Staunton, September 29 – Of the five littoral states which agreed to the Caspian convention in Aktau in August 2018, only one – Iran – has not ratified it, a reflection of domestic issues there but one that is making some in Moscow and other regional capitals nervous because until Tehran acts, the convention does not enter into force.
In a commentary for the Rhythm of Eurasia portal, Zamir Karazhanov says that Iran might not ratify the convention next year as most had expected because increasing radicalization among the population over US sanctions means that the radicals may gain in the parliament and be unwilling to approve an agreement they view as a sell-out of Iranian interests.
Since the delimitation accord was signed, Iranian radicals have denounced the government for accepting arrangements under which Tehran gets only 11 percent of the sea’s area instead of the 50 percent that they view as its right (ritmeurasia.org/news--2019-09-29--chetvero-pjatogo-zhdut-poslednjaja-tochka-v-kaspijskoj-konvencii-za-iranom-45131).
The current Iranian government remains committed to the Caspian agreement largely because it excludes the possibility that non-littoral states can insert their ships on the sea and because it eliminates some of the uncertainty over who owns the resources there by specifying that they belong to the five littoral countries.
Iran’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for February 21. The government won’t seek ratification before that, Karazhanov says. If it retains its parliamentary majority, Tehran may move quickly to approve the convention; but if it loses it, something increasing radicalization makes increasingly likely, it won’t.
That is hardly the end of the story, the Rhythm of Eurasia writer says. The Iranian government remains supportive of the agreement and it could simply wait until a more propitious time, perhaps “even years from now.” From the point of view of the littoral states, he continues, “the most important thing is that [Iran] not withdraw its signature from the Convention.”
That doesn’t appear likely anytime soon, Karazhanov says; but the failure of Iran to act soon, a failure that the Eurasian analyst clearly blames on the US for stepping up pressure on Iran and radicalizing Iranians, will mean that the uncertainty many thought the agreement had put an end to in fact is going to continue for some time more.