Tags: U.S. | Prospects | Iranian-Caspian | Regions

U.S. Prospects in Iranian-Caspian Regions

Tuesday, 17 June 2003 12:00 AM

The author spent a week in Washington, D.C., from May 31 to June 7, met specialists in leading think tanks and some government departments, and visited Washington Times publishing house. The major impression is that the local atmosphere has changed greatly when compared to my last Washington visit in mid-March.

Namely, America, after lengthy hesitation, eventually entered the war and won its first stage – the first stage, but not the entire battle for the Middle East and the Caspian region. The major struggle, which should result in a dramatic change in the political landscape in the Middle East and the Caspian zone, is still ahead. People I met generally had no doubts on this account.

The following preliminary conclusions are available, on the basis of the aforementioned conversations and the most recent information from Tehran, Damask, Baghdad and Baku (capital of Azerbaijan):

1) During the second half of 2003 and through 2004, America should concentrate efforts on stabilization and recovery of Iraq. And the best lever for this is the increase of Iraqi oil production and export from the present level of around 1 million barrels a day to at least 6 million or even 8 million barrels a day.

The income from oil export should be used, to the maximal degree possible, for the recovery of the Iraqi medical and education systems, urban infrastructure, reduced unemployment and a general increase in the local people's incomes and consumption. This will undercut the popular base of the emerging Iraqi guerrilla movement and its outside "feeders," mainly Tehran.

At the same time, a large flow of Iraqi oil to the world market would result in considerable shrinking of oil prices and help get the American and Western economies out of recession.

2) Generally, there are no grounds for more U.S. military action in the Middle East up to the end of 2004. However, these 18 months should be used for pressing Syria – with the use of all the tools except direct military attack – to stop its support of terrorists, to freeze its alliance with Iran, to withdraw troops from Lebanon and to transform its entire political system.

3) By the end of 2004, both Georgia and Azerbaijan should become the full-scale political and military allies of America. Their safety – and the safety of pipelines going through their territory from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and the West – should be guaranteed, if necessary, by a massive presence of American and British troops.

If the listed points are successfully accomplished, then it would be possible to claim that the second stage of the Middle East-Caspian struggle has been won, and it would be possible to move to the next stage, the decisive one dealing with Iran and, probably, Saudi Arabia. This second stage, however, could be unexpectedly difficult and require much more time than 18 months.

On June 12-15, Abdollah Nasseri, the director of the major Iranian official news agency, IRNA, visited Damask and Beirut and met the top leaders of Syria and Lebanon. Nasseri and his counterparts decided to upgrade cooperation of all kinds in the "triangle of Iran, Syria and Lebanon" (the expression of IRNA itself) for the purpose of jointly opposing the threat from America and Israel.

Moreover, it was stressed that the "triangle of Iran, Syria and Lebanon" would become a center of "Islamic-Arab-Mideast" opposition to America and its allies. On the same days, the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers held talks aimed at increasing bilateral political cooperation.

Some more facts:

On June 15, the chairman of the Iranian Expediency Council and former President Akbar Rafsanjani officially opened a plant near Isfahan city that is assembling, from Russian and Ukrainian parts, the Iran-140 (AN-140) passenger aircraft for use in the civilian and military sectors.

At the ceremony, the Iranian defense minister, Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, claimed that Iran should expand its defense potential and that the Iran-140 aircraft would contribute to this purpose.

The day before, Shamkhani had congratulated his Russian colleague, Sergei Ivanov, on Russia's National Day. In his message to Ivanov, Shamkhani stressed the importance of "regional defense contracts (cooperation)."

Shamkhani stressed that "joint security concerns and the common interests of the two countries make Iran and Russia interested in forging security cooperation."

Shamkhani also referred to agreements for mutual defensive cooperation and the creation of a "Russian-Iranian information commission for common defense" as providing excellent examples of such cooperation. Shamkhani expressed hope that the two countries' defensive ties and cooperation would grow stronger.

Finally, it is possible to admit that Iran is losing no time in enhancing its defense capabilities, its strategic-military alliance with Syria and Lebanon, its "defensive cooperation" with Russia and political cooperation with Saudi Arabia as well as its ties with anti-American guerrillas in Iraq.

Iranian leaders are definitely not in a panic over the recent fall of Saddam's regime in Iraq and possible problems for Tehran itself!

Moscow's support is of special value for Tehran. On June 6, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister in charge of the Middle East Georgiy Mamedov brushed aside American recommendations to limit Russian-Iranian cooperation in nuclear technology. The construction of the Iranian Bushehr nuclear power station, with the Russian Minatom (Ministry of Nuclear Energy) as its major contractor, has strong ties to Iranian nuclear weapon development.

The chief of Minatom, Alexandr Rumyantsev, made a similar statement on June 9. Remarkably, this statement was instantly reprinted, with positive comments, by the Beijing official media.

Shortly, the Chinese-Russian alliance is on guard, protecting Iran and its local allies from possible troubles and providing Iran with weaponry including, very probably, WMD.

Russia is playing a particularly sinister role here. It would be naive to consider the Moscow interests in Iran as limited by incomes from export of nuclear technologies and conventional weaponry.

In March 2003, just before the beginning of the Iraq war, the influential Moscow weekly military review Nezavisimoye voenniye obozreniye published the article "Caspian costs the war: development of local oil deposits will take place under the military control of Moscow."

The article claimed that Moscow will use all means necessary, including military ones, to deter access by the U.S. and U.K. to the hydrocarbon resources of the Caspian Sea.

And Iran, evidently, will fight shoulder to shoulder with Russia for control of the Caspian shelf. Both sides are extremely afraid that the flow of oil to the West – by the pipelines through Georgia and Azerbaijan – from the Caspian Sea would result in the falling of world oil prices.

The American struggle at the present, second stage of the Middle East campaign is, to rapidly increasing degree, the struggle not merely with Iran and Syria but also with Moscow.

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The author spent a week in Washington, D.C., from May 31 to June 7, met specialists in leading think tanks and some government departments, and visited Washington Times publishing house. The major impression is that the local atmosphere has changed greatly when compared to...
Tuesday, 17 June 2003 12:00 AM
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