Iran and Central Eurasia: 25 Years after the Soviet Union (Panel I)

Date of publication : November 2, 2016 14:13 pm
Iran and Central Eurasia: 25 Years after the Soviet Union (Panel I)

Date: October 24, 2016
Time: 10:00 to 13:00 (GMT +3:30)
Venue: Center for International Conferences, Shahid Beheshti University (SBU), Tehran, Iran

In this event, the experts gave their opinions about Iran-Eurasia ties during the past two and half decades. The following is the excerpts of the comments in the first panel.

Davoud Gharayagh-zandi, PhD
Head of Regional Studies Center, Shahid Beheshti University (SBU)
"In today’s world, the recency of the nation-state concept in regional debates has gained a high value and is one of the major challenges in this region. Radical Islamism has shaped many contexts in the region which can be threatening. For example, many ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq come from these countries. Organized crime, ethnic and territorial dispute, and military engagement are also some other challenges in the region. These evidences when put together, point to the fact that Central Eurasia is vulnerable to foreign intervention; any country, with enough power and facilities, can easily infiltrate this region and establish a foothold."
"After the demise of USSR, Iran found itself surrounded with five neighboring countries instead of the superpower which has made some opportunities as well as threats to Iran. The fall of the Soviet Union gave us more security freedom. This being said, it has to be emphasized that 25 years after the fall of USSR, Iran, due to various reasons such as the opposition by regional and trans-regional powers, has not been able to form desirable ties with Central Eurasian and Caucasian nations. In other words, Iran alone is not responsible for its absence in the region because there is opposition to Iran’s presence and it has played an important role. Iran has to consider the geopolitical mode while dealing with Eurasia."

Mahmoud Shoori, PhD
Head of Eurasia Program at Center for Strategic Research (CSR); Senior Expert at IRAS

"While Iran and Russia might not have provided assistance for one another they have certainly provided many opportunities for each other. In any case, Russia has provided strategic opportunities for Iran such as the nuclear plant in Bushehr and selling arms to Iran. He pointed to the fact that Russia has not met the Western expectations for containing Iran which is in itself a strategic opportunity for Tehran. When it comes to facing threats, Iran and Russia show regional expansionist ambitions but these ambitions are not at odds which is another positive point in their relations."
"Iran and Russia entering the Syrian arena must be seen as an ordering process. Nevertheless, the perspective depends on how the two countries view towards the future events. It yet not clear whether Russia will demand its presence in other regional affairs after the Syrian crisis is resolved and whether its presence will be at odds with Iran’s interests. He emphasized the fact that if the relations between Russia and Iran in Syria, which was the non-declared division of labor benefiting both countries, is taken as a model for future course of action the Iran-Russia ties will be successful."

Jahangir Karami, PhD
Head of Russia Department at Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran; Senior Expert at IRAS
 "Economic development, energy transit, regional convergence, and security process are some of the important factors that have to be considered by Iranian policy makers while dealing with Central Asian and Caucasian countries."
"In the absence of an existential threat, the current security processes have themselves posed threats which can affect Islamic Republic’s role significantly."
"Nevertheless, the intervention and presence of major powers, trespassing Iran’s sphere of influence by regional and trans regional powers, border and ethnic problems, security and intelligence breaches, and the efforts made to alienate Iran are some of the major challenges facing Iran which is trying to improve its relations with the countries in the region."
"Some regional organizations are Russian based and other Western based and this has led to varying positive and negative views about Iran by these organizations."

Julia Zotova, PhD
Assistant Professor at Islamic Azad University
 "Since the fall of Soviet Union and the geopolitical limitations posed by this fact on Russia, it had to move further north since it had lost its southern regions and hence its spheres of geopolitical influence."
"The conditions after the fall and the shift from Socialist economy to market and other issues lead to a 40% drop in GDP in Russia during 1992-1998 and an 80% reduction in investment."
"After Primakov took office, Russia’s return to southern regions and the growing importance of former regions such as the east entered a new phase. Shanghai pact was Russia’s total turning to the east which originates in Primakov’s ideas."

Afshin Zargar, PhD
Assistant Professor at Islamic Azad University; Senior Expert at IRAS
 "Russia seeks regional dominance. Due to their weakness, Moscow lost some of their geopolitical influence but now they want to turn into a major power in the region and neutralize other player’s plans. The 2020 act shows Russia trying to insulate its surrounding regions."
"Russia is a revisionist power and while the US is involved in many issues the rising tensions between the two is probable. US is trying to diverge regional governments from Russia’s side. Washington sees Russia as a threat and is looking for ways to avoid Russia unleashing its power. But China is a mysterious player in the region trying to capture regional markets, gain access to energy sources, and safe transit and it will use other player’s abilities to achieve its aims. In fact China seeks multilateralism and wants to keep things as they are now."
"Iran must enter into controlled cooperation with Russia and avoid trusting an unpredictable country without predicting possible outcomes. The future regional prospect will be decided by Russia’s 2020 act, Iran’s 2025 act, and China’s 2025 act."

Vali Kaleji, PhD
Senior Fellow at Center for Strategic Research (CSR); Senior Expert at IRAS
 "Unlike the content of 2025 Grand Vision, Iran does not have a balanced view towards Eurasia. While this act points to the importance of Caucasia, it is both culturally and geopolitically lagging behind Iran. Armenia is Iran’s gateway to the world. Azerbaijan holds the second largest Shia population and Georgia shares a lot of historical and cultural heritage with Iran."
"The region has two balance making players: Russia is the foreign balancing agent and Georgia plays its role from inside the region. But Iran has focused on cooperating with Russia to find a solution for regional issues."
"There is no comprehensive regional mechanism to which Iran and other countries in the region are committed and since multilateral mechanisms are able to communicate with bilateral and regional mechanisms Iran should try to make multilateral mechanisms."
"After Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Saudi’s visited the region the most. This was done with certain aims in mind which are at odds with Iran’s interests."

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