rogue' states such as North Korea and Iran. The debate over Iran's nuclear and missile capabilities, among other `rogue states', provided an opportunity to revisit and eventually to abandon the sacred strategic cow in US and Russian relations, namely the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The rethinking of the role of nuclear weapons in the US nuclear posture and the new `targeting' announced in 2002, further guaranteed the signicance and the longevity of the nuclear and missile problematic in RussianIranian relations, especially in the post-9/11 era.16 Russian military ties with Iran are not signicant in terms of the overall volume of the Russian global arms trade, almost 75 per cent of which is accounted for by China and India.17 Yet the nuclear component of these ties remains signicant. The ongoing Iranian nuclear project, peaceful or not, may not enhance Iran's security, as perceptions, real or imagined, matter most. In the absence of a comprehensive nuclear and missile non-proliferation regime in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, which could include, Iran, but also Israel, India and Pakistan, or a drastic Iranian abandonment of its nuclear program, Russian-built nuclear facilities in Iran, in addition to other `native' facilities, would probably remain a realistic target of preemptive military strikes by the United States and especially Israel. Russia's interests and prestige will be tied to Iran's physical vulnerability. In spite of the military ties, RussianIranian relations are subject to unpredictable and unforeseen challenges and pressures. Iran, for example, will continue to 113

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be concerned with Russia's manipulation of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, its ambiguous, if not hostile policy toward the Iranian vision of the Caspian legal regime,18 its continuous domination of Tajikistan and its abrupt maneuvering of different aspects of the nuclear trade. The policy differences, in fact, have gone beyond the Caucasus and Central Asia and unexpectedly included regional differences in the Balkans. Iran and Russia differed on the Bosnian crisis, where Iran played a relatively important role in helping the Bosnians resist Serbian domination. Iran's military aid to the Bosnian Muslims, in the midst of international sanctions against the warring factions, was not welcomed by Moscow. As in Bosnia, the Kosovo crisis also highlighted Iran's paradoxical relations with Moscow. The mutual condemnation of NATO's intervention could not overshadow Iran's disagreement with Moscow concerning the Serbian atrocities against Kosovar Albanian Muslims. As the self-proclaimed custodian of the Muslim ummah on the one hand, and the avid critic of Western intervention on the other, Iran found itself in an awkward position. Handicapped by its fear of the precedent-setting NATO intervention,19 and the psychological and ideological inability to support the US-engineered policy in Kosovo,20 Iran's Islamic credentials were threatened, both domestically and internationally, as the general Muslim public sympathy lied with NATO's actions against the `Muslim-killing Serbs'. The perceptions of Iran as siding with Pan-Slavic Russia against Muslims, could have been potentially very damaging, as the Muslims of the North Caucasus in Chechnya, Dagestan, Tatarstan and to a lesser extent, Central Asia, saw in the Russian pro-Serbian policy, an expression of the well-entrenched historical animosity of the Slavs against the Muslims.21 Identication of Iran with an `anti-Islamic Russia' could severely complicate Iran's self-image in the region. This is particularly important as the type of activist Islam increasingly emerging especially in Central Asia, is characterized by a new breed of `Talibanism' that both, theologically and politically, has opposed Iranian Islam, and Shi'ism.22 Historically, Soviet Islam, while belonging predominantly to the Sunni tradition, was not particularly hostile to Iran, due partially to the signicance of su tariqahs in the North Caucasus and to a lesser degree in Central Asia, and their spiritual connections with Iranian and Shi'i saints and Imams. Iran's relative silence towards the Russian intervention in Chechnya, had already begun to question the Islamic image of Iran as universal champion of `Islamic cause'; like so many regional and international actors Iran made a strategic choice in dealing with Chechnya as a `domestic' Russian affair, and thus accepting a universal self-imposing paradigm for limited critique of Moscow's brutal campaign in the North Caucasus. Moscow's attitudes toward Kosovo, its clear ethno-religious avor and its reluctance to condemn Serbian atrocities against Kosovo Albanian Muslims23 tested the limitations of the civilizational/religious dialogue that the Iranian clergy and seminaries had initiated with the Russian Orthodox Church in the late 1990s.24 Russia's increasing concern over its own Islamic problem in the North Caucasus and the objections of the Muslim world in general,25 voiced increasingly by Iranian ofcials,26 might have helped to modify Moscow's policy in the Balkans.27 In view 114

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of Western problems with the Muslim world and Iran, Moscow, in spite of the `anti-Islamic' international permissiveness, which emerged in the post-9/11 era, and which has given Moscow a free hand in the North Caucasus, has remained concerned over further loss of prestige in the Muslim world and the potential Islamic backlash at home and abroad. Iran's Bosnian policy had unintentionally, but tellingly, coincided with the US position. Kosovo again underlined another area of RussianIranian tension and not by accident, an unacknowledged area of political convergence of USIranian interests. Iran now occupies an important place in Russian foreign policy, not only in Central Asia and the Caucasus, but also in the Middle East, particularly, in view of the alarming implications of NATO expansion, possible militarization of the Caspian basin and especially direct US military presence in the region, and ties with regional states, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan, which evolved after 9/11. The evolution of Russian policy toward the legal status of the Caspian regime, from an early discursive convergence with the Iranian position in the early 1990s to a triangulation with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan that strongly favored undermining Iranian interests by pushing for a territorial division, underscored the very uid nature of RussianIranian relations. The Russian military maneuver in the Caspian,28 which followed an intense period of disagreement with Iran, signied Moscow's willingness to exploit the Iranian isolation and project Moscow's determination to display occasional coercive diplomacy vis-a-vis Tehran. The common concern over the possible US militarization of the region via the traditional venue of `vital national interests', i.e. the pipelines, while a signicant factor in the convergence of Russian and Iranian strategic threat assessment, did not preclude the attempt at unilateral coercive diplomacy by Moscow. Nevertheless, Russia will carefully watch the extent and the scope of the possible thaw in USIranian relations, a possibility that has gone through signicant ebb and ow especially since the election of reformist President Khatami.29 Perhaps equally signicant, Moscow's policy towards Iran in its systemic dimension will be framed by the nature of Europe's relations with Iran. A closer relationship between the EU and Iran will provide the incentive and the ability, in accordance with the claimed `European identity' of Russian foreign policy and in view of pragmatic balance of power, to more comfortably handle the US displeasure and maintain closer relations with Iran. Conversely, a deterioration of EU relations with Iran, as indicated in the nuclear issue, will provide both the incentive and the cover for a `collective distance' of the international community from Iran and thus Moscow's reluctant, though legitimate, compliance. The nuance of the RussianUSEU triangulation for Moscow is to minimize the bilateral damage of an inconsistent and opportunistic `big' partner in the eyes of the Iranians, and thus to fully exploit the `strategic loneliness' of Iran on a variety of critical regional issues such as the legal regime of the Caspian Sea. While the logic of security dilemma and strategic balance dictates Iran's `partnership' with Russia, Iran's acquired post-revolutionary identity, as a uniquely and `radically independent' country, along with historical mistrust of Russia, and perhaps the 115

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lingering shadow of an eventual `grand deal' with the United States, will continue to make Iran, at best, a `reluctant balancer'. Islamic geopolitics: the `ideational' and securitization of identity The second factor in IranianCentral Asian relations is the impact of Iran's particular characteristics as an Islamic state, specically one with a revolutionary/ revisionist ideology perceived by a host of regional and international actors as destabilizing and threatening. This particular image of Iran has been the central and dening element in shaping its opportunities and constraints, and affects Iranian foreign policy behavior. It is this uniformity in the Iranian image in the eyes of both friends and enemies that has created an inescapable context for Iranian foreign policy in its bilateral or multilateral dimension. Iran's foreign policy, pragmatic or revolutionary, has and will be measured within the connes of the level of sensitivity of other actors toward the geopolitics of the Islamic factor. Central to this geopolitics of the `ideational' factor is, of course, the attitude of the great powers, above all the United States and Russia. US attitudes toward the `Islamic threat' and its containment in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and North Africa, now also includes Central Asia and the Caucasus; a process that preceded 9/11, but that was certainly signicantly intensied by it. Russia has and will continue to consider the Islamic factor as one of the cornerstones of its policy formulations, options and strategies, historically vacillating between the traditional fear of Islamic encirclement and thus temptation for containment and domination, on the one hand, or the inclination for coexistence/cooptation, and thus tactical alliances and manipulation on the other. Given the Islamic character of Central Asia and its linkage with the Middle East and Iran's geographical location and its self proclaimed political Islamic character, the Islamic factor and its impact on shaping Iran's international `identity' has been and will continue to be an important consideration in shaping Iran's position in Central Asia as well. A discussion of the role of Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus is beyond the scope of this paper; what is important here, however, is the role of the `threat' of Islam in shaping the attitudes of multitudes of actors with divergent interests who usually converge on the issue of `containment' of the Islamic and by association, the Iranian threat. Whether Islam is a real `threat' in Central Asia, or whether it is conveniently or mistakenly imagined as such, remains largely irrelevant, as regional and international actors act upon the `Islamic factor' as one of the key threats to their domestic and external security in the post-Soviet period. While the general culture and religious characteristics of Central Asia may point to areas of opportunity and inuence for Iran, the same factors are nurturing resistance and obstaclesa dichotomy that has characterized Iran's policy in the Middle East and the Islamic world in general. This dichotomy originates from the divergent impact of Iran's bilateral relations with other states on the one hand and Iran's real or perceived impact or inuence on social movements (i.e. Islamic activists/groups, etc.) on the other. In Central Asia (in Tajikistan in particular) and 116

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as is the case in Iran's relations with Islamic states elsewhere, the inherent tension between state-to-state relations and state-to-social movement relations will be a continuous source of challenge and opportunity for Iran. This is notwithstanding Iran's repeated assertion of non-involvement in revolutionary Islamic movements or lack of interest in exporting the revolution. Iran's policy toward the role of Islam or Islamic movements in Central Asia is fundamentally pragmatic. Its pragmatism reects Tehran's appreciation of the `underdeveloped' nature of both political and orthodox Islam in Central Asia, the distinctly non-Iranian, non-Shi'i, sources of the Islamic revival and militancy in Central Asia, the strength of the Soviet secular legacy, and above all, the strength of the local and regional coalition that fear of Islam generates. This coalition not only targets Islam as a domestic challenge, but more importantly targets Iran and attempts its isolation. Iran's pragmatism is challenged by a combination of interdependent and mutually reinforcing dynamics, including: (a) the inertia of a self-proclaimed `Islamic metropolis' in Iran (the Umm al-Qora), (b) domestic ideological pressure, and above all, (c) an absence of international and regional mechanisms willing to acknowledge and reward Iran's pragmatism. The absence of any `reward structure' erodes support and legitimacy at home while resulting in the loss of credibility with potential friends abroad.30 Cognizant of its own limitation in exporting its `revolutionary' model and aware of the super-sensitivity of all regional actors, Iran has emphasized the cultural and civilizational, rather than the political aspect of its Islamic credentials. A survey of the content of IranianCentral Asian relations indicates a marked emphasis on cultural ties and activities, which are devoid of a direct political dimension.31 It is hoped that the emphasis on `cultural Islam', will reduce the anxiety of Central Asian states, while reinforcing Iran's uniqueness as an Islamic state.32 In the short run, this shift may not solve the Iranian dilemma; a dilemma that is compounded by the ambiguity of the reward structure of pursuing a pragmatic moderate foreign policy. Pragmatic or revolutionary, Iran continues to have difculty in reaping the benets of the former, while it still feels the overwhelming weight and the baggage of the latter. A pragmatic Iran will still be perceived and treated as revolutionary. The Iranian/Islamic threat is an instrumental force for building consensus, overcoming differences, and making strange bedfellows a political normalcy. Yet, a persistent policy of pragmatism and insistence on culture and dialogue as a serious instrument of foreign policy, especially under Khatami was designed to overcome the ideological baggage of the 1979 revolution. The reformist movement in Iran, and the attempt to synchronize Islam and democracy has to some degree modied the xation on Iran's external post-1979 revolutionary image. The combination of Khatami's normative `revolution' in Iranian domestic polity initiated by the concept of `Islamic civil society' internally, and the `deep detente' and concept of `dialogue of civilizations' externally, undermined to a signicant degree the simplistic, though useful image of Iran as a revisionist/revolutionary state. The inconsistencies of this normative revolution, on the one hand, and the inability or unwillingness of the international system to accommodate and nurture this dynamic on the other hand 117

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have, however, made the recourse to and invocation of the traditional image of Iran by other actors, including the Central Asian states, at times of diplomatic and political need, relatively easy. The global and regional promises of a `reformist Islamic' Iran as a successful model of general emulation remains a distant, if not an unrealistic hope. The global factor: relations with the United States The USIranian hostility, itself a function of the complexity of the Islamic factor, has played a major role in shaping the international relations of Central Asia. In fact, the tension in USIranian relations that has engulfed the politics of the Persian Gulf/Middle East since the 1979 Islamic Revolution has been extended to Central Asia and the Caucasus. Concern over the Islamic/Iranian threat became the conceptual and the policy bridge linking security discussions of Central Asia and the Caucasus with those of the Persian Gulf/Middle East. In a nutshell, through US `agency', Iranian foreign policy has been globalized since the revolution. The post-9/11 `revolution' in US policy towards and relations with Central Asia and the Caucasus added a new and long dreaded strategic component to the virtual triangulation of Iranthe United Statesthe Northern Tier. The Russian acquiescence to the US presence and subsequent unilateral US political and military initiatives is promising to make the United States, Iran's northern neighbor, duplicating, even in more negative fashion, the Iranian condition in the Persian Gulf. The degree to which US preferences and displeasure can decide or inuence regional choices, i.e. advocating distance from Iran, will depend on parallel threat perceptions as well as the level of expectations and realities of rewards for following the US lead. Promises of US direct or indirect economic, political, or even military support can play a major role. As the dynamics of the Azerbaijan oil deal and the drama of the `pipeline schemes', including the BakuCeyhoun, indicate, Washington will not hesitate to go beyond generating atmospheric pressure to overtly intervene politically to undermine or contain Iranian interests and inuence. The post-9/11 era in US policy towards Azerbaijan indicates an elevated level of security cooperation between the two countries under the rubric of the `war on terror' and the protection of US `vital interest' in the region and the increasing language of security in US discourse about the region and the role of Azerbaijan.33 USIranian hostility would also affect relations between Iran and Azerbaijan, and will be an important element in affecting Iranian policy in the Caucasus as a whole. If Azerbaijan is perceived as directly pursuing a Washington-inspired policy vis-a-vis Iran, IranianAzeri relations could become the most complex, if not explosive, in the region. The critical nature of this relationship and the mutual cautiousness of Tehran and Baku is the `corrective' that has so far acted as the modifying factor and the energy preventing a strategic breakout. As the most outspoken critic of Iran in Central Asia, Uzbekistan perceives its 118
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ambiguous, if not hostile, attitude towards Iran as both an instrument of domestic control against the oppositionwhich has been branded `religious extremist' and as a useful vehicle for rapprochement with the United States. USUzbek relations, which had been frozen because of Washington's dissatisfaction over slow economic reforms and political repression, showed marked improvement since the mid 1990s and received a signicant boost after 9/11 and the intensication of military ties with the United States on the `war on terror'. The tension in UzbekIranian relations, which followed the reports of President Karimov's support for the US trade embargo against Iran in the 1990s,34 was just another indication of the continuous difculty between Tashkent and Tehran, and the enduring impact of USIranian relations on Iranian foreign policy in Central Asia.35 It is interesting to note that the Uzbek construction of the threat perception on the usual band-wagoning with global or US discourse, shifted to include the terms `Taliban', `Wahabism' and `Al-Qaeda' to reect the change in prognostication of ideological and political threat in the post 9/11 erathus leading to expectations of a shift away from mixing the ideational argument from Shi'i Iran. Tashkent, nevertheless like other capitals in the region, remains ready to tap into prevailing, though uctuating, discursive variations on the Iranian threat. This conceptual opportunism and rhetorical permissiveness in threat assessment has managed to maintain room for a diplomatic political correctness that characterizes the nuanced policy towards Iran since the emergence of the reformists in the Iranian political scene and Khatami's presidency; a nuance which has now become characteristic of relations between the new independent states of Central Asia and the Caucasus and Iran. The signicance of the US factor in shaping regional attitudes towards Iran also underscores the impact of any serious uctuation, either positive or negative, on Iran's relations with the United States. The guarded optimism of the early years of Khatami's presidency in an opening with the US and eventual `normalization' has been overtaken by the failed expectation of the short, though promising, rapprochement at the removal of the Taliban in the immediate post-9/11 era and the continuous intensication of conict with Iran over other critical issues such as the IsraeliPalestinian crisis, terrorism, post-Saddam Iraq and not least of all the looming nuclear issue. An intense USIran conict will worsen Iran's relations with the region. Some, like Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, might be tempted to engage in deeper strategic relations with the United States against Iran, while others such as Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Armenia will make varying attempts at mutual accommodation. Conversely, a normalization of USIran relations will have a far reaching and dialectical impact. It will remove both the tempting `reward structure' of anti Iranian policy (or distance from Iran), thus de-leveraging the region vis-a-vis Washington and Tehran, and removing the unnatural and counterproductive weight of a policy based on `avoiding' Iran, which has affected a host of regional and international issues, including among others the question of access to energy. The discussion of the nature of USIranian relations and the problems of its 119

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normalization is beyond the scope of this paper. Sufce it to say that such `normalization' demands a new political discourse, which does not equate `normalization' with friendship, let alone with `alliance'; a normalization that reects convergence of national interests at least on selective but important issues, if not on long-term structural dynamics. A key element of almost a quarter century of USIran hostility has been the ideological nature of the conict; not just among the Iranians, but the seldom-discussed role of the `ideational' in deciding US policy towards Iran, especially in the post-Soviet world. The US self-image as a triumphant neoliberal entity bent upon seeing and reinventing the world in its own image, especially under the Clinton team, and then in its post-9/11 neoconservative reformulation under Bush, has played a critical role in shaping US foreign policy towards particularly vulnerable countries with `revisionist/rogue' ideologies who either have lost the battle of ideas and are struggling with transition, i.e. Russia, or those like Iran who still harbor the `illusion' of hanging on to `antiquated' non-western ideas. The United States has shown remarkable propensity toward believing and acting on the assumption that normalization with former and current ideological enemies cannot take place on the basis of a pragmatic national interestof realist argument varietiesbut rather, is predicated on sustained and veriable signs of the `transition' of the identity of the enemies (i.e. regime change), approximating a mirror image of the US self. `Transition is a notion rooted in the U.S. ego', noted Stephen Cohen commenting on US policy towards Russia.36 Morganthau's `autonomous' state has acquired an identity, which does not easily lend itself to a rational ahistorical denition of national interest. At the altar of this ideational approach, pragmatic US political and economic interestsand with that, the longterm interests of the region are being undermined; the similarity, especially with the earlier Iranian foreign policy attitudes, has been remarkable. No other case is more illustrative of this than the US policy in the Caspian, where preoccupation with the ideational rather than the pragmatic, transitionology rather than accommodation, political calculations rather than economic rationale, drives Washington's policy; the critics of a Marxian analysis of US foreign policy could take heart in US Caspian policy. While domestic US constituencies such as oil companies, multinationals and their political and `academic' lobbies have pushed for the most pragmatic and economically feasible policies, i.e. to include Iran in the networks of pipelines,37 the US administrations since the Soviet collapse have opted for exclusion of Iran at all costs. In addition to frustrating the US oil companies,38 the policy has not only generated economically questionable alternative pipeline scenarios, but has more seriously set in motion a geopolitical dynamic that perhaps unintentionally could lead to a new EastWest fault line and the re-emergence of a new `great game' in the former Soviet South. Increasingly, political and military patterns of USNATO interests, such as expansion of military ties with the region through the Partnership for Peace Program, joint military exercises and naval visits, have been complimented with the clear gravitation of Azerbaijan and Georgia toward closer politicomilitary ties with the United States and NATO. This emerging line-up has 120

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been gradually supplemented by symbolic, or at times more serious Israeli Turkish and IsraeliAzerbaijan irtation with `mini informal alliances', thus connecting the Middle Eastern geopolitical and ideological dynamics with equally complicated security systems in the Caucasus.39 In Central Asia, the seeds of closer politico-military ties between the United States/NATO and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have been planted rst through peacekeeping varieties and schemes, and more frontally with post-9/11 US military bases and access. The symbiosis of pipeline geopolitics and geoeconomics with ideology has provided the context for the emergence of a new, uid and ambiguous `great game'. This context reveals the paradox of ofcial US-stated policy towards the Caspian Basina policy that conceptually and originally was designed to prevent the new great game, but is ironically, operationally constructing one. Commenting on the new great game, Strobe Talbot, the former US Assistant Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration, echoed the prevailing public sentiment of the previous and subsequent administration when he chastised the idea of the `great game' and argued, that `Our goal is to avoid and actively to discourage that atavistic outcome. In pondering and practicing the geopolitics of oil, let's make sure that we are thinking in terms appropriate to the 21st century, and not the 19th. Let's leave Rudyard Kipling and George McDonald Fraser, where they belong on the shelves of historical ction. The Great Game, which starred Kipling's Kim and Fraser's Flashman, was very much of the zero-sum variety. What we want to help bring about is just the opposite. We want to see all responsible players in the Caucasus and Central Asia be winners.'40 In the post-Soviet world, and in the 21st century, Iran has yet to qualify for membership in the US-dened `club of responsible players' and as such, and notwithstanding the `mixed signals' in the last several years,41 is subjected to the modern variations of Kipling's `19th century ction'. The short lived USIran collaboration in Afghanistan against the Taliban after 9/11, both strategically via the Northern alliance and diplomatically, via the Bonn process could have had, especially given the proximity and the signicance of Afghanistan in generating instability in Central Asia, a lasting impact on facilitating the normalization of USIran relations; that opening however did not survive the domestic and international complexity of the mutual hostility. The added political and ideological energy in the maintenance of this hostility is the impact of the IsraeliPalestinian conict and the resultant IranIsraeli hostility, and the role of this factor in both public space and at the interstate level in shaping the mutual attitudes between Iran and the United States. It would not be an exaggeration to argue that USIran bilateral hostility has increasingly been triangulated with Israel's concerns and preferences, affecting a wide range of issues and dynamics, including not only nuclear proliferation, but even regional issues such as energy, and Iran's relations with Russia and with the states of the Caucasus and Central Asia. Iran's position as a linkage state between the Middle East and Central Asia has thus been further conrmed. 121

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Iran's centrality: the role of self-image The fourth factor shaping Iran's policy in Central Asia and the Caucasus is Iran's self-image as a central player in the region's international dynamics.42 This selfimage is rooted in Iran's perception of its assets and liabilities. Iran's unique assets include its geographical contiguity with the former Soviet Union (Iran has land borders with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkmenistan and sea borders with Russia and Kazakhstan); its natural role as the key transit link between Central Asia and the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and the open sea; and its political importance as a major actor in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Iran thus sees itself as a nexus and center of regional economic and political activities. This centrality, in addition to Iran's other assets, also reects appreciation of its resultant vulnerabilities. Concern over territorial integrity, a traditional preoccupation, has now been strongly reinforced by the emergence of surrounding states with active and signicant ethno-territorial problemsproblems magnied by the multi-ethnic nature of Iran itself. A prime regional refugee hub, Iran hosted more than 4 million refugees, 14 per cent of its population in the 1980s and early 1990s, as a result of conicts on its western border (Iraq) and on its eastern border (Afghanistan). (More recently, Iran has received refugees from the North, including Azerbaijan and to a lesser extent from Tajikistan.) Regional conicts are a major challenge to Iranian security and a direct consequence of its central location. This centrality has generated certain perspectives and attitudes in Iranian foreign policy toward Central Asia, which are not very different from those adopted toward the Persian Gulf. These attitudes and perspectives include an anti-containment strategy (a desire to undermine any attempt at Iran's isolation) and a proactive diplomacy to enhance Iran's political, security, and economic strength and leverage. Iran's self vision of centrality is best reected in its determination to expand bilateral ties with the new independent states as well as constructing and participating in multilateral regional initiatives. Bilateral ties The dynamics of Iran's bilateral ties with the new states of the Transcaucasus and Central Asia are characterized by variations in propensity, interests and accomplishments indicating differentiations in priorities, opportunities and constraints. The geographical contiguity, and ongoing and seemingly intractable ethnic conict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the cross-border ethnic makeup of Azerbaijan and Iran, Azerbaijan's increasing tendency for closer relations with states unfriendly to Iran and the issue of energy (i.e. Caspian oil), make Iran's relations with Armenia and especially with Azerbaijan, potentially the most explosive. The ethnic and religious afnity between Azerbaijan and Iran has not been enough to prevent the increasing difculties in bilateral relations and a warmer relationship between Iran and Armenia. Mutual suspicions and accusations regarding interference into each 122

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other's internal affairs43, Iran's security anxiety over Azerbaijan's interests in developing close ties with the United States and especially Israel,44 the exclusion of Iran from the Caspian oil deal and ethnic ambitions towards Iranian Azerbaijan on the one hand, and the Azeri accusations of Iran's support for an Islamic movement and Armenia's military effort, on the other, have overshadowed occasional though serious attempts at improving the relationship, such as summits, visits by heads of states, the signing of friendship treaties and security cooperation.45 Relations with Armenia remain in much better shape, especially in view of AzeriIranian tension, RussianIranian partnership and Iran's historical ties with the Armenian community. Iran remains concerned over the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and therefore has opposed the full self-determination for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. (In the conference of Organization of Islamic States in Tehran, 1998, Iran pushed for a resolution that emphasized Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.) An Armenian hardline position pushing for full independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, may complicate IranianArmenian relations.46 Iran's opposition to the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh is predicated on Iran's concern over precedent-setting territorial changes on the Iranian frontier along ethnic lines. The positions of the United States and Iran on a realistic solution to the NagornoKarabakh problem are similar, although they may differ on the monitoring mechanism. Iran would prefer a regionally organized, or UN peacekeeping force, to NATO's peacekeeping forces modeled along the Dayton option in Bosnia. The presence of a small, but historically popular Armenian minority in Iran, Armenia's carefully implemented doctrine of positive neutrality, reected in good relations with Iran and avoidance of band-wagoning with anti-Islamic, anti-Iranian regional and global discourse (in spite of the US pressure), along with accommodating RussianIranian relations, have helped to construct a complex context within which IranianArmenian relations have developed and survived the obvious pressure for closer ties with Azerbaijan, especially in view of the NagornoKarabakh conict47 and its damaging impact on IranAzeri relations. Of all Central Asian states, Iran's relations with Turkmenistan have been, comparatively, the most expansive and successful, as the two states have adopted a policy of accommodation and security neutrality.48 Iran takes comfort in Turkmenistan's `neutral' security policy and its hesitant attitudes towards the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), in spite of long-term ties with Russia. Economic ties, especially in the areas of energy, pipelines and strategic transportation links49 have underscored these relations. The fact that Khatami chose Turkmenistan as the rst country to visit, only underscores the signicance of AshgabatTehran ties. Iran, nevertheless, will remain sensitive towards any signicant changes in the Turkmen neutrality doctrine, especially in view of the US pressure in Ashgabat to look for alternatives other than Iran for its pipeline projects. In this context, Turkmenistan's connection with Afghanistan and Pakistan will potentially be of great signicance.50 Tajikistan, for reasons of both ideology and culture, has occupied a unique place in Iran's Central Asian policy and as such will continue to remain a permanent 123

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xture.51 Iran not only sees Tajikistan as the only Persian/Iranian enclave in the Central Asian Turkic milieu, and thus worthy of attention, but it has been a relatively successful showcase for Iranian mediation strategy and attempts at centrality. Iran's success, however, is tamed by the continuous Russian attempt at monopolizing domination,52 the ambiguity of the attitudes of the current regime towards Tehran and Iran's own hesitation about a deeper emotive, cultural commitment to its civilizational brothers. While cultural cooperation, especially in the area of language has been expanding, the economic and security assistance has been limited. The `defense agreement' between the two countries remains probably more symbolic than substantive.53 A more substantive politico-security link between the two countries may have to wait for a modied Russian presence and a more unied Tajik leadership which may look into Iran as an important source of security support against its powerful neighbor, Uzbekistan. This scenario, in addition to the Russian factor, has to await the short and long term impact of the post 9/11 era on the region and US security ties with Tajikistan. Early Tajik expectations for an idyllically close relationship, ethno-culturally and politically, with Iran, and the hope to be treated `as Israel is by the United States' have not materialized.54 The Tajik civil war, immediately after independence, deprived Iran from an opportunity to deal with its civilizational brothers in a `normal' setting. Iran had to take sides in the civil war, supporting the opposition against the Dushanbe regime since 1992.55 In view of Iran's increasing emphasis on its own culture, which of course normatively attempts to accommodate a reformist Islam, as a prevailing content of its domestic and foreign policy identity, Tajikistan could have a much more signicant place in future Iranian regional policy. The prerequisite for such a prominent role for Tajikistan requires a more serious intra-civilizational discourse, closer role of Iran in political support for Tajikistan in view of its regional challenges, and especially more serious material support by Iran which, given expectations has not been signicant.56 Iran's relations with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are underlined by a gradual and patient improvement since 1992, overcoming the earlier ideological political barriers of `the Islamic threat' (especially during the intense period of the Tajik civil war). The gradual acceptance of Iran as an important player, particularly in view of its efforts in mediation in Tajikistan and its role in containing the threat from Afghanistan, especially during the Taliban era and its subsequent actions in facilitating the downfall of the Taliban,57 has been complimented by gradual improvement in trade relations with Iran. Iran has become a source of affordable consumer products for both republics, and above all an important outlet to the open sea, especially for oil producing Kazakhstan, which in recent years has shown interest in an oil swap with Iran. This is a strategy to circumvent the exclusion of Iran from the pipeline and energy transit routes, and has resulted in Tehran's unilateral investment in building oil terminals and pipelines.58 It is interesting to note that Kazakhstan's Caspian oil was among the rst to nd its way, though with inconsistency, to external markets, namely Iran itself!59 Iran's relations with Uzbekistan are among the most complicated, if not difcult. Uzbekistan's regional ambitions (viewed in Tehran as `instinctively 124

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imperialist'), its increasingly close relations with the United States (viewed in the early 1990s by Washington as `the island of stability'), and its `championing' of the containment policy have overshadowed occasional improvements in diplomatic ties with Iran. Closer ties between Uzbekistan and the United States have inadvertently contributed to an improvement of relations between Russia and Iran in Central Asia and more specically in Tajikistan. Uzbek regional ambitions in Central Asia, its not at times so visible but deeply serious and multi-dimensional problem with Iran's friend, Tajikistan, that involves not only geopolitics, but deeply felt existential ethno-cultural issueswill remain potentially serious problems. Multilateral response Two themes in Iran's anti-containment and proactive diplomatic posture are essential to its foreign policy in Central Asia and the Caucasus, namely, regional multilateralism and diplomacy of conict resolution and mediation. Iran's multilateral policy is reected in its promotion or creation of regional organizations such as the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)60 and the Caspian Sea Littoral States Organization, and multilateral economic projects focusing on transit and energy.61 Building transit linkages with Central Asia through an expanding shipping line in the Caspian Sea and more signicantly through the railroad with Turkmenistan (SarakhsTezhen), will be a signicant component of Iran's multilateral and regionalist approach toward Central Asia. This policy is also reected in regional cooperation in the areas of energy and the transport of oil and gas to Europe via multilateral pipeline projects such as the one involving Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey.62 This multilateralism has also been expressed in Iran's initiative and participation in several regional attempts at `triangulations', such as IranTurkmenistan Armenia, IranGreeceArmenia, IranTurkmenistanIndia, IranGeorgia Armenia, IranUkraineTurkmenistan, etc. These multilateral relations are designed to: (a) provide a regional cross-current network that will hopefully provide Iran with economic benets, (b) solidify Iran's role as an integral part of the regional community, (c) confront attempts to isolate Iran, thus complicating the establishment of anti-Iranian security alliances, and making containment unlikely or unworkable. Iran's interest in multilateralism and triangulation mechanisms is designed also to serve Iran's geopolitical calculation in balancing potential regional challenges. For example, closer ties with Greece and India are hoped to leverage Iran's position vis-a-vis Turkey and Pakistan. Iran's regional rivalry with Turkey is usually viewed as a signicant factor shaping Iranian foreign policy and Central Asia's international relations. What is not clear, however, is the operational or real signicance and substance of this competition. While both Ankara and Tehran have jockeyed for a position in the region, given their limitations and the enormous needs of Central Asia and the Caucasus, the region has so far accommodated both, and avoided the stark choice of choosing between the two. At times the competition seems more ethereal than 125

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detrimental and more the reection of the anxiety of two regional newcomers, which the new states and the big powers willingly manipulate. Geopolitically, the exaggerated sense of self-importance of both countries has been modied or tamed by the reality of their practical limitations and the more salient roles of Russia, and increasingly the United States in the region. Ideologically, while the issues of `competitive' Turkish and Iranian models do have certain relevance, the impact of the ideological competition remains limited. The Central Asian states are not eager to embrace a new `Big Brother' model. Nor do either of these two countries successfully exemplify what they preach; secularism and Islam are not the exclusive domain of either Turkey or Iran. This rivalry has also diminished Turkey's and Iran's leverage vis-a-vis the United States and Russia respectively. Fearing this, and in spite of pressure from their great power partners, Ankara and Tehran have engaged in lowering the substance and symbolism of their rivalries, and have increasingly focused on the mutual desire to improve bilateral political and especially economic ties.63 TurkishIranian competition in Central Asia and the Caucasus, was symbolized mostly by rhetorical claims about competitive `Islamic models', and more specically by divergent views over the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and relations towards Azerbaijan and Armenia. This regional competition is nevertheless embedded in the larger bilateral security problems such as the Kurdish question, and ambiguous, but potentially signicant, `strategic' ties between Ankara and Tel Aviv, and its corollary with Washington's strategic goals in the Caucasus; all situated in the emerging role of Azerbaijan and the Caspian as strategic vital national interests of the United States. What makes the TurkishIranian relationship and its regional signicance even more complex is the domestic dynamics of ideological and socio-political change in both countries, especially on the role of Islam and its peaceful `ascendancy' in Turkey and its `reformsecularization' in Iran; a somewhat reverse role that belies the earlier and more conventional regional expectation. Iran's regional rivalry with Pakistan, though more subtle, has thus far had a more signicant regional implication. Pakistan's attempt to present itself and its political allies in Afghanistan as a primary source of Western access to energy in the region led to intensication of its support for the Taliban in Afghanistan (a policy tacitly approved by Saudi Arabia and the United States) and even to lobby for closer USTaliban relations in years not too distant from 9/11. While this policy jeopardized Iran's border security in the East and weakened its inuence in Afghanistan, it ironically beneted Iran in Central Asia. The crisis in Talibandominated Afghanistan helped shift, to some degree, the nature of the ideological threat from Iran to the Taliban's `extremist Islam' (i.e. `Saudi-type', `Wahabbi'). It contributed to RussianIranian rapprochement in Tajikistan and weakened the hand of the Uzbeks in their anti-Iranian posture. Iran's uctuating relations with Turkey and Pakistan has prompted Tehran to opt for closer relations with Greece and India (crossing the Huntingtonian civilizational divides!), and in the process involving several regional states, such as Turkmenistan and Armenia, in tri-partite fashion. 126

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Multilateralism also reects Iran's beliefs in its own geographical centrality for extra-regional actors interested in access to Central Asia and the Caucasus. Finally, it reects Iran's insistence in projecting a non-ideological foreign policy, as indicated by emphasis on closer ties with countries of different civilizations and cultures, i.e. Greece, India, Armenia, Georgia, etc. The latter point will be further reinforced in the future as Iran looks into cross-cultural civilizational dialogue and ties as a serious instrument of its foreign policy. The Iranian strategy of conict resolution and mediation diplomacy in Central Asia and the Caucasus is designed to: (a) safeguard against regional conicts affecting Iranian security and their propensity to invite great-power intervention, (b) enhance Iran's prestige and its regional leverage, thereby contributing to Iran's centrality in regional affairs and (c) develop a positive image that neutralizes the complex or negative impact of the `Islamic factor'. Iran's mediation in the two major regional conicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia, i.e. Nagorno-Karabakh and especially Tajikistan, is underscored by the signicance of mediation as a method in promoting Iran's security and political relevance to important regional dynamics. It is interesting to note that Iran's `functionalist/neo-functionalist' approach to overcoming the constraining political and ideological environment of Central Asia has been driven to some extent by the infusion, in recent years, of fresh policy analysis in Iranian ofcial circles inspired by Western functionalist literature.64

Conclusion What frames and directs Iran's foreign policy toward its new northern frontier since the collapse of the Soviet Union? Iran's new identity, its xed and yet uid geopolitical state, combined with the consistent preoccupation of regional and global players with their own interests and with Iran's `real intentions', has helped to establish an internally dynamic and reinforcing paradigm within which both the Iranian foreign policy and the policy towards Iran are decided.

1. Regional stability and border continuity The key normative preoccupation of Iran is the security and the sustenance of the new republic and thus its stake in regional stability. The self-image of being a linkage state, not just geopolitically, but normatively, underscores and derives this preoccupation. The implications of `ethno-territoriality' and regional conicts, and the inviolability of existing regional borders, including those of the new states, have been the critical consideration in Iranian foreign policy thinking. The desire for stability is accompanied by a determination to avoid deliberate or imposed isolation, and to remain involved in regional politics affecting the key dynamics of the region's inter-state relations which have a direct impact on Iranian interests; Iran's centrality is emphasized. 127

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2. Strategic loneliness and self-sufciency Iran by design and by default both regionally and globally is strategically lonely, though not isolated. There is a signicant difference between loneliness and isolation. Loneliness is a complex by-product of Iran's particular normative identity and what this identity has generated in terms of policy choices by Iran and the attitudes of others. Iran is not isolated, as neither its geopolitical reality, nor its economic and normative impact allows its isolation. Major regional issues, must out of necessity pass through the `Iranian factor'. The Russian centric dimension of Iran's regional policy is the by-product of its systemic loneliness. The concern over US domination and pressure, along with contiguous geo-political realities, will thus continue to make Russia a signicant player in Iran's foreign policy towards the new frontier. The attempt at strategic partnership with Russia, however, will continue to be tested by deep-seated historical mistrust and the largely tactical nature of the friendship between Moscow and Tehran in spite of strategic claims. US regional policy will be a major factor affecting Iran's policy and position, especially in the Caspian Basin. The degree of success and difculties in Iranian foreign policy will be to a signicant measure a function of the overall atmospherics of USIranian relations. The most important beneciary of USIran hostility has been Russia, a great international and regional power, who has milked this hostility without traditional Cold War rhetoric, and while maintaining improved relations with the United States, has diminished Iran's regional maneuverability on a host of issues including the Caspian legal regime. Russian policy towards Iran and the United States is informed by a maximizing strategy characterized by tactical exibility, small concessions, the use of rhetoric and bold language,65 and endless diplomacy as a substitute for critical or radical decisions.66 Russia, while not opposed to a reduction in USIranian tension, will remain a potential loser in the event of a signicant positive transformation in USIran relations. RussianIranian relations are also, more than ever before, situated in the context of EU relations with Iran and RussianEuropean regional and global considerations. A paradoxical framework has emerged in which a closer EUIranian relationship, especially in view of NATO's enlargement, while diminishing Russian leverage vis-a-vis Iran, and raising concern in Moscow,67 will nevertheless help the Russians avoid accommodation of US anti-Iranian pressure. The EU Iran rapprochement will constitute a major systemic crack in the containment of Iran, thus the reduction of the price, both normative and material, in ignoring or circumventing US pressure. The impact of USIran relations on the region has and will continue to be equally, if not more consequential. A serious conict between the two countries involving coercive politico-military initiativesespecially those involving US military ties in the regionwill force tough choices for most and especially for neighboring Azerbaijan. Conversely, a signicant reorientation of USIran relations will have a systemic region-wide impact: It would (a) diminish 128

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Russia's historical dominance and (b) increase US leverage vis-a-vis the regional states, especially in areas of political reform and democracywhich have so far remained hostage to security considerations, and thus reverse the leverage of the regional states vis-a-vis the United States. The signicance of USIran relations has been magnied since the 9/11 tragedy and the subsequent US response. Most signicant has been the intermingling of two interrelated but unexpected developments affecting USIran relations after 9/ 11. First, two major regional challenges to Iran's national security, challenges partially of the US making, namely Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Taliban Afghanistan, have both been removed by a swift US military surgery. Second, and as a consequence, in terms of an abstract regional balance of power and position, Iran has emerged in its best shape since the 1979 revolution and the Soviet collapse. Yet, practically, Iran and for that matter, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, have a permanent new neighbor called the United States, a neighbor that has transformed its over-the horizon, proxy-based presence into a direct political and physical presence not only in the Persian Gulf, but also in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The US proximity to Iran, in spite of Iran's new power position, confronts Iran with its most challenging foreign policy environment since the inception of the new republic. The US and Iran have gradually exhausted the space for proxy wars between them, and now stand on the threshold of either further and more serious confrontation or reconciliation. The eventual direction of this relationship, given Iran's geopolitical centrality, will be of a global and regional signicance, a region that will include not only the Middle East, but also Central Asia and the Caucasus.

3. The paradoxical region As it stands, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the new region in Iran's northern frontier, especially the Caspian, has been at best a mixed blessing for Iran. Iran's hope to make the Caspian a demilitarized `sea of peace and friendship'68 has gradually given way to increasing US presence and Russia's determination to remain the sole guarantor of security in the region.69 The potential for gainthough signicanthas been balanced by multiple challenges: no signicant economic benets, potential environmental disaster of colossal proportion exacerbated by the oil rush,70 gradual securitization (and militarization) of its Northern border and unnecessary commitment of national energy to prevent or play in a new `great game' of little positive consequence. In this context, the growing pessimism regarding the economic feasibility of the Caspian energy projects, along with the modied projections of its available resources and thus the diminishing economic signicance of the Caspian, might ironically be Iran's saving grace.71 Yet, in the post 9/11 world where so far `the political' has dened `the economics', this relatively modest role of Caspian energy in global energy calculation might eventually pail in its geopolitical and ideational signicance. 129

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4. Foreign policy identity Iran's Islamic identity will continue to have a major place in shaping its opportunities and constraints. The effort to deideologize its Islam and `culturalize'/'civilizationize' its foreign policy will continue to inform the ideational dimension of Iran's foreign policy. As the new independent states dig into their past to construct a history for their present, the Iranians hope that genuine archeology will lead to discovery of a signicant Iranian cultural heritage and contribution and thus embracement, not containment of Iran.72 Furthermore, the signicant domestic changes in Iran, the overall detente in Iran's regional policies, and the pragmatic orientation of Iran's policy in the region from the beginning which stands in contrast with its more ideological policy in the Middle Eastare all hoped to reshape the ideological image and the role of the ideational thus leading to the eventual de-securitization of Iran's foreign policy identity. 5. The interregional linkage state and three regional meta dynamics Although the Persian Gulf has traditionally preoccupied Iranian foreign policy makers, Central Asia and the Caucasus have gradually gained real signicance for Iranian leaders. While in the South, smaller weak states, oil, great power presence and ideology have made Iran a signicant actor in the Persian Gulf/Middle East, the emerging weak nation-states in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the new gold rush for Caspian oil, the inevitable great power competition, and again, ideology, have also made Iran a signicant player in the North. Iran's foreign policy in the next century, like that of so many other actors in this region, will be decided at the crossroads of three intermingling meta dynamics and structures: the international political economy of access to energy, the geopolitical balance of power and the geocultural interaction of Islam, Western modernity and post-Soviet legacy. The enormity of the challenge facing Iran cannot be exaggerated. Squeezed between the two signicant sub-regions of the Caspian and the Persian Gulf, Iran will be the linkage interregional state; as all key dynamics of the region, energy, politics and ideology, will in one way or the other, by design or default, go through Iran. 6. Foreign policy and legitimacy These interactive external dynamics and structures, however, are embedded in the complex web of domestic polity and above all the question of regime legitimacy. This is particularly crucial in the context of the two paradoxical but living organisms of the Iranian paradigmatic predicament mentioned above, namely the symbiosis of strategic loneliness and regional centrality; a unique medium power state with no strategic partner and at the crossroads and center of all major dynamics of the most volatile region in the world. This demanding context requires self-sufciency in foreign policy, and thus an internally generated resource base. The core value to this self reliance will be the degree of domestic legitimacy with its ever increasing ties to a notion of democracy and progress. This 130

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is even more so as the social discourse of the post-Cold War and post-9/11 eras in international relations, whether genuine or not, has been dominated by the language, if not the ideology of democracy, liberalism and reform, especially by the Western world and especially by the United States, and claims and counter claims of compatibility of Islam with democracy. Iran's complex and difcult, though at times promising experimentation with a symbiosis of Islam and democracy especially since 1997, notwithstanding the signicance of external structures, remains one of the most critical factors in shaping Iran's international and regional opportunities and constraints. Iran's material/physical assets and vulnerabilities, in the end, remain at the mercy of the nature and the scope of its normative and soft power, not just externally, but primarily and intrinsically internally. Lonely and thus self-reliant, domestic legitimacy remains key to Iran's exercise of power, and protection and achievement of her national interests and objectives. Whether Iran's post revolutionary elite in the middle of the rst decade of the new century is cognizant of this core value, and not just rhetorically, remains to be seen.
Notes and references
1. The term Central Asia will be used throughout the paper to refer not only to the states in Central Asia, but also to Iran's neighbors in the Caucasus and the Caspian basin. 2. Tehran Times, 8 January 1990, p 2. The Iranian press was replete with warnings to Gorbachev about the trappings of too close a relationship with the USA and the danger of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. For an academic overview of the Soviet collapse from an Iranian perspective, see Elahe Koolaee, Ettehaad-e Shoravi: Az Takveen taa Froopaashi (The Soviet Union: From Formation to Disintegration) Tehran: Daftar Motale'aat Beinolmelal, 1376 (Tehran: Institute for Political and International Studies, 1997), especially, pp 246277. 3. The `strategic partnership' has been a repeated theme used with varieties of intensity and ambiguities since the collapse of the Soviet Union and especially from the mid-1990s. In the words of the then Iranian UN Ambassador and current Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharazi, `Our relations with Russia are excellent and are of a strategic nature', cited in `Iran's Caspian Policy', statement of Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations at the First International Conference on `Caspian Oil, Gas, and Pipeline: Seizing Opportunities: The Second Persian Gulf', New York, 29 May 1997. 4. In this context, the issue of Russia's arms sales to Iran and the transfer of so-called `dual use' technology, especially in the area of nuclear technology, given the US sensitivity, will remain a complex one; it is an issue shaped by the interaction of multiple factors and dynamics such as its impact on USRussian relations, its nancial and political utility for Russia, and perhaps above all the level of Iran's sensitivity. Iran's reaction to President Yeltsin's announcement of no more sales of arms to Iran during his trip to Washington in October 1994 was remarkably low-key; a response that among others reected Iranian uncertainty about Russia's ultimate commitment and also the complexity of accommodating Russia's uctuating rhetoric and technique to neutralize US criticism. Moscow's subsequent attitudes, including the `withdrawal' from the Gore Chernomyrdin understanding, non-consequential summitries both during the Clinton and to some extent during the Bush presidency only reinforced the complexity and uidity of Russian diplomatic commitments and posture. The latest display of this trait emerged out of the BushPutin summit and talk in Camp David in September of 2003, where Putin while giving the indication of unanimity with the USA on the nuclear issue, maintained a subtle but substantive distance from the USA on both language and key US demands. For Putin and Bush joint press conference see New York Times, 27 September 2003, p 1. 5. Iran's coastal regions will be among the most affected by the current environmental problem in the Caspian and a potentially disastrous zone in the event of an oil-related environmental crisis. See Rory Cox and Doug Norlen, `The great ecological game: will Caspian Sea oil development lead to environmental disaster?', Pacic Environment and Resource Center, January 1997, in Turkistan Newsletter, Vol 3, 5 March 1999; and especially on the link between the legal regime and the sustainability of environmental vitality of the Caspian from an Iranian perspective, see Reza Dasht Ara, `Regim-e Hooghoghi Daryaay-e Khazar va Hefz-e Moheet-

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e Zeest-e Daryaee' (The Caspian legal regime and protection of the marine environment', Iran, 31 July 2001, p 11. See Mohiaddin Mesbahi, `Iran's emerging partnership with Russia', Middle East Insight, Summer 1995. While media reports, especially since the mid 1990s have on occasion indicated that the USA and Russia have reached serious agreements to block Russian technology transfer to Iran, Russia's commitment to uphold all of the promises has usually remained uncertain, subject to interpretation and revisitation. Compare for example the report on USRussian negotiations regarding Iran in 1998, New York Times, 23 January 1998, p A6, with the report on the BushPutin summit and press conference in the New York Times, 27 September 2003, p 1. While in the latter the summit showed indications of a closer USRussian position, especially in view of the critical report by the IAEA in September of 2003, Russia continued to leave room for separating its own nuclear project in Bushehr from both the letter and the spirit of the IAEA report and especially the US attitude on the project. The US Congress resolution in May 2004 calling for tougher measures against Iran by the world and especially by Russia was designed to make a `clean bill of health' for Iran by IAEA more difcult. Moscow's eventual decision as to the degree of its cooperation will continue to be subjected to IAEA report, its tone and scope. A report that the EU can live with, but the USA will object to, will probably provide Russia with adequate coverage to expand cooperation with Iran in completion of existing nuclear projects, in spite of Washington displeasure. For reports on the Bushehr plant, see, `RussiaIran protocol provides evidence of discussions, but no rm agreement on sale of centrifuge plant for uranium enrichment', National Resources Defense Council, News Release, 10 May 1995; Izvestya, 13 January 1995, p 3; `Iran, Russia agree on $800 million nuclear plant deal', The Washington Post, 9 January 1995, p 18; `In Russia', in Post-Soviet Nuclear and Defense Monitor No 2, 16 January 1995, p 12. During the meeting between Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister, Victor Chernomyrdin on 10 March 1998, the USA proposed an increase in Russia's quotas for commercial launches using Russian missiles, booster rockets for foreign satellites with US components in exchange for Russia `axing the Bushehr power plant' and the Russian guarantee of terminating missile technology transfer to Iran. The Russian Prime Minister reportedly had argued, `that Russia has cooperated and will continue to cooperate with Iran . are clean in this respect. We never overstep any limits with regards to missile technology and nuclear matters . Everything we do in the spirit of cooperation with Iran, we do within the framework of what is permissible.' For this and a discussion of the Russian view on the US attempt, during the Clinton era, to offer incentives to Moscow for abandoning nuclear cooperation with Iran, see the article by Valeriya Sycheva, `A bird in the hand, is worth two in outer space', Segodnya, 11 March 1998, p 6. For a sample of the US efforts by the Bush Administration, including a visit by Spencer Abraham, US Secretary of Energy, in changing Russia's position and repeated Russian reassurances and reservation see, `Russian Nuclear Minister to discuss Iran, proposes sweeping cooperation deal with US during visit,' Associated Press, 6 May 2002, in <wyg://39/htt:// story.news.yahoo.com/p_p_wo_en_ge/Russia_us_nuclear_30&printer=1> `Russia to build a second nuclear reactor for Iran,' Agence France-Press, 26 July 2002, in <http://www.nyt.com/2002/07/26/ international/26AFP-Russ.html?> Andrew Jack, `US attacks Russia over Iran `arms' program', Financial Times, August 2002; `Political factors to dene Iranian nuclear ties to Moscow', in <http:// asia.news.yahoo.com/020802/aafp/020802154636top.html>, 2 August 2002; Peter Baker, `Russians assure U.S. on Iran: nuclear reactor plan is called theoretical,' Washington Post, 3 August 2002, p A13; An Iranian reaction could be found in, `Neshast-e bi Natijey-e Keremlin' (The failed meeting in Kremlin), Iran, 2 August 2002, p 1; and `Taharrok-e Naakaam-e Amreeka'ihaa Baray-e Man'e Hamkaari Roossyeh baa Iran' (Failed US activity in preventing cooperation between Russia and Iran', Iran, 2 August 2002; and Hayt-e No, 3 August 2002; p 7. The US pressure on Russia which has been intensifying through a sustained lobby, especially on the congressional level by the Israelis has included repeated threats of US congressional disapproval of aid to Russia and the Administration's economic and nancial sanctions against Russian research and manufacturing companies with militarily related ties to Iran. See `Clinton penalizing 7 Russian enterprises', New York Times, 29 June 1998, p A14. For a joint expression of USIsraeli concern underscored by US ofcials during the meeting of USIsraeli Joint Parliamentary Committee, see `State Department ofcial warns of Iran threat', Associated Press, 17 September 2003, in <http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmp1=story2&cid=540&u=/ap/20030917/ap_on_re_mi_ea/us_iran_1> Russian research and technical institutes such as Scientic Research and Design Institute for Power Technology (known as Nikiet) and Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology have been the focus of US pressure and Russian concessions, Yevgeny Adamov, Russian Minister for Atomic Energy and former director of Nikiet, announced that the Institute had abandoned the plan to sell Iran the research reactor and Mendeleyev's contact had been limited to delivery of unclassied information regarding heavy water technology. This, the Russian Minister hoped, would clear the way for lifting of US sanctions against Russian research institutes; though not sure the deal would bypass `some narrow-minded' and `angry people in the

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Department of State'. See Michael Gordon, `Russia to offer U.S. deal to end Iran nuclear aid', New York Times, 17 March 1999, p A12. The post-9/11 era and the subsequent `axis of evil' speech by President Bush, brought enormous and unprecedented pressure on Moscow by Washington to break its nuclear cooperation with Iran especially during the 20032004 period; Moscow continued to uctuate between `war of words' with Washington and delaying its cooperation with Iran at the same time. Russian diplomacy during the controversial debate on the IAEA report in September of 2003 was shrouded in some ambiguity, while some reports indicate eager Russian acquiescence to the US and European perspective, other reports, including comments by Iranian ofcials, indicate Moscow's at least somewhat lukewarm attempt to prevent the critical direction of the IAEA September 2003 report. See for example, the important interview by Mohsen Aminzadeh, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Oceania, who referred to Russia's and some members of the non-aligned movement, or `good efforts, though with very limited maneuver' during the IAEA debate. See Yas-e No, 23 September 2003, p 2. For a more negative perspective on Russia's role, see Aftab Yazd, 23 September 2003, p 11. Reportedly, the Russians, after the IAEA report in September 2003, somewhat qualied this distinction and indicated that the completion of the Bushehr nuclear facilities could only be stopped by a UN decision, i.e. a UN resolution which, according to some Russian ofcials could only come after the UN would provide sufcient indications as to the violations of international regulations in this project. This Russian `qualication' was a compliment to an earlier decision to postpone the completion of nal negotiations with Iran on the last stages of the construction to the `near future'. For an Iranian reection on this, see `Russia: stopping the construction of the Bushehr power plant will be a UN decision', Aftab Yazd, 21 September 2003, p 2. The Russian Atomic Energy Minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, after the September 2003 IAEA report indicated that there are no reasons for stopping nuclear cooperation with Iran added that `the construction of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr will be continued . Under the IAEA chapter, nuclear powers [are] obliged to help other states develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes . The nuclear power plant in Bushehr is constructed under the IAEA auspices. During the inspections, specialists have not revealed any violations'; although he reiterated the need for adding certain amendments on additional protocols on the return of the spent nuclear fuel to Russia. Itar-Tass/ACSNNA/IRNA, Vienna, 16 September 2003, cited in <http:/www.payvand.com/ news/03/sep/1100.html>. `Even without NATO's expansion, it is probably unlikely that Moscow and Washington would be working in lock step, to thwart Iran's nuclear ambition.' Michael Gordon, `Russia remains uneasy over NATO's expansion', New York Times, 14 March 1999, p 10. A bipartisan commission headed by then former US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, concluded in 1998 that `rogue' states such as Iran and North Korea are much closer to developing a ballistic missile threat, than the CIA had predicted. The house and the senate, over the objections of the Clinton administration, and its threat of veto, overwhelmingly approved a bill supporting an anti-missile system project. Eric Schmidt, `House joins Senate in voting for system to defend against missiles', New York Times, 19 March 1999, p A14. `The Nuclear Posture Review' a Pentagon report which was leaked to the press in March 2002 reintroduced the nuclear weapons along with `new targets', including seven states comprising a typical list of the rogue states and `plausibly' Russia in the US post 9/11 era doctrine. Michael Gordon, `U.S. nuclear plan see new weapons and new targets', New York Times, 10 March 2002, p A1. For an ofcial Russian reaction, see Michael Wines, `Russia assails U.S. stance on arms reduction', New York Times, 12 March 2002, p A1. For an overview of the Russian arms trade, see Igor Khripunov, `Russia's weapons trade: domestic competition and foreign markets', Problems of Post-Communism, Vol 46, No 2, MarchApril 1999, p 42. For an overview of Russian military ties especially in the area of ballistic missile technology to Iran see the IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program, reproduced in www.baztab.com, 2 April 2004. While Russia and Iran displayed a common approach towards the legal regime of the Caspian Sea in early years after the Soviet collapse and most of the 1990's, nevertheless, Iranians could not be certain about the level of the Russian commitment to the principle of `equal sharing' of the resources of the Caspian and thus fear midcourse abandonment and manipulation of the legal regime for tactical advantages by the Russians. This natural uncertainty, however, was buried under constant need for the posture of strategic partnership, a linguistic and diplomatic comfort zone, that blinded Tehran to the depth of Russia's evolving position and its gradual but eventual shift in early years of the current decade. For a report on attempts by both sides to solidify cooperation in the Caspian in the face of the increasing isolation of both in late the 1990s, see `Iran and Russia Unite over Caspian hydrocarbon export', Izvestiya, 22 April 1999, p 6, and a report by Demetry Zhdannikov, `Russia, Iran, in new energy initiative', Reuters, 23 April 1999. For a sample of Iranian, especially the reformist parliaments, growing frustration and anger with Russia see, `Changing Russia's position in the Caspian is the alarm bell for Iran', Aftab, 28 May 2003, p 5; `Bilateral treaties have undermined Iran's legitimate interest in the Caspian', Aftab, 23 July 2003, p 5; and `The Russians have fooled the Iranians', editorial in a web cite close to the moderate conservative establishment, Baztab, 27 July 2003 in

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<http://216.55.151.46/index.asp?ID=5210&Subject=News>. Iran's parliamentarian criticism leveled both against the Iranian foreign Ministry for mishandling the negotiations with the Russian and excessive trust on Moscow's friendship, and against Russia's double-crossing policy. In an extraordinary attempt at improving Russia's image, Victor Kaluzhny, Russia's Special Envoy on the Caspian addressed the Iranian Majlis (the parliament). See iran.ru.com, 2 Feburary 2003 in the <http://iran.mtu.ru/index.shtml?&view=story&id=13839&lang=fa&ch=1//>. For a more hopeful Russian view on Iran's position see Nezavismaya Gazeta, 23 March 2004. For an Iranian expression of concern over the global meaning of NATO's intervention in Kosovo, see English language daily, Keyhan International, 16 April 1999, pp 13. Iran's condemnation of NATO's intervention was not uniform. While the Foreign Ministry was careful to question the intervention's legal base as being outside of the UN framework, others, such as Ayatollah Khamenei, were much more directly critical. `Iranian criticizes NATO', New York Times, 6 April 1999, p A11. For an account of Muslim reaction in the North Caucasus towards Russian policy towards Kosovo, see `Kazan's Tatars oppose union of Slavs', The Irish Times, 24 April 1999, p 6. While one has to be very skeptical about the pejorative label of Wahabism used by ofcial circles in the Caucasus and Central Asia, to oppress the Islamic and secular opposition, it is clear that the traditional Islamic tendencies, both ofcial and underground have increasingly been complimented or challenged by the emergence of `Taliban-type' Islamic groups in Central Asia (and to a much lesser degree the North Caucasus). For an earlier report on this trend see Sanobar Shermatova, `Said Amirov will shave off his beard: will Daghestan stay in Russia or follow Chechnya's example', Moskovskiye Novosti, No 9, 815 May 1998, pp 67 and Nabi Abdulliev, `Daghestan's true believers', Transitions, March 1999. The Russian Ambassador in Iran, Konstantin Shubalov, irritated Iranians when he attributed reports of Serbian atrocities largely to NATO's propaganda. For this interview, see the English language Daily Iran, 7 April 1999, pp 12. Nevertheless, this interfaith dialogue between Islam and Orthodox Christianity has continued. The fourth of such meetings took place, for example, in April 2004, in which the Islamic and Christian participants addressed, among other issues, culture, globalization and ethics. See Shargh, 28 April 2004, p 2. For a reection of Russia's concerns over a Muslim backlash at home and abroad over Moscow's Balkans policy and rise of pan-Slavism, see Michael Winer, `Russia's House betrothes Belarus and Yugoslavia', New York Times, 18 April 1999, p 10. Iran's frustration and concern was highlighted by the fact that it also had to carry the burden of being the President of the Organization of Islamic Countries, and thus had to be more openly vocal in demanding Moscow's diplomatic intervention. Celestine Bohlen, `Russia seeks to mediate Kosovo crisis', New York Times, 21 April 1999, p A14. Ibid. For Iran's view on the necessity of the Russian role in solving the Balkan crisis, see `Iran's Foreign Minister's interview with BBC', in Hamshahri, 22 April 1999, p 1. Russian President Putin announced Moscow's decision for war games in April 2002 immediately after the failure of the ve Caspian states summit in Turkmenistan in resolving the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Reportedly more than 60 warships and 10,000 men took part in the exercises from Russia and some warships and ghter planes from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. `Russia holds biggest post-Soviet military exercises in the Caspian', Agence France Press (AFP), Moscow, 1 August 2002, cited in Hindustan Times, 8 August 2002. According to the state news agency, RIA Novosty, Iran had requested to take part in the exercise, but Russia had refused, citing a 1924 Treaty between Iran and the USSR, barring all ships, other than Soviet, from the Caspian. Iran and Turkmenistan were invited as observers. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexandre Yakovenko, dismissed the charge that the Russian military exercise was aimed at any other country. For a discussion of the general outlines of Khatami's foreign policy elaborated after his unexpected election to the presidency, see Ziba Farzin-nia, `The seventh Iranian presidential election and its probable impacts on the Islamic Republic of Iran's foreign policy', The Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Vol IX, No 2, Summer 1997. Khatami's foreign policy vision later acquired more specic tenets, including `deep detente' (tanesh zedaee), `dialogue of civilizations' (goftegooy-e tammaddunhaa), and the `coalition for peace' (e'telaaf-e sulh), the last two respectively in response to the Huntingtonian clash of civilizations theory that had acquired major followings in the US and the latter after 9/11 and the months leading to US intervention in Iraq in 2003. For Khatami's views, see for example Mohammad Khatami, Az Donyaay-e `Shahr' taa Shahr-e `Donyaay': Seyri dar Andishe-ye Syyasi Gharb (From World of `City' to the City of the `World': Reection on Political Thought in the West), Tehran: Nashr-e Nay 1376 (Tehran: 1997), and Mohammad Khatami, Goftegooy-e Tammaddunhaa (The Dialogue of Civilizations), Tehran: Tarh-e No, 1380 (Tehran: 2001). For a discussion of Iran's policy towards the Islamic factor in Central Asia, see Mohiaddin Mesbahi, `Tajikistan, Iran, and the international politics of Islam', Central Asian Survey, Fall 1997.

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31. Opening book fairs, art exhibitions, artistic displays, etc. are characteristic. Obviously these efforts are `Islamic' in nature, yet they are carefully scanned for their non-politicized content and emphasis on Islamic cultural and scholarly dimensions. For an early manifestation of these efforts see the details of cultural ties established between Iran and Central Asian states including Kyrgyzstan covered in FBIS-SOV, 21 October 1993, pp 7072, FBIS-SOV, 25 October 1993, pp 6566. It is worth noting that on purely Islamic aspects, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan have and continued to be much more active and consequential than Iran. 32. For example, see comments by Iranian diplomats at the gathering of Muslim dignitaries of the Commonwealth of Independent States in 21 February 1998, on the need for the spiritual message of Islam among the Muslims of the newly independent states and the need for unity of all `divine religions in the region' neutralizing `the propaganda of opposing cultural and political currents', FBIS-NES-98-052 Daily Report, 21 February 1998, p 20. 33. The trip by the US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Baku in December of 2003 underscored the evolution of USAzeri relations to transcend energy and economics and politics to security and military relations. The USA has provided Azerbaijan ve naval vessels, including an 82 foot point class patrol, which was part of the US aid package. See the report by the US Foreign Aid Watch Organization at www.foreignaidwatch.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&le=article&sid=531&m, 4 December 2003. Rumsfeld indicated that the United States would work with Azerbaijan to improve its ability to secure its territorial waters. See Thom Shanker, `Seeking to block terrorist route, Rumsfeld asks help in Azerbaijan', New York Times, 4 December 2003, p 3. 34. Although Uzbek ofcials denied the reports of Karimov's comments, Iran's decision to cancel the scheduled trip of Uzbek Foreign Minister, Abdulaziz Kmalov, to Tehran, indicated Iran's dissatisfaction with Uzbek ofcial explanation. See, for reports on Uzbekistan's ofcial denial of support for US embargo, Ettela'at, 8 May 1995, p 8. On cancellation of visit, see Ettela'at, 15 May 1995. The two countries, however, have engaged in damage limitations and have tried since 1996 to lessen the tension of diplomatic overtures and economic agreements. The visit of Iran's Foreign Minister to Uzbekistan in February of 1996 should be considered in this context. See for the coverage of the visit and the meetings with Karimov, Ettela'at, 1 March 1996, p 10. While the domestic sources of `Islamic radicalism' and its particularly non-Shi'i `wahhabi' orientation has taken away the usual line of accusation against Iran, yet the post-9/11 close military cooperation between the US and Uzbekistan makes a closer relations between Tashkent and Tehran complicated and restrained. 35. The visit of US Defense Secretary, William Perry, on 9 April 1995, to Tashkent marked a considerable step towards improvement in USUzbek relations. US occasional criticism of President Karimov's regime has been muted and qualied; the US security consideration throughout the late 1990s and especially after 9/11 has been the overriding paradigm shaping the relationshipKarimov's visit to the US and his warm reception by President Bush underscored the supremacy of immediate security needs of the US military access to Central Asia over human rights and domestic political and economic reform. For a discussion of human rights problems in Uzbekistan especially after the US intervention in Afghanistan and the near destruction of the Uzbekistan Islamic Movement (IMU) by the United States during the Afghan operation, see Peter Baker, `Government crackdown threatens to radicalize previously non-violent groups', The Washington Post, 27 September 2003, p A19. For a report on growing forces of Islamic extremism in Uzbekistan and Karimov's tough policy, see Bruce Pannier, `Central Asia: is Uzbekistan the source of regional extremism?', RFE/RL, 27 April 2004. 36. New York Times, 27 March 1999, p A17. 37. The views of the American oil companies were best illustrated by Mobil Corporation's prominently placed essay advertisements in the New York Times editorial pages throughout 19981999, which strongly advocated the Iranian alternative for the Caspian. For a sample, see `Iran: food for thought', New York Times, 16 April 1999, p A 27. The editorial argued, `U.S.Iran rapprochement would go a long way to bolster regional harmony . When U.S. policylike unilateral sanctionsprohibits us from doing business in a country, we will abide. But that doesn't prevent us from speaking out against the use of unilateral sanctions.' Sanctions `cost American companies sales and jobs . Maintaining sanctions on Iran, while foreign companies can invest there with no restrictions, not only puts U.S. companies on the sidelines, but more importantly weakens America's foreign policy in the region.' 38. `In their hearts, many American oil executives believe the best export route for Caspian oil is through Iran.' For this and a discussion of the contradiction between the US Caspian policy and the American oil companies, see Stephen Kinzer, `Caspian competitors embrace foreign powers on sea of oil', New York Times, 24 January 1999, p A18. 39. For early reports on USNATO politico-military activities and interests in the Caucasus and Central Asia, see Kinzer, ibid; James Kiteld, `Stars and stripes on the silk route', National Journal, 13 March 1999; and David Stern, `EastWest fault-lines deepen in Caucasus as NATO meets', Agence France Press, cited in

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Turkistan's Newsletter, Vol 3, No 93, 16 April 1999, pp 911. The early and mostly low key US military involvement with the new states, conducted via peace keeping possibilities, joint exercises, civilmilitary issues, laid the foundation for a smoother transition to direct US military presence in Central Asia and access to military basis which was granted in 2002 to the US after 9/11 with the acquiescence of Russia and the regional states including Uzbekistan and Kyrghyzstan. Whether these bases will become permanent military and strategic xtures remains to be seen. The war on terror, the US interest in the Caspian, and proximity to China may provide all the necessary strategic rationale for a long-term presence. For Russian ofcial views concerning the US long-term presence in the Caucasus and the Caspian, especially after occupation of Iraq, see Nezavismaya Gazeta, 23 March 2004, p 5, interview with Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Kalyuzhny; and Nezavismaya Gazeta, 12 May 2004, pp 1 and 5, interview with Vyachelav Trubnikov Senior Russian Foreign Minister. `A farewell to Flashman: American policy in the Caucasus and Central Asia', Deputy Secretary Talbot's Address at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore, Maryland, 21 July 1997. Available in <http://www.state.gov/regions/nis/970721talbot.html>. The relative thaw in USIranian relations since Khatami, has consistently been accompanied by tough US measures, thus, a group of mixed signals: Khatami's remarkable acknowledgement of the values of Western civilization, Clinton's and Secretary Albright important acknowledgement of Western and US guilt in Iran, the lifting of agricultural sanctions, replacing `dual-containment' with `engagement and containment', all positive signals, have been qualied, by simultaneous reinforcements of the sanctions opposing the Mobil bid for the oil swap in Iran, and even an Israeli-inspired congressional measure to punish the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for working with Iran! For this uctuation during the Clinton era, see Gary Sick's discussions of the `Mixed Signals' in gulf2000-list@colombia.edu, on 1 May 1999, 18:42:320400 (EDT). The most promising atmosphere for mutual improvement of relations appeared immediately after the 9/11 tragedy and close collaboration between US and Iran before and during the US campaign in Afghanistan in 2002. This early important opportunity was buried under the complexity of Iranian and US domestic politics and the unexpected `Axis of Evil' speech by President Bush in January of 2003 and the `regime change' posture; a `sea change' from the atmosphere of the late 1990s in USIran relations. For Russian reections on US view of the Iranian threat see Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12 May 2004, p 5, interview with Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Senior Deputy Russian Foreign Minister where he rejects the US alarmist view on Iranian nuclear threat and blames it on Israelis' misinformation campaign; `this is likely to be the ``tracing'' of what my friends from Mosad are feeding the EU and Americans'. In the words of Kamal Kharazi, Iran's Foreign Minister, `Iran is naturally a part of or partner in any political development in regions such as Central Asia, Caspian Sea, Caucasus, East of the Arab World, Persian Gulf, and Southwest Asia'. See Kharazi's Statement on `Iran's Caspian Policy', op cit, Ref 3. The Azeri's usual line of complaint has been the accusation of Iran's attempt to promote radical Islam in Azerbaijan, while the Iranians have raised many concerns with regards to Baku's attempt in promoting separatist movement in Iranian Azerbaijan. For the former see, for example, Zerkalo, 17 April 2004, pp 4 and 9, which outlines the difculties with Iran on several levels, including Iran's support for Armenia. For a recent Iranian view, see the centrist and close-to-government report, `Baku, the center of anti-Iranian separatist activity', www.baztab.com/index.asp? ID=15953&Subject-News, 29 April 2004. For an interesting and blunt call and justication for closer relations between Israel and Azerbaijan, in spite of Iranian objections, see Zerkalo, op cit, Ref 43, pp 4 and 9. The paper interviews several members of the parliament from the peoples front party, Azerbaijan, the Compatriot Party and United People's Front Party who advocated stronger ties with Israel and disregard for Iran's possible objections or complaints, and the benets of Israeli support for Azerbaijan in the United States. For an Azeri discussion of these issues, see Zerkalo, 15 March 1997, which warns that the two countries are losing historical opportunities for cooperation in view of the continuous tensions in the relationship. The most signicant move to improve bilateral relations took place during the visit of President Aliev to Tehran in May 2002, where both sides signed a new agreement on the principles of cooperation and friendly relations. See Iran, 21 May 2002, p 3, Entekhab, 20 May 2002, p 2. For a report on IranAzerbaijan security agreements, especially on ghting terrorism, which took place during a visit between Iran's Minister of Intelligence, Ali Yunesi and his Azerbaijani counterpart and President Aliev, see `The era of cold relations between Tehran and Baku is over', Hayat-e No, 27 July 2002, p 8. For a more negative Azeri view on the overall nature of the relations see Zerkalo, op cit, Ref 43, especially p 9. For the implications of the radicalization of the Armenian position after Ter-Petrossian's downfall, see New York Times, 9 February 1998, p A8. For an assessment of the origin and dynamics of the conict and Iranian diplomatic involvement in early stages of the conict see, Kaveh Bayaat, Bohraan-e Gharabaagh (Karabakh Crisis), Tehran: Enteshaaraat Parvin, 1372) (Tehran: Parvin, 1993). For a report on the discussion of the conict among other issues that took place during President Aliev's visit to Tehran in May 2002, see reports on KhatamiAliev joint press

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conference in Iran, 21 May 2002, p 3, where Khatami reiterated the condemnation of `aggression and occupation in whatever form' and underscored Iran's intense interest in regional security and negotiation as the only venue for conict resolution. During the visit both sides signed the `Agreement on the Principles of Cooperation and Friendly Relations', and discussed possible agreements on the legal regime for the Caspian. See ibid, p 2; Entekhab, 20 May 2002, p 2, especially the interview with Bagher Emaami, the head of `Iran Azerbaijan Parliamentarian Friendship Society', in which for the rst time the possibility of a bilateral rapprochement on the Caspian issue was raised; a point which was interestingly reiterated by a source close to the Iranian establishment, see `Emkan Tavaafoq Panhany Iran va Azerbaijan Bar Sar-e Khazar' (The possibility of a secret IranianAzeri agreement on the Caspian) in www. baztab.com/index.asp, 21 July 2003. For a more general ofcial reection, which underscored the signicance of Tehran's Summit on the possibility of opening a bilateral venue for legal regime of the Caspian, see Iran, 11 June 2002, p 2.; for a Russian view see Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 23 March 2004, p 5, interview with Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Kalyuzhny on the Caspian Sea. For an academic, yet ofcial Iranian assessment of Turkmenistan, see Galil Roshandel and Rak GholiPoor, Syasat va Hookoomat dar Torkamanestaan (Politics and government in Turkmenistan), Tehran: Markaz-e Chaap va Enteshaaraat Vezarat-e Omoor-e Khaarejeh, 1378) (Tehran: Center of Publications of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1999), especially pp 161188. The eventual linkage of Iran's railroad system to Turkmenistan is considered by Iran as a signicant chapter in Iran's relations with the entire Central Asia. See Khatami's interview with the Saudi paper Al-Watan, cited in www.baztab.com, 17 July 2003. Iran, for example, opposed Turkmenistan's attempts to construct a pipeline through the Caspian Sea, thus bypassing Iran; a project heavily lobbied and supported by the United States. For a report on Iran's opposition expressed in the gathering of several hundred oil executives in Ashgabat in early March 1999, see Turkistan Economic Bulletin, Vol 99, No 25, 12 March 1999, pp 13, 5. For a comprehensive review of Tajikistan's post conict condition from an Iranian point of view, see the special issue on Tajikistan of Envoy: West and Central Asian Business Magazine, October 1997, especially, S. Farrokhyar, `Conservatism and moderation: will peace and tranquility return to Tajikistan', M. Aliev, `Gas and oil industries in Tajikistan', S. Farrokhyar, `We seek democracy to propagate Islam: an interview with Abdullah Nouri, leader of the Tajikistan Islamic Movement', N. Bruker and I. Guseinova, `Prostitution: the profession of poverty and War', O. Panlov, `To whom will the child of the uranium industry belong?' In an attempt to further consolidate its hold on Tajikistan in view of developments in Afghanistan and the coming to power of the Taliban, and an implied response to Uzbek distance from the CIS, and gravitation towards the United States, Russia reached an agreement with Dushanbe to establish a permanent military base in Tajikistan, a measure severely criticized by Uzbekistan. Iran's response was, again because of strategic consideration and logic, muted. Bruce Pannier, `Tajikistan: Uzbek President criticizes proposed Russian base', Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty Report, 9 April 1999, printed in Turkistan Newsletter, Vol 3, No 79, 13 April 1999, pp 911 also Nezavismaya Gazeta, 28 May 1999, p 10. Iran, however, was surprised about the degree of Russian cooperation with the United States in acquiescing to access to military bases in Central Asia in 2002. While Russia and Iran cooperated with the US in the military campaign in Afghanistan via their mutual allies in the Northern Alliance, Tehran was alarmed at the ease that Russia had apparently abandoned the strategic logic so prevalent in Moscow's doctrinal rhetoric so repeatedly stated in the mutual diplomatic engagements with Iran throughout the 1990's and beyond. For a reective and alarming Russian ofcial view as to `permanency' of the US presence that resonates with those shared in Iran see Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12 May 2004, pp 1 and 5. See Mohiaddin Mesbahi, `Tajikistan and Iran', in Rubinstein and Smolensky, eds, Regional Rivalry in the New States of Eurasia (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1995). A disappointed leading Tajik intellectual and public gure once told the author that the Tajik expectation was that Iran's attitudes towards Tajikistan would be similar to that of the United States towards Israel, indicating a much deeper emotional, cultural, security and economic ties than have so far materialized. For a discussion of TajikIranian relations, see Mesbahi, op cit, Ref 30, and `Iran and Tajikistan', in Rubinstein and Smolensky, op cit, Ref 53. While the Russian dominant position in Tajikistan is afrmed and accepted by Dushanbeh, the role of Iran in the peace process and especially its durability remains a constant theme in Tajik ofcial assessment. See remarks by Tajik Deputy Foreign Minister, Abdolnabi Sattarzadeh in www.iran.ru, May 28, 2002 in www.iran.ru/index.shtml?ch=7&lang=en&view=story&id=1312. Interestingly and echoing former Russian Prime Minister Evgeni Primakov, Sattarzadeh underscored how `Iran and Russia's equal status in establishment of a stable peace in Tajikistan curbed the inuence of US and its allies such as Turkey and Pakistan'. Iran's limited economic capabilities, especially in investment capacity, has been a major factor. The most recent and important Iranian economic engagement in Tajikistan is the construction of a 670 MW power

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plant in Sangtudeh, located 140 km southeast of Dushanbe; a US $360 million project that Iran will nance. Iran's participation in the project is under the buildoperatetransfer (BOT) method. IRNA, 16 March 2004. The improved relationship with Kyrgyzstan was underscored by the fact that the seizure of Iranian weapons destined for pro-Iranian factions in the Afghan civil war by the Kyrgyz authorities at Osh did not create any controversy. The weapons were part of a larger package of humanitarian aid, and were returned to Iran, while the humanitarian aid was allowed to pass. See, Turkistan Newsletter, Vol 98, No 2, 18 November 1998, p 1. For reection on the prospects of improvement of relations with Kyrgyzstan see Khatami's interview in AlWatan, op cit, Ref 49. For a report on Iran's continuous effort to attract Kazakhstan and others including Russia, by unilaterally building infrastructure in the Caspian Sea, such as the terminal in Neka, which allows Caspian producers to swap an equivalent volume of Iranian light crude oil in the Persian Gulf, which could reach up to half a million barrels per day, see `Iran keen on cooperation with Caspian states on oil shipment', IRNA, 29 April 2004, `Khatami: Iran provides safest cheapest route for transfer of Caspian oil', BBC Monitoring Middle East, 29 April 2004. `Iranian oil companies to take part in Kazakh tenders', Energy News, 29 April 2004, Cited in Eurasia: The Ofcial Newsletter of the International Institute for Caspian Studies, 29 April 2004, and `Iran seeking to grow Caspian crude swap volume', Reuters News, 12 May 2004. The KazakhIranian oil swapping project has been uctuating, not only for economic and technical reasons, but for political considerations, namely US pressure, which lead, for example, to its discontinuation in 1997. IRNA, 11 April 1999, and Iran-TASS, 12 April 1999, reprinted in Turkistan Economic Bulletin, Vol 99, No 40, 21 April 1999, p 2. For a new sense of optimism in expanding relations between Kazakhstan and other republics, see Khatami's interview with the Saudi paper, Al-Watan, op cit, Ref 49. For a good overview of Iran's perspective on multilateralism, regional; organizations and especially ECO, see Elahe Kolaee, Eko va Hamgeraee Mantaghe'ie (ECO and Regional Multilateralism), (Tehran: Markaze Pajhooheshhaay-e Elmi va Motaale'at-e Esteraategic-e Khavar-emianeh, 1379), (Tehran: Center for Scientic Research and Strategic Studies of the Middle East, 1999), especially pp 157205 and 227257, which are devoted to the role of the great powers and the interrelations between member states. For an early ofcial elaboration of Iran's views on Central Asia and on the issue of regionalism see Abbas Maleki, `Cooperation: Iran's new foreign policy objectives', Majal'leh Motale'ate Asia-ye Markazi va Qafqaz (The Journal of Central Asian and Caucasian Review) (Tehran), Vol 1, No 2, Fall 1992, pp. 33637. For an early report on the pipeline project, see `Central Asia turning South', The Economist, 29 October 1994, p 40. This rivalry has diminished Turkey's and Iran's leverage vis-a-vis the USA and Russia respectively. Fearing this, and in spite of pressure from their great power clients, Ankara and Tehran have engaged in some signicant economic cooperation, including the very ambitious US $20 billion gas treaty signed in 1996. For details on this and related projects between Turkey and Iran, see `IranTurkey natural gas export', IRNA, 2 April 1999, cited in Turkistan Economy Bulletin, Vol 99, No 35, 5 April 1999, p 4. Some of these functionalist views are expressed in the newly established journal, Envoy. See for example, the Envoy, September 1997 issue devoted to the Caspian Sea. Also see The Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Amu Darya, Majal'leh Motale'ate Asia-ye Markazi va Qafqaz, and Journal of Central Asia and the Caucasus, especially, issues published from September 1995 to the present. For a blend of regionalism and functionalism, see Kolaee, op cit, Ref 60, pp 2114. The typical and repeated term characterizing Iran's relations with Russia, both by the Iranians and the Russians, has been `strategic partner', which was coined following then President Rafsanjani's trip in the nal years of the Soviet Union in 1989, a term that survived the Soviet collapse and has been repeated to underscore Russia's relations with Iran. The most recent language is by President Putin, following his visit with Iran's Foreign Minister Kharrazi, referring to Iran as Russia's `historical partner'. See Aftab Yazd, 18 May 2004, p 11. Two cases illustrate Russia's attempt at leaving all the options open in its maximizing strategy. The rst deals with the Caspian Legal Regime, where the Russians started with paralleling the Iranian position regarding the signicance of the 1921 agreement as the basis of the legal regime, and in more recent years have circumvented Iran by holding their own direct bilateral talks with other littoral states, while keeping Iran engaged in constant and numerous Caspian Sea meetings and summits. For an interesting example of this exibility and language see the interview by the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, `The Russian Caspian man', Victor Kalyuzhny, with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 23 March 2004, p 5. Russia's position towards the legal regime has been to keep the Americans out of the negotiations (which Azerbaijan is interested in) while coaching Iran in bits and pieces to get close to the Russian position. The second case is Russia's engagement in building the nuclear power plant in Bushehr and the general question of Iran's nuclear proliferation. Russian statements, positions and postures have included various statements, uctuating between outright rejections of accusations against Iran to almost paraphrasing the US concerns, from promising the completion of the Bushehr power plant, the delivery of fuel, to constant delay for `political', `commercial', or `technical'

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reasons. For a sample of the Russian perspective, see comments by Russia's Atomic Energy Minister, Alexandre Rumyantsev, in rejecting the USA accusation against Iran, in `Bolton needs to be convincing', Kommersant, 26 August 2003, p 3; `PyongyangTehran relations are exaggerated', in Nezavismaya Gazeta, 7 August 2003; `RussiaIran to sign Nuc fuel deal in September', Reuters, 26 August 2003; `Russia to delay signing key nuclear agreement with Iran', Agence France Press, 29 August 2003 (the unexpected statement from Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry, appeared to be a direct concession to frequently expressed US and Israeli concern); Alexandre Yakovenko, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, indicating Moscow's determination to cooperate with Iran, in spite of US pressure, Itar-TASS, 25 February 2004, cited in FBISSOV-2004-0225. Vladimir Frolov, `Iran's nuclear surprise', Moscow Vremya MN, 12 March 2003 (the article views Iran's nuclear program as a threat to Russian security); `Russia looks to extend nuclear cooperation with Iran', Itar-TASS, 26 April 2004, cited in BBC-Monitoring Former Soviet Union, 26 April 2004. Here Alexandre Rumyantsev indicated Russia's interest in building new units in Bushehr; and nally, the Iranian complaints about the Russian approach in construction of the Bushehr power plant, `We are facing a lot of difculties', an Iranian ofcial visiting Moscow said, WWW.Baztab.com, 11 May 2004. For a Russian `ipop' response to this complaint, see Aftab Yazd, 16 May 2004, p 1, where a Russian ofcial rejected the idea of Russia's delay as a result of US pressure and pointed to other commercial and technical problems. `E.U. enlargement will broaden EUIran cooperation', IRNA, 20 April 2004, citing Iran's ambassador to Brussels. According to Gennadi Gudkov, Deputy of the State Duma Security committee, the Russian Security Council should come up with a new plan of action, Pravda, 25 March 2004, p 2. Also see Vladimir Skosyrev, `There is a limit to Moscow's concessions', Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12 May 2004, pp 1 and 5, in which senior deputy foreign minister, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, discusses in length a range of questions, including the USNATO expansion of inuence in the Caucasus and Central Asia. President Khatami's inaugural speech at the opening of the Neka terminal, IRNA, 29 April 2004. Victor Kalyuzhny, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, and President Putin's special representative on Caspian Sea negotiations, in an international forum in Kazakhstan, opposed both the idea of a non-Caspian state military presence, i.e. the United States, and the concept of demilitarization. See `Caspian Sea should not be demilitarized', in The America's Intelligence Wire, 28 April 2004, cited in Eurasia: The Ofcial Newsletter of the International Institute for Caspian Studies, 29 April 2004. Given the population concentration and signicant agricultural and food resources, Iran would be the most affected country in the region, and thus has advocated a region-wide attempt in addressing the issue of how to protect the environment against the exploitation of its resources, including its oil and sh, which has remained the subject of intense debate among the littoral states. Suggestions regarding the creation of a unied environmental regime for the Caspian Basin, while agreed to in principle, have been plagued by conicting interests and the undecided legal regime of the Caspian. The early enthusiasm over the `Gold Rush' in the Caspian Sea has gradually been replaced by more realistic and modest assessment of its potentials, especially in view of the decline of oil prices. Judith Matloff, `Letting Caspian ``Black Gold Lie''', Christian Science Monitor, March 1999, pp 1011, and M. Culler, `The rise and fall of the Caspian Sea', National Geographic Magazine, May 1999. An early attempt at the culturalization of the Iranian view of the region was best reected in a lecture delivered by Atao'llah Mohajerani, then Iran's Minister of Culture and Guidance, in the gathering of students, faculty, and ofcials of Makhtoumqoli University in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. `Every human being has the obligation to know his own history, and today, the Persian language is the key to knowing the history of this region.' Referring to Makhtoumqoli, Hafez and Rumi, he said, that `The Persian language belongs to all the nations of the region, for we all have lived in different periods in one common civilizational and cultural milieu. The great personalities of literature and thought belong to everybody in this region and we should not separate them based on new geographical boundaries.' Cited in Iranian, No 48, April 1999, p 2. This culturalization is also reected in Iranian historiography of the region's socio-political history and its traditional linkages with Iran. See for example, Araaz Mohammad Sarli, Tareekh-e Torkamenestaan (The History of Turkmenistan), (Tehran: Daftere Motale'at-e Syasi va Beinulmelali, 1375) (Tehran: Institute for Political and International Studies, 1995); and Iran Kalbassi, Farsi Iran va Tajeekestan: Yek Brrasi Moghaabele'I (IranTajikistan Farsi: A Contrastive Survey) (Tehran: Moa'ssesey-e Chaap va Entesharaat-e Vezarat-e Omoor-e Khaarejeh: (Tehran: Center for Publications, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1995). Iran's global initiative in suggesting `civilizational dialogue' as the antidote to the `clash of civilizations' thesis received both international and regional attention leading to the UN Year of Global Dialogue in 2001. The early optimism over the regional impact was soon to be overshadowed by the securitization of the region in the post-911 period.

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