Russians come running: After the Caspian Sea, Russians come for the Persian Gulf

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By Reza Taghizadeh
Source: Kayhan London, translated by The Free Iranian Staff

 

The growing tension between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf has created a new opportunity for expanding the political and military cooperation between Russia and Tehran’s regime. This is a development that could, considering the Kremlin’s calculated steps, result in the presence of the Russian navy on Iran’s southern shores, a culmination of the 400-year old strategic initiative of the Tsars.

Tehran’s officials, under growing pressure from the Russians, easily sold out Iran’s rights in its northern waters, the considerable deep-sea resources of the Caspian Sea, by signing the ‘Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea’ during the Kazakhstan summit.

This controversial move ended thirty years of opposition to dividing the current water and deep-sea resources of the Caspian Sea, which is a legacy of internal splits in the Soviet republics under Nikita Khrushchev’s rule.

In addition to the historical repercussions of giving up parts of Iran’s national boundary, the security risks of the Islamist regime’s capitulation, to sharing the Caspian Sea according to the will of the other four neighboring countries instead of mutual possession (at least in the middle of the sea), is not less than the financial loss.

Iran, as one of two major powers bordering the world’s largest lake (Caspian Sea), on the south side, should have insisted on its legal rights based on the “equity and justice” principle, and should have safeguarded its position in using and preserving the resources of the Caspian Sea.

It’s a shame that after Soviet Union’s disintegration, the Islamist regime’s rulers, due to their ineptitude and weakness, gave more concessions to the Russians, rather than use the situation to compensate for Iran’s stolen rights.

Retreating after 25 years of wavering

Tehran’s officials have offered numerous worthless justifications for accepting the imposed Caspian Sea Convention, but they avoid answering this simple question: “what has changed about the Caspian Sea and Iran’s rights within the last 25 years that made Rouhani’s government accept the recent convention?”

On May 6, 2013, Mehdi Akhondzadeh, the regime President’s counsellor on the Caspian Sea, and an official in the foreign ministry, asserted that “Iran’s right regarding the Caspian Sea is not less than that of Russia’s, it’s even more.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a press conference after their meeting in Moscow, Russia September 2, 2019. Credit: YURI KOCHETKOV/​EPA-EFE/​Shutterstock

Rouhani has to answer whether he and Javad Zarif lie, or Mehdi Akhondzadeh did.

Hassan Rouhani and Javad Zarif easily undermined the 1921 and 1940 treaties by capitulating to the new legal convention, and so they must answer clearly, what has Iran gained by capitulating to the new convention that it did not have before?

In 2013, in an interview with the regime-run IRNA news agency, Akhondzadeh asserted, in regard to the Caspian Sea Convention’s summit framework, that “the 1921 and 1940 treaties between Iran and the Soviet Union are valid, and we refer to those treaties until we reach a new agreement.” In the same interview, Akhondzadeh said: ”No boundaries were defined between Iran and the Soviet Union with regard to the to the Caspian Sea, the land borderlines of Iran and the Soviet Union were defined, but according to the considerations and the spirit of 1921 and 1940 treaties, under which the Caspian Sea was named the Sea of Iran and the Soviet Union, our understanding is that if anything should happen in the domains of this sea, Tehran and Moscow should enjoy an equal share as parties of this treaty.”

Seven years later, after accepting Russia’s imposed scheme under the guise of the “New Legal Convention of the Caspian Sea,” without any changes in the stance of the other four neighboring countries, which Tehran called “illegal” several times, the Islamic regime traded away the 1921 and 1940 treaties, which could have been used as the basis for demanding Iran’s fair rights, and by so doing practically gave Russia absolute power in the Caspian Sea, confining Iran to a narrow and shallow water line along the Hossein Gholi and Astara borderlines.

Receiving the Russians at the southern waters

During the Syrian civil war between anti-Assad forces and the dispatched Iranian and Russian troops who fought alongside the Syrian regime forces, Russian Tu 34 and Tu 160 bomber jets flew from Iran’s Hamadan air base to Aleppo on the pretext of shortening the distance of bombing the anti-Assad forces.

The Islamist regime admitted the Russian air force’s presence in Iran only after several reports and pictures were broadcast in the media, but they denied giving the air base to the Russians.

Russia’s bombing campaign, using Iran’s air base, has continued since 2014.

Allowing Russia to use Iran’s soil to attack Syria occurs despite article 146 of the Islamist regime’s constitution, “establishing any foreign military base, even for peaceful purposes in Iran is banned.”

Tehran’s officials perverted the spirit of article 176 of that constitution, which stipulates: “Exploiting the country’s financial and spiritual capabilities against internal and external threats,” by allowing the High Council for National Security to make the decision permitting the Russians to use the air base. By doing this, Tehran’s officials crossed a line further than Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, that accepted two heavy Russian bombers to counter the opposition’s threats and nullify the chances of Juan Guido to form a government.

The Russians have made inroads to maintain their presence in Bander-e-Bushehr and Chabahar ports in order to wield their influence as a major player in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, while the Islamist regime attempts to downplay their allowing the Russians to temporarily and permanently use the military bases.

The onset of this scheme involves joint military exercises of Russian navy ships with Iranian naval units in the Indian Ocean near the Strait of Hormuz. In the next phase, Russian naval units will be allowed to maintain a presence in Bandar-e-Bushehr and Chabahar, on the pretext of offering technical services and training cooperation.

On Monday, August 5th, Hossein Khanzadi, the Islamist regime’s navy’s commander in chief, who had travelled to Russia a week before, reported a “confidential” military contract with Moscow and told   reporters that “the clauses of this agreement are classified” but “this is the first time that such an agreement is arranged between the two countries.” On the same day, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, who took part in a news conference with Javad Zarif, announced that “Tehran has welcomed Russia’s suggestion to provide security in the Persian Gulf.”

What the Russian foreign minister meant by “providing security in the Persian Gulf” is the participation of Russia’s navy in sea patrols, and maintaining a presence in Iranian national waters, in other words subjugating two Iranian ports.

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