Caspian cut

The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin is about to make a landmark visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Aside from the obvious prestige this unprecedented official state visit affords the beleaguered IRI, it is also fraught with myriad of geopolitical, political as well as commercial minefields.

The ostensible reason for the visit is attendance of summit of the Caspian Sea leaders. The summit agenda is to iron out a workable division of natural resources of the heavily polluted body of water, mainly oil and gas, amongst the littoral states.

Unless, as yet secret, compromise has been worked out amongst the participating nations, not much is expected of the Summit aside the usual noncommittal final communiqué the 50-50 formula for division of natural resources between Iran and the dissolved Soviet Union, which in turn has mushroomed into number of independent states, be bypassed-it would lay open the deal to historical challenges which will in turn endanger any impeding developmental investment.

Aside from this Gordian knot the Russian leader has a plethora of highly volatile issues to discuss with his Islamic hosts. Chief among them is the precarious situation vis-à-vis IRI’s refusal to heed number of United Nation’s mandated resolutions to essentially cease and desist from any further nuclear enrichment activity.

Although Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council with the veto power, has signed on to all resolutions, albeit heavily watering them down, she has also done a Bolshoi ballet ballerina twirl when it has come to enforcement of their provisions. The travel ban by named IRI functionaries with direct ties to Atomic and/or long range offensive missile program, just to name the most obvious, is routinely overlooked by Russia.

Immediately after the last UN resolution Russia officially hosted a delegation headed by the Revolutionary Guard Brigadier Mohammad-Reza Shams Naghdi, a high security and trusted inner circle apparatchik who is on the travel ban list. As to the still incomplete lone Iranian nuclear power station which’s building of it has been taken over by the Russian, the perpetually extended completion and delivery date is yet another point of potential friction.

So is the Russian sold and serviced costly Tor-M1 missile air defense system which is said to have been rendered ineffective by the recent Israeli Air Force foray deep into the Syrian territory. Islamic Republic has paid for the Syrian system and has the exact copy deployed in Iran to protect its sensitive nuclear installations. Aside from all these, the civil avionics deals the Russians have reached with IRI leaves a lot to be desired.

To name just one, the twine turboprop sixty seater short haul Antonov-140, although nominally Ukrainian is assembled under Russian license in Iran as IRAN-140. The December 2002 crash of a 140 in Isfahan to inaugurate the maiden flight of an Iranian assembled 140 has seriously undermined the viability of the return on heavy investment the IRI has made in its Isfahan assembly plant. There is no available open source information on production of the military version of the Iran-140.

Other areas of concern are Russian backing of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in its long simmering territorial feud with the Republic of Armenia which IRI is backing. As well as Russian offer of making its Ghebleh radar and listening station in the Republic of Azerbaijan available to American and Nato forces to monitor IRI’s missile activity in place of building a defense shield in Eastern Europe.

These are just a sampling of what is awaiting the Russian presidential visit to IRI. Any ironclad deal that is made is going to have severe repercussions for either party.

Should the IRI relent on the Caspian formula it leaves itself wide open to charges of reopening the historical wound of the 1813 Gulestan and the subsequent 1828 Turkemanchay Treaties which in return for guaranteeing the succession of the sitting king’s heir apparent prince in addition to heavy war reparation a major portion of the Iranian territory was annexed including the present day Republic of Azerbaijan.

For President Putin who through legislations by his agreeable Duma has positioned himself to become the Russian prime minister after finishing his second and constitutionally last consecutive term as president the outcome of the visit is no less risky. He has, to put it succinctly, pull a rabbit out of the hat.

While satisfying his Russian Nationalist constituency and enriching his oligarch backers back in Moscow with sweetheart deals, he has to show backbone to the International community in facing up to what is by now an undisputed mayhem proliferating power, currently in the Mideast and potentially far beyond, next door to Russia.

All in all we are about to see a seminal chapter of the Great Game part II being played out in Tehran.

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