Staunton, Dec. 2 – Iran favors expanded cooperation among Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, a development that with the reopening of transportation corridors seems more realistic now than at any point in the recent past, but it fears that if this process is dominated by the West rather than Russia, any unity will work against Iranian interests, Robert Gazaryan says.
In a commentary for Vestnik Kavkaza, the Nalchik-based ethnic Armenian analyst says that Iran welcomes stabilization in the South Caucasus but very much fears that if this is not under the control of Russia but rather of the West, it will be directed against Iran and its ethnic minorities (vestikavkaza.ru/analytics/perspektivy-integracii-uznogo-kavkaza-vzglad-iz-irana.html).
Iran recognizes, Gazaryan says, that it can’t control “such a broad process” to the north because among other things it “does not have sufficient experience in realizing integration projects.” But it is highly sensitive to how such projects are carried out by others and thus fears the entrance of the anti-Iranian West in the North Caucasus to the more pro-Iranian Russia.
Gazaryan presents his article as a report on Iranian thinking, although he cites no specifics; and it may be that what he is saying reflects Armenian and Russian ideas rather than Iranian ones. But his argument makes sense and explains much of the diplomatic back and forth in the region and more generally.
At the very least, it points to the possibility that Iran will seek to be a spoiler in any Western-led integration projects in the South Caucasus, a role it does have the resources and the willingness to play.