Iran: Azerbaijan Military Manoeuvre Adversely Affects Caspian Issue


Shargh web site, Tehran,
2 May 04

The Republic of Azerbaijan is planning to perform a military manoeuvre
in the Caspian Sea in the coming days. Contrary to the remarks by the
commander of Azerbaijan’s Border Guards regarding the aims of the
manoeuvre in terms of evaluating the readiness of the border forces of
the Azerbaijan Republic in order to confront a possible violation of
its maritime borders, it seems that this military action is
commensurate with the deployment of NATO equipment in the areas close
to the northern borders of Iran and that the aims of the manoeuvres
are something else.

Holding military manoeuvres so soon after the recent Moscow
conference, during which the littoral states of the Caspian Sea
declared their verbal commitment to keep the Caspian Sea far from
militarization and help the establishment of a durable peace, is a
matter that can be studied from several points of view.

A long time ago, Aran and Shirvan were annexed forcefully by Tsarist
Russia and the name was changed to the Republic of Azerbaijan. The
policies of that republic in the later course of history were always
accompanied with the negation of the historical identities and always
affected the security of the northern borders of Iran. The leaders of
the Republic of Azerbaijan, which has fewer than 8 million population,
under the guidance of the late president of the Azerbaijan, Haydar
Aliyev, used the old doctrines of the former USSR to insist on the
common language of Azeris with Iranian Azerbaijan, as an element for
trying to separate this part of Iran from the rest of the country.

The Republic of Azerbaijan, since its independence from the 15
republics of the former USSR, has tried to regain old aims and has
tilted towards extraterritorial powers for financial and other
assistance. They have attracted 12.5m dollars from the White House and
Washington’s special budget to consolidate and equip the Azeri Navy
and bring it up to NATO standards, in line with the militarization of
the Caspian Sea. The military influence of the USA on the regional
countries around the Caspian Sea has been increasing under many
pretexts, like the training of military forces or holding
manoeuvres. For instance, every year we see the common manoeuvres by
the USA with regard to Kazakhstan. In order to increase the support
from the Republic of Azerbaijan, the USA has used its experience of
military and economic assistance programmes. The Americans have
presented warships and patrol boats to Azerbaijan. They are
consolidating their own presence in the region through a partner like
Azerbaijan to protect their oil interests. On the other side, the
Russian Federation, which had the reputation of a powerful military
presence in the Caspian Sea, has tried to enhance its military muscle
through holding naval manoeuvres. The great manoeuvre of the Russians
in the Port of Astrakhan, immediately after the summit of the littoral
states in Asgabat, was in the same line. The Russian Federation has
recently declared that it has to equip its forces in the Caspian Sea
with the latest military equipment.

Undoubtedly, Iran’s northern neighbours are taking advantage its
passive position. Relying on the great powers, they are trying to
enhance their military power in the Caspian Sea in order to gain more
advantages in there. They will be able to protect the security of the
pipelines under constructions, especially Baku-Ceyhan, which are
uneconomical routes designed to bypass Iran, as well as to pressure
Iran to go deeper into the passive mood and ignore its rights to oil
and gas in the Caspian Sea. This point gains importance when we notice
that four of the 14 main oil and gas fields in Azerbaijan are within
the 20 per cent limits that some Iranian politicians have set as the
acceptable share for Iran. Of course, Azerbaijan’s other allies, like
Turkey, which has 15 km of common border with Azerbaijan, and Israel,
are planning to expand the political, economic, and cultural influence
in the region, and they are supporting Azerbaijan from a military
point of view.

The reality is that, despite the failure of the repeated sessions and
conferences of the littoral states for devising a proper exploitation
plan in the Caspian Sea and the codification of joint military plans
in order to preserve the balance of naval power in the Caspian Sea,
can be followed by our authorities in order to protect the national
interests and facilitate the implementation of other plans. On the
other side, Iran’s power to affect the Karabakh and Talesh issues are
among Iran’s capacities that have not been used, and they can be
important in the preservation of stability along the maritime and land
borders and help Iran to play its natural and historical role.