|Up for grabs
From the Caspian to the Persian Gulf, Iran's territorial integrity is under threat
By Vahid Isabeigi
April 24, 2002
Iranian interests in the region seem to be in great danger. Iran has been going
through an attrition process whereby it has been unable to properly safeguard its
interests in the region. This has especially culminated over the past few years on
such issues as surging confrontations with Azerbaijan over the Caspian Sea, and intermittent
discords with Persian Gulf states, notably UAE, over the theree disputed islands.
Furthermore, the tendency displayed by the Persian Gulf States towards endeavouring
to changing the name of this water body into Arabian Gulf has also gained momentum
given Iran's abject inability to defend its regional and territorial integrity.
On the other hand, these are not the only threats awaiting Iran. Given the fact that
Iran is the most multi-cultural state in the entire region permitting the co-existence
of a huge multitude of distinct cultures scattered in various parts of the country,
the danger of secession has always been scratching the minds of millions.
The conflict with Azerbaijan over the extent of domination on the Caspian Sea reached
its peak especially after Azerbaijan's attempts to initiate petroleum explorations
in what Iran calls the Alborz oil region. The claims of propriety on the region were
almost on the verge of precipitating a ground-breaking friction between the two countries.
Nevertheless, Iran's inability to safeguard its rightful claims has been exhorting
Azerbaijan even more to violate its long-lasting compliance with previously agreed
concurrences. The propriety of the oil field, despite sounding rather controversial,
could be left to be sorted out through bilateral talks on the basis of historical
However, given the alliance of Azerbaijan with Turkey, America, and United Kingdom
the oil companies of which operate in the newly found oil fields in the area, Iran's
chance of getting its rightful claims accepted sounds to be rather arduous. Moreover,
one of the issues that has always been neglected is the environmental hazards lurking
for the surrounding countries.
Majority of petroleum-related accords with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are being
ratified with almost no concern for the possible consequent environmental side effects
of the transportation of petroleum. There have been some signs towards the acceptance
of the transportation of Turkmen oil and natural gas through a pipeline to be built
from underneath the Caspian Sea, rather than opting for the route passing through
Iran. Can anyone envision the scope of environmental damage this project is likely
to give rise to?
Let me present a brief synopsis of what we are likely to encounter: First of all,
the Iranian side of the Caspian Sea constitutes the most fruitful lands in all of
Iran and the Caspian shore is the country's prime center for agriculture and farming.
Given Iran's largely barren and desert terrains, the Caspian Coast feeds a very large
portion of the Iranian population. Iran has already been trying to recover from the
aftermath of the recent widely-felt drought, which profoundly harmed the farming
and agriculture of the country. Can anyone envision the catastrophic ramifications
that could be prompted through the pollution originating from oil exploration in
One of the main reasons for Azerbaijan to take such a brazen stance against Iran
could be ascribed to the infinite support it has been receiving from Turkey, which
has been striving to subjugate the Azeri population of Iran by means of various plots.
In both countries, there is an extensive amount of propaganda calling for the unification
of both Azerbaijans and these efforts, mostly funded by Turkey, seem to be intensifying
over the years.
Turkey has been pleading that the rights of Azeris in Iran are being violated. On
the contrary, Iranian Azeris have so much mingled and integrated with the Iranian
population that the majority of them are strictly averse to unification. In today's
Iran, Azeris are dominant on various sectors and have contributed to the stability
of the Iranian nation immeasurably. Iranian Azeris consider themselves Iranian and
have been the first ones opposing any kind of secession from Iran; they have never
made any significant attempt to separate from Iran.
Yet, the efforts of Turkey aimed at creating a "Turkic Brotherhood" by
turning Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan against Iran through trying to entice our own
Azeris, despite the alliance of our Azeris with Iran, is utterly intolerable. Turkey's
main objective, presumably, is to find a source of cash to better its battered and
impoverished economy which has always been dependent of exorbitant amounts of money
taken from the IMF. Hence, Turkey has been extremely quick at aligning the newly
emerged Turkic states in the Central Asia with itself.
One would wonder if Turkey is providing its Kurdish citizens (Kurds form an estimated
20% of the Turkey's population) with the same kind of rights indiscriminately. For
instance, despite Turkey's assertions that they are the only Democratic Muslim country,
the strict clampdowns imposed on the prosperity of Kurdish culture and the appalling
brutalities being perpetrated against Kurds are indicative of the amount of hypocrisy
existent in Turkey with the name of democracy. Do we do the same to our Azeris, Kurds,
Lors, Bakhtiaris, Arabs, Turkmens, Qashqaies?
One would agree that most of us diametrically disagree with the Iranian regime in
many aspects. However, in no time at all has there been any remarkable discrimination
in Iran against any of our diverse cultures. That is why Iran is the perfect epitome
of multiculturalism in the Middle East.
With respect to the controversial issue of disputed islands (Abu Musa,Lesser and
Greater Tunb) instigated by the British; again, as in the case of the discord with
Azerbaijan, Iran is unable to defend its territorial interests. In a recent congregation,
Persian Gulf States condemned Iran for what they call as the Iranian invasion of
the islands. On the other hand, one should also bear in mind that the current dispute
over the islands has been dating back to centuries.
Despite being sparsely populated, these islands possess immense strategic significance
in the region and forfeiting them could be catastrophic for Iran in terms of its
security in the Persian Gulf. For instance, as one looks closely in a map plotting
the locations of these three islands, the first thing one would realise is the amount
of control it provides Iran with regarding its territorial control.
Finally, probably one of the most far-reaching issues Iran has been completely ineffectual
at focusing on (or not focusing on at all) is the prevention of the proliferation
of the incidence of the name Arabian Gulf to supersede the Persian Gulf, which is
also what it is called in English and has been the historical name of that water-body
for centuries. The perseverance of the Arab States to pursue this policy of name
change has especially intensified this decade, during which Iran's competence to
safeguard its national and international interests has dwindled substantially.
nless Iran launches some comprehensive changes in its foreign policy towards concentrating
more on protecting its territorial integrity, the avariciousness of the surrounding
neighbours will not likely to be abate and this will keep on regionally incapacitating