Saturday, August 23, 2008

Iran, Georgia, Russia

I know I am over due in providing an Iranian perspective on the Russian/US stand off, which has GREAT implications for Iran. But, luckily someone else has said what I had to (emphasis is mine):

(Naj: Not necessarily though)
Kamal Nazer Yasin 8/22/08

The ongoing crisis in the Caucasus, sparked by Russia’s incursion into Georgia, can open new diplomatic opportunities for Iran. Officials in Tehran are currently treading cautiously, however, keeping their options open as they seek to maximize the benefits of renewed confrontation between the United States and Russia.

Conventional wisdom holds that the breakdown in US-Russian relations could bring immediate benefits for Iran’s nuclear program. Given the fallout over Georgia, many US experts believe Russia will now obstruct American-led efforts in the UN Security Council to expand sanctions against Iran that aim to pressure Tehran into giving up its nuclear aspirations.

while Iranian officials certainly would like to see Russia veto any proposal to tighten the sanctions regime, they are not counting on Moscow to do so. Iranian experts say Russia in the past has proven to be a fickle friend. Thus, many in Tehran do not believe the Kremlin’s policy on the Iranian nuclear issue is necessarily linked to the twists and turns of US-Russian ties. While Moscow may be intent on tweaking Washington, Russian leaders may still see it as in their best interests to maintain solidarity with the other members of the so-called 5+1 group, comprising the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Russia, in any event, cannot be considered an inveterate friend of Iran. In several notable instances, in particular in the ongoing process on the territorial division of the Caspian Sea, the Kremlin has acted more like an enemy than an ally of Iran. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. "Relations between Iran and Russia can best be described as a ‘marriage of convenience," said one Tehran political scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The partnership has never been one of equals. For the past three decades, Iran has been dependent on Russia -- for diplomatic support, arms sales and technological assistance in the nuclear sphere. "Iranian leaders are aware of it [the dependency] and they resent it, but there was very little they could do about it," said the Tehran political scientist.

Iran’s wariness of Russia’s commitment to the bilateral relationship is reflected to Tehran’s studied silence when it comes to the Caucasus crisis. In sharp contrast to other perceived friends of Russia -- in particular Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who voiced full support for Russia’s military action in Georgia, then inked an arms deal in Sochi -- Iran has refrained from taking sides in the Caucasus conflict. [Naj: Iran has good reasons for staying silent: 1) Iran cannot condemn Georgia because Iran's dealing with her own secessionists and would be dealing with them heavy-handedly as Georgia did. 2) Iran cannot condemn Russia because Russia's weakening the Americans, which is what Iran really needs now. 3) Iran cannot support Russia because it is a foreign invasion in the name of "human rights and democracy" which mirrors America's action in Iraq. 4) Iran cannot support Georgia because Georgia's is sucking up to the US! So Iran is doing what is always does during WW-like conflicts: remain silent and neutral]

The Iranian Foreign Ministry adopted a decidedly neutral tone when addressing the Russian-Georgian conflict, resorting to diplomatic platitudes that countries use when they don’t want to commit themselves. Foreign Ministry spokesman
Hassan Qashqavi stated simply at an August 12 briefing that Tehran was "following current developments in the Caucasus and urge[s] the belligerent parties to resolve their disputes through peaceful means."

Since then, Iranian officials have uttered nary a word about the conflict. The low-profile approach seems to indicate that pragmatists in Tehran have control of the foreign policy wheel. Iranian
neo-conservatives who are loyal to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have voiced discontent with Tehran’s current policy. "Our reticence only aids the camp that wishes US regional adversaries to remain silent while US supporters come to the support of [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili," noted an August 16 commentary published in Kayhan, a newspaper that is strongly supportive of Ahmadinejad.

Experts in Tehran believe the Iran’s foreign policy establishment is playing a waiting game in the expectation that deepening US-Russian acrimony will open up new diplomatic avenues that Tehran can use to end its international diplomatic isolation. "A whole new set of options may be opening up for Iran," said an Iran-based expert.

According to some prominent US experts, Iran’s strategic assessment of the situation is sound -- the United States and Russia appear headed for a period of prolonged hostility. "This war [in Georgia] was an early sign of escalating Russian assertiveness" in the Caspian Basin, said Gail Lapidus, a regional expert at Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies. Lapidus added that NATO members will likely feel compelled to take counter-measures to check Kremlin attempts to reassert Russia’s influence in the former Soviet sphere.

From Tehran’s perspective, creating new opportunities requires leverage, and the only way to obtain it is if Iran can play Russia against the United States and European Union, or vice versa. Currently -- with the Bush administration in power in Washington, and Ahmadinejad occupying the Iranian presidency -- few in Tehran are under any illusions that Iran can engage in substantive cooperation with the United States in the near term. But some experts and officials believe that present circumstances, especially given the US-Russian acrimony, could change quickly.

Iran’s rather neutral stance on the [Caucasus] can be read as a signal to the United States," said the Tehran political scientist. Many in Iran’s foreign policy establishment remain interested in trying to restore diplomatic relations with the United States, which would open up the possibility of Iran serving as a major conduit for funneling Caspian Basin energy westward. The fighting in Georgia has exposed the vulnerability of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and other routes. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

If the United States was to open an interest section in Iran, perhaps neighboring countries [such as Turkmenistan] would see this as the start of a thaw in US-Iranian relations -- the real opening they are waiting for in order to boost their trade or oil and gas shipments [via Iran]," said a European-based energy analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Of course, there are numerous obstacles that currently impede a normalization of relations between the United States and Iran. But Iran could at least gain leverage with Russia if it can create the appearance that a rapprochement between Tehran and Washington is possible.

In doing so, Iranian officials would be looking to coax Moscow into following through on numerous commitments, such as completing the
Bushehr nuclear power plant and selling advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. Tehran could also possibly use the US-Russian tension to try to break down Russian and Chinese opposition to admitting Iran into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Editor’s Note: Kamal Nazer Yasin is a pseudonym for a freelance journalist specializing in Iranian affairs.

Gerogia was an Iranian state, taken away by the Russians some 200 years ago

Iran supplied fuel to US-backed Georgia in 2006 when Russia cut them off gas supplies
Fossil fuel energy is not the only form of energy offered to Georgia


RickB said...

I think US neo-cons heads might explode if they read "Iranian neo-conservatives who are loyal to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad"!
They hate looking in the mirror.

I did think the new Cold War 2 (tm) would have some opportunities for Iran and being all Switzerland-y about it is a smart move for now. But the right wing nutjobs who dominate the US oil industry will not be chums with Iran easily even if it benefits them, they will want a nice cooperative neoliberal regime in place to feel comfortable. But it's kind of nice, they are stuck by their prejudice between Russia and Iran which is why they made such a seduction of Georgia a priority, now Saakashvili has proved a bit volatile his days are numbered possibly, they are plenty of willing dupes who'll do his job. The obvious pragmatic move is to normalise relations with Iran but recent history and AIPAC make that a tough move for any administration.

Utah Savage said...

Great post and a new perspective on this situation for me. Also a history lesson.

And just so you know, your comment about the what one having a bipolar meltdown needs was spot on and make me laugh. Thanks

Naj said...


Given that the Islamic Republic is a neo-conservative product, thanks to a 30 years old strategy of creating an Islamic bogeyman to first counter the communism and THEN to replace communism as the source of permanent threat to the west and Israel, so that the military industry complex, god forbid, never runs out of business, I diagree with you that Americans are really interested in a "neo-liberal" regime in Iran.

What's my proof? Well, the neo-liberal regimes of Iran extended a hand of reconciliation to the US, but they were slapped back by being branded "AXIS OF EVIL", so that's that.

Speaking of being chums with Iran ... I think they are ALREADY chums. Have you heard about the little buzz around one of ahmadinejad's aids having said how "Iran is a friend to the people of Israel?"

Or Ahmadinejad having said: "we are going to stop enrichment for a few days so we let the Bushco save face with American people that they have succeeded, and then restart again ... in the light of Iraq being relatively calm amd quiet, in the light of Iran and Turkey (the US lap dog) striking a gas deal that curtails Russia for supplying the West and etc?

Well, Iranians are learned, in juggling a few superpowers at the same time! ;)

Naj said...


I hoped I would make you chuckle! :) Happy I did.

Tom said...

@Utah Savage:I agree to your comment.

Thanx for posting.
Nice article.

Morteza Mirgholami said...

Hi naj

Beatriz (Architect-for-peace prisedent) has returned from her journey to Europe and Middle East but with a big surperize for me

Bezar baghiasho finglish begam ke age ye vaghti injaro khoond behesh barnakhore. Nemidoonam chi behesh gofte boodan ke vaghti bargasht dige oon shooro hal ghabli ro nadasht va safheye marboot be oon forum ro ham az website hazf karde bood ke man ro kheili narahat kard.

Har chand kheili ham ajib nabayad bashe age ba asatide daneshgahhaye ordon, soorieh, mesr, UK sohbat karde bashe chon nefrate tarikhi Arabha az Iraniha har chand kheili penhan ghabele esteshmame. Bad ham az koshtarhaye avayele enghelab o sangsaro in chizha dasht sohbat mikard ke ta tahe ghaziaro khoondam.

Engar na engar ke ma gharare beine mardom peyvand ijad konim va kari be dolatha nabayad dashte bashim. Man ke kolan az in anjomanhaye solh o hoghooghe bashar kam kam daram na omid misham.

Age e-maili dari behem bede ta matne oon forum ro barat befrestam bebini man hatta takidam rooye Youth and women bood na dolat har chan shkhsan ta vaghti ke Iran tahte fesharhaye in bisharafhaast man az hamoon dolatmarda ham hemayat mikonam.



Naj said...

you can email me the content of the forum here.

Also, I hope you didn't let your representative's change of attitude go unaddressed and unchallenged, from fearing to 'offend' her.

Clearly, she has been talking to that smal and dumb group of Iranians who are still MKO sympathizers, or Monarchists, or on American Payrol, like Nourizadeh, Ramin Ahmadi, etc.

But anyways, you have to defend your forum; and make sure that this person is disambiguated from her notions. Easily, tell her that the REAL change in Iran is happening through NGOs and such forums.

Don't give up. Dwelling over the ugly past won't change anything. And as for "stoning" inform that person that it is being legislated OUT of EXISTENCE.

Morteza Mirgholami said...

intentCITY Iran 2010

We would like to have your views, ideas and possible contribution to this very ambitious next forum.

Why Iran?

Iran is at the same time a fundamentalist state and a modern state trying to open the way for a very active, evolved, and democratic society. You know that my trilogy [network society] has been published in Iran without censorship? Either I am a fundamentalist, or Iran is becoming a very diverse intellectual culture-there is evidence that it is the latter. Manuel Castells, 2003, p.103
This project is an opportunity to engage with, discuss and learn through the exchange of ideas and experience of the living aspects of cities and culture. Proposing alternatives to the idea of the conflict, Architects for Peace will explore learning and creativity through the sharing of friendship, knowledge, city and culture with our colleagues in Iran. Furthermore, outside Australia, the second largest group of arch-peace members come from Iran.

Iran is currently threatened by war. As professionals of the built environment we oppose unilateral military intervention of sovereign nations. In the 21 century it is incomprehensible to contemplate war as a solution - the senseless loss of lives, the destruction of cities, culture and of our fragile ecology.

Architects for Peace acts in solidarity with people threaten by war and with our colleagues wherever they live. Current social and ecological challenges demand that we should focus on new forms of engagement. This forum aims to create a discussion about peace and the urban environment in a location particularly threaten by war.

...However Tehran does have one thing that is lacking elsewhere: vivacity. This quality is difficult to define and almost impossible to create. Even if a crossroad in Tehran doesn’t function like a European square, with restaurants and infrastructure, it does teem with life. Tehran is dynamic, it is movement…. Kaveh Mehrabani, 2006, p55

Iran, as an old civilization with a proud heritage and tradition is also a modern country which experienced a rapid process of modernization and urbanization during the last five decades. While the pre-revolutionary Iran was always seen as a modern and progressive country, its post-revolutionary image is ambiguous and has faced different forms of misrepresentation or ignorance by the Western media which fails to project its diverse, young and dynamic society. With inherited urban problems such as extreme social stratification, dependency and growth of informal settlements from the previous regime the country had to face some other growing problems. A year after the revolution of 1979, the country faced war imposed by its neighbour, Iraq and those who backed it, which destroyed many urban structures and affected the life of many people. As M.Lubeck and Brits (2002, p.311-2) states:

“For urban activists who failed to apply Western models of social transformation, the revolution constituted a unique rupture with the past. For unlike other movements, revolutionary Iran survived the onslaughts of powerful antagonists: isolation and destabilization by the United States, Saudi funded efforts to delegitimize the revolution as an Islamic discourse, and the Iraqi invasion.”

While the shadow of war is still a part of people’s everyday life who are experiencing different kinds of isolation and marginalization from the international community, there are many groups especially youths and women who enthusiastically are working toward a modern, peaceful and promising Iran.

This forum aims to bring the views of these people and other guests from all over the world together in different areas related to urbanization, war and peace such as war migrants, representation of peace in architecture, affordable housing, social justice and urban development etc.

These are some potential topics—please send us your ideas.

- Universal right to shelter
- Humanity’s heritage
- Informal settlements
- Tehran and marginalization of the southerners
- Prevention of war and reconstruction after war
- Ethnic minorities and urban stratification
- War and urban migration
- Mobility and opportunity
- Architectural education and peace

Would you like to assist? Are you an Iranian member and you would like to help? Please write to us:

Logo Competition:
As an inaugural action, we are calling for arch-peace members to participate in a design competition for a logo for IntentCity Iran 2010. The logo should convey the urban culture of Iran. The winner will be acknowledged on our website and receive a publication prize.

Please note amendments. Thanks Hanif Agharazy for the suggested details for the logo.

- For website purposes:
Dimensions: 300-500 pixels
Resolution: 100-150 DPI
File Format: GIF-JPEG

- For publication purposes:
Dimensions: 10 centimeteres
Resolution: 300-600 DPI
File Format: TIFF

See you all at intentCITY Iran 2010!

Beatriz C. Maturana
Architects for Peace, president

Morteza Mirgholami
Architects for Peace, Middle East coordinator

Castells, M. (2003). Conversations with Manuel Castells, Manuel Castells and Martin Ince, Oxford: Polity.
Mehrabani, K. (2006). Teheran’s multiple modernities, A meeting in December 2006), Domus, 901
M.Lubeck, P. and Bryana Britts (2002). Muslim civil society in urban public spaces: globalization, discursive shifts, and social movements. In J.Eade and C. Mele (Edi) , Understanding the city: contemporary and future perspectives (pp.311-2), Oxford, UK; Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishing.

Find more about Iran:

I am going to discuss with her many things and in worse scenario I will tell her that their organization is not much different with ignorant stupid channels such as FOX NEWS or CNN or even worse because these people call themselves peace seekers!

Anonymous said...

Hi naj

Yes. If you like :)