West stubbornly seeks confrontation with Iran

Nikolai Kolchugin:

West stubbornly seeks confrontation with Iran

PanARMENIAN.Net - Iran’s nuclear program, Western sanctions against Iranian oil supply, suspension of bank transfers - all this maintains increased tension over the past months worldwide. Tensed relations with neighbors like Turkey and Azerbaijan make it harder to reach an agreement with Iran. Expert in Near and Middle East, candidate of historic sciences, associate professor Nikolai Kolchugin shares his views on the “Iranian problem” with PanARMENIAN.Net.
Which is of more importance, Iran for Armenia or vice versa?

This is a complicated question which has no definite answer, I suppose. Eternal friendship rarely occurs between states, and I believe that neither Iran nor Armenia is among those who enjoy this. However, they have something in common; both countries in fact are in a state of war, namely in a cold war phase.

The West seeks obvious confrontation with Iran, with stubbornness characteristic of the known animal in the East. In early 2012, U.S. openly declared it is only a matter of time. Still, I don’t think hostilities may be waged now; it is unlikely to happen prior to elections in U.S.

However, the next U.S. president, whoever it may be, will have to face the “Iranian problem”. A new generation bred on anti-American ideology has grown in Iran since 1979, so U.S. can no longer hope for peaceful “return” to Tehran. The Islamic regime in Iran does not want to “bend”; it can only be “broken”.

Actually, Iran awaits a “hot”, military stage of confrontation with the West. We increasingly see international isolation and nuclear program charges, killings of nuclear scientists, economic embargo and ban on Iranian oil import, financial restrictions, etc.

Under such circumstances, Iran prefers Armenia, and does not base its regional policy on supporting the Muslim Azerbaijan, identical to Iranians with regard to Shia, in its conflict with Christian Armenia.

Armenian deputy foreign minister Shavarsh Kocharyan visited Iran recently to meet his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi. Iranian foreign minister stated that his country highly appreciated relations with neighboring fraternal Armenia.

Tehran really does not consider the 35-km-long Iranian-Armenian border as a potential corridor for a strike against Iranian territory.

Along with Georgia, Iran is in fact the second “path to external world” for Armenia, other directions being blocked by hostile Turkey and Azerbaijan.

It was Tabriz-Ararat pipeline that supplied gas to Armenia since 2008, which is of strategic importance given the potential irregular supplies of Russian gas through Georgia. Tehran is a key investor in Armenian economy, including the country’s energy.

I disagree with the assumption that Iran can close its border with Armenia in case of attacks. This is the view of those who never visited Meghri and never saw the Iranian-Armenian border.

Forecasts about potential mass influx of Iranian refugees to Armenia are at least surprising. It’s hard to imagine that ethnic Azerbaijanis living in neighbouring Iranian provinces will seek refuge in Armenia.

I believe both states are mutually interested in each other, and Tehran will further abstain from taking any unilateral actions not coordinated with Yerevan.

Why are Israel's nuclear war-heads, presumably counting 400 never voiced?

This is an interesting topic which appears to be thickly veiled. Israeli leaders never mention it in their official statements. Israel neither officially confirmed nor refuted it has nuclear weapon, though foreign analysts believe it does.

In 1960s Israeli then-PM Levi Eshkol declared that Israel will never become the first Near Eastern country to use nuclear weapon. All his successors later repeated the same idea in this or that form. In fact, the “won’t use” phrasing means they indirectly admit they do have the nuclear weapon.

Former head of USSR foreign ministry’s department on Near East, special envoy Oleg Grinevsky once said in an interview: “Our intelligence had reliable data about Israel’s nuclear potential back in 1960s”. Despite lack of any evidence on nuclear testing by Israel, many experts believe the nuclear blast in southern Indian ocean in 1979 was such a testing.

Several days ago Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Israel has 250-300 nuclear war-heads and resented the fact that nobody speaks or discusses it. Well, he'd better discuss the subject with his U.S. ally Barack Obama; maybe then the international community would get at least some information about Israeli nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, the world is thrilled with Iran's nuclear program, military goals of which are doubtful since no relevant evidence is available so far.

How will relations between Azerbaijan and Iran further develop?

Given the actual state of relations between these countries, we can speak about Tehran-Baku confrontation.

For Azerbaijan, indeed, the key issue in contacts with Iran remains the latter’s position on Karabakh conflict. And Tehran is not to be trusted in this, Baku believes.

For instance, during the recent visit of Azerbaijani defense minister Abiyev Iran refused to change its stance on Nagorno Karabakh; a few days later, Azerbaijan disclosed Iranian spy network which resulted in another diplomatic scandal, with Azerbaijani ambassador called to Iranian foreign ministry to receive a note of protest.

It is no secret that any decision by Iran, new in principle on Nagorno Karabakh may be sanctioned only by the top leadership of the Islamic Republic. As for now, Iran is not going to change its position, and there are no grounds to expect Tehran to support Azerbaijan.

Iran sees that Baku does not consider its conflict with Armenia to be a “frozen one”. Azerbaijan purchases modern armament, so that to be able to settle the issue through force, despite peace talks with Armenia.

As a real threat of Israeli strike against Iran emerged in 2012, Azerbaijan struck the largest in its history military-technical deal with Israel totaling USD 1.6 billion, ignoring its neighbor Iran.

By staking on the military-technical alliance with Israel at the sacrifice of relations with Iran, Azerbaijan seems to have made a strategic mistake. Up to now, even U.S. never allowed its military facilities to sign large deals on arms supply to Azerbaijan fearing it would spark new hostilities between Baku and Yerevan over Karabakh ownership.

Adhering to the “friend of my foe (Israel) is my foe” principle, and given the unprecedented prospects of Baku’s potential military alliance with Tel-Aviv, Iran’s military and political leadership tends to consider neighboring Azerbaijan to be its regional rival.

Washington right away approved of Baku-Tehran relations facing confrontation again. The U.S. Department of State highly assessed the cooperation with Azerbaijani government. After such statements voiced by the U.S. Iran no longer doubts that Baku can be manipulated by telephone instructions from Washington.

Therefore, Iran does not rule out that Baku can provide its territory as a springboard for U.S. and Israel.

In case the West launches aggression in Iran, Iran reserves the right to respond by destruction of Azerbaijani oil and gas facilities as those owned by its enemy.

Such development of events is very likely given the fact that relations between Tehran and Baku are increasingly deteriorating.