Armenia-Iran energy cooperation suits USA, agency says

Armenia-Iran energy cooperation suits USA, agency says

Mediamax news agency, Yerevan
14 Feb 05

Excerpt from report in English by Armenian news agency Mediamax on
14 February headlined “Armenia between Iran and the United States”

The Armenian defence minister and secretary of the Security Council
under the Armenian president, Serzh Sarkisyan, paid an official visit
to Iran last week.

[Passage omitted: details of Sarkisyan’s visit]

The Armenian defence minister’s visit to Teheran took place right at
the time when clouds began gathering over Iran. Despite the fact that
the United States has not lately displayed any signs of discontent
over the expanding Armenian-Iranian political, economic and energy
cooperation, it should not be ruled out that the situation may change
in case the pressure on Iran increases.

[Passage omitted: USA imposed sanctions on Armenian company in 2002
for delivering chemical substances to Iran; details of plans to build
Armenia-Iran gas pipeline]

Washington, naturally, has never supported the Iran-Armenia gas
pipeline project. In March 2002, the US ambassador to Armenia, John
Ordway, said that the United States was not against ordinary economic
relations between Armenia and Iran. “However, the USA is preoccupied
with the fact that Iran supports terrorism and purchases weapons of
mass destruction… As Armenia is one of Iran’s closest neighbours,
I expect these issues should give concern to Armenia as well,” the
American diplomat said.

Nevertheless, over the past years the United States has made
no statement against the construction of an Iran-Armenia gas
pipeline. However paradoxical it may seem, we dare suppose that
the construction of an Iran-Armenia gas pipeline is, in a sense,
advantageous to the United States, which has begun open expansion in
the South Caucasus, since the realization of this project will make
Yerevan less dependent on Moscow, and, therefore, more compliant in
issues concerning the promotion of relations with Washington.

[Passage omitted: quotes from Armenian foreign minister’s statement
made in September 2004]

Although a war against Iran is highly unlikely, it is obvious that the
United States will increase its pressure on Teheran. This, of course,
gives concern to Yerevan, which should not waste time and should work
out several scenarios (optimistic, pessimistic and very pessimistic)
of behaviour and wait to see how far the confrontation between the
United States and Iran will go. For instance, if the rift widens,
Armenia will have to be more persistent with the United States in
the issue of opening the Armenian-Turkish border as an alternative
to Iranian communication routes. But if US-Iranian relations warm
up a little (this is, unfortunately, very unlikely), Armenia may try
to assume the role of a bridge between the sides which can launch a
policy of “small steps”.

In any case, the time has come when Armenia, which is already
overloaded with numerous commitments to the powers often pursuing
opposite strategic aims in the region, has to conduct a much more
cautious policy. Any mistake, which is considered to be minor in the
short term, can have serious consequences in the long run.