Iran News ...


10/23/07

Putin the Great, NATO Ottomans & the Pipeline Labyrinth

By K. Darbandi [1]

 

A ‘Leap of Relations’ over the Caucasus Dead

Mr. Vladimir Putin, the architect of the 1999 air and land war against the Chechen Republic, the President of Russia, was greeted with great fanfare and utter respect in Tehran when he arrived for the Caspian Sea Littoral States Summit this past week.  The Russian president, the man who only a few years ago pledged allegiance to Bush’s “War on Terror”, nodded positively to the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and US military bases in Central Asia, and traded his cooperation for US silence on Russia’s atrocities in Chechnya[2], was greeted like Chuck Norris in a Balackwater boot camp, in the capital of Islamic Republic of Iran.  

 

If you were a politically charged Muslim, like what President AhmadiNezhad and G-Ayatollah Khamenei claim to be, and then if you were also an Iranian President or Supreme Leader of Iran, and claimed to be heading a Nation as historical, regionally a cultural attraction, then you would have shamed yourself to host such an international criminal, and had refused to shake hands with the head of an occupying force that literally had the blood of thousands and thousands of innocent civilians on his hand, some if not many of which with Iranian ethnicity. But the US attack is looming and a mature diplomacy is in order from this emerging ‘world power’. As if the Summit was not about Caspian issues but US attack against Iran, Putin the Great visit is interpreted as such in IR media and its foreign based PhDs. What we shall try here is to give another perspective on the matter..   

 

While the fabric of the Chechen society has been permanently damaged by the policies of this leader[3], and there are thousands of un-adoptable orphans wandering the streets of Grozny sniffing glue, the leader of the Transcaucasia Holocaust, is embraced like a god-send savior of IR of Iran by Tehran political and religious establishment. It is one thing to deny holocaust in words, it is another to deny one in practice.

 

 

Tehran Times, the English language newspaper of IR Foreign Ministry, in anticipation of the Summit, failed to discuss the major geo-political issues facing Iran in the Caspian region, the undefined status of Iran claims over the natural resources in the Sea, and instead stared at its crystal ball and inaugurated the upcoming media hoopla of Putin’s visit:

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Iran will lead to an important leap in Tehran-Moscow relations, and at this juncture, when the West is making the utmost efforts to isolate Iran, it is even more important, Central Asia expert Hossein Ahmadi said here on Sunday.

 

IRNA, echoing the desperate beggary of IR for international attention, breaks the news of Putin’s ‘special message’ to Iranian officials; a secret that all 5 year olds in Tehran know: renewal of uranium enrichment plant proposal on Russian soil!  IRNA, adding to the ridiculous atmosphere of secrecy around the one-year old proposal, reports that:

 

“Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Larijani said on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had brought a special message for Iranian officials. Speaking to IRNA, he said the Russian president who attended the second Caspian Sea littoral states summit in Tehran had brought a special message for Iranian officials. He also quoted Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ali Khamenei as telling the Russian president that Iran would study and deliberate on the message in due course…. The details of Putin's message would be made public in an appropriate time, Larijani said.”

 

Thanks to the Cowboy Diplomacy of the Bush Administration, and its violent rhetoric and animalistic posture against the Iranian regime & society, the heads of IR of Iran are showing dangerous signs of caving in to the geo-political plans of Moscow. Are the Mullahchiks of the Shiite apparatus finally chirruping to the tunes of the Cossachok after all?

 

The Tale of Two Plants

President Putin, who has been dragging the completion of the Bushehr power plant for years, arrogantly laughed at IR journalists and officials when asked about the subject: "I only gave promises to my Mom when I was a small boy," keeping it as a bargaining chip and making it contingent upon satisfaction of his own demands.  Of course, mature statesmanship of IR requires slavish silence on the matter. IRNA politely reports that:” Outcome of the negotiations on Bushehr power plant has not been announced yet”.  Putin left Tehran and nothing got announced on the subject.

 

Mr. Putin, fully aware if IR intensifying international isolation and the real danger of a US attack, instead sneaked in his ‘suggestion’: a new water channel connecting the Caspian and Black seas, bypassing Azerbaijan and Georgia, and going through the Caucasian-occupied Russian territories. The ‘special message’,-the enrichment on Russian soil deal, is of course another viable suggestion from Russian point of view, and a ground breaking option to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff .  The Bushehr plant deal, more and more is getting tied to the Russian uranium enrichment plant.

 

The naked truth is that the 2007 Caspian Summit in Tehran was a total failure for Iran, which is in total isolation regarding its claim to 1/5 of the Caspian Sea resources. Iran, which has been left out of all treaties signed by other States, has no concrete status among the littoral states, and did not have any weight in the Summit to reopen and discuss its case.  Iran only got points in so far as it coincided with Russian interests.

Here are some of the treaties that are already signed:

    • Russia and Kazakhstan signed a treaty, according to which, they divide the northern part of the Caspian Sea between them into two sectors along the median line. Each sector is an exclusive zone of its state. Thus all resources, seabed and surface are exclusive to the particular state.
    • Russia and Azerbaijan signed a similar treaty about their common border.
    • Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan signed a similar treaty about their common border.
    • Iran doesn't recognize the bilateral agreements between the other littoral states, but this has limited practical implications, because it doesn't have common borders with Russia and Kazakhstan.
    • Iran continues to insist on a single multilateral agreement between all five littoral states (as the only way to achieve 1/5-th share).

In light of the complete definition of Russian sector and the three treaties already signed between some littoral states, the de-facto situation on the ground is the actual method for regulating the Caspian borders. The Russian sector is fully defined. The Kazakhstan sector is not fully defined, but is not disputed either. Azerbaijan's, Turkmenistan's and Iran's sectors are not fully defined[4].  Faced with this reality, the foreign-based political pundits and IR propaganda tools, unabashedly wrote that: “Caspian Summit a Triumph for Iran”![5] And:

 

 “The two day summit, coinciding with twin nuclear crises and escalating US-Iran tensions relating to Iraq and the Middle East, is bound to be regarded as a milestone in regional cooperation”. He continues:

 

” A major achievement for Iran's diplomacy …, the "good news" summit will likely serve as …new breathing space for Iran's diplomacy, and not just toward the Caspian, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.”.

IRNA, when Putin lands in Tehran reported that:” Participants of the summit are to exchange views on how to find a way for fair use by all neighboring states of the natural resources of the Caspian Sea. …All-out cooperation among the five littoral states of the sea would be also discussed by the participants in the summit. Issues related to the Caspian Sea including its legal regime would top the agenda of the summit. ” Somebody needs to explain to the Iranian people that what was exactly the “good news” of this summit and what it brought as “major achievement for Iran’s diplomacy”?

The Turkish-Azeri Vs. The Russo-Persian Alliance

It has been a while since the West energy analysts have been drooling for the big up-coming gas and oil boom of the Caspian region[6]. And it has been years that Western Europe has been trying to get rid of dependence on gas and oil that is coming through Russian territory. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, built by British Petroleum (BP), connecting Caspian oil through Georgia and Azerbaijan,-bypassing Russia and also Iran, - to Europe, is an ideal solution to better access Caspian oil and gas resources without Russian control. Russia has been playing the energy card shrewdly against EU in the post Soviet era, and the Azeri resources, now that Tbilisi is under US influence, make the BTC pipeline a natural choice for Europe to diversify its energy sources and routes of delivery.

 

Image:Btc pipeline route.png

 

It is in this context that Putin steps into the Tehran Summit and suggests a water channel that connects Caspian to the Black sea. It is not clear whether the IR leaders are ready to concede on giving up northern trade rights to go through Russian-occupied territories.[7].  What we know is that IR leaders  had promised to punish the Europeans for siding with US in internationally isolating IR of Iran.[8]

 

While potentially allowing the Caspian gas and oil continue to go through Russian instead of Iranian territory is a major point of economic concession for Iran, it will make the current rift with EU more long lasting than it is today. In the 1990s Iran and Russia had on occasions ganged up to bully other Caspian States of opening up to US and bypass their territories for export,-a clear example being the trans-Caspian pipeline from Turkmenistan-submarine-Azerbaijan[9]. At the same time, Iran has kept its pipeline deals with Turkey, Russia’s geopolitical rival, and this does not suit well with Russia. A closer partnership with Russia can in effect jeopardize Iran-Turkey as well as further damage Iran-EU relations and their joint interest in the South-Caspian pipeline project.  Iran’s further international isolation will come at the advantage to the Russian position globally through further monopolization of oil and gas delivery routes to Europe!

 

If until recently Iran had publicly proclaimed its willingness to pursue its own pipelines through Turkey to Europe, it is not clear whether a tighter relationship with Russia could allow this independent and strategic linkage to continue.

 

Persian Empire, NATO-Ottomans & the Eurasian Rusky

While in Tehran, Putin fed the Persian Chauvinist by patting the leaders of Shiite Theocracy for mentioning the ancient ‘Persian Empire’ and referring to Iran as a ‘world power’.  To some, it was a, he was paying long overdue respects of a power that has hovered over Iran since the 18th century. In reality, the Russian Boss was taking sides in the Iranian-Turkish rivalry for Central Asian cultural and political influence.  This game was whistled on after the Soviet collapse in 1991 and is not in its Halftime yet. Anxious by the alliance between the Azeri Caspian State and the US-Turkey axis, Moscow might be making a strategic choice: a Russian-Persian Alliance to curb the New Nato-Ottomans!  

 

AhmadiNezhad, not particularly known for clever international remarks, in turn called Russia an “Eastern Land”. It seems he might be insulting the Russians, who since Peter the Great have wanted to Europeanize themselves at the expense of their Eurasian soul!  But the Iranian president’s comment should be viewed as a major acceptance of the Russian occupation and presence in non-Russian Caucasus; Putin with its bloody suppression of the peoples of North Caucasus in the past 7 years under, still remains a European occupying force in this region. The Iranian President, by claming Easternship to the Russians, was practically crossing off the miserable reality of the Dagestan, Chechen, and Ingush and Ossetia.  The Islamic ‘Umma’ of the Trans-Caucasus are indeed absent during the visit of Putin the great to the capital of the Islamic republic!

 

Amid the exchange of pleasantries, however, the Russians for the first time are contemplating the possibility of chaining down the Iranians ala other Central Asian former Soviet States. While Iran will be free to shoot at Azeri ships exploring oil in the Sea,-Russia’s way to further punish the Azeris for aligning themselves with Georgia and Turkey and BTC pipeline,- Iran is being invited to continue to expand its trade and cultural ties with Central Asia and Caspian area, as long as it surrenders the strategic and lucrative uranium enrichment projects to Moscow, and possibly agree to export its future Caspian oil and gas through Russian territory!

 

It is indeed in the best interest of Moscow to further deepen and escalate current Iran isolation on the global scene.  Acknowledging Iranian influence in Central Asia, so long as it does not have an politico-Islamic flavor to it, in exchange of uniting under Russia to blackmail Europe is a great deal for Moscow. Well aware of current anti-Iranian momentum in US and European capitals, Moscow sees the military threat as a lucrative arms market as well, where badly needed oil revenues required for economic and infrastructural development will be sent to Moscow coffers in exchange for armament[10].  In the same light, Moscow sees the Iran nuclear stand-off with the West as an opportunity to renew its proposal to enrich uranium on Russian soil (in Chechnya?!) for the Iranian Nuclear industry.[11] Will Iran slowly join the ranks of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in its future entanglement in a Russian pipeline labyrinth?

 

For the first time since the 1979 revolution, Russia is demanding concessions that they were not able to get in the 1990s.  But, there are other costs for Iranians if they decide to side with the Russians over the Caspian energy delivery routes. To explore other potential penalties that Iran will pay, we need to ask this: what is the route of the pipeline Putin has proposed and at what cost will it be developed and maintained?

 

The North Caucasus Peoples & the Water Channel

The shortest route from Caspian to Black sea, via Russian occupied territories is through an area that includes the North Caucasus lands of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Ossetia.

 

 

If IR of Iran ever caves in and joins a water channel project going through Russian controlled Caucasus, then in effect it will have a serious stake in keeping the route secure: it will have to gradually join the Russians in further pacification of the independent-minded peoples of this region, and before long, as a Muslim country, will be asked to join stabilizing it for Russia.  The tight link between Iran economic interests and security of the pipeline between Turkey and Iran, and the joint military operations of these two regimes against PKK, is a good example of what is at stake if a Caspian-Black sea water channel is constructed to go through the Caucasian occupied territories. It has to be noted that close Russian-Iran ties already demonstrates the fact that when it comes to Sunni Muslims, the IR of Iran is immensely tolerant of genocidal behavior if it sees that it is not in its interest to intervene on their behalf. Unlike Southern Lebanon and Southern Iraq, the ‘Umma’ is left to be slaughtered by the European occupiers. The small ‘Arab’ & Wahabbi influence in this war torn region is another incentive that might lure Iran to help secure this region for Russia.

 

No Shahs & No Tsars, Only the Corpses Between the Two Seas

Russo-Persian War, 1722-1723, also known as the Persian campaign of Peter the Great, was a war between Russia and Persia (Iran), triggered by the tsar's attempt to expand Russian influence in the Caspian and South Caucasus regions and to prevent its rival, Ottoman Empire, from territorial gains in the region at the expense of the declining Safavi Persia.

In December 1722 the Russian army and navy, seized Rasht and in July 1723 proceeded to capture Baku. Russian military success and the Turkish invasion of Persian possessions in the Southern Caucasus in the spring of 1723 forced the government of Tahmasp II to sign a Saint Petersburg peace treaty which surrendered Darband[12], Baku, and the Persian provinces of Shirvan, Guilan, Mazandaran, and Astrabad to the Russians on September 12, 1723. In 1735, on the eve of the Russo-Turkish War, the government of Empress Anna Ioannovna returned all the annexed territories to Persia as a prerequisite to constructing an alliance with Persians against the Ottomans. Many decades later, when the Ottoman was not considered a threat, the Russo Persian wars of (1804-1813) and (1826-1828) resulted in the Gulistan and TurkmenChay treaties. Again it was the Ottomans that changed Russia’s attitude to Persia:

If it was not for the new Russo-Turkish War, (1828-1829) the third war (1826-1828) could have had more negative outcomes for Persia. In January 1828, one Russian detachment reached the shores of the Lake Uromiyeh, after the Shah had started a new offensive after the Turkish attack against Russia, to regain the lost lands. Persia quickly signed the Treaty of Turkmenchay (February 2, 1828) which concluded the war.

Be it the Nato-Ottomans of today or the Ottoman Caliphs of old, history indicates that it is the ebb and flow of the Turkish threat between the two Seas that conditions the Russian policy towards Iran.  

The IR of Iran should send a Tabriz nuts-&-fruits bouquet to the Azeri Aliev for providing the grounds for such a ‘historic Summit’!

***

With the Cowboys in the Hood, foaming from the mouth and waving tactical nukes at all things Iranians, for the sake of 70 million people and thousands of years of meaningful history, the Theocracy is and should welcome as much protection, alliance and support as it can muster to avoid making Iran another Frontier for the pioneering Blackwater thugs  of the White House; but this goes without saying. What needs to be said in the midst of all the baseless propaganda around Putin’s visit is that it was always under Iranian distress that the Kremlin put on their Perso-phile masks, and plundered their way through Iranian coffers, ‘protecting’ Persia under their despotic capes? October is a spooky month, it is Halloween! Make no mistake; IR has no Abbas Mirza, and see what he got!

 



[1]  Keyvan Darbandi is an Independent Iranian-American Scientist, and former member of IR opposition.

[2] It used to be different: US Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration Madeleine Albright noted in her March 24, 2000, speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights:

We cannot ignore the fact that thousands of Chechen civilians have died and more than 200,000 have been driven from their homes. Together with other delegations, we have expressed our alarm at the persistent, credible reports of human rights violations by Russian forces in Chechnya, including extrajudicial killings. There are also reports that Chechen separatists have committed abuses, including the killing of civilians and prisoners. ... The war in Chechnya has greatly damaged Russia's international standing and is isolating Russia from the international community. Russia's work to repair that damage, both at home and abroad, or its choice to risk further isolating itself, is the most immediate and momentous challenge that Russia faces.

 

[3] According to the 2003 World Health Organization in-depth study of the psychological health in Chechnya, 86 percent of the Chechen population was suffering from physical or emotional distress. 31 percent of those studied showed symptoms of ill health recognizable as post-traumatic stress syndrome

[6]  US department of Energy document:””

[7]  “Yet, while Iran and Russia were acting in concert to stop both the Baku-Ceyhan and Trans-Caspian pipelines, their long-run interests in Caspian energy resources differed. Moscow wanted transport routes to pass through Russia to help it control the states of Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Iran, on the other hand, continued to profess-with support from a number of foreign oil and gas companies-that it could provide the cheapest and safest route for the shipment of Caspian oil and natural gas. As Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stated: "We believe in diversity of routes for the transfer of energy, but consider Iran as the best route to the south, east and west." (R.O. Freedman, Russian Iranian relations in the 1990s.)

[8]  President AhmadiNezhad in his speech at Amir Kabir University, openly threatened EU with retaliations for siding with US stance against Iran.

[9]  Iran warns against trans-Caspian pipeline: The Iranian Foreign Ministry on 20 February warned Turkmenistan about ''any initiatives aimed at building oil and gas pipelines under the Caspian Sea,'' AP and dpa reported. Turkmenistan the previous day had named the U.S. companies Bechtel Corp. and General Electric as the leaders in a consortium to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline to bring Turkmen natural gas to Azerbaijan (see ''RFE/RL Newsline,'' 19 February 1999). The Iranian Foreign Ministry pointed out that treaties signed by Iran and the Soviet Union in 1921 and 1940 ''are still in force'' and that any action taken without the consent of all the littoral states will be considered ''illegal.'' The Iranian Foreign Ministry said ''the perpetrators of such action are held fully responsible for any harmful consequences to the Caspian Sea, such as environmental damage.'' (Bruce Pannier) Asia Times, February, 4, 1999.

[10]  During the Tehran Summit, Putin & AhmadiNezhad signed an agreement to boost trade exchange to $200 billion in the next decade. See: Iran, Russia to increase trade exchanges to $200B, (http://www.payvand.com/news/07/oct/1170.html)

[11]  This proposal was rejected by Iran last year, when Putin and AhmadiNezhad met in China. It is speculated that this is what Putin proposed in private to Khamenei during their visit in Tehran.

[12]  Also ‘Derbent’ in common English usage. 

 

... Payvand News - 10/23/07 ... --



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