Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s article on cooperation in the Caspian Region

September 20, 2022

The Caspian – a unique region of neighbourliness

On June 29, 2022, Ashgabat hosted an important international event, the 6th Caspian Summit, and I believe it is important to consider the role and place of the Caspian Region in the fairer, more democratic and sustainable multi-polar system that is taking shape today.

The importance of the Caspian Region for the Russian Federation is determined by its strategic location in the centre of Eurasia, at the crossroads of its transport and energy routes, the presence of a huge amount of mineral and biological resources and the intertwining of the local cultures that coexist here.

Russia’s vital interests include durable peace, stability and security in the Caspian Region, sustainable development based on neighbourliness, trust and cooperation of the coastal states, and the use of its economic, including transit, potential to the mutual benefit of the coastal states. A key task is to ensure the rational use of natural resources in the region, protect and preserve the environment of this unique body of water, and guarantee ecological and transport security in its basin. With these aims in mind, Russia advocates the systemic, comprehensive development of cooperation among the five nations and the gradual institutionalisation of this process. We are doing much to expand ties with our neighbours in all areas.

We believe all Caspian issues should be resolved solely by consensus of the five coastal states. Extra-regional forces should not be allowed to exert a negative influence.

Despite the ancient history of the region, the current system of cooperation has taken shape there relatively recently. After the Soviet Union’s disintegration, the number of Caspian states increased from two to five. For this reason, joint administration of the Caspian Sea via constructive cooperation moved to the fore in the early 1990s.

In October 1992, the heads of state and government of the Caspian states met in Tehran to discuss the possibility of establishing a Caspian Economic Cooperation Organisation. The participants reviewed prospects for setting up such entities as a Caspian interstate oil company, Caspian interstate bank of economic cooperation, Caspian development bank, a centre for Caspian economic and political studies, and a centre for the studies of Caspian bio resources.

These initiatives were not translated into reality for several reasons, including the unregulated legal status of the Caspian Sea. In the process the five Caspian states – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan – agreed on the need to draft principles and rules and create special cooperative bodies and institutions in the region. I would like to emphasise that the five-member cooperation format took shape naturally by virtue of political and geographical factors and the need to jointly manage the unique Caspian Sea.

The 5th Caspian Summit in Aktau (Kazakhstan) in 2018 marked a very important step, with participants signing a Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, a kind of a Caspian constitution. This document is based on the consent of the sides (recorded in the preamble) to observe several principles: sovereign rights to the Caspian Sea and its resources belong to them alone; they are responsible to current and future generations for preserving the region and promoting its sustainable development, and they have exclusive authority to settle Caspian Sea issues.

I would like to emphasise 17 principles governing the activities of the sides (Article 3 of the Convention). In effect, they boil down to the code of conduct in the region and help preserve it as an area of peace, neighbourly relations and cooperation. These principles are comprehensive and embrace both universally recognised standards of international law, including respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and rules for practical cooperation between partners.

The sides have adopted a large number of security provisions, some of which are of particular importance. Thus, they pledged to prevent the presence of armed forces of third countries in the Caspian Sea, to refrain from prejudicing each other’s security and to implement military confidence building measures.

The negotiations over the convention lasted for over 20 years and were eventually crowned with a diplomatic compromise based on the verified balance of interests. Speedy ratification of the convention by the sides is in the best interests of regional stability and steady progress.

It goes without saying that the five Caspian nations are not going to fence themselves off from the outside world, especially in the economic sphere. However, we and our partners are firmly committed to the position that outside interference in our affairs is unacceptable.

This means that interaction with players outside the region can occur only with the approval of all five members for the purposes of addressing pressing issues facing the Caspian. Examples include initiatives that are implemented jointly with UN agencies (the UN Human Settlements Programme project titled “Urbanisation and Climate Change Adaptation in the Caspian Sea region,” the UN Environment Programme and the UN Development Programme project on combating pollution of the Caspian Sea with marine litter and plastic waste).

Sectoral cooperation is making progress alongside the efforts to draft and adopt the convention and is being consistently codified in international treaties, such as the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, the Agreement on Security Cooperation in the Caspian Sea, and cooperation agreements in other areas ranging from transport and logistics to emergency relief.

The five leaders’ personal contribution to Caspian cooperation can hardly be overstated. Each summit has helped expand and deepen interaction. During the most recent sixth summit, the principles underlying the activities of the five nations were confirmed and thus became political commitments, which fully ensures that they will guide our practical activities.

In Ashgabat, the heads of state reviewed cooperation priorities, including the efforts to tap the Caspian Sea’s transport, energy and resource potential and to ensure environmental safety and cooperation in tourism and culture. The prospects for industrial cooperation and project activities in the high-tech industry were discussed in detail. A number of highly constructive initiatives have been put forward, in particular, President of Kazakhstan Tokayev’s proposal to create a Caspian food “hub” and President of Turkmenistan Berdimuhamedov’s idea to set up a Business Cooperation Council.

An important achievement was the agreement to create a permanent facility for holding five-nation foreign ministers’ meetings in order to discuss development issues and improve the partnership of the Caspian countries, develop coordinated measures for implementing decisions, and draft the agenda and list of final documents for the summits. The ministers will coordinate interaction within the five-nation sector-specific mechanisms.

Thus, we can safely assume that Caspian cooperation is going at a fast clip and breaking new ground. Clearly, far from all issues facing the Caspian countries have been resolved. Some require additional political and diplomatic efforts, such as approving the draft Agreement on methodology for establishing straight baselines in the Caspian Sea which, once adopted by the parties, will make it possible to complete the delimitation of water areas.

In addition, it is important to speed up the process of approving five-nation draft documents in a number of key areas of intersectoral cooperation, such as maritime transport, search and rescue, navigation safety, marine scientific research, combating poaching and the drug threat. Further consolidation of efforts to prevent sanitary and epidemiological emergencies and to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases is greatly needed. Discussions on the Tehran Convention Secretariat’s rules of procedure are ongoing.

In the economic area it is important to keep up efforts to achieve the balanced use of Caspian energy and transit capacities, which requires consideration of all the countries’ interests and environmental security factors. Our region has every chance to become one of Eurasia’s biggest hubs for multi-modal transcontinental shipments, primarily by tapping the potential of the North-South international transport corridor.

Expanding cooperation between regions of the five countries will facilitate Caspian interaction. Cultural cooperation and the development of tourism, including cruise routes, are other promising avenues.

The institualisation of five-nation cooperation should remain at the centre of attention. This process is making headway – regular meetings of the leaders of the Caspian states have already become a tradition.

The Caspian Economic Forum at the heads of government level has become an important format. Its first meeting took place at the initiative of Turkmenistan in 2019. In October 2022, Moscow will host its second forum. We hope it will provide a fresh impetus to the trade and economic aspects of Caspian cooperation.

The institution of the Conference of the Parties to the Tehran Convention is up and running. The commission for the preservation and rational use of aquatic biological resources and management of their common reserves holds sessions every year. The Coordination Committee for Hydrometeorology of the Caspian Sea meets as well. There are agreements on mechanisms for regular ministerial meetings, including the afore-mentioned meetings of foreign ministers as well as their transport and economic counterparts. The high-level working group of deputy foreign ministers/special envoys of the Caspian states is in operation. It was established following the 5th Caspian Summit. I would like to emphasise that all five-nation issues are resolved by consensus.

To make existing structures and mechanisms more efficient, it makes sense to turn them into a uniform regional system. At the current stage, the formation of a flexible five-nation forum – the Caspian Council – seems to be the best way of achieving this. The proposed council should function without a secretariat or other bureaucratic add-ons. The five Caspian countries studied this idea at the expert level and Russia proposed it at the 6th Caspian Summit. We agree with President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev who supported our initiative. He said the Caspian Sea was ready for new steps on institutionalising five-way cooperation.

We have consistently held that the efforts of the five nations to promote the sustainable development of the Caspian Region help maintain stability throughout Greater Eurasia and fuse the creative potential of the states and their integration associations in our common Eurasian home. Russia seeks to continue working closely with its Caspian partners to achieve these and other ambitious goals in accordance with the principles of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea.

Deaths, injuries in renewed clashes between Azerbaijan, Armenia

September 13, 2022 08:37

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen English 

The decades-old hostilities over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh are back as they were instigated by Azerbaijan.

An Armenian soldier firing artillery during the ongoing fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Nagorno-Karabakh (AFP)

Russian news media reported that clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops started early Tuesday, resuming decades-old hostilities over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijani soldiers advanced along various areas of the border, according to Aram Torosyan, spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry.

“The enemy continues to use artillery, mortars, drones, and large-caliber small arms. Attacks are being made on both military facilities and civilian infrastructure facilities. In some areas, Azerbaijani units have taken actions to advance positions. Positional battles continue. The Armenian Armed Forces give a proportionate response and carry out their combat tasks in full,” Torosyan said.

Read next: Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to further collaborate on peace treaty work

According to Torosyan, Armenian servicemen were killed and others were injured in an armed encounter near the border with Azerbaijan. “There are dead and wounded on the Armenian side. The data is being specified,” Torosyan said.

He said Azerbaijani troops were also delivering strikes at civilian infrastructure facilities.

Earlier, both sides exchanged blame, with Yerevan accusing the Azerbaijani military of shelling the territory of Armenia late on Monday using artillery and drones. On its part, Baku said the Armenian military fired at the positions of the Azerbaijani troops on the border, resulting in a clash. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry also reported losses in its ranks.

The Armenian government said it will invoke a cooperation agreement with Russia and appeal to a Russia-led security bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and the United Nations Security Council, according to Interfax.

Armenia speaks to Russia, Frace, the US

Following the eruption of clashes, Armenia contacted Russia, France, and the US and briefed them on the ongoing situation. 

Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan informed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the situation on the border with Azerbaijan, according to an Armenian Foreign Ministry statement.

“Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan on September 13 informed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the situation,” according to the statement, which also states “Azerbaijani aggression.”

In addition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the situation on the border with Azerbaijan, according to a statement by the Armenian government.

“The prime minister presented the details of the aggression committed by Azerbaijan against the sovereign territory of Armenia. Pashinyan said that in connection with these actions, the decision was made to formally appeal to the Russian Federation in order to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, as well as to the CSTO and the UN Security Council. In this context, he expressed hope for a proportionate response from the international community,” the statement said.

Read next: Armenia to withdraw its soldiers from Nagorno-Karabakh by September

According to the Armenian cabinet, Blinken “expressed the American side’s deep concern about the situation, considered it unacceptable to further aggravate the situation, and declared the US readiness to make efforts to stabilize the situation.”

However, an Azerbaijani statement claimed that Armenian forces conducted intelligence activities on its border, transferred weaponry into the area, and performed mining operations on Monday night, thus using the pretext of conducting operations that are “strictly local in nature and aimed at military targets” to justify the attacks.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry responded, “Intensive shooting is continuing – started as a result of a large-scale provocation by the Azerbaijani side. Armenia’s armed forces have launched a proportionate response.”

Tensions erupt over Karabakh

Clashes erupt every now and then between both sides despite a Russian-backed ceasefire agreement. Last month, tensions erupted over Nagorno-Karabakh as three soldiers were killed and Azerbaijan said it had taken control of several strategic heights in the disputed region.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two conflicts over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated area of Nagorno-Karabakh, one in 2020 and one in the 1990s.

Six weeks of violence in the autumn of 2020 claimed over 6,500 lives and ended with a ceasefire accord sponsored by Russia. Russia sent 2,000 peacekeepers to monitor the truce, but tensions remain despite a ceasefire deal.

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    Going to Samarkand

    July 31, 2022

    By Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

    The SCO and other pan-Eurasian organizations play a completely different – respectful, consensual – ball game. And that’s why they are catching the full attention of most of the Global South.

    The meeting of the SCO Ministerial Council  in Tashkent this past Friday involved some very serious business. That was the key preparatory reunion previous to the SCO summit in mid-September in fabled Samarkand, where the SCO will release a much-awaited “Declaration of Samarkand”.

    What happened in Tashkent was predictably unreported across the collective West and still not digested across great swathes of the East.

    So once again it’s up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to cut to the chase. The world’s foremost diplomat – amidst the tragic drama of the American-concocted Era of Non-Diplomacy, Threats and Sanctions – has singled out the two overlapping main themes propelling the SCO as one of the key organizations on the path towards Eurasia integration.

    1. Interconnectivity and “the creation of efficient transport corridors”. The War of Economic Corridors is one of the key features of the 21st
    2. Drawing “the roadmap for the gradual increase in the share of national currencies in mutual settlements.”

    Yet it was in the Q@A session that Lavrov for all practical purposes detailed all the major trends in the current, incandescent state of international relations. These are the key takeaways.

    How comfortable are you with the US dollar?

    Africa: “We agreed that we will submit to the leaders for consideration proposals on specific actions to switch to settlements in national currencies. I think that everyone will now think about it. Africa already has a similar experience: common currencies in some sub-regional structures, which, nevertheless, by and large, are pegged to Western ones. From 2023, a continental free trade zone will start functioning on the African continent. A logical step would be to reinforce it with currency agreements.”

    Belarus – and many others – eager to join the SCO: “There is a broad consensus on the Belarusian candidacy (…) I felt it today. There are a number of contenders for the status of observer, dialogue partner. Some Arab countries show such interest, as do Armenia, Azerbaijan and a number of Asian states.”

    Grain diplomacy: “In regard to the issue of Russian grain, it was the American sanctions that did not allow the full implementation of the signed contracts due to the restrictions imposed: Russian ships are prohibited from entering a number of ports, there is a ban on foreign ships entering Russian ports to pick up export cargo, and insurance rates have gone up (…) Financial chains are also interrupted by illegitimate US and EU sanctions. In particular, Rosselkhozbank, through which all the main settlements for food exports pass, was one of the first to be included in the sanctions list. UN Secretary General A. Guterres has committed to removing these barriers to addressing the global food crisis. Let’s see.”

    Taiwan: “We do not discuss this with our Chinese colleague. Russia’s position on having only one China remains unchanged. The United States periodically confirms the same line in words, but in practice their ‘deeds’ do not always coincide with words. We have no problem upholding the principle of Chinese sovereignty.”

    Should the SCO abandon the US dollar? “Each SCO country must decide for itself how comfortable it feels to rely on the dollar, taking into account the absolute unreliability of this currency for possible abuses. The Americans have used this more than once in relation to a number of states.”

    Why the SCO matters: “There are no leaders and followers in the SCO. There are no situations in the organization like in NATO, when the US and its closest allies impose one line or another on all other members of the alliance. In the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the situation that we are currently seeing in the EU does not arise: sovereign countries are literally being ‘knocked out’, demanding that they either stop buying gas or reduce its consumption in violation of national plans and interests.”

    Lavrov was also keen to stress how “other structures in the Eurasian space, for example, the EAEU and BRICS, are based and operate on the same principles” of the SCO. And he referred to the crucial cooperation with the 10 member-nations of ASEAN.

    Thus he set the stage for the clincher: “All these processes, in interconnection, help to form the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken about. We see in them a benefit for the entire population of the Eurasian continent.”

    Those Afghan and Arab lives

    The real big story of the Raging Twenties  is how the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine de facto kick-started “all these processes”, as Lavrov mentioned, simultaneously leading towards inexorable Eurasia integration.

    Once again he had to recall two basic facts that continue to escape any serious analysis across the collective West:

    Fact 1: “All our proposals for their removal [referring to NATO-expansion assets] on the basis of the principle of mutual respect for security interests were ignored by the US, the EU, and NATO.”

    Fact 2: “When the Russian language was banned in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government promoted neo-Nazi theories and practices, the West did not oppose, but, on the contrary, encouraged the actions of the Kyiv regime and admired Ukraine as a ‘stronghold of democracy.’ Western countries supplied the Kyiv regime with weapons and planned the construction of naval bases on Ukrainian territory. All these actions were openly aimed at containing the Russian Federation. We have been warning for 10 years that this is unacceptable.”

    It’s also fitting that Lavrov would once again put Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in context: “Let us recall the example of Afghanistan, when even wedding ceremonies were subjected to air strikes, or Iraq and Libya, where statehood was completely destroyed, and many human lives were sacrificed. When states that easily pursued such a policy are now making a fuss about Ukraine, I can conclude that the lives of Afghans and Arabs mean nothing to Western governments. It’s unfortunate. Double standards, these racist and colonial instincts must be eliminated.”

    Putin, Lavrov, Patrushev, Madvedev have all been stressing lately the racist, neocolonial character of the NATOstan matrix. The SCO and other pan-Eurasian organizations play a completely different – respectful, consensual – ball game. And that’s why they are catching the full attention of most of the Global South. Next stop: Samarkand.

    Major news day for Russia: In conclusion of his working visit to Iran, Vladimir Putin answered questions from the media.

    July 20, 2022

    In conclusion of his working visit to Iran, Vladimir Putin answered questions from the media.

    Question: Mr President, some would think the world has forgotten about Syria amid the numerous issues on the international agenda. But we have seen today that this is not so.

    We would like to hear your views on the situation on the ground in Syria. A great deal has been said today about points of contact, but there are many differences as well. Have you discussed or coordinated any fundamentally new solutions today? I am referring primarily to these differences.

    President of Russia Vladimir Putin: What I would like to begin with is not the differences but the fundamental issues that allow us to work and continue our efforts in the trilateral format. All of us believe that it I necessary to guarantee the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to eliminate all sorts of terrorists, which I will not enumerate here. This is the fundamental and the most important thing, as we have pointed out again in our joint statement. I believe that this is very important.

    Yes, there are certain differences, which is obvious, but all of us support the constitutional process. Thanks to our efforts, we have brought together various conflicting parties at one negotiating platform, including the opposition and the official authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic, experts and representatives of public organisations, as well as the UN. I believe this is extremely important. This is the first point.

    The second. Humanitarian aid is being provided to Syria, for which there is particularly great demand today, because the sanctions imposed on Syria and the Syrian people have produced a deplorable result: nearly 90 percent of people in Syria are living below the poverty line. The situation in Syria is extremely serious.

    Of course, it would be unfair to give priority attention to certain groups, to politicise humanitarian aid.

    Third. There are different approaches to organising humanitarian aid. We have always believed that it should be organised in full compliance with international humanitarian law. This means that all humanitarian aid must be provided through the official Syrian authorities, through Damascus. However, we have agreed to extend the existing procedure for six months, including for deliveries to the Idlib zone, so as to have more time for coordinating our positions.

    There is some disagreement about what is happening in Northern Syria. Incidentally, we also have some common ground here: all of us believe that US troops should leave this area. This is the first point. And they should stop looting the Syrian state, the Syrian people, taking their oil illegally. But there is disagreement about how to organise and stabilise the situation in that region. As you know, Russian-Turkish observation convoys are working there together.

    However, in our view, in order to ensure a long-term, stable situation there it is necessary to transfer the entire territory under the control of the official authorities in Damascus, under the control of the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and then it will be possible to hold a dialogue with those who are responsible – in this case the official Syrian authorities. I believe it would greatly stabilise the situation there.

    But in general, it is work in progress. As I have said many times and would like to stress once again, the work of this tripartite group – Russia, Turkiye and Iran – this joint effort to search for compromises and find these compromises has led to the fact that over 90% of Syria is now under official government control and, as we say in such cases, we have broken the back of international terrorism there. This is a great result of this joint work.

    Question: Mr President, you had three one-on-one meetings today, first with Mr Raisi, then with Mr Khamenei, and then with Mr Erdogan, and there were no news conferences after these meetings. All we know is the topic you were discussing, the official part.

    In particular, you said that you discussed the grain issue with your Turkish counterpart, the issue of supplying Russian and Ukrainian grain to international markets. Could you tell us some more about that, please?

    Vladimir Putin: There are no secrets here; in fact, almost everything is known. There are some subtleties; maybe I do not always have time to follow what is happening in the information field. I will tell you how I see it.

    First, what was the highlight of the three meetings? At each meeting, there were issues that could be considered central to a particular bilateral meeting.

    For example, as I said at the news conference, in my press statement, the main theme at the meeting with the Spiritual Leader of Iran was strategic issues, including developments in the region. This is natural, as it is the sphere of his activity. It was very important for me to hear his opinion, his assessment. I have to say that we have very similar views with Iran on many aspects. So, it was very important and very useful.

    As for my meeting with President Raisi, we discussed primarily economic matters. I would like to note that Russian-Iranian trade has grown by 40 percent over the past six months. This is a very good indicator.

    There are promising spheres for our cooperation, and there is a great variety of them, like infrastructure development. You may know that a deputy prime minister of the Russian Government chairs a group that is responsible for developing relations in the South Caucasus, including infrastructure projects in the South Caucasus, that is, in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. A great deal can be achieved in this sphere in cooperation with Iran.

    As you know, the first pilot train is travelling along the North-South Railway line. It is a short route to ports in the south of Iran, which further leads to the Persian Gulf and India.

    There is a practical project: the Rasht-Astara railway is a short 146-kilometre line across Iran. Azerbaijan is interested in its construction. I recently met with President Aliyev during the Caspian Summit, and we discussed this matter. Iran is interested in this as well, as our Iranian partners have told us just now. Russia is interested in this, because it will connect Russia’s northern region, St Petersburg, directly to the Persian Gulf. It is a very interesting and promising project. The task now is to build this line, which is only 146 kilometres. Russia is ready to do this.

    We need to coordinate the conditions of this construction project. We have discussed its general outlines with our Iranian partners and friends, and we have coordinated it with Azerbaijan. I hope we will get down to business now. And then, it will be an interesting job for us. It actually amounts to exporting the services of Russian Railways (RZD). This is one of the relevant examples.

    There are other spheres. There are security issues relevant to Iran’s nuclear programme. It was very important for us to understand the sentiments of the Iranian party regarding this work. It also involves Russia, which is contributing to the joint efforts aimed at relaunching interaction between Iran and the IAEA. I will not speak about this now, but Russia is playing a considerable role in this.

    The grain issue. It is what we discussed with the President of Turkiye. I have already said that the Republic of Turkiye and personally President Erdogan have done a great deal to facilitate the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports. But initially we suggested that it should be adopted as a package, that is, we would facilitate the Ukrainian grain exports provided all the restrictions on the potential exports of Russian grain are lifted. This is what we initially agreed upon with international organisations. They pledged to formulate this as a package solution. Nobody has so far raised any objections, including our American partners. We will see what comes of it in the near future.

    As you know, the Americans have actually lifted restrictions, for example, on the delivery of Russian fertilisers to the global market. I hope this will also happen with regard to the export of Russian grain if they really want to improve the situation on the global food markets. As I have said, we are ready to do this right now. We can export 30 million tonnes of grain, and our export potential based on this year’s harvest will be 50 million tonnes.

    Question: Mr President, a serious energy crisis is developing in Europe, which is discussing the possibility of Gazprom cutting off gas deliveries. The company has allegedly issued an official notification to one of its German clients, citing force majeure circumstances.

    Are there grounds for accusing Russia of causing this energy crisis? Will Gazprom continue to honour its obligations

    Vladimir Putin: First of all, Gazprom has always honoured, and will continue to honour its commitments.

    There are no grounds at all for the attempts by our partners to shift or try to shift the blame for their own mistakes on Russia and Gazprom.

    What is the situation with energy deliveries? In 2020, in the first half of 2020, gas cost 100 euros per 1,000 cubic metres in Europe. The price rose to 250 euros in the first half of 2021. Today it is 1,700 euros per 1,000 cubic metres of gas.

    What is happening? I have spoken about this on numerous occasions, and I do not know if we should go into detail regarding the energy policies of European countries, which underrate the importance of traditional sources of energy and have put money on non-traditional energy sources. They are big experts on non-traditional relations, and they have also decided to make a bid for non-traditional energy sources like the sun and wind.

    Last winter was long, there wasno wind, and that did it. Investment in the fixed assets of traditional energy producers has decreased because of previous political decisions: banks do not finance them, insurance companies do not insure them, local governments do not allocate land plots for new projects, and pipeline and other forms of transportation are not developing. This is a result of many years, probably a decade of this policy. This is the root cause of price hikes rather than any actions by Russia or Gazprom.

    What is going on today? Until recently, we supplied gas to Europe without Turkiye: we supplied around 30 billion cubic metres a year to Turkiye, and 170 billion to Europe, 55 billion via Nord Stream 1, and, if memory serves me, 33 billion were supplied via Yamal-Europe, via the two strings that run through Ukraine. About 12 billion were delivered to Europe through Turkiye via TurkStream.

    Ukraine suddenly announced that it was going to close one of the two routes on its territory. Allegedly because the gas pumping station is not under its control but on the territory of the Lugansk People’s Republic. But it found itself under the control of the Lugansk People’s Republic several months before, and they closed it just recently without any grounds. Everything was functioning normally there, no one interfered. In my opinion, they closed it simply for political reasons.

    What happened next? Poland imposed sanctions on Yamal-Europe, which supplied 33 billion cubic metres of gas. They used to take 34, I think, 33–34 million cubic metres a day from us. They shut it down completely. But then we saw that they turned on the Yamal-Europe pipeline in reverse mode, and they started taking about 32 million a day from Germany. Where is the gas from Germany coming from? It is our Russian gas. Why from Germany? Because it turned out to be cheaper for the Poles. They used to get it from us at a very high price, closer to the market price, whereas Germany gets it from us 3–4 times cheaper than the market price under long-term contracts.

    It is profitable for German companies to sell it to the Poles at a small premium. It is profitable for the Poles to buy it because it is cheaper than to buy it directly from us. But the volume of gas in the European market has decreased, and the total market price has gone up. Who has won? All Europeans only lost. This is the second point: Yamal-Europe.

    So, first one of the routes in Ukraine was shut down, then Yamal-Europe was shut down, now Nord Stream 1, which is one of the main routes – we pump 55 billion cubic metres a year through it. There are five Siemens gas compressor stations working there, and one is on standby. One compressor had to be sent out for repairs. A repaired compressor was supposed to come from Canada, from the Siemens plant in Canada, to replace it. But it ended up under sanctions in Canada. So, one pumping station, just one piece of equipment was out of order because of scheduled maintenance work and it has not been returned from Canada.

    Now we are being told that the unit will be delivered from Canada soon, but Gazprom does not have any official documents yet. We must certainly obtain them, because this is our property, it is the property of Gazprom. Gazprom should receive not only the hardware, not only the gas pumping unit, but also the accompanying documents, both legal and technical documentation. We must be able to see what Gazprom is taking – the turbine’s current condition as well as its legal status, whether it is under sanctions or not, what we can do with it, or maybe they are taking it back tomorrow. But that is not all.

    The problem is that at the end of July, on July 26, I think – we can ask Gazprom – another turbine should be sent for routine maintenance, for repairs. And where will we get a replacement from? We do not know.

    One more turbine is actually out of order because of some crumbling of its internal liner. Siemens has confirmed this. That leaves two operational units, which are pumping 60 million per day. So, if one more is delivered, fine, we will have two in operation. But if it is not, only one will be left, and it will pump only 30 million cubic meters per day. You can count how much time it will take to pump the rest. How is this Gazprom’s responsibility? What does Gazprom even have to do with this? They have cut off one route, then another, and sanctioned this gas pumping equipment. Gazprom is ready to pump as much gas as necessary. But they have shut everything down.

    And they have fallen into the same trap with the import of oil and petroleum products. We hear all sorts of crazy ideas about capping the volume of Russian oil imports or the price of Russian oil. This is going to lead to the same situation as with gas. The result (I am surprised to hear people with university degrees saying this) will be the same – rising prices. Oil prices will spiral.

    As for gas, there is another route we are ready to open, which is Nord Stream 2. It is ready to be launched, but they are not launching it. There are problems here as well, I discussed them with the Chancellor about six or maybe eight weeks ago. I raised this issue; I said that Gazprom had reserved the capacity, and that this capacity needed to be used, and it cannot be suspended in mid-air indefinitely.

    The answer was that there were other issues on the agenda, more important things, so it is difficult for them to deal with this right now. But I had to warn them that then we would have to redirect half of the volume intended for Nord Stream for domestic consumption and processing. I raised this issue at the request of Gazprom, and Gazprom has actually already done it. Therefore, even if we launch Nord Stream 2 tomorrow, it will not pump 55 billion cubic meters, but exactly half that amount. And given that we are already halfway through this year, it would be just a quarter. Such is the supply situation.

    But – I said this at the beginning of my answer to your question and I want to end with this – Gazprom has always fulfilled and will always fulfil all of its obligations, as long as, of course, anyone needs it. First, they themselves close everything, and then they look for someone to blame – it would be comical if it were not so sad.

    Question: You spoke with Mr Erdogan today. He has repeatedly stated his readiness to arrange talks between you and Vladimir Zelensky. Has this issue surfaced today? Are you ready to meet with the President of Ukraine?

    Vladimir Putin: President Erdogan is making a lot of efforts to create the necessary conditions for normalising the situation. It was during our talks in Istanbul that we actually reached an agreement, and it only remained to initial it. But, as you know, after that, when our troops, in order to create the right conditions, withdrew from central Ukraine, from Kiev, the Kiev authorities backed off on those agreements. These were agreements that had actually been achieved. So, you see that the final result depends, of course, not on intermediaries, but on the parties’ commitment to fulfil the agreements reached. And we can see today that the Kiev authorities have no interest in that.

    As for Turkiye’s efforts, as well as other countries’ proposals – Saudi Arabia has offered its mediation services, and the United Arab Emirates, and they do have such capabilities – we are grateful to all our friends who are interested in resolving this crisis for providing their opportunities. Even their willingness to make some contribution to this noble cause is worth a lot. We are deeply grateful for that.

    Iran in South Caucasus: Turning losses into wins

    Determined not to be cut out of the South Caucasus, Iran is forging strategic ties with both Baku and Yerevan

    July 11 2022

    Photo Credit: The Cradle

    By Yeghia Tashjian

    Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi have averted conflict through geo-economic compromise

    At the end of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war – which Azerbaijan won with Turkish support and Russian diplomacy – Iran was widely seen by analysts as the conflict’s biggest loser, in terms of its regional strategic interests.

    Without wasting much time, however, Tehran flipped those fortunes by very proactively engaging its soft power in the South Caucasus to advance its geo-economic interests. This is arguably due to Iran’s concerns over Turkish-Azerbaijani expansionist designs in the region.

    In the main, Iran has sought to revitalize its relations with Azerbaijan to mitigate Turkey’s push for control over the Zangezur Corridor, a strategic transportation route bypassing Armenian territory close to the Iranian border.

    The corridor’s opening is said to be dependent upon the development of a comprehensive Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement. In this regard, Tehran is engaging with both countries simultaneously, and in doing so has helped reduce Baku’s political pressure on Yerevan.

    Resetting relations with Azerbaijan

    On March 11, 2022, Azerbaijan and Iran signed an agreement to establish new railway, highway, and energy supply lines connecting the southern territories of the disputed Karabakh region (captured by Azerbaijan) to the Azerbaijani Nakhichevan exclave.

    According to the agreement, the new highway will be 55 km long and will pass through northern Iran, eventually connecting to Nakhichevan. In addition to the highway, two railway bridges and a road bridge will be constructed over the bordering Arax River.

    Iranian political analyst Vali Kaleji says these projects have geo-economic significance for both Azerbaijan and Iran.

    For Baku, the construction of this highway is essential for several reasons. First, it is a continuation of an already existing highway in Azerbaijan and will draw investment into the southern regions of Karabakh currently under the control of Baku.

    Second, the 55-km highway through Iran will offer an alternative to the Zangezur corridor that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was pushing for after the trilateral statement, which put an end to hostilities – for now – between Baku and Yerevan.

    Despite the fact that the trilateral statement called for the opening of trade routes and communication, it did not mention anything about a ‘corridor.’ President Aliyev has largely promoted the Zangezur Corridor idea for domestic consumption while adding political pressure on Armenia to sign a peace treaty over Nagorno-Karabakh.

    To date, Russia, Armenia and Iran have disregarded Baku’s Zangezur Corridor claims.

    Peacekeeping policies

    To prevent another war between Baku and Yerevan, Tehran came up with an alternative solution by providing this alternative route that will lift some pressure from Armenia’s shoulders, as Azerbaijan was threatening to gain the corridor by any means necessary.

    Moreover, Baku is also concerned that if the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government falls and the opposition comes to power, the successive government will not provide any corridor to Azerbaijan through the Armenian territories. Hence, as Keleji noted, “Baku is deliberately pursuing another option should the Zangezur Corridor not come to fruition.”

    Finally, Azerbaijan will establish a link with Nakhichevan through Iran, providing additional Iranian leverage over Baku in the future.

    Iranian interests

    Iran, in turn, has its own considerations for allowing the construction of a highway and railway across its territory that would connect Azerbaijan proper to Nakhchivan.

    In reaction to the expansionist narrative pushed by Azerbaijan over the Zangezur Corridor and Azerbaijani incursions into bordering villages in Syunik (southern Armenia), Iran drew its red lines and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) threatened to use military force if necessary to prevent any territorial change in its 44 km border with Armenia.

    As such, Tehran sees the construction of a new highway and railway line via Iran as an appropriate alternative to the Zangezur corridor that will alleviate the military pressure on southern Armenia.

    For this reason, Ahmad Kazemi, an Iranian expert on the South Caucasus region, in his article “Baku’s reconciliation with geopolitical realities” wrote that Baku is pushing a “fake Zangezur corridor” to appease Turkey, Israel, NATO while following pan-Turkic dreams.

    It was only last year that Aliyev declared: “The corridor that is going to pass through here is going to unite the whole Turkic world.”

    For Kazemi, this “Turanic corridor” will go against the interests of Iran, Russia, and China. It is therefore inevitable that these three states will not allow geopolitical changes on Armenia’s southern borders.

    Isolating Iran

    Meanwhile, with the ongoing war in Ukraine, Moscow has focused its attention on the importance of the North-South trade route. According to Kaleji, strengthening this transit route will aid in countering the tightening economic sanctions and transit restrictions imposed on Russia by the west.

    In this regard, the Iranian Roads and Urban Development Minister Rostam Qasemi visited Moscow on 30 April to sign a comprehensive agreement on cooperation in the field of transportation. Both countries agreed to accelerate the construction of Azerbaijani-Iranian railway to connect Moscow to the strategic Persian Gulf – a security concern of western powers since the Cold War era.

    In February, during an Iranian-Armenian conference held in Yerevan, an Iranian diplomatic source told The Cradle that “Iran will take all the necessary measures to prevent the loss of the strategic Armenian-Iranian border and will do all it can to prevent a new war.

    Tehran realizes that any such loss will further increase Turkish influence in the region and that Iran was an indirect target of the 2020 war in Karabakh, with the aim of isolating Iran regionally.

    Within this context, the Iranian-Armenian railway line from Meghri, Armenia’s Syunik province, could have been an alternative route connecting Iran to Russia, but it suffers from high costs and has not seen any progress since 2009.

    Armenia’s poor infrastructure, its conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan, and its slow progress in the construction of the North-South highway (over the past twelve years, it has implemented only five percent of the 556-kilometer highway connecting Georgia with Iran) has further isolated and slowed down Armenia’s participation in the regional economic project.

    Armenia’s gateway to Asia

    However, over the past four months, Iran and India have been pushing Armenia to take crucial steps to reinvigorate the north-south transport project. As a result, important meetings between Iranian and Armenian officials have been organized to address trade, transit, and energy issues.

    On 2 March, leading a high-ranking delegation of trade officials and private entrepreneurs, Iranian Minister of Industry, Mining, and Trade, Reza Fatemi-Amin paid a visit to Armenia as part of Tehran’s efforts to strengthen trade ties with its neighbors.

    This was the first visit to Armenia by senior Iranian officials since President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August 2021. Accompanying the delegation were the CEOs of 35 Iranian private companies.

    The Iranian side stated that Tehran attaches great importance not only to the development of economic relations with Armenia but also considers it as a “gateway” to the markets of Russia and other Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) member countries.

    For the rail connection, Miad Salehi, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, pointed to three possibilities for rail transit between Iran and Armenia. The first two rail connections are:

    • The Jolfa-Nakhchivan-Yerevan.
    • The Jolfa-Nurduz (in Iran) and Yerevan-Nurduz (in Armenia) railroads, which were agreed upon seven years ago though not realized.

    Iran has also proposed a multi-modal transit route from Yerevan to Jolfa by road, and then southward to the port of Bandar Abbas by rail, essentially opening the gates of Asian markets for Armenia.

    Iran hasn’t been pushed out of the South Caucasus  

    After the trilateral statement in 2020, Iran felt isolated from the South Caucasus, though its absence did not last long. Following the election of President Raisi, Tehran adopted a proactive balanced foreign policy in its neighborhood to secure its primary geo-economic interests.

    The Iranians have realized that the Zangezur Corridor poses a threat to their national security as it bypasses Iranian territory and prevents Iran from gaining transit fees from Azerbaijani trucks. But it also threatens to reshape the strategic international borders between Iran and Armenia to the benefit of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and by extension, their mutual ally, Israel.

    Tehran recognizes that were Azerbaijan to succeed in imposing the Zangzur Corridor on Yerevan, Baku could connect to Turkey, Israel, and the European Union by land. Crucially, Iran also interprets this as an expanding presence of Israel and NATO on its borders.

    During his Caucasian tour this month, Iran’s national security chief, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, held talks in Yerevan with his Armenian counterpart and Prime Minister Pashinyan, where he stressed that Tehran was against any actions leading to a geopolitical change in the region.

    Rather than accepting a lesser role, Iran has successfully deployed its economic soft power to recalibrate the field and increase its leverage over Azerbaijan. On one hand, Tehran fostered the construction of a railway with Azerbaijan to connect with Russia; on the other hand, it strengthened its trade, energy, and communication projects with Baku’s archenemy, Armenia.

    For now, though, Iran’s engagement with Azerbaijan over the alternative corridor has lifted the military and political pressure on Armenia, thus preventing another war near its northern borders.

    Iran’s dialogue with both countries has – for now – arguably lifted Azerbaijan’s military and political pressure on Armenia, safeguarded its national interests, and prevented another war near its northern borders.

    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

    موسكو تقترب من إعلان النصر وواشنطن تتقهقر الى النقب…!

     الأربعاء 30 آذار 2022

    محمد صادق الحسيني

    تتسارع الخطى باتجاه إنجاز المهمة الروسية الخاصة في مسرح العمليات في أوكرانيا، بعد نجاح العملية استراتيجياً منذ عبور أول دبابة روسية الحدود باتجاه الدونباس او حوض الدون.

    ومن يتابع بدقة كياسة موقف الرئيس الروسي وهو يلاعب مخلب الأطلسيين المراوغ المدعو أردوغان، الذي لم يتغيّر ولن يتغيّر في لعب دور الخادم الإقليمي الأمين لمصالح الأميركان وباعتباره حارس مرمى الناتو الجنوبي، يستطيع القطع بأنّ التخطيط للعملية كان محكماً.

     منذ الأيام الأولى للعملية العسكرية وهو مكلف بدور «الوساطة» بين ما تبقى من سلطات كييف لدى مالكها الأطلسي وبين موسكو التي تتقدّم بخطى ثابتة لإنجاز المهمة حسب الخطة المرسومة.

    ولأنّ الأميركي المهزوم على كلّ البوابات المقاومة وعلى أسوار عواصمنا، يتوقع تسارع حركة النهضة الفلسطينية العربية على مشارف شهر رمضان المبارك، وما المؤشرات الخطيرة التي ظهرت من بئر السبع والخضيرة لعمليات نوعية فريدة من نوعها ولم يتبناها أحد إلا «مقبّلات» رمضان وما بعده كما يقول الراسخون في العلم، ولأنّ مفاوضات فيينا جوبهت بالصلابة الإيرانية المتوقعة، ولأنّ اقتحام أسد الشام عرينهم في لحظة ارتباك أميركي صهيوني شديد، فإنّ إدارة بايدن المضطربة والفاقدة للبوصلة والتي عمل اتجاه الرياح العالمية على غير إرادتها، فإنها باتت مضطرة للاعتراف قريباً بالهزيمة في أوكرانيا، من أجل الانتقال الى نسخة صيدلانية جديدة لها في كلّ من فلسطين وآسيا الوسطى والقوقاز.

    لذلك هرولت الى فلسطين وهي تنسحب من أوكرانيا متقهقرة، محاولة الظهور بمظهر المنتصر لصالح اليهودي المرتعد خوفاً هذه المرة من الضفة المتراكمة غضباً ومن أراض الـ ٤٨ المتزايدة ثورة، بالإضافة الى غزة بسيفها المسلول، ولبنان المدجّج بالأسلحة الدقيقة والكاسرة للتوازن، فكان أن أشهرت مشروعها المزعوم والذي ستروّج له كثيراً:

    «ناتو عربي ضدّ إيران»، وإظهاره وكأنه لحماية الأمن القومي العربي من الاجتياح الإيراني، خاصة إذا ما اضطرت للرضوخ لمطالب طهران بالتوقيع على اتفاق فيينا متجدّد…

    فيما هي تقصد «تدافُع المهزومين أمام المقاومة الصاعدة»،

    وما اختيارها لبئر السبع مكاناً للمتهالكين، إلا دلالة على ما نقول.

    في هذه الأثناء، ولأنها تخاف سقوط العرش الأردني ومديرية رام الله الفلسطينية، بسبب خِسة اليهود وأطماعهم التي لا تجد لها حدوداً، فإنها مضطرة أيضاً لإعادة شدّ العصب في هاتين القوتين من النظام العربي الرسمي المتهافت خوفاً من ثورة قومية عربية تتدافع شرارتها من الداخل الفلسطيني ومن كلّ من سورية والعراق مع مظلة إيرانية دافعة للتغيير في حال قيام الثورة العربية على غرار ما حصل بعد العام ١٩٦٧ في عمّان يوم تجمّعت عوامل النهضة العربية وتبلورت معركة الكرامة الشهيرة .

     من جهة أخرى وهي تقاتل قتالاً تراجعياً وتنسحب القهقرى من أوكرانيا، ستحاول أيضاً تفجير آسيا الوسطى والقوقاز من جديد، موكلة الأمر لحارسها الأمين أردوغان ليتولى إثارة الاضطرابات في كلّ من اذربيجان التي بدأت تخاف واشنطن من قيادته التي بدأت تميل لموسكو ولطهران رويداً رويداً، ومن ثم في اوزباكستان وقرغيزستان وتركمانستان وسائر دول المنطقة على شاكلة ما فعلته في كازاخستان من قبل، في محاولة لخلق «نواتاة» ثورات ملوّنة جديدة، تعويضاً عن فشلها السابق هناك، وتشغيلاً لذراعها الجنوبي الطوراني المترنح في أنقرة لعلّ ذلك يضبط دقات ساعته على توقيت تل أبيب أكثر فأكثر.

    من هنا يمكن تلخيص الموقف العام لما يجري من تداعيات هزيمة الأطلسي في أوكرانيا، بأنّ أولى ارتداداته ستكون في منطقتنا بنضوج أجواء انتفاضة فلسطينية، وتحوّل عربي قومي لصالح قوى الممانعة والمقاومة والتغيير، وتلاحم هاتين القضيتين بقصة التحوّل الكبير التي ترتعد منه الرياض وتتجنّب تحمّل أكلافه واشنطن لوحدها، ألا وهو الانتصار اليمني الكبير، وهو ما يمكن ان يشكل بمثابة الضربة القاصمة لاستراتيجية واشنطن في القتال بالوكالة، ايّ خسارة الكيانين السعودي والإماراتي ومعهما في الطريق طغمة المنامة، وهي خسارة ستكون هذه المرة أقوى من خسارتها لألوية جيوشها المسماة بداعش والنصرة في بلاد الشام والرافدين .

    من الآن الى ذلك الحين، دعونا نتابع بصمات بوتين في صناعة العالم الجديد من خاصرة روسيا الصغرى أو ما بات يُعرف حديثاً بأوكرانيا!

    بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله…

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    Israeli espionage network foiled by Iranian intelligence

    Iranian intelligence announced the busting of a spy network on the same day as the IRGC launched retaliatory strikes on a Mossad base in Erbil, Iraq

    March 13 2022

    ByNews Desk

    Iran has foiled a cyber espionage network linked to the Israeli Mossad in the northwestern province of Iranian Azerbaijan, Iranian intelligence announced on 13 March.

    This announcement comes on the same day that the IRGC launched more than 10 ballistic missiles at a Mossad base in Erbil, Iraq in retaliation for the murder of two IRGC officers in Syria by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) a few days prior.

    The Israeli espionage network was attempting to carry out acts of sabotage in Iran, according to the Director General of Intelligence for the West Azerbaijan region.

    Iranian officials have warned about Israeli-linked spy activity in the Azerbaijan region, but that the situation is closely monitored and fully under control.

    Border Guard Commander Ahmed Ali Goudarzi has stated that despite the situation in the northwest being safe, Iran has warned its neighbors about Israeli spy rings and the presence of takfiri militant groups on the borders of the northwest.

    Iran has also warned the state of Azerbaijan about their relationship with Israel, with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian stressing that such a relationship between Baku and Tel Aviv offers no benefit to Azerbaijan and that Iran will not tolerate Israeli presence on its borders.

    The dismantling of an Israeli spy network and the retaliatory strike against a Mossad base in Erbil demonstrates Iran’s seriousness towards the presence of Israeli activity within its own borders and in neighboring countries.

    Al Mayadeen reported that the Iranian missile strike on the Mossad base in Erbil led to the deaths of four Israeli officers and the injury of seven, with four of those in critical condition.

    Israeli forces were on high alert for several days after Iran vowed revenge for the death of two IRGC officers in Syria, unsure of where or when the retaliation would take place.

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    مواطن الضعف الغربيّ في المواجهة في أوكرانيا

     العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

    عندما خسر الغرب حربه الكونية على سورية وعجز عن تفكيكها لإعادة تركيبها بما يناسب المشروع الصهيوأميركي الذي يخدم نظرية الأحادية القطبية العالمية بقيادة أميركا، اتجه الى اعتماد استراتيجية بديلة تقضي بإطالة أمد الصراع في سورية لمنعها من استثمار إنجازاتها والحؤول دون عودتها الى حياتها الطبيعية من غير مسّ بوحدة أراضيها وسيادتها التامة عليها، وتوجيه ضربة استراتيجية كبرى لروسيا لمنعها من استثمار الإنجاز في سورية وحرمانها من موقعها في العلاقات الدولية والحؤول دون اكتمال ظروف تشكل نظام عالمي جديد قائم على التعددية في الأقطاب والتحالفات والتفاهمات والمجموعات الدولية الاستراتيجية.

    لقد انصرف الغرب منذ العام 2019 ـ تاريخ تأكد هزيمته في سورية الى وضع الخطط الهادفة لتحقيق ما يريد في الميدان الشرق أوسطي وعلى الحدود مع روسيا لمحاصرتها ثم إسقاطها وشطبها من المعادلة الدولية وكانت استراتيجية الاحتواء والتطويق هي المسلك المفتوح أمام الغرب بقيادة أميركية لتحقيق الغرض، ولهذا كانت عملية أذربيجان ضدّ أرمينيا حليفة روسيا وكان مشروع الثورة الملونة في كازاخستان ضدّ النظام الموالي لموسكو والمنتظم معها في منظمة الأمن الجماعي، ثم كانت السلوكيات الأخطر والأدهى من حيث الاستفزاز والاستدراج في أوكرانيا التي تحوّلت بشكل واضح الى رأس رمح في الخاصرة لا بل في القلب الروسي.

    فهمت روسيا مبكراً وعميقاً ما يخطط لها وقرأت جيداً أهداف الغرب بقيادة أميركية ضدّها ولم تهمل العبارات الغربية التي تتضمّن علانية او ضمناً مفهوم العداء الغربي لروسيا سواء في ذلك على صعيد الناتو أو على صعيد دول الغرب الكبرى التي جاهرت بأنّ «روسيا عدو»، لكنها التزمت في الردّ أقصى درجات ضبط النفس وابتلاع المشاعر السلبية مع الاستمرار في تطوير العلاقات الاقتصادية التي فيها مصالح للطرفين بشكل متبادل وشبه متوازن لا بل فيها أرجحية لصالح روسيا. لكنها في الوقت ذاته اتجهت الى بناء المجموعة الاستراتيجية الدولية التي تتقاطع مع أطرافها في السعي لإقامة التوازن الدولي والنظام التعددي على أنقاض النظام العالمي الأحادي الذي تعمل أميركا لإرسائه وتثبيته، فكان التطوير الهامّ للعلاقة مع الصين وايران وإقامة المثلث الاستراتيجي المناهض للهيمنة والسيطرة الغربية على العالم المثلث الذي شكل إنجازاً استراتيجياً للدول الثلاث أرفدته روسيا بإنجازها في أذربيجان وكازاخستان حيث أفشلت مهمة تطويقها من الجنوب والجنوب الغربي وراكمت به انتصاراتها الى جانب محور المقاومة في سورية.

    بيد انّ الغرب بقيادة أميركية وبوقوفه على ما تقدّم، شعر باختلال في المشهد الدولي والاستراتيجي لصالح روسيا وحلفائها وقرّر جرّ روسيا الى ميدان يستنزفها فيه لسنوات تنتهي بشطب روسيا من المعادلة الدولية، ولما كان الطوق الأميركي كسر في أذربيجان وكازاخستان، وانّ الميدان السوري مهما تعاظم أمره لا يشكل مدخلاً كافياً لإدارة حرب استنزاف ضدّ روسيا حتى ولو نجح الأمر في ان تكون العمليات فيه كافية لاستنزاف سورية وفقاً للتقدير الغربي فقد وقع الاختيار على أوكرانيا لتكون ميدان الاستنزاف القاتل لروسيا، استنزاف تنفذه قوى عسكرية وشبه عسكرية وميليشيات وجماعات إرهابية لا تتضمّن مباشرة في صفوفها قطعات من الجيوش النظامية الغربية المنضوية او غير المنضوية في الـناتو، استنزاف تخدمه وتواكبه حرب شاملة يشنها الغرب على روسيا من كلّ الأبواب السياسية والاقتصادية والفكرية والاجتماعية والرياضية، حرب تشمل كلّ شيء باستثناء العمل العسكري القتالي المباشر الذي تقوم به الجيوش النظامية.

    لقد رأى الغرب في ساحة المعركة في أوكرانيا منفذه الأخير لتعويض ما فاته او ما خسره او تعذر عليه تحقيقه في مواجهة أعدائه في العقود الثلاثة الماضية، وخاصة في العقد الأخير الذي تبلورت فيه أكثر وجوه خسائر الغرب وتقدّم خصومه، ولذلك كانت أميركا ملحة ومُصرّة على تفجير الوضع بوجه روسيا واستدراجها الى الميدان الأوكراني، حتى أنها وصلت الى درجة وضع الخطط التنفيذية لاجتياح إقليم الدونباس وشبه جزيرة القرم التي ضمّتها روسيا اليها قبل ٨ سنوات وصولاً الى الاستعداد للتحرّش بروسيا داخل أراضيها.

    في مواجهة الإصرار الغربي قرّرت روسيا الدفاع لثني الغرب عن خطته بكلّ السبل، بدءاً بالتمسك باتفاقيتي مينسك ١ و ٢ اللتين تضمنان أمن السكان في إقليم دونباس، ثم بتحشيد ١٠٠ ألف عسكري على الحدود لإظهار القوة وحمل الخصم على التراجع، ثم كشف أسرار السلوكيات الغربية العدائية ضدّ روسيا والسكان من أصل روسي، إلا أنّ كلّ ذلك لم ينجح في ثني الغرب عن خطته العدائية وإصراره على جرّ روسيا الى حرب استنزاف وتدمير شاملة، حيث اضطرت روسيا إليها في نهاية المطاف فحرّكت قواتها غرباً تحت عنوان «عملية عسكرية خاصة» لحماية الأمن القومي الروسي وأمن الأشخاص الروس عبر الحدود،

    والآن وبعد أسبوعين من انطلاق العملية التي ظنّ الغرب في البدء وبخاصة أميركا انه نجح في استدراج موسكو اليها، وانّ الفخ أطبق على الدب الروسي وفقاً لما يشتهي الغرب، بعد أسبوعين من العمليات العسكرية يتبيّن للغرب سوء تقديره ويكتشف انّ الفخ المزعوم لا فعالية له بالشكل المرتجى، لا بل انّ الآثار السلبية للمواجهة القائمة تطال الغرب عامة وأوروبا خاصة بأضرار تفوق ما كانوا يتوقعون إنزاله بروسيا، وتنكشف مواطن الضعف الغربي في أكثر من عنوان نذكر منها:

    أولاً: خشية الناتو بقيادة أميركا من المواجهة العسكرية المباشرة مع الجيش الروسي ما حمل الناتو على تجنب التدخل المباشر والإعلان صباح مساء انّ أوكرانيا ليست جزءاً من الناتو الذي هو «حلف دفاعي لا يبادر الى هجوم» بزعمهم، وهم في الحقيقة يخشون مواجهة القوة النووية الثانية في العالم، وكان للإنذار الروسي بعد تجهيز قوات الردع الاستراتيجي أثره الكافي في هذا المجال،

    ثانياً: الارتداد السلبي للحرب الاقتصادية علي الغرب وخاصة أوروبا في مجال الطاقة وظهور وهن الاقتصاد الأوروبي المعتمد علي الغاز والنفط الروسي ما جعل الحرب الاقتصادية ذات مفعول بالغ التأثير على أوروبا ما ينذر بسقوط الاقتصاد الأوروبي لا بل بتدميره في بضعة شهور لا تتعدّى الستة ان لم يوجد حلّ لأزمة الطاقة ولا يبدو انّ في الأفق حلاً.

    ثالثاً العجز عن تنظيم مقاومة وطنية أوكرانية فاعلة والاضطرار الى الاستعانة بمرتزقة الخارج ما سيحول البوابة الشرقية لأوروبا ومن أوكرانيا بالذات الى مجمع للإرهاب العالمي ما سيرتدّ أيضاً على الامن الأوربي بوجهيه القومي والفردي وينعكس سلباً على دورة الحياة الاقتصادية والاجتماعية بشكل خاص.

    رابعاً: تفلت روسيا من مكامن استهدافها بحرب الاستنزاف، ما يجعل الغرب يتحمّل من أعباء هذه الحرب مع طول المدة فوق ما يتحمّله المستهدف خاصة أننا نسجل لروسيا تعاملها الذكي مع الموضوع كما يلي:

    ـ اعتمادها استراتيجية الضغط المتدرّج الصاعد بدل استراتيجية السيطرة والاحتلال،

    ـ استعمالها قدراً لا يتجاوز ١/١٣ من مجمل قدراتها العسكرية بحيث تغدو العمليات العسكرية في أوكرانيا بمثابة مناورات بسيطة تسطيع القيادة إبدال القوى فيها شهرياً او مرة في الشهرين.

    ـ تجنب الدخول الكثيف الى المدن وخوض حرب الشوارع.

    ـ تجنب الانتشار والانفلاش العسكري الواسع الذي يتيح للإرهاب فرص الاستهداف السهل.

    ـ الأداء الإنساني الراقي مع السكان المدنيين وتجنّب المسّ بهم ما يقلبهم الى خانة العداء.

    ـ الاعتماد المكثف علي أسلحة عالية الدقة في تدمير الأهداف العسكرية والاستراتيجية دون المسّ بالسكان والتقيّد المتقن بقاعدة التناسب والضرورة المعتمدة في القانون الدولي الإنساني.

    ـ وأخيراً عدم العمل تحت ضغط الوقت لا بل استعمال المناورة المتقلبة بين الشدة والاسترخاء وفتح الممرات الإنسانية لتحييد السكان وخدمة لاستراتيجية الضغط.

    لكلّ ما تقدّم نستطيع القول بأنّ روسيا عرفت متى تطلق عمليتها لتجعلها عملاً عسكرياً استباقياً في معرض الدفاع وعرفت كيف تتملص من فخاخ العدو وعرفت كيف تناور في الميدان وعلى المسرح الاستراتيجي العام، وبالتالي عرفت كيف تستعمل أوراقها لتكتب نصرها بقدم ثابتة ونفس واثقة بقدراتها.

    *أستاذ جامعي ـ باحث استراتيجي

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    قبل تدخلها في أوكرانيا.. كيف واجهت موسكو تطويق واشنطن والناتو لحدودها؟

    2022 السبت 25 شباط

    المصدر: الميادين.نت

    بتول رحال 

    العملية العسكرية الروسية في أوكرانيا ليست الأولى من نوعها. فقبل ذلك، قامت موسكو بالتدخل في بلدانٍ مجاورة لها، ضد وجود الولايات المتحدة والناتو وتأثيرهما فيها.

    لا تتوانى روسيا عن حماية حدودها ومجالها الحيوي أمام أي مخاطر تواجهها

    “هل يجب علينا أن ننظر، مكتوفي الأيدي وغير مبالين، إلى مختلف النزاعات الداخلية في بعض الدول، وإلى فظائع الأنظمة الاستبدادية والطغاة وانتشار أسلحة الدمار الشامل؟ هل نستطيع النظر مكتوفي الأيدي إلى ما يجري؟ سأحاول الإجابة عن هذا السؤال، بالطبع، لا ينبغي لنا النظر مكتوفي الأيدي”

    (الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين في مؤتمر ميونيخ، في الـ10 من شباط/فبراير 2007)

    تضمّن هذا الخطاب الشهير للرئيس الروسي، فلاديمير بوتين، آنذاك، انتقاداتٍ لاذعةً للولايات المتّحدة، ودول الغرب، وخصوصاً دول حلف شمال الأطلسي، التي “تسعى لتمدد الحلف نحو حدود روسيا، على الرغم من الوعود التي قدّمها الناتو سابقاً إلى موسكو”، وفق بوتين.

    بمقارنة خطاب بوتين قبل 15 عاماً، مع خطابه الذي ألقاه قبيل بدء العملية العسكرية الروسية في دونباس، والذّي أكّد خلاله أنّ المواجهة بين روسيا والقوى القومية المتطرفة في أوكرانيا “لا مفر منها”، وأنّه “لن يسمح لأوكرانيا بامتلاك أسلحة نووية”، نرى أنّ روسيا ما زالت متمسكّةً بموقفها في مواجهة أي تهديدٍ أو تأثيرٍ للولايات المتحدة وحلف الناتو، وخصوصاً في البلدان الواقعة عند حدودها، ولاسيما أنّ هذه ليست المرّة الأولى التي تتدخّل فيها موسكو، أمنياً أو سياسياً، في بلدان مجاورة لها، في وقت لم تتراجع واشنطن ودول الناتو أيضاً عن تطويق روسيا.  

    التدخل العسكري الروسي في جورجيا

    في السابع من آب/أغسطس 2008، اندلع نزاعٌ مسلّح في جمهورية أوسيتيا الجنوبية، المعترف بها جزئياً في جنوبي القوقاز، وذلك بعد أن شنّت جورجيا هجوماً عنيفاً على عاصمة أوسيتيا الجنوبية، تسخينفالي، وحاولت فرض السيطرة على الجمهورية باعتبارها جزءاً من أراضيها.

    بعدها بيومٍ واحد، في الثامن من آب/أغسطس، أعلن الرئيس الروسي آنذاك، ديمتري مدفيديف، إطلاق “عملية عسكرية لتطبيق السلام” في منطقة النزاع – في أوسيتيا وأبخازيا على البحر الأسود -، اختُتمت في الـ12 من آب/أغسطس، بطرد القوات الجورجية من أراضي أوسيتيا الجنوبية وجمهورية أبخازيا، المعترف بها جزئياً أيضاً، وسيطرة الجيش الروسي على عدد من البلدات والمدن الجورجية، وأيضاً باعتراف موسكو بهما دولتين مستقلتين. 

    حينذاك، تعهّد الرئيس الروسي، ديمتري مدفيديف، “احترام حياة المواطنين الروس وكرامتهم أينما وُجدوا”، إذ إنّ أوسيتيا وأبخازيا، يتكلّم معظم السكان فيهما الروسية، ويحملون جواز سفرٍ روسياً. بعد ذلك، قام مدفيديف، في الـ16 من آب/أغسطس، مع رئيسي أوسيتيا الجنوبية وأبخازيا والرئيس الجورجي، ميخائيل ساكاشفيلي، بالتوقيع على خطة لتسوية النزاع.

    وبشأن سبب قيام جورجيا بهذه الخطوة ضدّ أوسيتيا الجنوبية، أوضح فلاديمير بوتين، الذي كان رئيساً للوزراء آنذاك، أن “مستشارين عسكريين أميركيين شاركوا في الصراع الذي اندلع في جورجيا”، مشيراً إلى أنّ “روسيا وجدت علامات على أن مواطنيين أميركيين كانوا في منطقة العمليات العسكرية في البلاد”.

    يُشار إلى أنّ هذه الأحداث اندلعت بعد أشهرٍ قليلة من تعهّد حلف “الناتو” رسمياً، في قمة  بوخارست، في نيسان/أبريل 2008، منحَ كل من جورجيا وأوكرانيا العضوية فيه، عندما “تتوافقان مع معايير الحلف”.

    استعادة روسيا شبه جزيرة القرم

    بعد أحداث جورجيا بعدة أعوام، أُطيح الرئيس الأوكراني، الحليف لروسيا، فيكتور يانوكوفيتش، في الـ21 من شباط/فبراير 2014، عقب موجة احتجاجات شهدتها العاصمة كييف، عُرفت بحركة “الميدان الأوروبي”، بسبب تعليق الأخير التوقيع على اتفاقية شراكة تجارية مع الاتحاد الأوروبي.

    إلا أنّ هناك مَن رفض هذه التحركات ووصفها بـ”الانقلاب”، وبدأت احتجاجات في المناطق الشرقية والجنوبية من أوكرانيا، طلباً لعلاقات أوثق بروسيا، بينما تعدَّدت التظاهرات في شبه جزيرة القرم من أجل فكّ الارتباط بأوكرانيا والالتحاق بالاتحاد الروسي.

    لم تغضّ روسيا الطرف عن طلب مواطني القرم، بل سارعت إلى تنفيذه، لتعلن انضمام الإقليم إلى أراضيها في الـ18 من آذار/مارس بعد أن قامت قوات موالية لها بالسيطرة على شبه الجزيرة، وعقب استفتاء أجرته القرم، أيّد 96% من المشاركين فيه هذا الانضمام.

    روسيا تدعم لوكاشينكو في احتجاجات عام 2020

    أمّا في بيلاروسيا، فقامت روسيا بدعم الرئيس البيلاروسي ألكسندر لوكاشنكو، في مواجهته  للاحتجاجات غير المسبوقة، التي نددت بإعادة انتخابه  في التاسع من آب/أغسطس 2020، وذلك عن طريق إقرارها بشرعية الانتخابات الرئاسية في البلاد، مبديةًً استعدادها لتقديم المساعدة العسكرية أو غيرها من المساعدات لتطبيق القانون، على لسان رئيسها فلاديمير بوتين.  

    وذكرت صحيفة “نيويورك تايمز”، في تقرير تعليقاً على كلام الرئيس الروسي، أن تحذير بوتين من أن روسيا يمكن أن تتدخل لاستعادة النظام، يشير إلى “الدعم الكامل للوكاشينكو بقدر أقل من إرساله رسالة إلى الغرب، مفادها: إذا واصلتَ الضغط على بيلاروسيا، فسيكون لديك أوكرانيا أخرى بين يديك”.

    حينها، اتهم لوكاشينكو الدول الغربية بالتدخل المباشر في الوضع في البلاد. أمّا وزير الدفاع الروسي، سيرغي شويغو، فوصف الاحتجاجات التي شهدتها البلاد بـ “الثورة الملوَّنة” التي تقدّم الولايات المتحدة مساعدةً تقنية إليها، عبر تأجيج التوترات، مؤكّداً أنّه كان للثورة الملونة عدة أهداف، من بينها “تعطيل تكامل دولة الاتحاد مع روسيا، وتخريب العلاقات بين موسكو ومينسك”.

    يُذكَر أن تلك الاحتجاجات حدثت في وقت كان حلف شمال الأطلسي يعمل على تحسين بنيته التحتية العسكرية، وتخزين المواد والوسائل التقنية والأسلحة والمعدات العسكرية بالقرب من حدود الاتحاد الروسي. 

    إدخال قوات حفظ السلام الروسية لكازاخستان

    على الخطى نفسها، سارت روسيا في كازاخستان، التي شهدت في مطلع العام الحالي موجة احتجاجات بدأت بمطالب اقتصادية، تحولت إلى اشتباكات عنيفة بين المتظاهرين وقوات الأمن في عدد من المدن، بينها ألما آتا كبرى مدن البلاد. 

    قامت موسكو، مع تصاعد الاحتجاجات في كازاخستان، بإدخال قوات حفظ السلام الروسية، العاملة ضمن مهمة منظمة معاهدة الأمن الجماعي، للبلاد، تلبيةً لطلبٍ من الرئيس الكازاخي، جومارت توكاييف، من أجل تنفيذ المهمات الموكلة إليها بشأن حماية المنشآت الحيوية والبنية التحتية الرئيسة هناك.

    وخرجت قوات حفظ السلام الروسية بعدها بأسبوع عقب انتهاء مهماتها، وإعلان السلطات إنهاء عملية “مكافحة الإرهاب” في ألما آتا ومنطقتين في جنوبي البلاد، الأمر الذي وصفه توكاييف بأنّه “نجاة من عملية انقلاب”.

    وتبيّن بعد ذلك أنّ “المظاهرات في كازاخستان مُعَدّة مسبقاً لزعزعة استقرار الوضع في البلاد، وأن منظّميها تلقوا دعماً من الخارج”، وفق رئيس اللجنة التنفيذية لرابطة الدول المستقلة، سيرغي ليبيديف. وهو ما تدخّلت روسيا ودول منظمة الأمن الجماعي، بحسب بوتين، من أجل إيقافه. 

    وبحسب الرئيس البيلاروسي، ألكسندر لوكاشنكو، فإنّ التدخّل حدث لأنّه “لا يمكن التخلي عن كازاخستان كهدية، مثل أوكرانيا، إلى أميركا وحلف شمال الأطلسي”.

    اتّخذت روسيا، منذ زمن، قرار مواجهة الأحادية الأميركية، ووضعٍ حدّ لتوسّع الناتو، وهي من أجل ذلك لا تتوانى عن حماية حدودها ومجالها الحيوي أمام أي مخاطر تواجهها، إن كان من خلال تشكيل التحالفات العسكرية والسياسية، مثل معاهدة الأمن الجماعي، أو توقيع المعاهدات الأمنية مع جيرانها من الدول، مثل الاتفاقية التي تمّ الإعلان عنها مؤخراً بين روسيا وأذربيجان، أو من خلال العمليات العسكرية كالتي تحدث الآن في أوكرانيا، وحدثت سابقاً في عدد من الدول. 

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    ما كانت تخشاه «إسرائيل»… تحقّق

      الإثنين 21 شباط 2022

    علي حيدر

    لا تزال الجولة الاستطلاعية التي نفذتها المسيَّرة «حسان» التابعة لحزب الله، لمسافة 70 كلم شمال فلسطين المحتلة، تتفاعل داخل الكيان الإسرائيلي على المستويين الرسمي والإعلامي. إلا أن الأسئلة التي تشغل جهات القرار السياسي والأمني تنبع من الموقع والدور الذي أصبحت تلعبه المسيّرات في معادلات القوة، في ضوء تطورها والنتائج التي حققتها في المعارك التي شهدتها وتشهدها المنطقة، من أذربيجان – أرمينيا، إلى اليمن في دفاعه ضد العدوان السعودي – الإماراتي – الأميركي.

    (أ ف ب )

    من الواضح أن الصمت الذي خيَّم على المستوى الرسمي في كيان العدو ناجم عن إدراك لخطورة الرسائل وحراجة الموقف ومحدودية الخيارات. لذلك انتهى إلى قرار بتوجيه وزير الأمن بني غانتس رسالة ذكَّر فيها بقوة سلاح الجو الإسرائيلي متجاهلاً حقيقة أن هذا الأمر خبِره اللبنانيون منذ نشوء الكيان الإسرائيلي. إلا أن الجديد الذي يبدو أن العدو بدأ باستيعابه، هو أن ما كان يخشى حصوله قد تحقّق. إذ شكّلت الجولة الاستطلاعية للمسيّرة «حسان» ترجمة عملية للمخاوف التي عبَّر عنها كبار المسؤولين الإسرائيليين في مناسبات عدة، حول خطر امتلاك حزب الله مسيّرات متطورة وتأثير ذلك في معادلات القوة في المنطقة.

    ويبدو أن حزب الله هدف من العملية النوعية، على مستوى القرار والأبعاد والرسائل والإنجاز العملياتي (فشل منظومات الاعتراض وسلاح الجو في إسقاطها)، إظهار جانب من قدراته المتطورة، لتعزيز معادلة الردع وتصويب تقديرات مؤسسات القرار في كيان العدو، لتكون خياراتها أكثر عقلانية في حسابات الكلفة والجدوى.

    وقد يساعد في فهم خلفية حجم المخاوف التي أظهرها قادة العدو، استحضار قراءة الجهات المهنية والقيادية في كيان العدو لهذا التهديد الذي تم تناوله في مناسبات عدة، من موقع التحذير. فقد نقلت صحيفة «هآرتس»، في تموز الماضي، أن إيران «وجدت في المسيّرات رداً جزئياً على تفوق سلاح الجو الإسرائيلي، وأن الجيش قلق من أن تصل هذه القدرات إلى حلفائها في المنطقة. ويتقاطع هذا التقدير مع إعلان قائد المنطقة الوسطى في الجيش الأميركي الجنرال كينيث ماكنزي، في ضوء المسيرات المتطورة التي تصنعها إيران على نطاق واسع، «أننا للمرة الأولى منذ الحرب الكورية، نعمل من دون تفوق جوي كامل».

    تهديد المسيرات من منظور استراتيجي إسرائيلي: سلاح فتاك، دقيق، وكاسر للتوازن

    ارتقى التعبير عن المخاوف الإسرائيلية مع انكشاف مزيد من مزايا تطور المسيرات التي تصنعها إيران. ففي خطاب لوزير الأمن الإسرائيلي بني غانتس في 12/9/2021، في مؤتمر معهد السياسات التابع لمعهد هرتسيليا، حذر من أن «إحدى الأدوات النوعية التي طورتها إيران هي المسيرات غير المأهولة» التي تشكل «منظومة من السلاح الفتاك، والدقيق مثل الصواريخ الباليستية أو الطائرات القادرة على تجاوز آلاف الكيلومترات. وفي السياق نفسه، تناول رئيس وزراء العدو هذا التهديد المستجد في كلمته أمام الأمم المتحدة، في أيلول الماضي، مشيراً إلى أن المسيرات الإيرانية «مزوَّدة بأسلحة فتاكة، وقادرة على أن تهاجم في أي مكان وزمان. وهم يخططون لتغطية سماء الشرق الأوسط بهذه القوة الفتاكة». وأعرب عن قلق إسرائيل من أن «تزود إيران حلفاءها في اليمن وسوريا ولبنان بالمئات من هذا النوع، ولاحقاً بالآلاف».

    لكن من الواضح أنه لم يخطر في بال بينيت وغانتس أن ينتقل حزب الله إلى مرحلة صناعة المسيّرات محلياً كما أعلن الأمين العام لحزب الله السيد حسن نصر الله أخيراً، وحرص على أن يلمس الإسرائيلي بشكل مباشر مستوى تطورها عبر اختراق منظومات الدفاع الجوي الإسرائيلي في ذروة استعداداتها.

    من الواضح أن تناول غانتس وبينيت بعبارات متشابهة للتهديد الذي تمثله المسيرات كان نتاج بحث وتقدير الأجهزة المهنية المختصة في جيش العدو، ويكشف عن حجم مخاوف المستويات القيادية من التهديد المتصاعد لهذا النوع من الأسلحة التي تنضم إلى مروحة أخرى من الأدوات العسكرية، في سياق مسار تصاعدي من تطور معادلات القوة في المنطقة.

    خطر المسيّرات يوازي خطر الصواريخ الدقيقة

    الخبير الإسرائيلي في الدفاع ضد الصواريخ، عوزي روبين، أشار في دراسة مفصلة قبل 3 أشهر حول سلاح المسيرات وموقعه في سلم التهديدات المحدقة بإسرائيل، إلى أن تطوره وصل إلى مرحلة يشكل فيها تهديداً من الدرجة الأولى على إسرائيل يصعب اعتراضه.

    وبعدما تناول مسار تطور المسيرات من الناحية التقنية، لفت إلى أن صناعة المسيرات أقل كلفة وأبسط من صناعة الصواريخ، وهي تشكل سلاحاً دقيقاً قادراً على إصابة أهداف محددة بدقة متر أو مترين. وأضاف روبين الذي ترأس منظومة حيتس لمدة ثماني سنوات، أن من المزايا التي تمنح المسيرات تفوقاً أنه «من غير الممكن التنبؤ مسبقاً من أي اتجاه ستصل»، ما يجعل من الصعب تشخيصها واعتراضها. كما أن بعض المسيرات الإيرانية تتمتع بالقدرة على التخفي ولا تستطيع الرادارات كشفها ما يفاقم من صعوبة اعتراضها.

    وتناول بعضاً من المخاطر العملياتية التي يمكن أن تشكلها المسيرات على إسرائيل، موضحاً أن النوع الهجومي والانتحاري منها يمكن أن يضرب نقاطاً حاسمة مثل مخازن الطوارئ وتجمعات المدرعات. إضافة إلى أنه يمكن أن تستهدف قوات الجيش الإسرائيلي خلال حركته وإرباك مناورته البرية. كما يمكن أن تضرب منظومات الدفاع الجوي للجيش، في إشارة إلى القبة الحديدية وغيرها من المنظومات الاعتراضية. وخلص إلى أنه من غير الممكن النظر إلى المسيّرات كوسيلة ثانوية من أجل «الإزعاج، والجمع والردع»، وإنما وسيلة يمكن أن تشكل «كاسراً للتوازن»، يوازي خطرها خطر الصواريخ الدقيقة.


    يريدون دفع الناس الى الجنون!

    كتب يوآف ليمور، معلق الشؤون العسكرية في صحيفة «إسرائيل هيوم» تعليقاً على ما جرى:
    «حققت إيران قفزة كبيرة في السنوات الأخيرة في قدرات طائراتها المسيّرة. هذه الطائرات تحلّق بعيداً، تحمل وقوداً وأسلحة أكثر، وقادرة على التخفّي بشكل أفضل من ذي قبل. وعلى عكس الصواريخ، فان المسيّرات والصواريخ المجنّحة يصعب اسقاطها لأنها تطير ببطء وقريبة جداً من الأرض. ومن غير المعقول ان نصف منطقة الشمال تدخل الى الملاجئ في كل مرة تدخل فيها مسيّرة الى إسرائيل. هذا يمنح حزب الله (او حماس في الجنوب) طريقة سهلة للغاية لدفع إسرائيل إلى الجنون متى شاء.

    الاستراتيجية الإيرانية واضحة، وهي تطويق إسرائيل بالصواريخ بكافة انواعها، بما في ذلك المسيّرات والصواريخ المجنحة. وهذا يسمح لإيران بشن هجوم مفاجئ وأكثر دقة على إسرائيل، عندما تقرر، كما حاولت مرات عدة في الماضي.
    يوجد لدى الايرانيين عدد كبير من الملفات المفتوحة مع إسرائيل، وعدد غير قليل من عمليات الانتقام التي يسعون لتنفيذها.

    ايران لن تنحرف عن طريقها. هذا ليس من طبيعة النظام، وبالتأكيد ليس من طبيعة الحرس الثوري. والفهم الاستراتيجي هذا يستوجب الآن فحص السياسات الإسرائيلية، في كافة الساحات».

    من ملف : ما كان العدو يخشاه… تحقّق

    Russia opens doors for Iran’s Eurasian integration

    Raisi and Putin’s January meeting may have seemed anticlimactic, but Russia is now opening doors for Iran’s Eurasian integration

    February 01 2022

    By Yeghia Tashjian

    On 20 January, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi traveled to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow, with the express purpose of advancing bilateral ties between both countries at the highest level.

    Among the talking points of the two leaders were their shared regional and international issues, the Vienna negotiations for Iran’s nuclear program, and regional cooperation in Eurasia.https://thecradle.co/Article/analysis/6507

    Contrary to expectations and to the positive statements made before the meeting, the visit did not end with the announcement of a grand strategic agreement, such as the one that took place between China and Iran a year ago.

    Nevertheless, the visit did push negotiations between both parties to a higher level, and facilitated Iran’s economic integration into the Russian-Chinese Eurasian architecture.

    Great expectations, not grand declarations

    In recent years, both the improvement of relations between Tehran and Moscow, and a focus on a strategic partnership have become particularly important tasks for Iran.

    Besides working to boost trade and economic ties – a priority for sanction-laden Iran – an additional impetus may be given to the development of military-political interaction in the future.

    In October 2021, quoting Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Interfax announced that Tehran was ready to forge a strategic partnership with Moscow, and that both parties are expected to sign agreement documents in the coming months.

    According to the TASS agency, both sides were close to completing work on a document on comprehensive cooperation for a period of 20 years.

    The timing is important for both countries. As the chairman of the Iranian parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, Mojtaba Zulnur, told the Mehr News Agency that in order to overcome US sanctions, Iran seeks a partnership agreement with Russia, one that would be analogous to the agreement between Tehran and Beijing.

    However, contrary to expectations and to some statements prior to the Iranian leader’s trip to Russia, President Raisi’s visit has, at least for the time being, failed to achieve a major breakthrough on that front. According to sources, this process may take some time and may, at least for Moscow, be linked to the outcome of Iran’s nuclear negotiations.

    However, two recent events involving Russia and Iran had significant resonance: the joint naval exercises between Russia, China, and Iran in the Indian Ocean, and Iran’s relations with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) alongside the materialization of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

    Will Iran be joining the EAEU anytime soon?

    Iranian political analyst and former Fars News Agency (English) chief editor Mostafa Khoshcheshm says, instead, that Russia looks to be pushing for Iran’s entry into the EAEU. “Negotiations,” he reveals, “are already underway.”

    In 2019, the preferential trade agreement (PTA), signed between Iran and the EAEU in 2018, entered into force.

    The agreement offered lower tariffs on 862 commodity types, of which 502 were Iranian exports to the EAEU. As a result, in the period between October 2019 and October 2020, trade volume increased by more than 84 percent.

    According to Vali Kaleji, the Iranian expert on Central Asia and Caucasian Studies, this volume of trade was achieved at a time when the US, under former president Donald Trump, withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and was following the policy of ‘maximum pressure’ against Iran.

    In October 2021, Iran and EAEU started negotiating an upgrade of the PTA into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). If achieved, this will set off a massive increase in the volume of trade between Iran and the EAEU, also known as the Union.

    Both Moscow and Tehran have reasons to push for the further integration of Iran in the Union.

    For Iran, this opportunity will provide improved access to Eurasian and European markets. It will also provide EAEU member states with increased access to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. For this reason, Moscow may be thinking a step ahead.

    Moscow views the signing of an FTA agreement with Iran as a crucial step for Iran’s entry into the Union.

    Russia has concerns that if Iran reaches an agreement with the US over its nuclear issue, there may be positive Iranian policy shifts towards the west, and this may not serve Russia’s interests in West Asia, especially in Syria.

    For Russia, a nuclear Iran is preferable to a pro-western one. For this reason, Russia would be glad to see the acceleration of Iran’s integration into Eurasian regional institutions.

    Opening gateways, prudently

    Iran’s accession to the nine-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) should be viewed from this perspective. Moreover, with Tehran joining the EAEU, neighboring and friendly countries, such as Iraq and Syria may follow.

    Russia would then have a direct railway and highway connection via Iran to its Syrian coastal military base in Tartous. This would serve its military goals on a logistic and operational level in case a crisis occurs in the Black Sea and Russia’s navy faces challenges.

    On 27 December 2021, Iran and Iraq agreed to build a railway connecting both countries. The 30km railway would be strategically important for Iran, linking the country to the Mediterranean Sea via Iraq and Syria’s railways.

    This would be a win-win situation for both China and Russia; one where China through its Belt and Road Initiative, and Russia through its International North-South Transport Corridor, would have direct railway access to the Mediterranean Sea.

    This route also would compete with India’s Arab-Mediterranean Corridor connecting India to the Israeli port of Haifa through the various railways of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

    So, for China and Russia, consolidating Iran’s geopolitical and geo-economic position in the region is an important step. From a Russian perspective, having a direct land route through the Levant to the Mediterranean will bolster its power base in Syria and extend its soft power through trade and energy deals within neighboring countries.

    It was for this reason that Iran acted prudently against the recent Azerbaijani provocations on the Armenian border. Tehran’s concern was that Turkey would have direct access to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia through a possible ‘corridor’ passing from southern Armenia.

    This is known as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route Middle Corridor, connecting Europe to Central Asia through Turkey.

    For Iran, this would be equivalent to NATO’s expansion in the Caspian Sea and further towards China. Hence, the west-east trade route would pose a serious threat to Iran and Russia and isolate them in Eurasia.

    For the Iranians, this route would not only bypass Iran and Russia but would also impose a serious challenge to the north-south trade route initiated by the Iranians, Russians, and other Asian countries.

    According to Khoshcheshm, “animosities by the western block have driven Iran and Eurasia closer to each other and this has given strong motivation for the Russians and Chinese to speed up Iran’s accession to the Eurasian block to hammer joint cooperation in economic and geopolitical areas and prevent US penetration into the region.”

    Iran’s entry into the EAEU is therefore a win-win situation for both Moscow and Tehran. Russia would consolidate its geo-economic and geopolitical position in the Middle East, and Iran would have a railway connection to Russia and Europe and further expand Moscow’s influence in the region.

    However, this ultimate objective may still need time, and will face challenges from the US and its allies in the region.

    Confidence amid uncertainty

    Iran’s possible accession to the EAEU would attract investments from neighboring countries to the underdeveloped rail communication between Iran and Russia in the Caucasus region.

    The opening of communication channels between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as part of the 9 November trilateral statement, would facilitate trade and cargo transportation in the region as part of the North-South Transport corridor.

    In such circumstances, the railway network is very important as the volume of goods transported by rail is far greater and faster than land and truck routes. However, the implementation of these projects is not yet a certainty.

    The state-owned Russian Railways ceased implementation of its projects in Iran in April 2020 due to fears over US sanctions. Such a decision would affect other programs within the framework of the Russian-Iranian initiative in creating the North-South Transport Corridor.

    Both sides would have to wait to overcome US sanctions, as economic routes are always a win-win situation.

    By joining the EAEU and integrating into Eurasian regional organizations, Iran would consolidate its geo-economic position into a regional transport hub, opening the West Asian gate for Moscow’s railway access to the eastern Mediterranean.

    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

    New trade corridor connecting Iran and Europe

    19 Dec 2021

    Net Source: Agencies

    By Al Mayadeen

    The Iranian ambassador to Baku says a new trade corridor will be activated this week linking Iran and Europe via Azerbaijan.

    The new corridor comes after the revival of the ECO and the INSTC corridor

    Iran’s ambassador to Baku, Abbas Mousavi, announced Saturday that the new corridor linking Iran to Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea will be activated this week.

    On Twitter, Mousavi said that the new corridor comes after the revival of the ECO Corridor between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, and the International North-South Transport Corridor (Finland, Russia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, the Persian Gulf, and India).

    The ECO corridor’s objective is to strengthen economic relations between Tehran, Ankara, and Islamabad and to facilitate trade and investment in the region.

    On the other hand, the INSTC corridor is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes to link and increase trade between countries of the region including India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe, mentioned Mehr news agency.

    It is noteworthy that on December 10th, Moscow witnessed the first meeting between deputy foreign ministers of a new regional cooperation titled 3+3, which consists of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia from the South Caucasus and three neighboring countries, namely Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

    The Iran-Azerbaijan gas swap deal: Has Tehran’s tough posturing paid off?

    December 14 2021

    The Turkish-supported gas swap deal is not so much a capitulation as a calculated concession from Azerbaijan, which now acknowledges its relationship with Israel as an Iranian red line.

    By Agha Hussain

    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi signed a gas swap deal with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev on the sidelines of the 28 November Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. The timing of the deal and its geostrategic significance outweighs its economic impact for both sides. For Iran, in particular, it represents the first concrete result of the rapid overhaul of its regional posture in recent months.

    The standoff and Iran’s hardline approach

    The deal ended the October-November escalation between Iran and Azerbaijan, which has featured unprecedented Iranian war games on their shared borders and symbolic steps in challenging several of Baku’s regional interests unless it accounted for Tehran’s concerns.

    In a 3 November analysis for The Cradle, this author described Iran’s conduct as the initiation of a new, more assertive posture in Eurasia. The aims of this new posture are to exert damage control over regional trends favorable to Iran’s adversaries and to establish the potency and credibility of Iran’s regional red lines.

    In the South Caucasus, this means reversing Azerbaijan’s confidence in Israel as a positive contributor to its regional standing, and pressuring Baku to place its relationship with Tel Aviv on the bilateral negotiating table between itself and Iran.

    From this point onward, Tehran can effectively wield the threat of challenging Azerbaijani regional interests as a bargaining chip to scale back Baku’s ties with Tel Aviv. Such challenges include taking steps to reroute the North South Transport Corridor (NSTC) from Azerbaijan to Armenia or stationing troops in Armenia’s south to deter the implementation of Azerbaijan’s prized Zangezur Corridor across that area.

    The gas swap deal is Iran’s first inroad in this stratagem.

    The gas swap deal de-escalation

    According to the deal, Iran will receive Turkmen gas and then send an equivalent amount of Iranian gas to Azerbaijan.

    By involving Iran in its regional trade as a means of defusing tensions, Azerbaijan validates Iran’s new hardline posture toward it through this key concession. Specifically, Azerbaijan acknowledges and assuages Iran’s heightened perception of threat in any moves toward crafting a regional economic and security order that does not include a tangible role for the Iranians.

    Notably, since this perception of threat is derived almost entirely from Iran’s oft-enunciated view of any such moves as an extension of Israel’s global campaign to isolate it, the deal qualifies as a concession from Azerbaijan, even if indirect, on the issue of its ties with Israel.

    From Iran’s perspective, this is a milestone of sorts for its new hard power approach to the region.

    The gas deal represented Azerbaijan’s shift from its previously dismissive stance toward Iran’s Israel-centric criticisms of its policies in exchange for Iran winding down its aggressive military posturing on the border.

    This serves to activate the bilateral bargaining arrangement Iran seeks.

    Under the principle of reciprocity enshrined by such arrangements, any attempts by Baku to revert to its old practice of safeguarding its relations with Tel Aviv from Iranian scrutiny may be met by Tehran’s return to an aggressive posture.

    As a result, Azerbaijan would find a mounting set of new challenges at its doorstep, a year after its historic victory over Armenia in the second Nagorno-Karabakh war. The risk factor of its relationship with Israel could therefore skyrocket quicker than President Aliyev would be willing to roll it back, given Azerbaijan’s longstanding reliance on the US-based Israel lobby as a shield against unfavorable US policies promoted by the Armenian-US diaspora.

    Tehran, however, would have options aplenty in the potential military and geo-economic alliances with Yerevan to continue mounting pressure on Baku.

    The Turkey factor

    To Azerbaijan, Turkey has been its single most constant and reliable guarantor of security and economics throughout its tussles with Armenia. However, Azerbaijan’s ties with Turkey factor in very differently when it comes to tensions and potential conflict with Iran.

    Eldar Mamedov, an Azerbaijani analyst at Eurasianet and the Quincy Institute, states that “… military confrontation with Iran – a country with eight times the population – clearly is not in Baku’s interests. All the more so because even Baku’s main ally, Turkey, is unlikely to fight a war with Iran on Azerbaijan’s behalf.”

    Citing Turkey’s self-interest in keeping its own differences with Iran to manageable levels, Mamedov adds that “policymakers in Baku would be wise to realize the limits of the Turkish support in any potential future conflagration with Tehran.”

    Turkey’s influence, in fact, looms large in the details of the gas swap deal. Giving Iran transit state status in the Turkmenistan gas trade is a decision set in the context of geo-economics – where Baku has traditionally taken its cue from Ankara, whose territory is the terminus for Azerbaijan’s most vital trade and transport links, such as the BTC oil pipeline, the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) pipelines, and the BTK railway.

    Of great interest to Iran is that Turkish interests seem to propel the planned Azerbaijan–Turkmenistan gas trade more than Azerbaijani ones.

    Azerbaijan’s interest in Turkmen gas does not extend beyond buying it to fill the unutilized capacity of SGC, which it will be able to do itself once it boosts its own gas production.

    Turkey, however, has long sought the revival of the dormant Trans Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCP) connecting Turkmenistan via the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan with the objective of further linkage to the SGC, through which Turkmen gas then flows to Europe via Turkey.

    The TCP is core to Turkey’s drive to render itself Turkic Central Asia’s ultimate gateway to the west. This would entail Turkmen gas exports to and transit across Azerbaijan at a much larger, longer-term scale.

    Since the discovery in the 1990s of huge gas fields in its own Caspian waters, Azerbaijan has, in fact, treated Turkmenistan as a potential competitor for the European market.

    Baku therefore walked away from the TCP project, declining to settle its maritime dispute with Ashgabat over the Dostluk gas field, which itself was enough to inhibit work on the TCP. So when Azerbaijan resolved the Dostluk dispute in January this year and agreed to jointly develop it with Turkmenistan, Ankara’s influence once again stood out.

    The fact that Azerbaijan’s top ally sees fit to deploy Turkish-Azerbaijani regional interests as collateral for de-escalation with Iran will therefore encourage Iranian strategists by adding pressure on Baku to accept Iran’s assertive behavior as a ‘new normal.’

    Iran-Azerbaijan tensions are far from over

    Despite Iran’s gains from it, the gas swap deal is still a calculated concession from Azerbaijan and far from a capitulation.

    Once the TCP is built, the swap arrangement with Turkmenistan via Iran will become redundant, as Turkmen gas will be piped directly to Azerbaijan. This is not an unlikely scenario given that the wealthy European Union (EU) designated the TCP a ‘project of common interest,’ thus qualifying it for EU financing and diplomatic support.

    This factor raises the stakes – and the risks – in the Iran-Azerbaijan bilateral relationship. More hawkish minds in Baku may, after all, be inclined to interpret the completion of Iran bypassing TCP and the disposal of the gas swap arrangement as a sign that isolating Iran in the South Caucasus has become a viable strategy.

    Such a notion would almost certainly receive enthusiastic backing from Israel, who lacks Turkey’s economic incentive in averting an Iran-Azerbaijan conflict and may even see Baku’s reliance on its US lobby deepen if it heads into a fight without Turkey’s blessing.

    Ultimately, for Baku, these are fairly risky variables on which to base its present and future roadmap for dealing with Iran. In contrast, Tehran benefits from a more reliable set of options to sustain and escalate its posture when required, with the decisive advantages of geography and size playing to its favor.

    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

    New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia (Updated: Maps)

    NOVEMBER 12, 2021

    New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia - Asia Times
    New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia (Updated: Maps)

    Players unite and face off so fast Eurasian integration’s chessboard feels like musical chairs prestissimo

    by Pepe Escobar for the Saker Blog and cross-posted with Asia Times

    The Eurasian chessboard is in non-stop motion at dizzying speed.

    After the Afghanistan shock, we’re all aware of the progressive interconnection of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and of the preeminent roles played by Russia, China and Iran. These are the pillars of the New Great Game.

    Let’s now focus on some relatively overlooked but no less important aspects of the game – ranging from the South Caucasus to Central Asia.

    Iran under the new Raisi administration is now on the path of increased trade and economic integration with the EAEU, after its admission as a full member of the SCO. Tehran’s “Go East” pivot implies strengthened political security as well as food security.

    That’s where the Caspian Sea plays a key role – as inter-Caspian sea trade routes completely bypass American sanctions or blockade attempts.

    An inevitable consequence, medium to long term, is that Iran’s renewed strategic security anchored in the Caspian will also extend to and bring benefits to Afghanistan, which borders two of the five Caspian neighbors: Iran and Turkmenistan.

    The ongoing Eurasian integration process features a Trans-Caspian corridor as a key node, from Xinjiang in China across Central Asia, then Turkey, all the way to Eastern Europe. The corridor is a work in progress.

    Some of it is being conducted by CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation), which strategically includes China, Mongolia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the five Central Asian “stans” and Afghanistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) coordinates the secretariat.

    CAREC is not a Chinese-driven Belt and Road and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) body. Yet the Chinese do interact constructively with the Western-leaning, Manila-based ADB.

    Belt and Road is developing its own corridors via the Central Asian “stans” and especially all the way to Iran, now strategically linked to China via the long-term, $400 billion energy-and-development deal.

    Practically, the Trans-Caspian will run in parallel to and will be complementary to the existing BRI corridors – where we have, for instance, German auto industry components loading cargo trains in the Trans-Siberian bound all the way to joint ventures in China while Foxconn and HP’s laptops and printers made in Chongqing travel the other way to Western Europe.

    The Caspian Sea is becoming a key Eurasian trade player since its status was finally defined in 2018 in Aktau, in Kazakhstan. After all, the Caspian is a major crossroads simultaneously connecting Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Central Asia and West Asia, and northern and southern Eurasia.

    It’s a strategic neighbor to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – which includes Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and India –while also connecting Belt and Road and the EAEU.

    Watch the Turkic Council

    All of the above interactions are routinely discussed and planned at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia’s top economic meetings alongside the Valdai discussions.

    But then there are also interpolations between players – some of them leading to possible partnerships that are not exactly appreciated by the three leading members of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

    For instance, four months ago Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev visited Baku to propose a strategic partnership – dubbed 5+3 – between Central Asia and South Caucasus states.

    Ay, there’s the rub. A specific problem is that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace – which is a military gig – and also of the Turkic Council, which has embarked on a resolute expansion drive. To complicate matters, Russia also has a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan.

    The Turkic Council has the potential to act as a monkey wrench dropped into the – Eurasian – works. There are five members: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

    This is pan-Turkism – or pan-Turanism – in action, with a special emphasis on the Turk-Azeri “one nation, two states.” Ambition is the norm: The Turkic Council has been actively trying to seduce Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Hungary to become members.

    Assuming the 5+3 idea gets traction that would lead to the formation of a single entity from the Black Sea all the way to the borders of Xinjiang, in thesis under Turkish preeminence. And that means NATO preeminence.

    Russia, China and Iran will not exactly welcome it. All of the 8 members of the 5+3 are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, while half (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia) are also members of the counterweight, the Russia-led CSTO.

    Eurasian players are very much aware that in early 2021 NATO switched the command of its quite strategic Very High Readiness Joint Task Force to Turkey. Subsequently, Ankara has embarked on a serious diplomatic drive – with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Aka visiting Libya, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

    Translation: That’s Turkey – and not the Europeans – projecting NATO power across Eurasia.

    Add to it two recent military exercises, Anatolian 21 and Anatolian Eagle 2021, focused on special ops and air combat. Anatolian 21 was conducted by Turkish special forces. The list of attendants was quite something, in terms of a geopolitical arc. Apart from Turkey, we had Albania, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – with Mongolia and Kosovo as observers.

    Once again, that was Pan-Turkism – as well as neo-Ottomanism – in action.

    Watch the new Intermarium

    Speculation by Brzezinski nostalgia denizens that a successful 5+3, plus an expanded Turkic Council, would lead to the isolation of Russia in vast swaths of Eurasia are idle.

    There’s no evidence that Ankara would be able to control oil and gas corridors (this is prime Russian and Iran territory) or influence the opening up of the Caspian to Western interests (that’s a matter for the Caspian neighbors, which include, once again, Russia and Iran). Tehran and Moscow are very much aware of the lively Erdogan/Aliyev spy games constantly enacted in Baku.

    Pakistan for its part may have close relations with Turkey – and the Turk-Azeri combo. Yet that did not prevent Islamabad from striking a huge military deal with Tehran.

    According to the deal, Pakistan will train Iranian fighter pilots and Iran will train Pakistani anti-terrorism special ops. The Pakistani Air Force has a world-class training program – while Tehran has first-class experience in anti-terror ops in Iraq/Syria as well as in its sensitive borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    The Turk-Azeri combo should be aware that Baku’s dream of becoming a trade/transportation corridor hub in the Caucasus may only happen in close coordination with regional players.

    The possibility still exists of a trade/connectivity Turk-Azeri corridor to be extended into the Turkic-based heartland of Central Asia. Yet Baku’s recent heavy-handedness after the military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh predictably engineered blowback. Iran and India are developing their own corridor ideas going East and West.

    It was up to the chairman of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, Alireza Peymanpak, to clarify that “two alternative Iran-Eurasia transit routes will replace Azerbaijan’s route.” The first should open soon, “via Armenia” and the second “via sea by purchasing and renting vessels.”

    That was a direct reference, once again, to the inevitable International North-South Transportation Corridor: rail, road and water routes crisscrossing 7,200 kilometers and interlinking  Russia, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, India and Western Europe. The INSTC is at least 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than existing, tortuous routes.

    Baku – and Ankara – have to be ultra-savvy diplomatically not to find themselves excluded from the inter-connection, even considering that the original INSTC route linked India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

    Two camps seem to be irreconcilable at this particular juncture: Turkey-Azerbaijan on the one hand and India-Iran on the other, with Pakistan in the uncomfortable middle.

    The key development is that New Delhi and Tehran have decided that the INSTC will go through Armenia – and not Azerbaijan – all the way to Russia.

    That’s terrible news for Ankara – a wound that even an expanded Turkic Council would not heal. Baku, for its part, may have to deal with the unpleasant consequences of being regarded by top Eurasian players as an unreliable partner.

    Anyway, we’re still far from the finality expressed by the legendary casino mantra, “The chips are down.” This is a chessboard in non-stop movement.

    We should not forget, for instance, the Bucharest Nine: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. That concerns a prime NATO wet dream: the latest remix of the Intermarium – as in de facto blocking Russia out of Europe. A dominating team of 5 +3 and Bucharest Nine would be the ultimate pincer in terms of  “isolating” Russia.

    Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

    Central Eurasia Pipelines
    Iranian Canal Proposed
    Eurasian Transport Corridors

    Guns and Butter: The Caucasus Conflict and Global Trends – Guest Andrei Martyanov

    OCTOBER 26, 2021

    Guns and Butter:   The Caucasus Conflict and Global Trends – Guest Andrei Martyanov

    From Bonnie Faulkner at Guns and Butter with Guest Andrei Martyanov

    The Transcaucasia region, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea is discussed; Baku, capitol of Azerbaijan, oil region and birthplace of Andrei Martyanov; Nagorno-Karabakh, semi-autonomous region within Azerbaijan; political and ethnic dynamics of the Azeri/Armenian conflict; two wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan; Armenia’s Velvet Revolution; Soros sponsored NGOs in Armenia; Turkey’s involvement; Dashnaks; Armenian diaspora; second largest US embassy in Yerevan; Caucasus strategic geopolitical location spanning Europe and Asia; US recognition of WWI Armenian genocide; Russian Federation involvement; largest US export is dollar inflation; Russophobia; MAKS 2021 Russian Air Show, international exhibition of new civilian and military aircraft. Visit Martyanov’s website at: smoothiex12.blogspot.com/.

    Guns and Butter · The Caucasus Conflict and Global Trends – Andrei Martyanov, #435

    إعادة ترتيب الإقليم وفق الأجندة الأميركية… أو على إيقاع إنجازات محور المقاومة؟

    23,10,2021

    د. ميادة إبراهيم رزوق

    بنظرة بانورامية لمشهد المنطقة من بحر البلطيق، مروراً بأفغانستان نحو بحر قزوين وجنوب القوقاز إلى قوى ودول محور حلف المقاومة، وكأنّ العدوين اللدودين الولايات المتحدة الأميركية وروسيا الاتحادية كلاً مع حلفائه، خاصة بعد قمة جنيف «بوتين – بايدن» في 16/06/2021  على رقعة شطرنج المنطقة يعيدون ترتيب أحجارهم وتنضيد ملفاتهم قبل الجلوس على طاولة التسويات الكبرى، والتي قد تُحسم قبل الوصول إليها إذا تدحرجت المنطقة نحو حرب كبرى شاملة، نستبعد حدوثها وفق الوقائع والمعطيات لدى المحورين.

    بدأت الولايات المتحدة الأميركية وضمن مخطط الخروج الأميركي من غرب آسيا بإعادة تموضع استراتيجي جديد بترتيب مجموعة من الأوراق في عهد الإدارة الأميركية السابقة برئاسة دونالد ترامب بما يحقق نشر الفتنة وزعزعة الاستقرار، وتطويق إيران وتشديد الحصار الدبلوماسي والاقتصادي، وعرقلة مشروع الحزام والطريق الصيني، وضمان الأمن القومي لكيان الاحتلال الصهيوني، فكانت البداية مع اتفاقيات «ابراهام»، اتفاقيات التطبيع بين كيان الاحتلال الصهيوني وبعض الأنظمة الخليجية كالإمارات والبحرين بالإضافة إلى السودان (الذي لم يوقع أحرفها النهائية) والمغرب، استكمالاً لسيناريو صفقة القرن، ونقل السفارة الأميركية من تل أبيب إلى القدس، والاعتراف بالسيادة «الإسرائيلية» على الجولان المحتل، بهدف إضفاء الشرعية على كيان الاحتلال الصهيوني، وتطويق الشعب الفلسطيني، وتصفية القضية الفلسطينية التي باتت عبئاً على الأنظمة الرجعية العربية فينبغي التخلص منها، بالإضافة إلى نسج تحالفات إقليمية بأبعاد استراتيجية أخرى ترتبط بمحاولة بناء خطوط دفاع أمامية لحماية الأمن القومي لكيان الاحتلال الصهيوني، ترتكز على التعاون والتنسيق التكنولوجي والاستخبارتي والعسكري، خاصة إذا ما تضمنت عمليات رصد واعتراض جوي في مواجهة تطور قدرات محور المقاومة على مستوى الطائرات المسيرة، وصواريخ «كروز» وغيرها وفق ما تؤكده التقارير «الإسرائيلية»، وتعززت الحاجة إلى هذا المخطط، بالإضافة إلى قرار وزارة الدفاع الأميركية «البنتاغون» بنقل «إسرائيل» من القيادة الأوروبية للجيش الأميركي «إيكوم» إلى القيادة المركزية «سنتكوم» التي تشمل الشرق الأوسط، بما يسمح بتطور التنسيق بين كيان الاحتلال الصهيوني والأنظمة المطبعة استجابة لدعوات وجهتها جماعات موالية لـ «إسرائيل» من بينها «المعهد اليهودي للأمن القومي الأميركي» وهو مجموعة مقرها واشنطن تدعم التعاون العسكري الوثيق بين الولايات المتحدة الأميركية و»إسرائيل»، فقد أوضح تقرير المعهد اليهودي للأمن القومي أنه في حين أدى وجود «إسرائيل» ضمن نطاق عمليات القيادة العسكرية في أوروبا إلى منافع متبادلة واضحة على مر السنين، فإن أولوية «سنتكوم» هي «مواجهة إيران وقوى التطرف الأخرى في الشرق الأوسط». وأضاف التقرير «جميع شركائنا في المنطقة، بما في ذلك إسرائيل يتحدون حول وجهة نظر مشتركة لهذا التهديد، واتخاذ خطوات جريئة مثل الاتفاقيات الإبراهيمية لمواجهته بشكل تعاوني»، وأتى هذا الانضمام عقب إعلان السعودية في 5 كانون الثاني من العام الحالي اتفاقاً بدعم أميركي بإنهاء الخلاف مع قطر التي تستضيف أكبر قاعدة عسكرية أميركية في المنطقة، وتتمركز فيها القيادة المركزية الأميركية، وبالتالي سيتمثل ذلك بدايةً بوجود عسكري «إسرائيلي» في بلدان الأنظمة المطبعة في وفود من الضباط أو الشرطة أو الخلايا الاستخبارية، وذلك في ضوء استمرار المسار التصاعدي لمحور المقاومة في اتجاهين، اتساع نطاقه الجغرافي وتقدمه العسكري، مقابل فقدان كيان الاحتلال الصهيوني للعمق الاستراتيجي، ودونية إمكاناته على غير مستوى، وما ضاعف هذه الحاجة أيضاً فشل رهانات كيان الاحتلال على الخطط الأميركية لإسقاط النظام في إيران أو إخضاعه، كما الفشل في باقي ساحات محور المقاومة وهذا ما تضمنته تصريحات «قائد جبهة إيران» اللواء طال كالمان «رئيس الشعبة الاستراتيجية والدائرة الثالثة» لصحيفة «معاريف» بتاريخ 07/09/2021  «الأمر المدهش أنه على الرغم من الأثمان الثقيلة على المواطن الإيراني، والعقوبات الأميركية الثقيلة، والكورونا، والحضيض الاقتصادي الداخلي الأصعب في إيران منذ الحرب مع العراق في سنوات الثمانينات، إلا أنها تواصل سعــيها إلى تنفيــذ استراتيجيتها» متابعاً أن «محور المقاومة أخذ بالتوســع ويخوض معنا تنافساً استراتيجياً بعيد المدى». وأضاف» أنّ هذا التعــاون يستهدف توفير الحماية لإسرائيل في مواجهة تطور القدرات العسكرية الصاروخية والجوية لمحور المقاومة»، متابعاً: «ماوراء ذلك، يصــبح لنا عمق، فدولــة إســرائيل صغيرة وليس لديها حالياً عمــق، والصورة المعلوماتيــة المسبقة تسمح له بالاستعداد بشكل أفضــل، وأيضاً بمعالجة التهديدات البعيدة». وحذر كالمان من أنّ «تهديــد الصواريخ الدقيقة ليست بمستوى التهديد الوجــودي النووي، لكنــه ليس بعيداً عنه»، ونبّه إلى أنّ الصواريخ الدقيقة ليست حكراً على «حزب الله» في لبنان بل هي تهديد تراكمي يشمل كل ساحات الحرب، مقراً بأنّ لدى إيران مخزوناً كبيراً من القدرات الصاروخية التي تتحول إلى دقيقة بمديات  تتجاوز الـ 1000 كلم، إضافة إلى تهديدات مماثلة في اليمن والعراق وسورية، ولذلك يجب توسيع قوس المواجهة ضد إيران، ووفق ما سبق يتمكن كيان الاحتلال الصهيوني من الولوج العملياتي بدون قيود إلى البر والبحر، وبإمكانه إرسال سفنه إلى البحر الأحمر وبحر العرب وحتى الاقتراب من خليج عمان.

    استمرت الإدارة الأميركية الحالية على نهج سلفها لاستكمال ترتيب أوراق أجندتها، وبخطوات متسارعة بعد قمة جنيف «بوتين- بايدن» وفق التالي:

    ـ انسحبت من أفغانستان بمشهد مذل بعد أن أعادت إنتاج «داعش» وتدعيمه وتعزيزه بنقل عناصر إضافية لرفده من سورية والعراق، لضمان نشر الفوضى وتقويض الاستقرار الأمني، خاصة بعد سيطرة حركة طالبان على الحكم في أفغانستان، فبدأت هذه الحركة التكفيرية الوهابية «داعش» بتفجير المساجد والحسينيات والمدارس وقتلاً وذبحاً للأبرياء في مسلسل متواصل، حيثما وجد مسلمون من طوائف متعددة، لزرع الفتنة المذهبية بأجندة تديرها الولايات المتحدة لنشر الإرهاب والفوضى بما يقوض شراكة الصين مع الدول المجاورة ويعمل على تخريب مبادرة الحزام والطريق بكامل فروعها، ويهدد دول الجوار بتمدد الإرهاب إلى داخلها.

    ـ حدوث توترات بين إيران وأذربيجان اللتين تجمعهما قواسم ثقافية واجتماعية ودينية، مع عبث تركي وحضور «إسرائيلي» وفقاً للمايسترو الأميركي:

    ـ لعزل إيران عن المنطقة، من خلال منع استخدام الأراضي الإيرانية لربط منطقة نخجوان بـأذربيجان، وبالتالي قطع الاتصال الحدودي بين إيران وأرمينيا، وبالتالي قطع إحدى طرق المواصلات بين إيران وأوروبا.

    ـ ربط تركيا (العضو في الناتو) ببحر قزوين عبر أذربيجان، وبالتالي توسيع حدود الناتو حتى بحر قزوين، بما يؤدي إلى تغيرات جيوسياسية في منطقة القوقاز، لن تسمح بها إيران ولجارتها الشمالية الغربية تركيا بالبدء بهذه المغامرة وتعميق هذه التوترات.

    ـ تواجد قوات «إسرائيلية» وعناصر من تنظيم «داعش» على الأراضي الأذربيجانية وعلى حدود إيران، بما يجعل أذربيحان ساحة خلفية للكيان الصهيوني للتآمر على إيران، حيث من باكو ووفقاً لمسؤولين إيرانيين تمت هجمات «إسرائيلية» استهدفت البرنامج النووي الإيراني، واغتيال العالم النووي البارز محسن فخري زاده.

    لذلك لجأت إيران إلى مناورة عسكرية على طول الحدود مع أذربيجان900 كلم «فاتحي خيبر» مما دفع باكو إلى العودة الدبلوماسية، حيث لدى أذربيجان مشاريع اقتصادية مهمة مع إيران مثل السكك الحديدية التي تربط أذربيجان بالخليج عبر مدينة أستارا، وكذلك خط النقل البري بين البلدين، ولايبدو أن هذه التوترات ستصل إلى أماكن خطرة.

    ـ محاولة زرع كمائن متفرقة ونشر الفتن في العراق ولبنان من خلال الانتخابات العراقية، ومجزرة الطيونة في بيروت لتقليص النفوذ السياسي لتيار المقاومة والحشد الشعبي في العراق، وحزب الله في لبنان، بالإضافة إلى نزع سلاح المقاومة أو تورطه في حرب أهلية.

    على المقلب الموازي يحقق المحور المناهض للهيمنة الأميركية وحلف محور المقاومة تقدماً متسارعاً في كافة الميادين نذكر منها:

    ـ بدء العمل التجريبي بخط أنابيب السيل الشمالي الذي يزود أوروبا بالغاز الروسي.

    ـ إنجاز الجيش اليمني الوطني واللجان الشعبية انتصارات ميدانية بمجموعة من العمليات المتتالية آخرها عمليتي فجر الانتصار وربيع النصر اللتين أدتا إلى استكمال تحرير معظم محافظة مأرب ومحافظة شبوة مدن الموارد بالغاز والنفط والماء، وبالتالي إضافة بعد اقتصادي للبعد العسكري بالتحرير.

    ـ استكمال تحرير الجنوب السوري من الجماعات الإرهابية، وعودة سورية إلى دورها الإقليمي ومداها الحيوي ومكانتها الدولية عبر التنسيق الأمني بقرار الإنتــربول الدولي رفع الحظر عن دمشق، والبوابة الاقتصادية بالتنســيق مع مصر والأردن ولبنان، وفتح معبر نصيب – جابر الحــدودي، وإعــادة إحياء خط الغاز العربي، ووصول الغاز المصري والكهرباء الأردنــية إلى لبنان عبر الأراضي السورية، وكسر بعض من تفاصيل (قانون قيصر)، بعد وصول قوافل النفط الإيرانية إلى ميناء بانياس، ثم بيروت براً، بتحدّ صريح وواضح للعنجهية والبلطجة الأميركية و»الإسرائيلية».

    ـ بدء الجيش العربي السوري مع حلفائه باستكمال تحرير الشمال السوري من الاحتلال التركي ومجاميع العصابات الإرهابية التكفيرية التابعة له من خلال بدء المعركة من  مدينة سرمدة الني تقع على الحدود السورية – التركية، والتي لم تتعرض للقصف منذ سبع سنوات، وشمل القصف مقرات هامة لفصيل «هيئة تحرير الشام» الإرهابي، ومنها مقر اقتصادي «شركة محروقات وتد»، بالإضافة إلى مركز نفوس وقيادة الشرطة التابعة لهم، وبالتالي استهداف كل المؤسسات التي سعت تركيا أن تثبتها في إدلب كبديل عن مؤسسات الدولة السورية، وأن أهم أهداف هذه العملية العسكرية رفض تتريك الشمال السوري، وإنهاء الوضع الشاذ فيه.

    ـ عودة طهران في الأسبوع المقبل إلى مفاوضات الاتفاق النووي في فيينا بشروط إيرانية وفق سياسة الخطوة بخطوة، والتي تبدأَ بأن يقوم الأميركيون برفع العقوبات بالكامل، خاصة النفطية والمالية، لتقابلها إيران بالعودة إلى الاتفاق النووي وخفض نسبة تخصيب اليورانيوم من 60% إلى 3,5%، وخفض إنتاج أجهزة الطرد المركزي،….

    وسبق كلّ ذلك معركة «سيف القدس» التي خاضتها فصائل المقاومة الفلسطينية نصرة للقدس، التي كشفت ماهية معادلة «إسرائيل أوهن من بيت العنكبوت»، نحو تكريس معادلة قواعد اشتباك جديدة «القدس تعني حرباً إقليمية»، ومنذ أسابيع قليلة عملية نفق الحرية «سجن جلبوع» التي نفذها الأسرى الأبطال الستة قبل إعادة اعتقالهم، والتي هزمت منظومة الاحتلال الأمنية والعسكرية والاستخبارية، وشكلت نقطة تحول جديدة في مسار الصراع العربي الصهيوني.

    وفي الختام، نذكر ما نقلته صحيفة «جيروزاليم بوست» عن رئيس المؤتمر اليهودي العالمي رونالد لودر «إن خسارة تل أبيب التضامن الصريح عالمياً في المعركة مع غزة ضاعف الخطر الوجودي على إسرائيل»، وعلى أهمية خسارة الرأي العام، إلا أنّ الانقسام الذي يهدد وجود «إسرائيل» ليس الانقسام في الداخل «الإسرائيلي» فقط بل في العالم كله، كما تحدث عن تراجع الولاء لـ «إسرائيل»، واختراق أعدائها لحلفائها الأكثر إخلاصاً لها في الولايات المتحدة الأميركية، وهذا ماأكده أيضاً الكاتب سيث فرانتسمان بأنّ حركة المقاومة الفلسطينية وصلت إلى دعم شعبي كبير بعد الحرب الأخيرة على غزة، في الوقت الذي استهدفت الاحتجاجات إدانة «إسرائيل» في العديد من البلدان، ونشرت مقالات تنتقدها في جميع أنحاء العالم، وأضاف: «كما قادت الصين جهوداً في الأمم المتحدة لإدانة إسرائيل، واتهم أعضاء اليسار المتطرف في الحزب الديمقراطي في الولايات المتحدة إسرائيل بممارسة الفصل العنصري، ودعوا إلى وقف مبيعات الأسلحة»، كما أكد تراجع دعم «إسرائيل» حتى بين المؤيدين الرئيسيين لها في الولايات المتحدة كالإنجيليين.

    في الخلاصة، لا يزال كيان الاحتلال الصهيوني يقف على «إجر ونص»، خوفاً من انتقام المقاومة اللبنانية القادم لشهدائها لا محالة، وقد يقف الآن على رجل واحدة بعد  توعد بيان غرفة عمليات حلفاء سورية  «بالرد القاسي» رداً على الغارات «الإسرائيلية» على تدمر وسط سورية التي انطلقت عبر سماء الأردن ومنطقة التنف السورية المحتلة من الأميركيين منذ خمسة أيام.

    The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

    October 05, 2021

    Sides are forming around the Iran vs Azerbaijan squabble. But this fight is not about ethnicity, religion or tribe – it is mainly about who gets to forge the region’s new transportation routes.

    By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

    The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

    The last thing the complex, work-in-progress drive towards Eurasian integration needs at this stage is this messy affair between Iran and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.

    Let’s start with the Conquerors of Khaybar – the largest Iranian military exercise in two decades held on its northwestern border with Azerbaijan.

    Among the deployed Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units there are some serious players, such as the 21st Tabriz Infantry Division, the IRGC Ashura 31 battalion, the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade and an array of missile systems, including the Fateh-313 and Zulfiqar ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 700 kilometers.

    The official explanation is that the drills are a warning to enemies plotting anything against the Islamic Republic.

    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei pointedly tweeted that “those who are under the illusion of relying on others, think that they can provide their own security, should know that they will soon take a slap, they will regret this.”

    The message was unmistakable: this was about Azerbaijan relying on Turkey and especially Israel for its security, and about Tel Aviv instrumentalizing Baku for an intel drive leading to interference in northern Iran.

    Further elaboration by Iranian experts went as far as Israel eventually using military bases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iranian nuclear installations.

    The reaction to the Iranian military exercise so far is a predictable Turkey–Azerbaijani response: they are conducting a joint drill in Nakhchivan throughout this week.

    But were Iran’s concerns off the mark? A close security collaboration between Baku and Tel Aviv has been developing for years now. Azerbaijan today possesses Israeli drones and is cozy with both the CIA and the Turkish military. Throw in the recent trilateral military drills involving Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan – these are developments bound to raise alarm bells in Tehran.

    Baku, of course, spins it in a different manner: Our partnerships are not aimed at third countries.

    So, essentially, while Tehran accuses Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev of making life easy for Takfiri terrorists and Zionists, Baku accuses Tehran of blindly supporting Armenia. Yes, the ghosts of the recent Karabakh war are all over the place.

    As a matter of national security, Tehran simply cannot tolerate Israeli companies involved in the reconstruction of regions won in the war near the Iranian border: Fuzuli, Jabrayil, and Zangilan.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian has tried to play it diplomatically: “Geopolitical issues around our borders are important for us. Azerbaijan is a dear neighbor to Iran and that’s why we don’t want it to be trapped between foreign terrorists who are turning their soil into a hotbed.”

    As if this was not complicated enough, the heart of the matter – as with all things in Eurasia – actually revolves around economic connectivity.

    An interconnected mess

    Baku’s geoeconomic dreams are hefty: the capital city aims to position itself at the key crossroads of two of the most important Eurasian corridors: North-South and East-West.

    And that’s where the Zangezur Corridor comes in – arguably essential for Baku to predominate over Iran’s East-West connectivity routes.

    The corridor is intended to connect western Azerbaijan to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic via Armenia, with roads and railways passing through the Zangezur region.

    Zangezur is also essential for Iran to connect itself with Armenia, Russia, and further on down the road, to Europe.

    China and India will also rely on Zangezur for trade, as the corridor provides a significant shortcut in distance. Considering large Asian cargo ships cannot sail the Caspian Sea, they usually waste precious weeks just to reach Russia.

    An extra problem is that Baku has recently started harassing Iranian truckers in transit through these new annexed regions on their way to Armenia.

    It didn’t have to be this way. This detailed essay shows how Azerbaijan and Iran are linked by “deep historical, cultural, religious, and ethno-linguistic ties,” and how the four northwestern Iranian provinces – Gilan, Ardabil, East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan – have “common geographical borders with both the main part of Azerbaijan and its exclave, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic; they also have deep and close commonalities based on Islam and Shiism, as well as sharing the Azerbaijani culture and language. All this has provided the ground for closeness between the citizens of the regions on both sides of the border.”

    During the Rouhani years, relations with Aliyev were actually quite good, including the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia and Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Turkey trilateral cooperation.

    A key connectivity at play ahead is the project of linking the Qazvin‑Rasht‑Astara railway in Iran to Azerbaijan: that’s part of the all-important International North‑South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

    Geoeconomically, Azerbaijan is essential for the main railway that will eventually run from India to Russia. No only that; the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia trilateral cooperation opens a direct road for Iran to fully connect with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

    In an optimal scenario, Baku can even help Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman to connect to Georgian ports in the Black Sea.

    The West is oblivious to the fact that virtually all sections of the INSTC are already working. Take, for instance, the exquisitely named Astara‑Astara railway connecting Iranian and Azerbaijani cities that share the same name. Or the Rasht‑Qazvin railway.

    But then one important 130km stretch from Astara to Rasht, which is on the southern shore of the Caspian and is close to the Iranian–Azeri border, has not been built. The reason? Trump-era sanctions. That’s a graphic example of how much, in real-life practical terms, rides on a successful conclusion of the JCPOA talks in Vienna.

    Who owns Zangezur?

    Iran is positioned in a somewhat tricky patch along the southern periphery of the South Caucasus. The three major players in that hood are of course Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Iran borders the former Armenian – now Azeri – regions adjacent to Karabakh, including Zangilan, Jabrayil and Fuzuli.

    It was clear that Iran’s flexibility on its northern border would be tied to the outcome of the Second Karabakh War. The northwestern border was a source of major concern, affecting the provinces of Ardabil and eastern Azerbaijan – which makes Tehran’s official position of supporting Azerbaijani over Armenian claims all the more confusing.

    It is essential to remember that even in the Karabakh crisis in the early 1990s, Tehran recognized Nagorno‑Karabakh and the regions surrounding it as integral parts of Azerbaijan.

    While both the CIA and Mossad appear oblivious to this recent regional history, it will never deter them from jumping into the fray to play Baku and Tehran against each other.

    An extra complicating factor is that Zangezur is also mouth-watering from Ankara’s vantage point.

    Arguably, Turkey’s neo-Ottoman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who never shies away from an opportunity to expands his Turkic-Muslim strategic depth, is looking to use the Azeri connection in Zangezur to reach the Caspian, then Turkmenistan, all the way to Xinjiang, the Uyghur Muslim populated western territory of China. This, in theory, could become a sort of Turkish Silk Road bypassing Iran – with the ominous possibility of also being used as a rat line to export Takfiris from Idlib all the way to Afghanistan.

    Tehran, meanwhile, is totally INSTC-driven, focusing on two railway lines to be rehabilitated and upgraded from the Soviet era. One is South-North, from Jolfa connecting to Nakhchivan and then onwards to Yerevan and Tblisi. The other is West-East, again from Jolfa to Nakhchivan, crossing southern Armenia, mainland Azerbaijan, all the way to Baku and then onward to Russia.

    And there’s the rub. The Azeris interpret the tripartite document resolving the Karabakh war as giving them the right to establish the Zangezur corridor. The Armenians for their part dispute exactly which ‘corridor’ applies to each particular region. Before they clear up these ambiguities, all those elaborate Iranian and Tukish connectivity plans are effectively suspended.

    The fact, though, remains that Azerbaijan is geoeconomically bound to become a key crossroads of trans-regional connectivity as soon as Armenia unblocks the construction of these transport corridors.

    So which ‘win-win’ is it?

    Will diplomacy win in the South Caucasus? It must. The problem is both Baku and Tehran frame it in terms of exercising their sovereignty – and don’t seem particularly predisposed to offer concessions.

    Meanwhile, the usual suspects are having a ball exploiting those differences. War, though, is out of the question, either between Azerbaijan and Armenia or between Azerbaijan and Iran. Tehran is more than aware that in this case both Ankara and Tel Aviv would support Baku. It is easy to see who would profit from it.

    As recently as April, in a conference in Baku, Aliyev stressed that “Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran share the same approach to regional cooperation. The main area of concentration now is transportation, because it’s a situation which is called ‘win‑win.’ Everybody wins from that.”

    And that brings us to the fact that if the current stalemate persists, the top victim will be the INSTC. In fact, everyone loses in terms of Eurasian integration, including India and Russia.

    The Pakistan angle, floated by a few in hush-hush mode, is completely far-fetched. There’s no evidence Tehran would be supporting an anti-Taliban drive in Afghanistan just to undermine Pakistan’s ties with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

    The Russia–China strategic partnership looks at the current South Caucasus juncture as unnecessary trouble, especially after the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. This badly hurts their complementary Eurasian integration strategies – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

    INSTC could, of course, go the trans-Caspian way and cut off Azerbaijan altogether. This is not likely though. China’s reaction, once again, will be the deciding factor. There could be more emphasis on the Persian corridor – from Xinjiang, via Pakistan and Afghanistan, to Iran. Or Beijing could equally bet on both East-West corridors, that is, bet on both Azerbaijan and Iran.

    The bottom line is that neither Moscow nor Beijing wants this to fester. There will be serious diplomatic moves ahead, as they both know the only ones to profit will be the usual NATO-centric suspects, and the losers will be all the players who are seriously invested in Eurasian integration.

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    Imam Khamenei Urges Regional States to Prevent Foreign Intervention

     October 4, 2021

    Imam Khamenei Urges Regional States to Prevent Foreign Intervention

    By Staff, Agencies

    Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said the interference of foreign actors in the region is a source of discord and damage, calling on the regional states to follow the example of Iran for power and rationality.

    Imam Khamenei praised Iran’s armed forces in a virtual address to a ceremony held for graduates of military academies in Tehran Sunday, calling them “a defensive shield in the true sense of the word against the hard threats of the external and internal enemies.”

    His Eminence’s remarks came after Iran’s Army held military exercises on its northwestern border, with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian stating that Tehran “does not tolerate the Zionist regime’s activity against its national security”, referring to the Zionist entity’s relations with neighboring Azerbaijan.

    “The interference of foreigners in the region is a source of discord and damage. All issues and incidents must be resolved without foreign interference and the countries of the region should follow the example of Iran and the armed forces of the Islamic Republic for power and rationality,” His Eminence said.      

    Imam Khamenei said regional armies can provide security in the region, adding that some states should not allow foreign armies to intervene or have a military presence in the region to protect their own interests.

    “The events that are taking place in the northwest of Iran in some neighboring countries should be resolved with the same logic of avoiding giving permission to the presence of foreigners,” His Eminence noted.

    “The armed forces of our dear country always act with power combined with rationality, and this rationality should be a model for other countries and a factor in solving the existing problems, and everyone should know that whoever digs a pit for his brothers shall fall therein first,” he added.

    Imam Khamenei described security as the “basic infrastructure of all necessary activities” for Iran’s development, saying it is important to achieve security without relying on foreigners.

    His Eminence noted that while security is something normal for the Iranian nation, many countries – even in Europe – have a problem to achieve it, citing a recent spat between France and an emerging Anglo alliance over building submarines after Australia cancelled apparently under US pressure a $56 billion contract with Paris and awarded it to American and British companies.

    “Some Europeans called the US action a stab in the back and in a way said that Europe should ensure its security independently without relying on NATO and in fact on America,” he said, referring to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s remarks in an interview. 

    “When European countries feel having a deficiency in achieving lasting security because of their reliance on the United States, which is not opposed to Europe, the comeuppance of other countries that have placed their armed forces under the control of the United States and other foreigners is clear,” His Eminence said.

    To provide security by relying on foreign powers is just an “illusion”, Imam Khamenei said.

    “Those who suffer from this illusion will soon get slapped because the direct or indirect interference of foreigners in the security, war and peace of any country is a catastrophic disaster.”

    Elsewhere in his remarks, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution touched on the disgraceful withdrawal of well-armed US troops from Afghanistan in August, saying it was an example in pretension of power which proved hollow.

    “Those Hollywood images of the US military and countries like it are just a show because their true nature is what was seen in Afghanistan,” Imam Khamenei said.

    “The Americans launched a military campaign against Afghanistan 20 years ago to overthrow the Taliban and during this long occupation, they committed many massacres and atrocities and caused great damage, but after all the material and human costs, they handed over the government to the Taliban and withdraw – a fact that is a lesson for all countries.”

    Imam Khamenei also touched on the hatred of the East Asian people for the US military, saying “the Americans are hated by nations wherever they intervene.”

    Tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran… “Israel” is on the Line

     ARABI SOURI 

    Tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran -Israel is on the Line

    Tel Aviv is not satisfied with this role and its effective military, intelligence, media, and economic presence in Azerbaijan, but it seeks to expand the scope of this influence in the Caucasus region through its presence in Georgia, which is also close to Iran.

    The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

    Relations between Iran and Azerbaijan are experiencing coolness and sometimes noticeable tension, due to mutual accusations by officials of the two countries, led by President Ilham Aliyev, who spoke of “the incursion of Iranian military vehicles into Azerbaijani territory, during Iranian military maneuvers near the common border,” which was denied by the spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh.

    Apathy and tension appeared during the Azerbaijani-Armenian war last year, when information spoke of extensive and intensive Israeli support for the Azerbaijani army, along with Turkish support, which contributed to the victory achieved by the Azerbaijani army.

    This victory, to which Tel Aviv contributed by selling Baku drones and spy technology operating via Israeli satellites, was a sufficient reason for further coordination and cooperation between the two ‘countries,’ where the press information talked about Israel establishing bases and radar stations near the border with Iran to monitor Iranian military movements and to monitor Iranian missiles if they are launched towards “Israel”, meanwhile, Israeli companies are working on establishing agricultural and industrial projects similar to the system of Jewish settlements in southern Azerbaijan, 50 km from the border with Iran.

    This disturbs Tehran, which sees this Israeli presence, in its various military and intelligence forms, as a threat to its national security, especially with the information that talks about the role of the Mossad in provoking the nationalist sentiments of the Azerbaijani citizens of Iran, who live near the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, who number about thirty million, compared to eight million, the population of Azerbaijan.

    This Israeli provocation is accompanied by some Turkish nationalist circles inciting the Azeris of Iran, given that they are of Turkish origin, noting that at least 90% of them are Shiites, and their loyalty is to the Iranian state, while the citizens of Azerbaijan are 80% of them Shiites, and they do not hide their discomfort, rather, they are concerned about provocative statements in the Azerbaijani media and talk about Israeli conspiracy from their lands against Iran.

    Some Turkish nationalist circles had launched a media campaign against Iran during the Karabakh war, and talked about Iranian military support for Armenia during this war, in an attempt to provoke the nationalist feeling of the Azeris, while the Turkish-backed Azerbaijani authorities continue to obstruct the passage of Iranian trains and trucks transporting Azerbaijani and Russian goods arriving in Iran through the Caspian Sea on their way to Armenia, without that bothering President Ilham Aliyev, who is proud of his close relations with Tel Aviv, some influential Jewish businessmen in Baku, including Leonid Tayrov, Leonid Goldstein, Talman Ismailov and Aras Aglararv, who have Azerbaijani, Israeli and Russian citizenship, and some of them are American, and they all have close relations with influential Russian Jews in Moscow.

    They play an influential role in developing relations between Azerbaijan and “Israel” in all fields, the most important of which are military and intelligence, as Tel Aviv sells one billion dollars annually in arms and military equipment to Azerbaijan. They also mediate between Tel Aviv and Ankara, as is the case with Ukrainian President Zalensky, who is also a Jew, and has a close relationship with “Israel” and the Jewish lobby organizations in America. In one of his leaked speeches, President Aliyev admitted the depth of the relationship with Tel Aviv, and said, “Eighty percent of the relations between the two ‘countries’ are underground,” meaning that they are hidden.

    Turkey and Russia.. Central Asia after Afghanistan?

    Azerbaijan covers 60% of Israel’s need for oil, which reaches the Turkish port of Ceyhan by pipelines and is transported to the Haifa port by oil tankers, whose owners are said to be the son of (Turkish) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the son of former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

    Tel Aviv is not satisfied with this role and its effective military, intelligence, media, and economic presence in Azerbaijan, but it seeks to expand the scope of this influence in the Caucasus region through its presence in Georgia, which is also close to Iran, the biggest concern of Tel Aviv, which was benefiting from its extensive intelligence presence in Afghanistan During the American occupation there. The information talks about Tel Aviv’s efforts to establish Israeli espionage stations in Georgia, whose goal is to monitor Iranian military movements and eavesdrop on Iranian communications, which is the task carried out by the American Koracik base in southeastern Turkey, and its main task is to inform Tel Aviv as soon as any Iranian missile is launched towards “Israel” so that the Iron Dome can confront it before it enters Palestinian airspace.

    The information also speaks of Israeli and Turkish efforts to achieve reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, to contribute to the formation of a new bloc in the Caucasus region that might target Iran, and even Russia, which together seek to confront such a move.

    It seems clear that this bothers Moscow, especially after the establishment of Turkish military bases in Azerbaijan, and Ankara’s efforts to develop its relations with Georgia, and its continued refusal to the Crimean annexation to Russia, and its continued development of military relations with Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania, which are the countries bordering the Black Sea, this disturbs Moscow, which is watching the movements of Tel Aviv and Ankara, separately, in the Islamic republics of Central Asia, Russia’s backyard, and the neighbors of Iran and Afghanistan together!

    And the last bet remains on the developments of the next stage, and the prospects for Turkish policy in the future after the last Sochi summit and all its details are directly or indirectly related to the calculations of “Israel” in the region, and its main target is undoubtedly Iran, which has obstructed and impeded its projects in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the Gulf, and other places in the world!

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    No Place for ‘Israel’ in Iran’s Neighboring Countries – IRG

    September 30, 2021

    No Place for ‘Israel’ in Iran’s Neighboring Countries - IRG

    By Staff, Agencies

    Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard [IRG] Ground Force warned the neighbors not to allow the Zionist regime to use their soil as a safe haven, saying the neighboring governments themselves know why Iran holds war games at border areas.

    Speaking to reporters in the western city of Sanandaj on Wednesday, Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said the Islamic Republic would by no means tolerate the territories of neighbors turning into “a safe haven and a base for the presence and anti-security activities of the fake Zionist regime.”

    Without naming the Republic of Azerbaijan, whose president has voiced concern about the Iranian military exercises near the common border, the IRG general said, “We cannot accept that some countries would make unreal and provocative comments about the enhancement of preparedness of the Islamic Republic’s combat units under the influence of third countries and would harm our activities.”

    “The neighboring governments are aware more than anyone else of the reasons for Iran’s war games,” he added.

    In an apparent criticism of the Azerbaijan Republic whose military employed ‘Israeli’-made attack drones during the recent war with Armenia, General Pakpour said the neighbors of Iran are expected to prevent a stranger like the Zionist regime from using their soil for its evil and criminal purposes.

    “There’s no doubt that the Zionist regime helps and supports certain regional countries with the purpose of creating disagreements and rift among Muslim nations,” he stated.

    The commander warned that any trouble in the international boundaries of countries will definitely create new conflicts and tensions, especially if such problems are created to serve the ‘Israeli’ regime’s objectives.

    “We will never allow the soil of a country in our neighborhood to become the source and base of creation and spread of such troubles,” he stressed.

    Describing efforts to prevent any change in the frontiers of the neighboring states as a serious policy of the Islamic Republic, the commander said, “We deem any geopolitical change in the region disruptive to our domestic security and have always declared it as a red line. Accordingly, it is natural that we won’t remain indifferent to it.”

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