From the CIAO Atlas Map of Middle East 

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Iran in the Emerging Greater Middle East

Gulshan Dietl

January 1999

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it was generally assumed that the European areas of the Union together with the East European states would eventually reintegrate into the European state system and its Asian territories would revert back to the Third World . A new term “the Greater Middle East” heralded the integration of five former Soviet republics in Central Asia into the Middle East. Around the same time, the revolution in Iran had stabilized, Iran-Iraq war had ended and Khomeini had died. Each of these developments left an imprint on the Iranian foreign policy. The paper proposes to examine the prospects of the Greater Middle East as a cogent spatial conception and to bring out the role and relevance of Iran in this enlarged context. The Iranian policies in the Gulf and Central Asia — both in its immediate neighbourhood and the primary arenas of its direct involvement — are closely scrutinized to that end. The Fertile Crescent, an integral part of the Middle East, has been left out of analysis on the plea that Iran is once-removed from that subregion and on the grounds of securing a better focus and brevity.


Middle East: The Term

The term Middle East was invented by actors outside the region. Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, US naval officer and strategist, identified the geographical area stretching from China to the Mediterranean which lay between 30 and 40 degrees lattitudes as the “Debated and Debatable Middle Strip”. According to him, it had been and would be in the future a geopolitical no man’s land and was destined to be a disputed area between Russia and the maritime powers.Writing at the turn of the century, he said

In the relation of land power to the future of Middle Asia — between the parallels of thirty and forty north — natural conditions have bestowed upon Russia a pre-eminance which approaches exclusiveness....This predominance will enable Russia to put forth her strength unopposed, directly, by any other of the same nature, in quarters outside of the extreme range than can with any probability be predicated of sea power. 1

The state which was perceived to have the naval power to counteract this geopolitical advantage was Great Britain. Even as he appreciated that the application of naval power to prevent Russian expansionism would be difficult, Mahan advocated that Britain should take up the responsibility of maintaining security in the Gulf in order to secure the route to India and to hold Russia in check.

Mahan’s theory of spatial relations and historical causation did mould, to an extent, the perceptions and actions of policy-makers in Britain. By 1912, oil had begun to replace coal in the British navy, and Britain was obviously anxious to find dependable supplies of oil. Winston Churchill, the First Lord of Admiralty, was supposed to have delivered one of his first quotable quotes, when he declared during the World War I that “We are prepared to shed a drop of blood for every drop of oil.” At the end of the War, Britain had secured the League of Nations mandates over the former Ottoman territories of Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq. Churchill, by then the Secretary of States for Colonies, set up in the Foreign Office a Middle Eastern Department to supervise the same.

During the World War II, the British began to use the term “Middle East” with reference to all Asian and North African lands to the west of India. No definite boundaries were ever set to the term. The Middle East Command and the Middle East Supply Centre were established and the Minister of State in the Middle East was appointed during the war, nonetheless. In 1957, the US proclaimed the Eisenhower Doctrine promising to provide US military and economic aid to “any nation or a group of nations in the general area of the Middle East”. 2 The acceptance of the term was universal by then.

A “colonial relic”, the term is Euro-centric or British-centric or Churchill-centric. Whereas “Middle Asia” used by Mahan was a geographical description, the terms like the “Middle East” or “Far East” located the territories in relation to the person who termed them so. In other words, looked at from the centre of the world, — London — these areas were far, not so far etc. Moreover, the naming of land has often implied control of that land throughout history. For example, Rhodesia was named after Cecil Rhodes, the British administrator and financier. The dispute over the Persian/Arab Gulf amply demonstrates the validity of the argument.

Very often, strategic considerations have contributed to the invention of an area. One such was a shortlived attempt at coining the term “Southwest Asia” in early eighties. The Iranian revolution had knocked down one of the two pillars and the Soviet presence in Afghanistan had created an eyeball-to-eyeball situation with the Soviet Union. In the circumstances, the Pentagon — the birthplace of the modern discipline of area studies — added the term Southwest Asia to its vocabulary . It served three distinct purposes: it delinked the oil-rich countries from the rest of the Middle East, where the Arab-Israel problem was the major regional issue; it placed the Afghanistan problem squarely in the context of the Gulf; and it accorded a special status and gave specific assignments to Pakistan in the Gulf region. Similarly, locating a state within a region could be a strategic/ political decision. Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson make a strong case for moving Turkey administratively from the State Department bureau handling Europe to the one handling the Middle East. 3

Only two leaders in the post-colonial world found the terms offensive. Each reacted in his own characteristic way: Jawaharlal Nehru with a righteous assertion; Mao Tse Tung with a mocking question. Nehru coined the word “West Asia”, which is the official term used by India todate. It is a correct description geographically, but is not used, and at times not understood, outside of India. As for Mao, an apocryphal story goes like this. Once, when a journalist used the term “Far East” in the course of his interview with Mao, the latter-day Emperor of the Middle Kingdom reportedly asked him, almost in a whisper, “Far for whom?”. As a result thereof, or for some unknown reason, the term Far East is almost extinct; whereas the Middle East is almost the only term used for the region, whose precise borders have remained fluid so that the inhabitant or the observer draws them to suit his purposes.

From within the region, two alternative nomenclatures have been offered; one reflecting a secular nationalist perspective; the other Islamic. Thus, Ali Eddin Hillal Dessouki and Jamil Matar have coined the term the “Arab regional order” to replace the term “Middle East”, which according to them is a “euphemism for secure spheres of influnce”. The arguments they advance in support of their nomenclature is that the term Middle East “tears up the Arab homeland as a distinct unit since it has always included non-Arab states” and that the term Arab regional order serves better as a key for the analysis of “interactions among Arab states, with their neighbours and with the international system at large”. 4 These are precisely the arguments that could be addressed from the other end, that is, the new term overemphasizes the Arab character of the region whilst downplaying the presence of three non-Arab states — Iran, Turkey and Israel- in the region and the non-Arab peoples among the populations of all the states.

A second alternative term offered is the “Islamic World”. In principle, it includes all lands in which the Muslims live and aims at Islamic revival and unity. Used as such, it would expand the definition of the region much beyond its present confines; and would challenge the legitimacy of the territorial states. More realistically, however, the term defines the Middle East, including the Arab states, Iran and Turkey, but excludes Israel. In fact, the very rationale of the term is to unite the rest of the region against the presence of Israel in its midst. In this restricted sense, it omits the three states with largest muslim populations — Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.


The Emerging Greater Middle East

The term “The Greater Middle East” is still being evolved. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it was generally assumed that the European areas of the Union together with the East European states would eventually reintegrate into the European state system and the Asian territories would revert back to the Third World. How else could the disappearance of the Second World be accounted for? The most explicit formulation in this regard came from Mohammed Ayoob, who noted that

in terms of their colonial background, the arbitrary construction of their boundaries by external powers, the lack of societal cohesion, their recent emergence into juridical statehood, and their stage of development, the states of the Caucasus and Central Asia as well as of the Balkans demonstrate political, economic and social characteristics that are in many ways akin to Asian, African, and Latin American states that have been traditionally considered as constituting the Third World. 5

Only a single book exists so far with the term in its title. It is, Robert D. Blackwill and Michael Sturmer, ed., Allies Divided: Transatlantic Policies for the Greater Middle East (The MIT Press, Cambridge, 1997). As can be clearly seen, the term appears in the subtitle as the book studies the US—European relations in the light of their varied policies towards the region. Most of the contributions deal with themes like the policies vis-a-vis the peace process, the Gulf region etc, with no attempt at examining the policies in a new context, in a larger area; the area named in the title of the book itself. The introduction defines and delineates the term to mean the “area from North Africa through Egypt, Israel and the Tigris-Euphrates valley, through the Persian Gulf region into Turkey and on to the Caspian basin.” 6 It is not considered necessary to explain the rationale behind treating the area as a cogent space for a book-length study.

An edited volume by David Menashri, Central Asia Meets the Middle East (Frank Cass, London,1998) seeks to examine “the impact of the emergence of the new independent republics and its implications for the Middle East.” Special attention is given to Iran and Turkey — the two countries “closest to, most interested in, and most actively involved in” the area that the book refers to as “New Middle East”. It is interesting to note that The New Middle East 7 is the title of a book by the former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in which he has called for an increase in regionalism in the Middle East as a complementary path towards establishing peace in the region. The two usages of the term are different however; for Menashri, it is the Middle East plus. For Peres, it is the Middle East post (the Oslo Accords.)

Like the term “the Greater Middle East”, the region itself is in a state of evolution. Its prospects as a cogent entity will depend on the three attributes of contiguity, commonality and connectedness that are the defining attributes of any region. Whereas contiguity refers to spatial unity; commonality suggests historical, ethno-national, cultural, linguistic, etc. affinity; and connectedness presumes the movement of people, goods, money, ideas and information through the length and breadth of this entity. An examination of the following variables may yield a preliminary assessment.

1. History

Historically, the Silk Road criss-crossed the entire region, enabling a reciprocal east-west, north-south traffic of goods. One of the chief branches of the Silk Road traversed western China, then followed the oasis route (Khotan, Kashgar, Samarkand, Bukhara, Merv) across south Central Asia into northern Iran, and thence westward on to the Black Sea or the Mediterranean Sea. 8 Along the Silk Road travelled Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Manicheans and Nestorian Christians, and they all left their mark on Central Asia. 9

Islam came to the region from the southwest, arriving from the Middle East in the seventh century. Central Asia made two significant contributions to the Islamic world. One, the paper was developed and refined, especially in Samarqand, and the paper mills were then exported to the Middle East. Because of its ease of manufacture, the availability of the raw materials, and the inherent advantages it possessed for bureaucratic needs; the paper was a technological advance with profound effects on the development and universality of a literary culture in the Middle East and throughout Islamdom. Two, the Turkish slaves destined for military and administrative posts. The Abbasid caliphs of the eight and ninth centuries made extensive use of praetorian units composed of Turks imported through Central Asia. 10

The Russians, first as adventurous Cossack fur hunters and later as agricultural settlers, began to expand eastward from the sixteenth century onwards. The Czars of Russia pursued the twin policy of spatial extention and access to warm water ports through Central Asia to the Black Sea and Persian Gulf. Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great undertook vigorous expansion in these areas; for example, the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 and the Treaty of Turkomanchai in 1828 snatched away vast chunks of territory from Iran.

Over time, the Russian advancement came into inevitable confrontation with the British, who in their attachment to their great possession of India, could not relax for a moment from the fear that avaricious foreigners wanted to take it away from them. They rected to the Russians very much as the Cold War Americans did. They opted to set up buffer zones and client states, in Persia and Afghanistan, to protect their own heartland by a cordon sanitaire. 11 In the circumstances, the officials of the British East India sent two military officers — Captain Arthur Conolly and Colonel Charles Stoddart — to Bukhara to forge an alliance with its Emir against the Russians. The vast chess-board on which the struggle for empire in Central Asia took place between London and Moscow stretched from the Caucasus in the West along the great deserts and mountain ranges to Tibet in the East. The Great Game, as it has come to be called, involved espionage and adventure in equal measure. The end result of the game was a historic compromise between them, under which the Russians were given a free hand in Central Asia, and India remained a jewel in the British Crown.

The October Revolution in Russia stirred the region into seeking independence and declaring a new state of Turkestan Independent Islamic Republic. It was soon crushed. What followed was the life within the Soviet Union for the next seventy years.

2. Ethnicity

The ethnic factor not only binds Central Asia to the Middle East, it remoulds the ethnic contours of the larger entity in a significant way. Under the multi-ethnic state of the Soviet Union with its preponderous population of Russians and under the universalistic doctrine of Marxism, the local ethnicities in this area had been lying dormant. With independence and the consequent search for their roots, ethnic identities have now come to the fore.

Four observations in this regard are in order. One, during the Soviet period, the introduction of Russians into these farflung areas was encouraged to serve as the cementing block in the Soviet power structure. It was they who were at the top echelons of the Communist Party and wielded considerable power in the governance of the region. In addition, they also manned the industrial complexes and developmental projects imparting specialized skills and technological know-how. Their role in the services like education, health, etc., was of critical importance. Today, some 25 million Rusians are still resident in these states, constituting 36 per cent of the population in Kazakhstan, 25 per cent in Kyrgyzstan, 10 per cent in Uzbekistan, 8 per cent in Turkmenistan and 9 per cent in Tajikistan. Their well-being is an important issue in bilateral relations between Russia and these states. For instant, the Kazakh government has agreed to retain the use of the Russian language along with Kazakh as a gesture of goodwill towards the Russians; and the Constitution permits every citizen who is “fluent in Kazakh” to become the president, holding out the possibility of an ethnic Slav occupying the office.

Two, nearly seventy percent of the Central Asian population is of Turkish origin. The increased interest of Turkey in the fate of the so-called “Outside Turks” (Dis Turkler) is a product of the end of the Cold War. Attention, in particular, has focussed on the well-being of the Turks in the Balkans — mainly in Bulgaria and Western Thrace in Greece. The Balkans were part of the Ottoman Empire and the Turks there constitute national minorities. The Central Asian Turks, on the other hand, need to be examined separately. Not having been part of the Empire, their historic links with Turkey are distant. Second, they are not minorities in their respective states, but are in the process of nation-building themselves. Third, their mixed racial stock — including Mongol and Persian elements — is generally more pronounced than in the case of Turks in Turkey. 12 Fourth, Turkey is geographically separated from Central Asian territory by the Caspian Sea, which puts it at a disadvantage in its drive towards fostering a Turkish cultural area.

The third observation on the ethnicity relates to its ties to Iran. As noted earlier, large areas of southern Central Asia had been within the orbit of the Iranian world for a long period. Iran gradually lost them to advances of Imperial Russia in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Today, Tajikistan is the only Persian-speaking state in Central Asia. Among a population of six million in the country, Tajiks constitute about 65 per cent. Within Uzbekistan, the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara are Tajik- majority areas and have always been the centres of Persian culture and learning.

The fourth observation on ethnicity relates to the Arabs. In the early Islamic period, the Arabs called it “Ma wara’ al-Nahr”, i.e. what lies beyond the river. In English, it would translate as Transoxania. The Muslim Arab armies found the river a dividing line beyond which it proved difficult to establish their authority at first. The Middle East today is routinely defined as the Arab world, Iran, Turkey and Israel. With the inclusion of Central Asia, the Turkish and the Iranian components in the ethnic mosaic would be strengthened and the Arab component, in relative terms, would be weakened.

3. Islam

Contrary to popular perceptions, Islam was not in captivity during the Soviet era and has not suddenly been liberated in its aftermath. Central Asian Islam is coloured and moulded by its entire history — the Soviet period included. In fact, Russia itself has had an Islamic period of history. From the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, Russia was under Tatar domination and to this day it is the only Christian nation, besides Spain, to have been under prolonged Muslim rule. 13

In 1942, by an agreement with Abdurrahman Rasulaev, one of the few surviving Tatar ulamas, Stalin bestowed upon Soviet muslims an official religious organization. Four Muslim spiritual directorates were set up with headquarters and jurisdiction at Tashkent for Central Asia and Turkestan; at Ufa for European Russia and Siberia; at Makhach Qala for North Caucasus and Dagestan; and at Baku for Shia of the USSR and Sunnis of Transcaucasia. The most active of the directorates was the one at Tashkent. It published the quarterly journal Muslims of Soviet East in six languages: Arabic, Dari, Uzbek, English, French and Russian. It also brought out several editions of Quran and two collections of the Hadith. 14

The Soviet establishment brooked no criticism from official Islam against its doctrine, nor did it permit a single Islamic political entity of Turkestan, which was the dream of national Communists like Sultan Galiev. The official Islamic establishment, on its part, was content to belong to the Soviet “Nomenklatura” and represent the Soviet version of Islam at cultural, religious and diplomatic gatherings the world over. It was a mutually beneficial coexistence. Alongside official Islam, existed a parallel Islam. It was mainly organized in Sufi tariqas: the Naqshbandi in entire Central Asia, the Qadariya in South Kazakhstan, and the Yusawiya in Kyrgystan and Fargana Valley. The Sufi orders operated on the plane of private piety and not of political activism.

At personal and family levels, Islam survived. Even Communist party leaders in the area observed Islamic rites and duties in the privacy of their homes. It was not easy to reconcile secular Marxism and religion; nor did the Soviet social ethos blend unobtrusively in the Muslim milieu. “Why is it Communist to be buried in a coffin, but not in a shroud?” or “As is well-known, pork is socialist, while pilaf (a Central Asian rice dish) is not.” 15 Quetions, complaints and doubts persisted.

Since independence, Islam has come into its own. Initially, it manifested itself in such outward signs as rites and rituals associated with births, the Islamic greeting of Salaam, attending mosques, fasting in Ramadan, going to Makkah for pilgrimage, dropping the suffixes “ov” and “ova” from their names etc. More gradually, there have been more serious efforts at individual and national levels to examine, imbibe and come to terms with the Islamic legacy.

Resurrecting history and harnessing it to the present in order to create an identity and relate to the world is a natural tendency in a collective psyche. Especially in conditions of drastic change, man tends to return to his roots even if his search is highly selective and subjective, and the end result often fictitious. A tenacious grip over tradition ensures internal cohesion, which is expected to lead to a common better future. Islam is a powerful ingredient in this process of search for identity.

4. States: Demarcation and Formation

The states in the Greater Middle East have a commonality running through their historical experiences. The state borders in the Middle East are of relatively recent origin and, at times, arbitrary. According to Simon Bromley, the victorious European allies in the First World War — the British and the French — stumbled into creating a state system in the Middle East for want of a better alternative, not out of belief or design. And once the state —building strategy had been fixed upon, it was prosecuted with indecent haste and with little or no attention to the realities on the ground. 16 Thus, it was the British High Commissioner in Baghdad, Sir Percy Cox, who drew the borders of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in a desert camp in Uqair one night in late November 1922. Iraq itself was put together out of the three Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. The seven small sheikhdoms were motivated to merge together to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The British arrogated upon themselves the tasks of “drawing lines on the map, appointing rulers, elaborating structures of bureaucratic administration and taxation, even training and equipping armies.” 17

The process of state-formation began, according to Bromley, only after the British ceased to exercise control and conferred formal independence on these entities. Ilia Harik contests the thesis and asserts that “colonialism affected the boundaries of the Arab states, but it did not, with the exception of the Fertile Crescent case, create those states.” 18 He does concede that the colonial powers affected the structures of many governments, especially by creating a modern civil service and sometimes the nucleus of a modern standing army, and by leaving a major mark on the local political elites.

The Russian involvement in Central Asia is even older than the Anglo-French presence in the Middle East although it had taken the form of a sovereign, ideological state structure only in the past seven decades. The short-lived and ill-fated state of Turkestan Independent Islamic Republic was declared in the immediate aftermath of the Communist revolution. As the Soviet Union consolidated its independence and territorial integrity, it was brought firmly under Soviet sway. As an insurance against bourgeois nationalism, the Soviets drew lines cutting across tribes and hordes to create five distinct entities: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The Central Asian states, like the ones in the Middle East, are divided by artificial, manmade borders. However, unlike the British and French, who drew similar international borders in their colonial territories in Africa and Asia towards the end of their rule and then left in a huff, the Central Asian states lived within their Soviet-demarcated spaces all through Soviet rule. To that extent, the independent states of today have inherited political systems, stakes and cultures dating back decades.

Strangely, there were no stirrings of independence when the Soviet Union began to collapse. In early 1991, when a referendum was conducted at Union level, 93.7 percent Uzbeks, 94.1 percent Kazakhs, 94.6 percent Kyrgyz, 96.2 percent Tajiks and 79.9 percent Turkmens voted in favour of preserving the Union. It was the Minsk Agreement of 8 December 1991, under which Russia, Belarus and Ukraine formed themselves into a Commonwealth of Independence States that made the Central Asian Republics realize the irrevocable process of independence, and join the same two weeks later. Independence, in a sense, was dumped upon them.

5. Political Systems

An oft-quoted story bears repetition once more. After staging a successful referendum to approve/disapprove his leadership, the ruler announces the results, “Ninty-nine point nine percent have voted in favour.” Applause. “There are, however, sixty-six negative votes cast.” A palpapable sense of fear runs through the crowd as someone asks, “Who are they?” “Well, the sixty were cast in our embassies abroad.” “And the rest?” “We are looking for them,” assures the ruler. The scene could have been enacted in most of the Middle Eastern as well as Central Asian states. In the former, the leader would have been a former army officer; in the latter, a former boss of the state communist party. The result is the politics of manoeuvring rather than the politics of the masses. An individual seeks his own linkage to the source of power and masters a nimble footwork to chalk out his own route to it through the ever-shifting alliance of power-brokers.

The non-participatory nature of the political systems in the Middle East has meant that the rulers’ legitimacy rests on a blend of ethnic, sectarian and temporal props. The Alawis in Syria, the Takritis in Iraq, the Maronites in Lebanon and so on. The temporal legitimacy is exclusively that of performance rather than that of representation. In the Gulf region, in addition, it is also hereditory. With the exceptions of Brunei and Bhutan, the ruling monarchies of the world today are located in the Arab world, and apart from Morocco and Jordan, all of them are situated on the Western shore of the Gulf. There are twelve of them in all: al-Khalifah in Bahrain, al-Sabah in Kuwait, Qaboos in Oman, al-Thani in Qatar, al-Saud in Saudi Arabia, al-Nayhan in Abu Dhabi, al-Maktoum in Dubai, al-Qasimi in Sharjah, al-Naimi in Ajman, al-Mualla in Umm al-Qaiwan, al-Qasimi in Ras al-Khaima, and as-Sharqi in Fujaira. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or al-Mamalik al-Arabiyya as-Saudiyya has the dubious distinction of being named after its ruling dynasty.

As noted earlier, the communist party bosses in Central Asia were extremely reluctant to break away from the Soviet state till the very end. Two weeks after its final dissolution, they declared independence for their countries. Once it was done, the leaders proved themselves extremely adept at changing gears to suit changed circumstances. Communist ideology was quickly discarded in favour of a nationalist one. Unlike in the Baltic states, Armenia and Georgia, the partocrats in Central Asia held firmly on to the reins of power — providing continuity and stability in a turbulent time. Askar Akaev, the president of Kyrgyzstan, is the only ruler without a communist background in the whole region. He together with Nursultan Nazarbaev in Kazakhstan, Saparmurad Niazov in Turkmenistan and Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan wield enormous power. Each one of them has successfully contested an unopposed presidential election, securing a term of office till the year 2000 and beyond. It was only in January 1999 that the first ever multi-candidate presidential election was organized in Kazakhstan; although the outcome was no different.

In the meanwhile, the political processes are slowly stirring to life. With the Gulf War over, Kuwait liberated, and foreign forces packing up to leave, the whispers of democratic expression grew louder across the Gulf region. The battle of the ballot was won in Kuwait with the successful completion of a free election in October 1992. The other states made tentative moves in that direction, but stopped short of a decisive action. The Saudis issued two major laws: The Basic Law of Government and the Consultative Council Law. 19 They did not promise democracy and did not permit elections. But they did confer a Bill of Rights on the Saudi citizens — however limited and incomplete. 20 Even Iraq went through the motions of presidential referendum and parliamentary elections.

People at the grass-roots level are organizing themselves into human rights movements, environment groups, professional associations, women’s organizations and so on. In the Arab world, the civil societal formations are active enough to make “the coersive impulses of ruling Arab elite increasingly difficult to act out”, according to Saad Eddin Ibrahim. 21 In Central Asia, the people’s movements are particularly vocal in evoking national historical memories and articulating national concerns. For example, the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement in Kazakhstan seeks to stop all nuclear weapons testing, convert military industries to environmentally-related activities and shut down Semipalatinsk nuclear testing sites. The Adilet movement represents a political and social activist group seeking to preserve the memory of the martyrs of Stalinist repression who perished in Kazakhstan. The Birlik (unity) movement in Uzbekistan calls for the preservation of Uzbekistan’s natural, material and spiritual riches. 22

6. Weapons and Wars

As the Bush administration heralded a New World Order, its National Security Council formulated a strategic doctrine that would replace the Cold War doctrine of “Containment”. Anthony Lake, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, envisaged an enlargement of the family of nations “committed to the pursuit of democratic institutions, the expansion of free markets, the peaceful settlement of conflict and the promotion of collective security.” 23 Whereas containment aimed at exclusion, enlargement aimed at inclusion.

With a few exceptions. Lake cautioned against the recalcitrant and outlaw states that not only chose to remain outside the family but also assaulted its basic values. They lacked the resources of a super power, which would have enabled them to seriously threaten the democratic order being created around them; nevertheless, their behaviour was often aggressive and defiant, he wrote. The ties between them were growing as they sought to thwart or quarantine themselves from a global trend to which they seemed incapable of adapting. Lake chose to call them the “backlash” states and named them to be Cuba, North Korea, Libya, Iraq and Iran. Variously also called the rogue states, the pariah states and the outlaw states, three of the five of them are in the Middle East. Since August 1996, Iran and Libya are subjected to a unilateral US embargo which threatens any country or company investing more than $20 million in their oil and gas sectors with various forms of penalization. Iraq has been under a UN-imposed embargo for more than eight years. Among others, these states have been accused of clandestine efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.

Central Asia has been an area of nuclear anxiety as well. Soviet strategic forces were located in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s strategic nuclear stockpile consisted of 1,410 warheads, 370 of them heavy bombers and the rest on SS-18s. Its Semipalatinsk nuclear test site was prepared in 1948, where the first Soviet nuclear test was conducted in August 1949.

After independence, Kazakhstan showed extreme reluctance to denuclearize itself and a deep resentment to regard Russia as the sole inheritor of the Soviet nuclear legacy. At first, Nazarbaev pointed out that his country was sandwiched between two nuclear powers — Russia and China — both having territorial claims on it. In February 1992, he linked denuclearization with the elimination of American, Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons. On another occasion, he even mentioned that because a nuclear test was conducted on Kazakh territory before the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force, Kazakhstan was entitled to be a member of the exclusive nuclear club. Under extreme American pressure, Kazakhstan finally agreed to sign the Lisbon Protocol on 23 May 1992, under which it accepted the schedule of force reductions covering a seven year period and made a commitment to accede to the NPT as a non-nuclear state. 24 The Kazakh parliament, accordingly, ratified the NPT in December 1993.

The Nuclear Threat Reduction Act passed by the US Congress in 1991 provides for financial and technical assistance for the transport, storage and dismantling of nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union in accordance with the arms control agreements. Under this Act, the US has promised assistance to the tune of $85 million. Approximately 600 kg of weapons-grade enriched uranium — enough for twenty-four nuclear weapons — was picked up from Kazakhstan under this provision by an American team of experts in 1994 and transported to the United States. There, it was to be blended down for use as low-enriched uranium fuel for consumption in commercial nuclear power stations. 25 Even if every trace of nuclear—bomb grade material is taken away from Central Asia, there are nuclear scientists who remain. In fact, there have been disputed figures of the number of nuclear scientists who have already been employed by the nuclear-ambitious regimes. Some of them in the Middle East.

Related to weapons proliferation is the issue of wars which are expected to engulf the region. Diethelm Weidemann, in an ambitiously titled paper 26 , predicts it with assurance. Ted Robert Gurr places Central Asia and the Caucasus in the category of those regions that are likely to experience civil war, rebellion and deadly intercommunal conflicts in future. 27 Blackwill and Sturmer see “virtually no chance” that this area will be stable during the next decade. The threats arise, according to them, from the domestic fragility of many of the regimes; the endemic instability in Egypt and Algeria; the challenge of political Islam; rivalries among moderate and radical Arab nations; an enduring threat from Iran and perhaps from a revived Iraq; the continuing struggle between Israel and the Palestinians; the vast oil wealth of the Persian Gulf and Caspian basin; the persisting large-scale conventional arms transfers into the region; any further acquisition of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) by one or more states in the area; and the uncertain future foreign policy orientation of Russia. For these factors and for events and variables still unknown, they foresee the Greater Middle East as the most precarious region in the world. 28


The resource base and development potential of each state in the Greater Middle East is different. The Middle East is divided right down the centre between the oil-rich and the no-oil states. Sudan is the poorest of them them all. In Central Asia, Kazakhstan has the most developed infrastructure; Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are among the largest exporters of natural gas; Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have vast cotton-growing areas; Kyrgystan is the poorest of them all.

There are some strikingly common characteristics between the economies of the Gulf and Central Asian states. One, they have been shaped and developed in view of the requirements from the outside. The Central Asian states still suffer from the Soviet legacy of the centre-periphery system under which the economic structures there had been contingent upon the requirement of Russia. 29 The oil sector in the Gulf economies has, similarly, been contingent upon the requirement of the industrialized world. Two, the oil, gas and cotton monoculture economies have made the countries excessively dependent on imports from the outside world, mainly for their food requirements. For example, Saudi Arabia ranked the highest in terms of imports per head in early eighties. The country was entirely dependent on imports in agricultural sector with the exeptions of dates and melons. Three, the economies are based on non-renewable resources, which will be used up and will eventually be finished. The cotton, although theoretically a renewable resource, would suffer the same fate in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in view of the exorbitant demands it has made on river systems through irrigation and reduced water flows into the Aral Sea, which is fast turning into a salt marsh. Four, their sectoral specialization has translated into a high ratio of exports and imports to the GDP. The economies are highly vulnerable to global trade patterns in terms of price, production, investments and exchange-rates. Economic planning and development are hazardous exercises in the circumstances. Five, the state is the principal recipient of the rent from oil and gas. It is thus the determining economic agent. It is the state monopoly that keeps the entire economic cycle in motion — awarding contracts, sanctioning incentives, granting subsidies.


Iran in the Gulf

The Iranian foreign policy in the Gulf marked a drastic change with the inception of the Islamic Republic in 1979. The relations between the Arab rulers on the western shore of the Gulf and the Shah on the eastern shore were never entirely devoid of rivalry and suspicion. However, maintaining the status quo was the common broad aim within which the rivalries were contained. With the Shah’s departure from the scene, the situation changed completely. Preservation of the status quo was thrown overboard as the revolutionary concept of the struggle of the mustazafeen (the exploited) against the mustaqbareen (the exploiters) was articulated and actively promoted. A decade later, the revolution had stabilized, the Iran-Iraq war had ended, and Khomeini had died. Each of these developments had left an imprint on the Iranian foreign policy. Iran’s response to the Gulf War evolved in this context.

The Gulf War: A Fresh Beginning

The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait sent shivers down the spines of the Iranians, and the subsequent US determination to punish Saddam Hussein thrilled their hearts. These circumstances helped Iran break out of the old foreign policy straitjacket of exporting the revolution. Its stand on the issue stemmed from its smugness at having proved correct in its assessment of Saddam Hussein. “We told you so” was the consistent Iranian refrain every time an accusation was levelled against him. He had finally proved that Iran had fought its own war against him on moral grounds for a just cause. He himself confirmed this when he agreed to return Iranian territory and Iranian Prisoners of War (PoWs) and retreat to the Thalweg demarcation of the Shatt al-Arab River between the two.

The evolving Iranian policy on the issue marked a radical departure from its earlier Islamic revolutionary ideology on many points. In sharp contrast with its consistent position of keeping the Gulf out of bounds for foreign military presence, President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani came close to accepting it as a necessary evil in the circumstances. “We have no objection to them obstructing aggression; anybody may help in any way. However, it would have been better if the regional countries had done so”, he said at a Friday sermon as the multinational forces started landing in the area. 30 An equally radical departure from the earlier Iranian position of one, indivisible Islamic umma and the artificiality of nation-states was its concern over even a slight change in the political map of the region. In an interview with the French daily Le Monde, Rafsanjani opposed any territorial compromise. “If Kuwait were to go ahead and cede Bubian to Saddam all the same, we would act within our means to stop it”, he warned. 31 Iran’s earlier defiance of the United Nations and its questioning of its very legitimacy gave way to its acceptance and enforcement of all UN resolutions on the crisis. Its UN envoy, Kamal Kharrazi, went out of his way to underscore Iran’s compliance with the UN resolutions. “No Iraqi oil was exported through Iran and the Iranian authorities had arrested 430 persons on the charge of attempted smuggling of food to Iraq”, he declared. 32

When Saddam sought to woo the Iranians by his peace offer, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rushed in to outbid him. The Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Sheikh Sabah, visited Tehran on 22 August 1990 and met his counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayeti, with a message for Rafsanjani. He expressed his regrets for the “past mistakes” of Kuwaiti support to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, which the Iranians accepted. 33 In the following month, there was a constant one-way traffic of high-level GCC dignitaries paying visits to Tehran. The culmination came on 29 September 1990, when the Foreign Ministers of the GCC countries met Velayeti in the Iranian office at UN Headquarters in New York. On 19 November 1990, Fawzi al-Jasii presented his credentials in Tehran as the new Kuwaiti Ambassador.

Beginning 12 December 1990, Iran launched a big air, sea and military exercise involving nine thousand troops, fifty warships, several helicopters, and hundreds of speedboats in the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Codenamed Piroozi, it lasted ten days. Velayeti then set off on his tour of the GCC capitals. Firepower and diplomacy were both geared to securing a role for Iran in the security arrangement in the Gulf. His visit took place on the eve of the next GCC Summit. And he used his visit to stress the need to convene a 7-member GCC session. He wanted such sessions to be held regularly. 34

The GCC Summit met at Doha, Qatar, from 22 to 25 December 1990. In an unusual move the Iranian Ambassador to Qatar, Nasrollah Mirzaiee Nasir, was invited to attend one of its sessions. The Summit communique contained a special section on “Relations with Iran” in which the GCC welcomed the Iranain desire to improve its relations with all GCC countries and stressed its own desire to establish relations with Iran on the basis of “good neighbourliness, noninterference in domestic affairs and respect for sovereignty, independence, and peaceful coexistence deriving from the bonds of religion and heritage that link the countries of the region”. Further, it underlined the importance of serious and realistic action to settle all outstanding differences between Iran and the GCC. 35

The Doha Summit marked the high point of Iran’s reconciliation with the GCC. The differences inherent in the worldview of Iran and the GCC countries and their mutual suspicions of the roles they aspired to play in the regional power game were irreconcilable. In any case, Iran simply stayed out of the war. It kept up its search for a rapprochement with individual GCC states in the aftermath of the war.

Iran and the GCC since the Gulf War

Iran and Saudi Arabia were the chief protagonists across the Gulf in the 1980s. At the level of rhetoric, the two questioned each other’s Islamic credentials; at the level of specifics, the major issue was the hajj (the pilgrimage to Makkah made as prescribed in Islam). Whereas Iran charged Saudi Arabia with grave neglect of the holy places and ill-treatment of the hajj pilgrims, the Saudis alleged that Iranian pilgrims engaged in political propaganda and demonstations which disrupted hajj rituals and violated their sanctity. In 1987 the hajj was marred by violence and ended in an unprecedented tragedy: Saudi security guards and Iranian demonstrators engaged in a confrontation that, according to Iran, left more than six hundred dead as a result of the fifty thousand bullets fired on them.

Early next year Saudi Arabia declared at the annual meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that it would assign a quota to each country on the basis of the principle of one thousand pilgrims for each million of its Muslim population. The proposal was accepted with one dissenting voice — that of Iran. After that, Iran stopped sending pilgrims in protest. The Saudis on their part made it doubly sure that the Iranians did not reach Makkah by abruptly breaking off diplomatic relations with Iran in April 1988. It was only in the context of the cordiality generated between the two countries in the wake of the war in Kuwait that Iranian pilgrims performed the hajj in 1991.

Next year, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself issued a fatwa (religious edict) that the performance of any ritual by the Shiis which created discord among the Muslims or weakened Islam was haram (evil). 36 Ayatollah Reyshahri, his representative, led pilgrims from Iran with a message of “friendship, unity, and brotherhood under the banner of monotheism”. Thus, after many years, the hajj season passed off in an atmosphere of cordiality rather than tight security.

Gholam Ali Nadjafabadi was appointed the new Iranian Ambassador to Riyadh in June 1992. Presenting his credentials he said, “The Islamic world has two wings, and it is not possible to fly without its two wings of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Both have their weight and place in the Islamic world.” 37 The statement marked a 180 degree turn in the official Iranian attitude to Saudi Arabia and went a long way in facilitating the process of reconciliation between the two.

In November 1992 the Islamic Development Bank, which is financed mainly by Saudi Arabia, held its annual meeting for the first time in Tehran. Although the Bank had been formed in 1975, Iran joined it only in 1988. Since then, the Bank had cooperated in several projects in Iran totalling more than $130 million. At the Tehran meeting, according to Mohsin Noorbaksh, the then Iranian Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance, it granted a further $8.5 million credit to the Sharif Technical University for the purpose of laboratory equipment. 38

On Bosnia-Herzegovina, the single most pressing Islamic issue, Iran coordinated its policy with that of Saudi Arabia in spite of its occasional outbursts at Saudi inaction.

The year 1997 witnessed a flurry of visits between the two countries. In March, Velayeti visited Saudi Arabia to invite its leaders to the OIC Summit to be held in Tehran at the end of the year. In April, Rafsanjani visited Saudi Arabia; ostensibly in a private capacity to perform hajj. The Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah visited Tehran in June; ostensibly to confirm the Saudi participation at the OIC. He visited again in December to participate at the Summit. The Summit turned out to be the largest gathering of the organization in which fifty-five member-states participated, most of them represented by the heads-of—the-states or the heads-of-the —governments.

After having paid an unofficial visit as the president, Rafsanjani paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia as the former President in February 1998. A path-breaking event in itself, its importance was enhanced when the Ruler of Bahrain, Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa, came to Saudi Arabia and met Rafsanjani. In view of Bahraini accusations of Iranian involvement in its domestic disturbances, the meeting signified a thaw in Iran-Bahrain relations. In May, the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Feisal visited Tehran in order “to reinforce and expand” bilateral ties. 39 Several agreements, ranging from trade and investments to environment, transport, culture and sports, were signed during the visit.

Iran’s relations with Kuwait too went steadily on the upswing. As the Iraqi threat persisted, the Kuwaitis were forced to show deference to the Iranian wishes. 40 In a telling instance, the Kuwaiti Defence Minister, Sheikh Ahmad al-Sabah, made an extraordinary announcement that Kuwait had received and reviewed an Iranian proposal for a joint military manoeuvre with the GCC and had decided to raise it at the forthcoming session of Defence Ministers of the GCC. 41 A border dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar provided Iran with a unique opportunity to assume the posture of an honest broker and to send off messages to King Fahd and Sheikh Thani offering to mediate. 42 Saudi-Omani rivalries propelled King Qaboos to adopt a more accommodative policy vis-a-vis Iran and Iraq. The Iranian relations with Bahrain and the UAE remained strained through most of the nineties. Bahrain accused Iran of fomenting domestic troubles; the UAE nourished a justified grievance at the Iranian seizure of the Abu Musa island. Bilateral talks were held with each of the two towards the end of the decade.

Dispute over Abu Musa

Situated 56 kilometres from Sharjah and 70 kilometres from the Iranian coastline, the island of Abu Musa came under the co-sovereignty of the two in 1971. The Iranians used their side of the island as a base for the naval forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Abu Musa was one of a string of islands in the Gulf that was used for attacks on international shipping during the war between Iran and Iraq. Apart from its military significance, Abu Musa is rich in resources. It contains half a billion barrels of oil in addition to substantial deposits of gas and red iron oxide.

In April 1992 Iran sent back expatriate school teachers, mainly Indian nationals, returning to the Sharjah side of the island after their vacation. It also cancelled the work and residence permits of expatriates who had kept the power and and desalination plants running for the benefit of some two thousand Sharjah residents. 43

The UAE reacted rather belatedly to the development, but when it did, it chose to reopen the issue of the islands of Greater and Lesser Thumbs as well. Although the Shah had occupied all the three islands in one fell swoop, there was a basic difference in the status of Abu Musa. Sharjah came to an agreement with Iran over Abu Musa, but Ras al-Khaimah did not reach such agreement with Iran over the Thumbs. In September 1992 Mustafa Haeri-Fumani, adviser to the Iranian Foreign Minister, visited the UAE for talks, which broke down over the agenda that included the Thumbs.

Subsequently the Supreme National Security Council of Iran issued an 8-point statement expressing its readiness to have talks on the agreement of 1971, but ruled out any discusssion on the Thumbs as a precondition for its participation in the talks. 44 As the UAE prepared to take the matter to the International Court of Justice, the Iranian posture hardened. It said that it would in that case make no concession on this matter. In any case its agreement was necessary if the dispute was to be submitted to the International Court of Justice.

In December 1993 the GCC Summit finally endorsed the UAE proposal to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice and urged Iran to agree to it. Sheikh Muhammad, Chairman of the Ministerial Council of the Summit, took every care to make the request palatable to Iran. He stated, formally: “We have mutual interests and live in the same region with Iran. There is no dispute other than the occupation..” 45 The dispute has been on the GCC agenda and is routinely included in the GCC resolutions. The communique issued at the end of the Summit held in Kuwait in December 1997 expressed satisfaction at the positive indications of Iranian policy that were demonstrated at the OIC Summit and called for the GCC-Iranian relations to be based on “peaceful co-existence, good-neighbourliness, non-interference in internal affairs and mutual interest.” It also called for a negotiated solution between Iran and the UAE. 46

In May 1998, the new Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, went to the UAE to discuss the Abu Musa island among other things. The Iranians claimed that the visit “opened new avenues for discussion on all issues including an acceptable solution to the islands.” Sheikh Zayed, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the UAE, was a little more restrained in his assessment, when he said that the two sides had agreed to continue the talks on the bilateral relations, including the question of the three islands. 47 Abu Musa, nonetheless, is now a bilateral issue between the states concerned.

Iran and Iraq since the Gulf War

On 14 August 1990, a little more than a week after he invaded Kuwait, Saddam Hussein wrote a letter to Rafsanjani in which he appeared to meet all of Iran’s conditions for a peace treaty formally ending the Iran-Iraq war. He said that he would begin an unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Iran’s territory within three days, start exchanging PoWs at the same time, and negotiate their boundary in the Shatt al-Arab River on the basis of the Algiers Accord of 1975. 48

The offer was clearly related to the invasion of Kuwait. He wished to secure his eastern flank, to ensure that Iran did not join in any military offensive against Iraq, and to free his troops for redeployment on the Kuwait-Saudi border. 49 He conceded as much in his letter to Rafsanjani. He was making his offer, he said, “so as not to keep any of Iraq’s potentials disrupted outside the field of the great battle, and to mobilize these potentials in the direction of the objectives on whose correctness honest Muslims and Arabs are unanimous”. In the weeks that followed, Iraq made swift progress in withdrawing troops and releasing Iranian captives.

The pace slackened soon thereafter. Iran showed no inclination to stand up for Iraq. An unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait was the consistent Iranian demand throughout the entire crisis. As the war began in mid-January 1991 with an Allied air bombardment of Iraq, Saddam made one last attempt to involve Iran on its side of the conflict: he sent some 165 warplanes to Iran in the hope that they would join the war from Iranian territory at a later date and drag Iran into the fray in the process. Iran did not let that happen. In fact it consficated the planes “as part payment” of the war reparations it had demanded from Iraq! 50

Postwar Iraq is an isolated, embargoed state. Its territory is divided along sectarian-ethnic faultlines. North of the 36 th parallel are the Kurds in the Allies’ Security Zone and south of the 33rd parallel are the Iraqi Shiis in the Allies’ No Fly Zone. 51 It is a highly precarious balance and could easily tilt, undermining the very existence of the state of Iraq.In the event of the balance tilting, however, there would be no immunity for the territorial sanctity of the neighbouring states. Without surrendering its options in case of a breakup, Iran seems to have decided to lend a helping hand in shoring up Iraq’s fledgling territorial unity. A brief account of its policies on the Kurdish and Shii situations is in order here.

Estimates put the strength of the Kurds at ten to twelve million in Turkey, four million in Iran, three million in Iraq, less than a million in Syria, and a hundred thousand in the former Soviet Union. If the Kurds should unite themselves into a political entity, they could be a regional power incorporating large areas of these states. That explains why no one wants a Kurdish state. The states concerned have at times coordinated their anti-Kurdish policies. More often, however, each has used its neighbours’ Kurds as a cat’s-paw for destabilizing them.

In the aftermath of the Kuwaiti war, Iran, Syria and Turkey have tried to coordinate their policies towards the Iraqi Kurds. At their biannual meetings, the Foreign Ministers have reiterated their support for the total sovereignty and integrity of Iraq, respect for the wishes of the majority of its people, opposition to any move towards its disintegration or partition, and right to be consulted on any decision on Iraq.

Since the Revolution, Iran has played host to Islamic dissident groups from most of the Gulf states. The Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) is perhaps the oldest and the largest of them all. It certainly is the best looked after. It has scrupulously kept out of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) — a conglomeration of the anti-Saddam forces. It has declared that to join it would amount to its according its approval to “factionalism” and to its showing its “disregard for the rights of other groups”. 52 The Shii representative on the three-member Presidential Council of the INC belongs to the Shii Independent Islam Party instead. The INC has also not been able to hold a session in Iran although it has held many sessions in several other Gulf states.

As things stand today, there are far too many outstanding contentious issues between the two countries that preclude any possibility of an early rapprochement. Technically they are still in a state of war with each other. The territorial dispute and the issue of the Thalweg demarcation are not yet resolved. The Iranian Prisoners of War are still in Iraq and the Iraqi Prisoners of War in Iran. The Iranians have refused to return the Iraqi warplanes. In fact, as we have already noted, they have confiscated them in part payment of the war reparations allegedly due from Iraq. The issue of reparations itself is rife with complications. Lastly, Iraq has granted asylum to Iranian dissidents, the Mujahideen-e Khalq; Iran on its part has granted asylum to Iraqi dissidents, the SAIRI.

In spite of these outstanding issues, or because of them, the two countries have continued their contacts, albeit at a low level. In October 1993 the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif visited Baghdad — the first official visit at that level since the Kuwaiti crisis. Ostensibly he met his Iraqi counterpart to discuss the question of exchange of Prisoners of War. 53 Iranian media correctly interpreted the significance of the visit: the daily Salam described Iraq as Iran’s “natural ally in the region”, and Tehran Times urged Iran and Iraq “to form an anti-US front”. 54

In October 1994 there was a sudden crisis in the Gulf when Saddam dispatched some 64,000 troops to the Kuwaiti border. The US sent a counterforce, sharply escalating the tensions. The Iranian leader Ali Khamenei took a hard line over the US military buildup when he said, “It is upto the regional countries to maintain Persian Gulf security, and global arrogance has no right to intervene in this region.” 55 At the United Nations, the Iranians suggested a regional approach to diffuse the escalating tensions in the region and called for special efforts to alleviate the suffering caused to the Iraqis by the UN sanctions. There were reports of the Iranians taking delivery of Iraqi oil over the Baghdad-Tehran highway at Khanaquin or from Iraqi small tankers over the Gulf waters and selling them on Iraq’s behalf for a profit and for friendship. In December 1994 the United States accused Iran, in a letter to the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Commitee, of complicity in the smuggling of Iraqi petroleum through the Gulf ports in violation of UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting such trade. The Iranians promptly denied the charge, accusing the US of ulterior motives in making them.

The relations between the two have registered a steady improvement in the recent past. In April 1997, the two repatriated some 6,000 PoWs in the biggest swap since the end of the Iran-Iraq war. In September, Baghdad announced that the Iranian pilgrims would be allowed to visit the Shii shrines in Najaf and Karbala in Iraq for the first time since the Iranian revolution. In November, the Iranian Trade Minister visited Iraq on the occasion of the Baghdad International Trade Fair and made agreements boosting bilateral trade under the UN-organized oil-for-food programme. In December, the Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan participated at the OIC Summit in Tehran. The next month, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Saeed al- Sahaf paid a visit to Iran.

During the subsequent Iraq-US stand-off towards the end of 1998, Iran’s response was along the old lines. It called for an easing of sanctions in order to lessen the hardships of the Iraqi people, stressed that any resort to force brings greater instability and insecurity and called on Baghdad to comply with the UN resolutions. James Rubin, the spokesperson of the US State Department, stated at that time that the US would not object if Iran assisted groups suffering under the Iraqi rule. Asked if Iran might cooperate with the US in toppling Saddam, the naval commander of the Revolutionary Guards said that Iran insisted on maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq and maintained that the Iraqi people had the right to self-determination without any foreign intervention. 56


Iran in Central Asia

For more than a century, Iran’s geopolitical calculation had been informed by the threat of Russian/Soviet imperialism and its considerable weight against a vulnerable and long Iranian border. Its historical gravitation toward alliance with distant powers like the British Empire upto 1945 and the United States in the postwar years was a result of this historical vulnerability. 57 After the Revolution, Iran dismantled the military-intelligence defence network along the Soviet-Iranian border and revoked its earlier role of the policeman of the Gulf. These were the net gains for the Soviet Union. Beyond these, however, the relations between the two did not make much headway. The anti-Western orientation of the Islamic revolution did not necessarily mean a pro-Soviet orientation. The Iranian suspicions of the Soviet intentions regarding their domestic politics were deep and intense. By early 1983, the atmosphere had been completely ruined as the Iranian regime cracked down upon the leaders of Tudeh — the Iranian Communist Party - who made devastating confessions about their anti-state activities and directly implicated the Soviet Union in them. The confessions were repeatedly telecast in Iran as the Soviets helplessly looked on.

In a critical message to Gorbachev a decade after the Revolution, Khomeini predicted that “from now on communism should only be sought in museums” and advised him “to turn to truth”, to faith, and to study Islam. 58 As events in the Soviet Union marched towards the fulfilment of his prophesy, Iran seemed less than enthusiastic to welcome the final outcome of the process. There were several reasons for this. First, the visit of the Soviet Foreign Minister Edouard Shevardnadze to Tehran in February and the visit of Rafsanjani in the summer of 1989 had symbolized a new spirit in Soviet-Iranian relations as a result of which “for the first time in three hundred years Iran could look forward to having quiet and peaceful borders in the north”. 59 Coming as it did, barely two and half weeks after Khomeini’s death before the forty-days period of mourning had passed, the timing of Rafsanjani’s visit lent it an additional significance. Second, the dramatic developments in the Soviet Union coincided with difficult circumstances in Iran as well. The country was going through the immediate aftermath of a debilitating war and the passing away of Khomeini. The last thing it needed was a major security and foreign policy challenge of the magnitude presented by the collapse of the Soviet Union. 60 Third, the removal of the Soviet Union meant an inevitable increase in the power and reach of the United States.

As Iran began to make contacts with the Central Asian Republics, it was careful to do it with the Russian knowledge and approval. Thus, Velayeti’s first visit to the region in November-December 1991 included Russia in the itinerary. Iran has continued to work closely together with Russia in the region ever since. Both share similar anxieties about nationalism and irredentism in the area. Russia guards the external borders of the region, and Iran perceives its security interest in the maintenance and control of existing borders. Russia remains committed to keeping outsiders out of security structures and is likely and able to check the further expansion of US interests and involvement there. Like Russia, Iran also views Turkey’s regional ambitions and a possible spread of some form of pan-Turkic ideology with suspicion. And bilaterally, Russia is an important trading partner, a major supplier of arms and a willing collaborator in technical, most notably nuclear, projects. 61

Oil, Gas and the Pipelines

Most of the Central Asian oil reserves are located in and around the Caspian Sea. The jurisdiction over the Sea and its under-water resources has been stridently contested, as a result. According to the 1921 Treaty of Moscow, which was reaffirmed in 1935, the inland Caspian Sea belonged to Russia and Persia and was referred to as a “Soviet and Persian Sea.” In the singular relevant precedent concerning joint sovereignty over enclosed or semi-enclosed bodies of water — the case of the Gulf of Fonseca, which formerly belonged to a single state (Spain), but is now bordered by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua — the International Court of Justice saw no advantage in disrupting the unity of the body of water after the emergence of successor coastal states. 62 Today, the Caspian coast is shared by Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan besides the original signatories Iran and Russia.

Whereas Iran and Russia favoured the inner sea concept, the rest insisted on treating it like any other sea. Under the first option, the under-water resources would be jointly developed and equally shared among the coastal states; under the second option, the law of the sea would apply according an exclusive economic zone to each. In November 1996, Russia broke ranks with Iran on the issue and joined the rest by proposing a compromise whereby each state would be given exclusive jurisdiction over oil fields lying within 45 miles of a zone extended out from national shorelines.

Iran continues to reject the law of the sea regime for the Caspian. There are several reasons for Iran’s insistence on a common strategy for Caspian resources. One, the oil is concentrated more around the Azeri and the Kazakhi coasts and not evenly spread. Two, the joint effort towards exploring and extracting oil would firmly bind the states together for a considerable period of time during which Iran could emerge as the natural leader. Three, the US law prohibiting an investment of more than $20 million dollars in the Iranian oil and gas sectors and threatening noncomplying country or company with various forms of penalization would hamper Iranian attempts to go it alone with the development of its own share of the territory.

As the Azeris and the Kazakhis went on with the development of their sectors, Iran followed suit. 63 Accordingly, Khazar Exploration and Production Company was formed and affiliated to the National Iranian Oil Company. On 15 December 1998, it entered into a major deal with the Anglo-Dutch Shell and the UK independent Lasmo to carry out a study of 10,000 square kilometers of unexplored waters in the Iranian sector of the Caspian. 64 According to the US Department of Energy, Iran had already explored and identified 40 reservoirs containing as much as 3 bb of oil in its territorial waters in the Caspian. 65

The Caspian Sea oil potential has come under a close scrutiny which has deflated the earlier claims suggesting that the region would be the Gulf of the Twenty-first century. According to most estimates, the oil reserves in the region are anywhere between 20 and 30 billion barrels. 66 There have been few new discoveries in the recent years to justify an upward revision of the estimates. Saudi Arabia alone has at least ten times as much. And the Middle East twenty times as much. The Caspian oil may not prove cost-effective given the current low oil prices and the high cost of extraction and transportation in addition to a host of complicated technical, geological, logistical and political obstacles which block its speedy development.

The pipeline politics continues to remain an intractable problem in the meanwhile. The three possible routes are via Turkey to the Mediterranean, 67 via Georgia and Russia to the Black Sea and via Iran to the Gulf. The US has consistently championed the route through Turkey even though it is the least feasible of the options. And it has equally consistently blocked any move towards the route via Iran, even though it is the shortest and cheapest of the options. The oil companies have sought a compromise by advocating the Georgia-Russia-Black Sea route — without winning the argument so far. The Caspian Pipeline Consortium is, nonetheless, finalizing plans for a private 1.34 million barrels-a-day (mbd) pipeline from the Tengiz field in Kazakhstan to the Russian port of Novorossisk, utilizing an existing Russian line from Tengiz to Grozny. There already is a pipeline from Baku to Novorossisk through Chechenya, which could be updated.

In addition to politics, the issue of pipeline seems to have also become a point of prestige for the advocates of different routes. In view of the fact that the oil market has remained sluggish and the prices have continued to slip, there probably is no need for a grand pipeline project. And it still remains unclear whether there will be large enough flows of oil from the region to the potential markets. Economic rationale should suggest short haul solutions left to the countries concerned. In a few instances, that has been the reality on the ground.

The oil geography and geology in Iran are less than fortunate. Its oil fields are located in the southwest of the country and along the Gulf coast. The main refining centres are in the north of the country in Tabriz, Tehran and Arak. The domestic market for the oil is also more or less concentrated in the north as the urban centres, industries and agro-industries are around the Caspian rim. The country has a large domestic network of pipelines from the source to the consumers, which has to pass through mountain ranges rather than flat terrain. Additionally, the Iranian oil-wells are more distant from water than those in Saudi Arabia, and the “drive” provided by the water latent under the oil reservoirs is generally not as great in Iran as it is in Saudi Arabia. 68 At present, Iran uses more than a third of its annual gas output to increase pressure in the oilfields to extract petroleum. Moreover, Iran is likely to become an oil-importing nation by the end of the century if the domestic demand for oil increases at the current pace. 69

Iran has quietly been turning this inconvenience into an opportunity in recent past. In 1997, Iran and Kazakhstan signed an agreement under which the latter will sell 2 million tons of oil to Iran annually which will be consumed in the north of the country. In return, Iran will sell an equal amount of oil from its production in the south to the Kazakhi buyers. Towards the end of the year, a 200-kilometre pipeline was inaugurated to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan Korpeye gasfield to Kord Kui in northeast Iran. The initial 2 billion cubic metres (bcm) to be pumped annually are to be raised first to 4bcm in 1999 and then to double that amount. 70 A Memorandum of Understanding exists, in the meanwhile, to build a 1,500-kilometre pipeline to carry an annual load of 30bcm of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Iran. The work on it is expected to be finished by 2002.

Diplomacy in the Region

Iran and Turkey are the natural and inevitable rivals for influence in the region. According to an overly optimistic view, Tehran and Ankara are “more complementary than amalgam of pan-Turkish and pan-Islamism together assisting the newly emergent Muslim-majority countries to move away from the legacy of the socialist red star and towards the green crescent (the official Turkish symbol, but in green, the colour of Islam).” 71 The things have developed differently.

With the emergence of independent states in Central Asia, Turkey made vigorous attempts to project itself as their role-model. Islam, democracy, free-market economy and pro-Western orientation were highlighted as the four major components of its identity that needed to be adopted by the republics. In March 1992 the Turkish Foreign Minister, Hikmet Cetin, visited the republics, followed two months later by the official state visit of the Turkish Prime Minister, Sulayman Demirel.

During his visit, Demirel submitted to the Uzbek, Kazakh and Kyrgyz leaders draft Constitutions for their consideration. Alparslan Turkes, the arch-nationalist and Pan-Turkic politician, was a member of Demirel’s entourage during his tour, evoking fears regarding Turkey’s resurrected ambitions of recreating a political empire. In what was to become an infamous speech, Demirel declared that with the collapse of the Soviet Union there had appeared a “gigantic Turkish world” stretching from the Adriatic to the Great Wall of China. 72 The area included the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia in this “Turkish” world.

The Iranians have relied on Islamic solidarity, Persian culture and language, and Shii fraternity as diplomatic props; but the primary emphasis of their offensive has been the geopolitical centrality. “Cooperation should certainly be carried out via Iran. For links between the north and the south, the east and the west, these countries and Europe, Europe and Asia, everything should cross Iran — oil and gas pipelines, railways, communication routes and international airports”, Rafsanjani exhorted the Central Asian leaders. 73 Iran reacted swiftly as the republics started opening up. Six new customs checkpoints were constructed in the country’s northern border regions to facilitate trade, transit and overland travel. The Turkmenistan railway was integrated into the Iranian railway network at Mashhad along the old Silk Road. The Azeris were promised direct linkage of their railway with the Iranian railway system, bypassing Armenia. Simultaneously, the construction of a bridge over the Aras river secured direct supplies of Iranian oil and other essential goods to Armenia in times of Azeri blockade. Tajikistan was offered overland routes to import and export its goods.

It also devoted considerable energy towards developing its ports. The ports which were damaged during the Iran-Iraq war have been coming back on line. It has seven terminals for exporting crude oil and two for refined products. All of Iran’s crude oil exports from its onshore fields are currently shipped from its Kharg Island terminal.The two ports at Bandar Abbas and Bandar Khomeini in the South have handled nearly two-thirds of the entire Iranian imports since early nineties. 74 Efforts are now afoot to develop the Anzali port in the north to handle 6 million tons of cargo annually, to berth ships weighing 5,000 tons and to provide storage and transit of goods with the least formalities. 75 For the landlocked countries of the region, an easy and secure access to the world has been a matter of topmost priority. It is specially so for the oil and gas-rich countries seeking an outlet to the markets.

In the circumstances, Iran and Turkey resented and resisted each other. Early on, Iran did make a half-hearted attempt to pre-empt potential rivalry with Turkey within a multilateral framework. Both are founder-members of the Economic Co-operation Organization 76 (ECO). Tehran mooted the idea of reviving and expanding the dormant Organization 77 and hosted its enlarged summit in February 1992. But even as the summit was in session, Iran and Turkey went their separate ways. Tehran announced the formation of Caspian Sea Littoral Zone with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Russia and Iran as members. Turkey responded by hammering together a Black Sea Group. Two days after the formation of the Caspian Grouping, Iran, Tajikistan and the representatives of the Afghan Mujahideen agreed to establish an Association of Persian Language speakers.

Mediation in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is the most volatile of the newly independent entities. Its geography and ethnic composition, as well as uneven economic development, are the main causes of strife. The Khojand province in the north and the Kulyab in the south are relatively better developed. Development programmes during the Soviet era were concentrated in the plains of the north and around Dushanbe, the capital. Most of the country’s industrial investments were in Khojand, whereas massive irrigation projects on Amu Darya and its tributaries were in the south. The south, therefore, became an important cotton-growing area, producing 11 percent of the Soviet Union’s cotton. Most of the Uzbek population, nearly twenty-five percent of the total, lives in this area. All the major communication links also run through Uzbekistan as it is separated by a mountain range from the eastern part of the country. The Garno-Badakhshan province in the east comprises sparsely populated, rugged mountain terrain. Its people, the Pamirs, belonging mainly to the Ismaili sect of Islam, have been underprivileged and isolated.

The upsurge began there once the heavy-handed Soviet administration came to an end. What started out as an ethnic-regional upsurge acquired other powerful strands like Islam, democracy and nationalism. Beginning in 1990, opposition surfaced in the form of various parties. The Rastokhez called for a revival of Tajik culture and language. The Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) 78 advocated Islamization of society though not an Islamic state or Sharia law. The Democratic Party swore by democratization and called for improved socioeconomic status for the province. The Lal-e Badakhshan sought greater autonomy for the province. The conduct of the presidential election in late 1991, which Rakhmon Nabiev manipulated to get himself elected, disillusioned many more and a loose alliance of organizations, espousing everything from Islam to Tajik nationalism to democracy, came into being. 79 Nabiev was swept away to make place for a Pamiri, Akbarsho Iskandarov, in order to assuage the Pamiri demands. He was soon overthrown by a militery coup which put Emamoli Rakhmanov, a Kulyabi, in his place. The Kulyabs have always been the junior partners of the Khojand ruling elite.

Tajikistan occupies a special place in the Iranian policy in the region. It is the only Persian-speaking state and has belonged to the Persian world in terms of culture, literature and way of life. It is the only state that switched its alphabet from Cyrillic to Persian when the rest did it to Latin. It celebrated its first year of independence by unveiling a statue of Ferdowsi, the great Persian epic poet, in the place previously occupied by a statue of Lenin in the capital city of Dushanbe. Iran feels a sense of responsibility towards this Persian island in a sea of Turkic population. 80

Tajikistan came in for the most-favoured-nation treatment from the beginning. The Tajik President, Rakhmon Nabiev, visited Tehran in late June 1992. The visit resulted in $50 million credit to buy industrial machinery and the establishment of a joint commision to explore areas of cooperation in oil, gas, banking, etc. The republic was also offered Iranian overland routes to import and export its goods. Tajik diplomats were given training courses at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The exodus of Russians from and hostility towards Uzbeks in Tajikistan sucked in Russia and Uzbekistan into the conflict. Afghan involvement on the side of the rebels had continued to expand in the meanwhile. There are about 4 million Tajiks in Afghanistan. Many of them had left Central Asia as refugees at the height of the anti-Soviet Basmachi Movement (1917-21) and the collectivization campaign in the early 1930s. They were in the forefront of the pro-Pamiri support base. Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Masood are both Tajiks. Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a Pashtun, forged links with the IRP on the platform of Islamic solidarity. In April 1992, the opposition forces led by the IRP leader Said Abdulla Nuri declared a Badakhshan Autonomous Republic. After it was brought under Dushanbe control, a Government-in-Exile was formed in Talogan, Afghanistan.

Two years after coming to power, Rakhmanov organized presidential elections in November 1994 and won with a 62 percent majority. A referendum held simultaneously endorsed the draft constitution with a two-thirds majority. The elections for a 181-member parliament (Majlis-e Oli) were organized in February 1995. The Government claimed 85 percent turnout in spite of the fact that its writ did not run in much of the state. The opposition remained unimpressed by these popular exercises in legitimacy. In July 1995, the three former prime ministers — Abdumalik Abdullajonov, Jamshed Karimov and Abdulzhalik Samadov — announced the formation of the National Revival Block. In late October 1995, it entered into a coalition with the IRP under the banner of the United Tajik Opposition. As a result, the Rakhmanov regime faced a combined politico-military threat from a majority of regions of Tajikistan.

After five years of civil war that consumed 60,000 lives and three years of tortuous negotiations, the strife was finally put to rest. The deal was solemnized in the Kremlin on 27 June 1997 between the warring parties in the presence of Russian and Iranian leaders and the UN mediator Dietrich Merren. 81 The Russians and the Iranians had pressurized the secularist president Rahmanov and the Islamist opposition respectively to make that possible; and both had worked with each other sufficiently closely to make it happen. Abdulla Nuri and Akbar Turajanzade, the leader and the deputy leader of the IRP respectively, returned from Tehran to Dushanbe. Nuri is now on the monitoring commission that is entrusted with the task of ensuring a proper implementation of the agreement. Turajanzade is the First Deputy Prime Minister.



Like the term the Greater Middle East, the region itself is in a state of evolution. Its prospects as a cogent spatial entity will depend on the three attributes of contiguity, commonality and connectedness, which are the defining characteristics of any region. Contiguity is self-evident; requiring no belabouring of its validity. Commonalities in terms of history going all the way back to antiquity; ethnicity enlarging Turkic and Persian habitats; and religion have been the constant common characteristics. In addition, the region has passed through similar political experiences of colonial masters who marked their borders by drawing lines on the maps; and then ruled them either directly or through intermediaries in the form of kings or local communist party bosses.

Connectedness is the attribute that will finally decide the feasibility or otherwise of the emergence of the new region. Whenever the third wave of democracy finally reaches this area, it is bound to sweep across its length and breadth, as its proponents watch across their territorial confines, seek allies, compare notes and learn from experiences/mistakes made elsewhere. And whenever oil and gas find a regular outlet from the landlocked Central Asia to the consumers, it is bound to be integrated into the global oil market. And not just the market; but the global oil economy involving operations all the way from exploration and extraction to sale, purchase, refining, transportation, distribution, currency fixation and so on.

The emergence and general acceptance of the Greater Middle East as a region seems certain in the circumstances. At least for some time to come. The areas are not eternal entities. And they definitely are not sacrosanct.They expand, contract and move in different directions with the changing realities. So will the Greater Middle East. At present, though, its contours embrace a space that deserves scholarly scrutiny and policy initiatives.

After the revolution, Iran pursued an almost predictable course of seeking to export the revolution in order to bring about fundamental changes in the domestic politics and foreign policies of its neighbours. The states in the Gulf, and specially the hereditory kings there, found themselves at the receiving end of the revolutionary rhetoric. A destabilized state system in the region would have been a triumph for the Iranian revolution; though certainly not for the Iranian state. As a natural hegemon in the Gulf, Iran has high stakes in its stability. Today, Iran finds itself in the most comfortable situation in the triangular power balance as the two of its adversaries — Iraq and the Saudi-led GCC — are enemies of each other with almost no prospect of reconciliation in the foreseeable future. There is a pronounced polarization within the GCC itself as Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are seeking better ties with Iran. Would Iran seek a breakup of the GCC by pulling its friends away from it? Or, would it seek an eventual role within, or even membership of, the GCC? Similarly, would Iran build upon the rapprochement with Iraq or would it seek an Islamic Republic of Iraq under the SAIRI?

The Gulf is the most penetrated region in the world, however. The external powers are permanently poised there and have repeatedly resorted to violent shows of their might. The uncertainties are far too many and the consequences too unpredictable. Iran will be directly and drastically affected — for better or worse — with the changing circumstances in its immediate neighbourhood.

Emergence of new states in its northern neighbourhood presented Iran with a major security and foreign policy challenge. At the same time, it provided possibilities for political influence and economic advantage. The Iranians have relied on Islamic solidarity, Shii fraternity and Persian language as diplomatic props; but the primary emphasis of their offensive has been the geopolitical centrality. Roads, railways, bridges, ports and customs checkpoints have facilitated trade, transit and overland travel. A short-haul gas-pipeline with Turkmenistan and an oil-swap agreement with Kazakhstan have brought oil and gas to the Iranian refineries and consumers in the north, relieving production in the south for sales overseas, and thereby avoiding long domestic pipelines across mountainous terrain.

Iran has been careful to venture into the area with Russian knowledge and approval and has not challenged its armed presence there. The two countries share common concerns in the area, in addition to mutually beneficial bilateral ties. The resolution of Tajiki civil war, in which the Russian-supported regime and the Iranian-supported rebels agreed to give peace a chance, testify to the strength of their resolve to stay together. Would Iran continue to coordinate its policies with Russia? Would it also continue to support Islamic political forces? A confrontation may not be inevitable, but not unlikely either.

Located in the extreme eastern corner of the Middle East, Iran is the most strategically situated in the Greater Middle East. Not only does it straddle the two large energy-rich areas of the world; it provides the best access route for the land-locked resources of Central Asia to the global market. The only Persian-speaking state in a predominantly Arab Middle East, Iran along with Tajikistan, Samarkand and Bukhara constitutes a strengthened Persian segment in a multi-ethnic mosaic of the Greater Middle East. Today, Iran seems to be in no hurry to move away from the Islamic causes it has espoused and the Islamic constituencies it has nourished. Tajikistan is a case in point. Nor is it about to renounce its regional ambitions as the takeover of Abu Musa clearly shows. Its active involvement in this emerging geopolitical space is set to influence the regional profile as also the Iranian foreign policy itself.



Note 1: A. T. Mahan, The Problem of Asia (London, 1900) p. 47  Back.

Note 2: US Congress 85. Session 1, Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Services, The President s Proposal on the Middle East (1957), Pt. 1, PP. 23-4  Back.

Note 3: Moving Turkey administratively into the Middle East, according to this argument, would help in coordinating policy on the Kurdish zone in northern Iraq; in ensuring that the “howl of the Central Asian wolf” does not distract the Turks into thinking they have become a world power; and encouraging Turkey to stay out of the Caucasus imbroglio. Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson, “Ambitious Iran, Troubled Neighbors”, Foreign Affairs (New York), vol.72, no.1, 1992-3, p.137.  Back.

Note 4: A. E. H. Dessouki and G. Matar, The Arab Regional System : An Examination of Inter-Arab Political Relations (Centre for Arab Unity Studies,1979) In Arabic. Quoted in Abdel Monem Said Aly Abdel Aal, “The Super Powers and Regional Security in the Middle East” in Mohammad Ayoob, ed., Regional Security in the Third World: Case Studies from Southeast Asia and the Middle East, 1967-91 (London, 1986), pp.197-8.  Back.

Note 5: Mohammed Ayoob, “State Making, State Breaking and State Failure: Explaining the Roots of Third World Insecurity”, paper presented at the seminar on “Conflict and Development: Causes, Effects and Remedies ”, The Hague, Netherlands Institute of International Relations, 22-24 March 1994, pp.2-3.  Back.

Note 6: Robert D. Blackwill and Michael Sturmer, ed., Allies Divided: Transatlantic Policies for the Greater Middle East ( Cambridge, 1997) p.1.  Back.

Note 7: Shimon Peres (with Arye Naor), The New Middle East ( Dorset, 1993). Peres’ s call for regional integration did not find an echo in the region. On the contrary, concerns were raised that the economic might of Israel would lead to an Israel-dominated regional economy.  Back.

Note 8: Shirin Akiner, “Relations between Iran and Central Asia: An Overview”, in K. Warikoo,ed., Central Asia: An Emerging New Order (New Delhi, 1995) p. 251.  Back.

Note 9: Mark Juergensmeyer, Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (Delhi, 1994) p. 126  Back.

Note 10: Robert D. McChesney, “Central Asia’ s Place in the Middle East: Some Historical Considerations”, in David Menashri, Central Asia Meets the Middle East, (London, 1998), pp.32-33.  Back.

Note 11: Christopher Hitchens, “On the Fringes of Empire”, Guardian Weekly (London), 17 January 1993.  Back.

Note 12: Cumbhuriyet (Ankara), 24 February 1992. Quoted in Gareth M. Winrow, “Turkey and the Former Soviet Central Asia : A Turkic Culture Area in the Making?” in Warikoo, n.8, p. 280.  Back.

Note 13: Juergensmeyer, n. 9, p.127.  Back.

Note 14: Madhavan K. Palat, “Emergence of Central Asia”, unpublished paper presented at a seminar on “Trends in Central Asia” organized by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (New Delhi) 16 January 1993, p.3.  Back.

Note 15: Ronald Wixman, “Ethnic Attitudes and Relations in Modern Uzbek Cities”, in William Fierman, ed., Soviet Central Asia: The Failed Transformation (Boulder, 1991), p. 172.  Back.

Note 16: Simon Bromley, Rethinking Middle East Politics: State Formation and Development (Cambridge, 1994) p. 47.  Back.

Note 17: Ibid, p.84.  Back.

Note 18: Ilia Harik, “The Origins of the Arab State System”, in Giacomo Luciani, ed., The Arab State (London, 1990) pp.1-28.  Back.

Note 19: For a legal analysis of the Saudi Basic Laws, see A. Michael Tarazi, “Saudi Arabia’s New Basic Laws: The Struggle for Participatory Islamic Government”, Harvard International Law Journal (Cambridge), vol.34, Winter 1993, pp.258-275.  Back.

Note 20: Rashed Aba-Namay, “The Recent Constitutional Reforms in Saudi Arabia”, International and Comparative Law Quaterly, (London), Vol.42, No.2, April 1993, pp.295-331.  Back.

Note 21: Saad Eddin Ibrahim, “Arab Elites and Societies After the Gulf Crisis”, in Dan Tschirgi, ed., The Arab World Today ( Boulder, 1994) pp.85-89.  Back.

Note 22: For a first-hand acount of Birlik in its formative years, see Hedrick Smith, The New Russians (London, 1990), pp. 297-323.  Back.

Note 23: Anthony Lake, “Confronting Backlash States”, Foreign Affairs, vol.73, no.2, 1994, p.45.  Back.

Note 24: Matin Zuberi, “Kazakhstan’s Nuclear Inheritence”. Unpublished paper presented at a seminar on “Central Asia in the Changing World: Trends and Development”, organized by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 22-23 March 1995, p.2  Back.

Note 25: Ibid, p.3.  Back.

Note 26: Diethelm Weidemann, “The Asian Dimension of the Dissolution of the USSR: The Central Asian Conflict Constellation — Origin, Structure, Complexity and Specificity”, Strategic Studies, (Islamabad) Vol.16,No.3, Spring 1994.  Back.

Note 27: Ted Robert Gurr, “Communal Conflicts and Global Security”, Current History (Philadelphia), Vol.94, No.592, May 1995, pp.216-7  Back.

Note 28: Blackwill and Sturmer, n. 6,, pp.303-4.  Back.

Note 29: According to a Central Asian scholar, what Lenin wrote about imperialism being the highest state of capitalist robbery of colonial nations was to prove applicable to the reality of Soviet communist power especially in Central Asia. Tair Tairov, “Communism and National Self Determination in Central Asia”, in Kumar Rupesinge, Peter King and Olga Vorkunova, eds., Ethnicity and Conflict in a Post-Communist World: The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China (New York, 1992), p.171  Back.

Note 30: Survey of World Broadcasts — Middle East (London), 22 August 1990. Cited hereinafter as SWB-ME  Back.

Note 31: Le Monde (Paris), 9 October 1990. Quoted in Middle East Economic Digest (London), 19 October 1990, p.26  Back.

Note 32: SWB-ME, 21 December 1990  Back.

Note 33: SWB-ME, 24 August 1990  Back.

Note 34: Islamic Republic of Iran Radio. Quoted in SWB-ME,19 December 1990  Back.

Note 35: For the text of the communique, see SWB-ME,29 December 1990  Back.

Note 36: The Shiis kiss the holy shrine in Medina and say their prayers in the Baqi cemetary, where the bodies of several imams are lying buried. Tehran Times, 26 May 1992.  Back.

Note 37: Ibid, 3 June 1992  Back.

Note 38: SWB Weekly Economic Report, 17 November 1992  Back.

Note 39: Iran Focus (Norfolk), vol.11, no.6, June 1998, p.15.  Back.

Note 40: A recent victim of Iraqi expansionism, Kuwait has set up a sand-bank, a trench and an electrified fence to guard its 200-kilometre long border with Iraq. Additionally, 3000 US ground troops are permanently stationed in the country.  Back.

Note 41: Ibid, 21 August 1994  Back.

Note 42: The Qataris responded enthusiastically: the Qatari ambassador in Tehran said he appreciated Iran’s positive attitude. The Deputy Foreign Minister paid a visit.The Sheikh himself replied to say that “the Arabs should unite with Iran against certain Western powers, which are seeking their own interests in the strategic Persian Gulf region.” (It is highly unlikely that the Qatari King would use the term “Persian Gulf” even if one concedes the authenticity of the message as reproduced in the Iraninan media.) Keyhan Havai (Tehran), 7 October 1992.  Back.

Note 43: Middle East (London), October 1992, pp.17-18  Back.

Note 44: Kayhan Havai, 7 October 1992.  Back.

Note 45: Khaleej Times (Dubai), 22 December 1994.  Back.

Note 46: Quoted in Faris Glubb, “The GCC: Important Steps Forward”, Middle East International (London), no.566, 16 January 1998, pp.15-16.  Back.

Note 47: Iran Focus, vol. 11, no. 6, June 1998, p.16.  Back.

Note 48: Quoted in Shaul Bakhash, “Iran: War Ended, Hostility Continued,” in Amatzia Baram and Barry Rubin, eds., Iraq’s Road to War (Hampshire, 1994), p.219  Back.

Note 49: Ibid, 220  Back.

Note 50: Iran Focus, vol.10, no.9, October 1997,p.12; and vol.11,no.8, September 1998, p.14. The number of planes has varied according to differing estimates. Iran maintains that there are only 22 aircrafts on its soil.  Back.

Note 51: Originally drawn across the 32nd parallel, the US expanded the southern zone to the 33rd parallel hugging the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The move was inexplicable as it came as a response to the trouble in the north in September 1996.  Back.

Note 52: SWB-ME, 2 November 1992  Back.

Note 53: New York Times, 21 October 1993  Back.

Note 54: Middle East International, no.461, 22 October 1993, p. 11  Back.

Note 55: Middle East Economic Digest, 21 October 1994, p.22  Back.

Note 56: Quoted in Saeed Barzin, “Iran’s Dilemma”, Middle East International, no.588, 27 November 1998, p.8.  Back.

Note 57: Mohiaddin Mesbahi, “Iran and Tajikistan” in Alvin Z. Rubinstein and Oles M. Smolansky, ed. Regional Power Rivalries in the New Eurasia : Russia,Turkey, and Iran ( Armonk, 1995) p.113  Back.

Note 58: SWB-ME, 10 January 1989  Back.

Note 59: Shireen T. Hunter, “Iran and Transcaucasia in the Post-Soviet Era” in Menashri, n.10, p.99.  Back.

Note 60: Ibid  Back.

Note 61: For a detailed discussion of the Iran-Russian collaboration in the region, see Edmund Herzig, Iran and the Former Soviet South (London, 1994)  Back.

Note 62: Geoffrey Kemp and Robert E.Harkavy, Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East (Washington D.C., 1997) p.134  Back.

Note 63: “Otherwise, the nouvo riche government of Azerbaijan with the help of its American and Zionist allies, will finally gobble up the entire undersea crude.” Iran News (Tehran), 12 December 1998.  Back.

Note 64: The deal is worth $19.8 million, that is, just under the threshold of $20 million permitted under the US-imposed sanctions.  Back.

Note 65: Kemp and Harkavy, n.62, p. 103.  Back.

Note 66: An optimistic estimate puts the proven reserves at 32.5bb, potential reserves at 218bb, production at 4mbd in 2010 and 6mbd in 2020, net exports at 2.3 and 3.6 in 2010 and 2020 respectively. Wilfred Kohl, mailto:Turkestan-N@VM.EGE.EDU.TR< /A> Vol 98:183-28-October 1998  Back.

Note 67: The Turkish option envisions gathering the oil exports at Baku in Azerbaijan, thereafter crossing either Georgia, Armenia or Iran to terminate at Ceyhan in Turkey’s Gulf of Iskenderan on the Mediterranean. The British Petroleum-led Azerbaijan International Operating Company has refused to build the 2000-kilometer Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. The Azeris are searching for options including forming their own company to do it. Turkestan-N @VM.EGE.EDU.TR vol. 98-207-21 December 1998.  Back.

Note 68: Christopher T. Rand, “The Arabian Oil Fantasy: A Dissenting View of the Oil Crisis”, Harper’s (New York), vol.284, January 1974, pp.43-44.  Back.

Note 69: Saideh Lotfian, “Threat Perception and Military Planning in Iran: Credible Scenarios of Conflict and Opportunities for Confidence Building” in Eric Arnett, ed., Military Capacity and the Risk of War: China, India, Pakistan and Iran (Oxford, 1997), p.211. The Iranians have been projecting this scenario mainly as a justification for building the Bushehr nuclear reactor, which is expected to provide future energy security.  Back.

Note 70: Dilip Hiro, “Caspian Gas: New Pipeline Benefits Iran”, Middle East International, n.568, 13 February 1998, p.16.  Back.

Note 71: Dilip Hiro, Between Marx and Muhammad: The Changing Face of Central Asia (London, 1994), p.324  Back.

Note 72: Winrow, n.8, p.251. Also see, Bahri Yilmaz, “Turkey’s New Role in International Politics”, Aussenpolitik (Hamburg), vol.45, no.1, 1994, pp.90-98  Back.

Note 73: FBIS, 18 February 1992.  Back.

Note 74: Middle East Economic Digest, 19 September 1992  Back.

Note 75: 8 January 1999  Back.

Note 76: The roots of ECO could be traced all the way to the Baghdad Pact in mid-fifties, which was renamed the Central Treaty Organization in late-fifties and the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) in 1964. The first two were military pacts, whereas the RCD was formed to provide economic, cultural and technical cooperation. In 1985, the RCD member-states — Iran, Pakistan and Turkey - renamed the group ECO.  Back.

Note 77: Interestingly, the Shah had proposed an enlargement of the RCD grouping to include India, Afghanistan and Iraq in the mid-seventies.  Back.

Note 78: The Islamic Renaissance Party was formed in Astrakhan in early June 1990 by some 200 Muslims from various parts of the Soviet Union. It advocated religious freedom for all, reform by peaceful means, a restructuring of the economy, taking greater account of the environment, and public recognition of what they saw as women’s primary role of home-building and child-rearing. The Tajik branch of the party was formed in October 1990 just outside Dushanbe. M. Atkin, “Islamic Assertiveness and the Waning of the Old Order”, Nationalities Papers (Agingdon, Oxon), Vol.20, No.1, Spring 1992, pp.63-64. Quoted in John Anderson, Religion, State and Politics in the Soviet Union and Successor States (Cambridge, 1994) p.201.  Back.

Note 79: Raymond Bonner, “Asian Republics Still Caught in the Web of Communism”, New York Times, 13 October 1993.  Back.

Note 80: There is a theory suggesting that the Turkification of the region was more linguistic than ethnic. After the introduction of Turkic elements to the region, many non-Turks came to identify themselves as Turks because of the change in their language. A conscious policy of historic falsification during the Soviet era and its continuance todate has led to a situation where the people are not aware of the Iranian dimension of their origins. Hunter, n. 59, p.101  Back.

Note 81: For the provisions of the agreement, see Dilip Hiro, “Tajikistan: Peace Pact Threatened”, Middle East International, n. 556, 8 August 1997, pp. 11-12.   Back.