by Elvir Mammadov

IIran’s international standing is currently under slow, but significant change due to the recently signed nuclear deal with the global powers group of “P5+1”. The South Caucasus region will be one of the primary influenced regions by such a sharp turn in the history of Iran. Turning back to the recent history of Iran’s foreign policy towards the South Caucasus, it can be seen that Tehran has found itself in unpleasant situation and unprepared to build up effective ties with the countries because of certain objective reasons. Emerged regional conflicts suddenly after the collapse of the Soviet Union between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and in Georgia with its two breakaway territories caused more difficulties for Iran’s foreign policy towards the region. The targets put in the beginning for integration into the region has ended up with a defensive and limited position for Iran in the South Caucasus.

Compared to other regional and global powers, Iran was following a defensive policy by offsetting external threats in the region. The Western powers (mainly the US-Turkey-Israel) were presenting a major source of threat to Iran in Georgia and Azerbaijan, where they could allocate their resources and isolate Tehran from the regional energy projects. Thus deepening armed conflicts in the region and other external powers engagement caused a considerable change in Tehran’s foreign policy towards the region’s countries. A real politic course has been a central foreign policy approach for Iran. This policy is serving to secure its interests, counter adversaries’ menace and survive in the isolation situation rather than religious ideology, what can easily explain Iran’s solidity with Christian Armenia and entangled relations with Muslim Azerbaijan. This foreign policy course is based on the threat-perception and counter-balancing principles driven from a pragmatic analysis.

During the last two decades, Iran did not have sufficient economic and political resources to play a key role in the South Caucasus. Deepening conflicts and joining of other external powers to the region’s political processes made Iran’s relations more knotty. The pragmatic and realist politics of Iran came closer to Armenia with its energy project leaving Azerbaijan-Iran relations complicated and fraught in the result of nationalist and pro-western policy of the second Azeri president Abulfez Aliyev. After a long period of time, Iran will again have a chance to engage in the regional political and economic processes with its significant geographic location and landmass positioning in the east-west route. It must be admitted that Iran will have enough capacity and potential to play an important role in geopolitical process of the South Caucasus due to the growing economy, increasing foreign investment and re-established friendly relations with Western powers. Well-organized and managed economic and political resources will enable Iran to shape an influence-expanding policy rather than defensive and counter-balancing in the South Caucasus. This kind of turn in foreign policy can make Tehran more reliable partner for the region and encourage its contribution for a peaceful resolution of the regional conflicts as it was in the beginning of 1990s.

The whole article will be publishing in the online journal BHKK Műhely Issue 1, March 2016