Caucasus great game revisited
As Iran and Turkey agree on regional security issues, pressure from OTAN and Russia reminds many of the Great Game conflicting interests in the Caucasus. This article - from an Iranian perspective- explains some motivations behind the political moves of the countries in the region.
By Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi, Security in the southern Caucasus has become a heated subject of debate among powers in and outside the region. Georgia, Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan are situated on the security turf of south Caucasus. Indeed, the special attention paid to the security of that part of the world is related to the summer developments in the Republic of Georgia.
America’s unnatural backing for Georgia and Azerbaijan’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has naturally been seen in the Kremlin as ’unwanted and unhelpful’ interference and created more disturbing equations in the troubled region. The new situation has brought into its wake a variety of plans for ensuring stability and security in the Caucasus. Proposals from Iran and Turkey are especially important for different reasons. It is not yet clear that regional implications bode well for the Iranian and Turkish initiatives. However, it can be said that Russia, which is obviously concerned and openly opposed to the advancement of the western military alliance in Moscow’s neighborhood, wants regional integration not enlargement of NATO.
Details of Iran’s and Turkey’s plans are not yet clear, but it can be fairly claimed that minus the contingent differing approach, both have more or less the same framework. The indisputable reality is that any security plan or program to succeed in the south Caucasus, must at the outset be conceived within a regional framework and without interference from regimes outside the region. This is probably one factor underlined in proposals put for by Ankara and Tehran, and very likely has Moscow’s nod. It should be noted that there are real problems in the south Caucasus that demand real solutions outside of political rhetoric. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are the main concern for Russia and Georgia, while the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the most important bone of contention in the relationship between the Armenians and Azeris. Regarding the issue of finding a final solution to the south Caucasian ills, there may be difference (s) of opinion. But one thing is certain: the region is crying out for a workable political solution. It is on open secret that the regional powers can and must do their fair share in contributing to solutions to the regional problems. If for any reason any country related in any way to safeguarding regional security is bypassed, stability will remain a far cry to the peril of regional development and growth. The three countries in the south Caucasus are in the present largely due to the fact that all three have attracted a higher level of interest from NATO and Russia. Georgia is visibly in a more sensitive if not awkward situation compared to the other two. If Georgia joins NATO in the wake of pressures exerted by the Europeans and America, no regional plan will produce anything of value. For now Georgia has become a venue for new and intense rivalry between Russia and the US-led western powers. To avoid animosities and dangers reminiscent of the Cold War era, regional plans should be studied without bias. It is evident that Bush’s America and Europe do not want to see Iran play an effective role in helping ensure security of the southern Caucasus. But given Turkey’s close bonds to and membership in NATO, its role in resolving the security problems could be more palatable to America and its junior partners in Europe. It need recalling that Armenia has historical problems with Turkey but it ties to Tehran are close and cordial. Armenia is geographically located between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and if Ankara ignores this reality its plan will not have much chance of success. The bottom line is that security in the south Caucasus can and will be achieved only through honest regional cooperation and without unwanted foreign intervention. It is also apparent that NATO’s push toward the East will not help but hinder the search for viable and lasting stability in the Caucasus and beyond. After all NATO is a relic of the Cold War and cannot be expected to help find solutions to today’s more complicated problems of the ’global village’ or whatever that means.