Strong and weak points of Iran

By Vestnik Kavkaza

On April 5-6 the next round of negotiations between six international mediators and Iran on Tehran’s nuclear program will be held in Alma-Ata.

Vladimir Sazhin, senior scientist of the Oriental Studies Institute of the RAS, told Vestnik Kavkaza that “the nuclear problem of Iran is one of the most urgent ones, not only for the Islamic Republic itself but also for the system of nuclear security in the world, i.e. preservation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We shouldn’t expect crucial decisions in Alma-Ata. What is the role of Russia? Russia has been trying for many years, almost a decade, to persuade Iran to meet the IAEA and six mediators halfway in the sphere of settlement of the Iranian nuclear problem. Recently, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has proposed a nice idea – a so-called “step-by-step” settlement of the Iranian nuclear problem. Imagine, on the one sheet we write demands to Iran; on the other we write a list of sanctions which are launched against Iran. If Iran fulfils a demand, a sanction is crossed off. If it fulfills the next demand, another sanction is crossed off. So, step by step all sanctions will be cancelled. I believe it is a good and productive idea. They need to work to develop a principle of correlation between sanctions and demands. This is technical work; it can be done. The second task is defining the conditions, because no conditions means ineffectiveness. Certain conditions should be determined for Iran – it should fulfill a certain demand for a certain condition, and a certain sanction would be cancelled. It is a nice way. I think even Russia’s Western partners agree with the idea.”

Sazhin reminded that Iran is to hold presidential elections on June 14th: “I don’t think any crucial decisions will be made before this. We should wait till autumn. The elections are on June 14th, the new president’s inauguration is in early August; then a government will be composed; and by late autumn we can start a new round of working with Iran.”

“Iran doesn't have many allies; but the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria is one of them. Of course, Iran is doing its best to maintain the regime – it is providing military, financial, political and moral support to the regime. However, the situation in the country is getting worse; the civil war continues. Moreover, it is expanding. There are almost 80 thousand casualties. The situation is disastrous. Russia is doing everything possible to stop the war. Everything else is not so important. Then there must be a settlement of the internal problems of Syria, which should be settled by Syrians themselves without interference from Assad’s or the opposition’s supporters. I think Russia's capabilities in the sphere of contribution to prevention of violence are not exhausted. I think Moscow should improve its activity in this sphere. Russia doesn’t protect Bashar al-Assad, doesn’t strive for preservation of this regime. The only thing which Russia wants is to stop the deaths of innocent people – children, women – who do not participate in the civil war on any side. Moreover, Russia is interested in this because about 30-40 thousand Russian citizens are living in Syria. I mean our women who married Syrians and their children. That is why the Syrian problem is a very important issue. I repeat that Russia should do its best to intensify working with all players on the ground in Syria to stop the war through mutual efforts.”

Vladimir Yevseyev, director of the Socio-Political Studies Center, also believes that the situation in Syria will influence Iran: “Bashar al-Assad can remain president of a Syrian Arab Republic. The question is of what part of it. One third of the country is controlled by Bashar al-Assad and he can maintain his power in the one third of the country under certain conditions. The dynamics are strong. This is confirmed by the fact that Palestinians have begun to fight against Assad’s army actively. In autumn the situation in Syria will be less favourable for Iran. For Iran, Syria has always been a battlefield against Israel, first of all.

A great success of Iranian diplomacy was the gas pipeline to Pakistan. This was done in spite of the West. It means limitation of Western influence. Iran did its best. It has constructed a pipeline to the border of Pakistan and is ready to finance construction of it on Pakistani territory. It appears Pakistan will get a new direction for development – Iranian-Pakistani relations. They have mutual interests. Despite the fact that the pipeline will cross through Balochistan, mutual interests are obvious. Even India can be involved in the project after its implementation. This is a new direction which will influence Iranian policy.

At the same time Yevseyev noted that “there will be no warming of Russian-American relations. This is a positive factor for the IRI, because Russia will easily cooperate with it in settling certain problems. Moreover, there is no complete mutual understanding between the USA and Israel. Why did Obama demand from Netanyahu apologies and agreement for compensation for the Mavi Marmara? It settled two tasks. First, it is obvious, is Syria. Two allies on Syria have to cooperate with each other. Secondly, there is Iran. Nobody can exclude the possibility that Israel would decide to launch a strike. It is possible in some prospect, and it would be nice not to involve Turkey in this.”