Author: Interview by Maria Sidelnikova, exclusive to VK
The director of the Center for Public Policy Research, Vladimir Yevseyev, told VK about his vision of the events around Iran.
- Recently, Iranian President Ahmadinejad met in Baku with President Aliyev and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Does this mean that there has been some warming in the relationship between Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey?
- From the time of my visit to Baku in February this year, I have observed the deterioration of relations between Iran and Azerbaijan. The motives for this were many: the supply of arms from Israel, the incidents of Israeli diplomats in Baku, the arrest of Azerbaijani citizens accused of having links to the Revolutionary Guards. There were more than enough motives for the deterioration of relations. At the same time, I think it is necessary to relieve the excessive tension between the two countries, especially if they have a common border. For Iran, it is important that the level of confrontation does not go beyond certain limits. From this point of view, the tension has eased to some extent.
Tensions exist not only between Azerbaijan and Iran, but also between Iran and Turkey, due to the different approaches to a solution of the Syrian problem. Therefore, Turkey is also interested in the removal of excessive tension and continuation of economic cooperation with Iran, and not only in the purchase of Iranian natural gas or transit of Turkmen gas. Turkey is interested in the implementation of various projects, and excessive tension has been relieved, but the problems are not solved. The very fact that the meeting took place indicates that the parties do not wish to aggravate the situation, but to find a suitable compromise. That is, the situation should not be aggravated, it should be painted only in black. Foreign policy is not just an attempt to realize national interests, but also an attempt to avoid a serious confrontation. This meeting seems to have achieved its goal, not because something could be solved (the problem is too serious), but because it was possible to ease the excessive tension.
- What was the reaction of Turkey to the sanctions banning the import of gas from Iran?
- I think that Turkey, of course, was dissatisfied, because it was affected first. I am very interested in the question of transit, because in this case, the gas is not Iranian. The issue of transit through Iranian territory arose, and here Turkey indirectly may suffer. You know, 8 billion cubic meters is not crucial for Turkey, it can take them for its own needs, but with the installation of the second pipeline, the possibility of transporting Turkmen gas will expand. In this case Turkmen gas will be crucial for Turkey, because it is motivated to sell this gas to the EU. For Turkey, the EU agreement to transport Turkmen gas to Turkey is more important. I think there will be a formal decision and its implementation. Given the importance of Turkey to the EU (it is also an advance party in the conflict with Syria), the EU will agree and "not notice" the delivery of Turkmen gas to Turkey via Iranian territory. Turkey is a NATO member, NATO announced the support of Ankara in the Syrian question. Under these conditions, not to satisfy the requirements of Turkey would be unwise. I think that's why they will try to overlook the issue of Turkmen gas.
- Will Iran continue to support Syria after the imposition of sanctions?
- In the condition of economic sanctions, Iran's ability to provide economic assistance to Syria will be reduced. However, Iran will continue to provide necessary assistance to Syria, even in the face of economic sanctions. In Syria, mainly two Alawite divisions and 10 regiments of special forces are fighting. It is basically they who have taken on the burden of fighting. It would be wrong to assume that in Syria, Syrian problem are being solved by the Iranians, for example, representatives of "Hezbollah". Apparently, they will continue to participate in the operations, they do not bear major losses, they are not the main force that is solving the internal problems of Syria. Another question is that to solve local problems, perhaps, indeed, it would be good to have trained special forces, which have not been exhausted by constant fighting, because the forces that are fighting against the radicals have been really exhausted. They are approximately 30,000, and they have been fighting already for a year and a half and, of course, they must also be angry. From this point of view, it is possible to use Iranian special forces in local operations, but it does not solve the problem. This is just to help.
In addition, the help should apparently consist of the supply of arms, but as far as I know, they have enough weapons for combat. Iran's main support is not the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but economic assistance. The fate of Bashar Assad is now being decided in the field of economics, because if Assad survives economically, then, apparently, he will hold onto power while alive. If he does not stand economically, then no Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will be able to protect him. Here, the role of Iran is very significant. It affects the situation both directly and indirectly, through other countries.
- If sanctions actually weaken Iran, does this mean that it can turn back on issues such as the status of the Caspian Sea?
- I do not believe that Iran will accept any ultimatum. If someone wants to persuade Iran to make concessions, it must be very nicely presented. This side would have to convince the world that it is not Iran, but we who are making concessions. Only in this case can Iran approach some sort of compromise. From this point of view, what you speak about is unacceptable to Iran. Iran will not make any compromise, especially as the status of the Caspian Sea does not influence the situation now, it is a long-term problem. Iran knows that Russia is interested in maintaining the current state of affairs. Expecting some progress on the Caspian Sea because of the sanctions would be wrong. This is not the reason. But if someone wants to get something from Iran, the information must be prepared. It must be possible to say that Iran does not make concessions, but in fact, in some way, it wins. This is the art of working with Iran. Unfortunately, I do not see in the West an understanding of the Iranian psychology, and for them it is very important to save face. If the West works by ultimatums, as now, it will not succeed. It does not let Iran save face, and it prevents Iran from compromising. At the same time, Iran, with centuries of diplomatic experience, very often uses the shortcomings of the West. Overall, I think that with Iran the method of compromise is unacceptable.