Category Archives: South Caucasus Region

Iran’s “Game of Drones” in the Middle East [Gulf International Forum]

The further development of Iran’s drone program in recent years allowed it to produce a number of new classes of drones, such as the Shahid, Qasef, Mohajer, Samad, Ababeel, and, most recently, the Kaman, which is modeled on the U.S.-made MQ-1 Predator and advanced MQ-9 Reaper.

Amid mounting domestic unrest and ongoing diplomatic standoffs with regional states, Iran has devoted a significant and increasing amount of national resources toward upgrading its national drone program. On May 17, the Iranian government officially inaugurated its first overseas drone factory in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; the facility manufactures the indigenous Ababil-2, a multipurpose drone model with reconnaissance, combat, and suicide capabilities. The Ababil-2 boasts a maximum range of 200 kilometers and can sustain roughly 90 minutes of flight time. The new drone factory will help Iran to improve relations with Tajikistan after a period of lingering diplomatic tension, and General Mohammad Bagheri described its inauguration as a turning point in bilateral military cooperation between the two countries. Continue reading

How Will the Ukraine Crisis Shape the World Energy Market? [Politics Today]

Ukraine war: Can Russia's promise of fewer attacks be trusted? | Russia-Ukraine  war News | Al Jazeera

The Russian military aggression against Ukraine launched almost two months ago has clearly signaled a change in the traditional world order and triggered the unprecedented reaction of the Western coalition led by the U.S. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has left the global energy market uncertain, threatening to cause severe energy shortages and oil prices exceeding $110 per barrel.

Since the Russian intervention in Ukraine kicked off, numerous sanction packages have been imposed on Russia, hitting mostly financial institutes and state-owned companies. This resulted in Western countries’ consolidation, and the collective refusal of Russia-related transactions and import of Russian natural gas, oil, and coal.

Whereas the U.S. and UK-led Western coalition gathered to support Ukraine politically, economically, and military/technically, some EU countries are at loggerheads over demands for an immediate blockade on Russian oil imports, joining the international financial sanctions, and condemning Moscow’s actions locally.

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Different interpretations of the 10 November declaration lead to days of tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan [Karabakhspace.eu]

2020 Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement - Wikipedia

Different interpretations of the 10 November 2020 trilateral declaration which ended the 44 day Karabakh war resulted in an open sharp exchange between the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence and its Russian counterpart. “The Azerbaijani leadership is not in the mood to consider any concessions when it comes to the country’s territorial integrity”, writes Fuad Shahbazov in this op-ed for KarabakhSpace.eu.

More than a year after the signing of the 10 November ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia tensions in the Karabakh region again flared up in the last days, causing another round of war of words between Azerbaijan and Russia. The current discontent between Baku and Moscow seems more significant compared to August of 2021 when official Baku openly accused the Russian peace contingent in Karabakh of inaction while elements of the Armenian Armed Forces were transferred to this region. Continue reading

Iran is the Catalyst Behind the UAE-Turkey-Israel Geopolitical Axis [Inside Arabia]

Yavuz Ozden/dia images via Getty Images

Facing new security challenges in the Gulf region, the United Arab Emirates pushed for the normalization of ties with two other major regional powers – Israel and Turkey. The trilateral rapprochement could help the UAE reduce its national security risks stemming from Iran and its proxy forces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on February 14, for the first time since 2013, when Erdogan was still Prime Minister. Erdogan and his delegation’s visit were greeted with a 21-gun salute and a massive aerial show in Abu Dhabi.

The visit attracted much international media attention, as it was Erdogan’s first state visit to the UAE as President. This was of significance considering the deterioration of UAE-Turkey relations in the aftermath of the 2016 Turkish coup attempt. Tensions between the two countries were also considerably heightened during and in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutionary protests, with the two countries adopting opposing foreign policies.

The rapprochement of the two countries came at an uneasy time given the escalating strains between Iran and Israel, the renewed hostilities between the Houthis and the Saudi-UAE-led coalition in Yemen, and the deepening economic crisis in Turkey. Continue reading

Putin’s War in Ukraine Is Putting Azerbaijan in a Bind [World Politics Review]

President Ilham Aliyev and President Vladimir Putin sign "Declaration on allied interaction between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation", Moscow, Russia, February 22, 2022 / President.Az

President Ilham Aliyev and President Vladimir Putin sign “Declaration on allied interaction between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation”, Moscow, Russia, February 22, 2022 / President.Az

On Feb. 22, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited Moscow at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin at what was a sensitive moment—just a day after Moscow officially recognized the independence of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and a day before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country.

The main agenda of Aliyev’s visit was to sign a new declaration that upgraded the two countries’ relationship to one of “allied cooperation.” The declaration expresses both sides’ intention of strengthening cooperation across a wide range of fields, including regional security issues, military ties, energy, and trade, while calling for mutual consultations on joint efforts in international organizations, with the aim “to protect the interests of Azerbaijan and Russia.” It builds on two previous agreements signed between the two countries in 1997 and 2008 that elevated their relationship to a strategic partnership. Continue reading

How Will the New China-Russia Gas Deal Affect the Ukraine Crisis? [Politics Today]

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meet in Beijing, China on February 4, 2022. Photo by Kremlin Press Office

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meet in Beijing, China on February 4, 2022. Photo by Kremlin Press Office

Amid escalating tensions between Moscow and the West over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to China to finalize the negotiations over a new $80 billion natural gas agreement. On February 4, Gazprom signed an agreement with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to supply Russian gas to China via the Far Eastern route for the next 25 years, which will boost Russian gas volumes to China by an extra 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year.

Unlike the previous Russia-China gas agreement on the Power of Siberia pipeline, which is being built for the last five years, the new agreement does not entail the construction of an additional pipeline network. Although the Western media dubbed this agreement unexpected, the negotiations over the agreement lasted six years and resulted in the signing of memoranda of understanding in 2015 and 2017, respectively. Russia has long aimed to capitalize on its vast hydrocarbon resources to cater to China’s increasing liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand. The agreement was signed at a time of an uneasy geopolitical situation between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, which prepares for the full-scale war with Russia. In this vein, it is significant that the new gas agreement was settled in euros in an effort by both Moscow and Beijing to diversify away from trade in U.S. dollars.

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Europe Won’t Make Up for Shortfalls of Russian Gas Easily [World Politics Review]

Photo credit: CNBC News

Photo credit: CNBC News

The current crisis between Russia and Ukraine has put the United States and its European allies on high alert over the possibility of the first major interstate military conflict in Europe since World War II. Although efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis continue, the room for a mutually acceptable outcome has narrowed now that the U.S. and NATO have rejected Russia’s demands that no additional NATO troops be deployed to Eastern Europe, while continuing to provide arms and other aid to Ukraine.

Apart from the concerns the crisis has raised over European security and Russian revanchism, Europe is also particularly alarmed about the potential for major disruptions in its energy market, which is highly dependent on Russian oil and gas. Indeed, a military invasion of Ukraine could create an energy catastrophe in Europe if it results in Russian gas exports being cut entirely. The diplomatic fallout from an invasion could also trigger the cancellation of current energy projects within the European Union, such as the Nord Stream-2 pipeline to Germany, which would have long-term implications for European energy supplies. Continue reading

The prospect of six-party regional cooperation in the South Caucasus

Photo Credit: Daily Sabah

Photo Credit: Daily Sabah

On October 6, 2021, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian in Moscow to discuss regional security and economic cooperation, and to address important concerns regarding the crisis in the South Caucasus. During the joint press conference, Lavrov repeatedly highlighted the idea of a “3+3 cooperation format” including the three South Caucasus states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – plus their three large neighbors, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, to focus on unlocking economic and transport communications in the region. The first meeting within the format took place in Moscow on December 2021; however, Georgia refused to take part. Moreover, recent tensions in the region between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Azerbaijan and Iran suggest that the proposed format will not generate visible positive outcomes.

BACKGROUND: After the second Karabakh war, Turkey revealed its intention to establish a 3+3 cooperation format in the South Caucasus, including Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia along with Turkey, Russia and Iran, with the intention to boost intraregional economic cooperation and new transit links. The initiative was received positively by Russia and Iran, much less so by Georgia and Armenia given the security situation of these countries. For Armenia, participation in the format along with Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the large-scale conflict seems challenging, as Yerevan has avoided agreements on any land trade corridors with Azerbaijan as long as disagreements over borders remain unsettled. In the case of Georgia, Russia’s participation in the format spells a danger of negative repercussions. Continue reading

Regional Tensions Could Trigger Energy Deficit in Karabakh

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 177

Last September, long-brewing strains between Iran and Azerbaijan reached an unprecedented level, resulting in the deployment of troops and large-scale military drills by both sides. The most immediate trigger was the Azerbaijani authorities’ arrest of two Iranian truck drivers on Armenia’s Goris–Kapan highway (which partially straddles the undelimited portion of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border) for illegally entering the territory of Azerbaijan (Turan, September 15; see EDM, October 627). In addition to Baku’s and Tehran’s rival demonstrative military exercises near the two countries’ shared border, their mutual diplomatic rhetoric became even more aggressive. Inadvertently or not, Baku’s blockade of the road for Iranian trucks also notably spotlighted Iran’s energy exports to Karabakh. Continue reading

The Pallone Amendment and US Military Assistance to Azerbaijan in Context

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 128

On July 28, The United States’ House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2022 Foreign Aid Bill proposed by Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chair Frank Pallone to restrict US foreign military financing and training assistance to Azerbaijan. According to the amendment, Azerbaijan is banned from receiving any military aid under International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FME) programs (Armenpress, July 29).

While this decision was widely cheered in Armenia, it passed by largely unnoticed in Azerbaijan, even though US military aid to the country had become an object of frequent debate in recent years, particularly during the years of the Donald Trump administration. The White House’s attention to the region at that time was emphasized by the visit of then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, in October of 2018 (see EDM, October 29, 2018). The Trump administration’s main interest in Azerbaijan mostly revolved around that country’s role in strategically important trans-regional energy projects (Southern Gas Corridor) as well as its proximity to the Middle East antagonist Iran. Hence, the growing bilateral cooperation between Washington and Baku resulted in a short-term influx of military aid allocated to Azerbaijan, estimated at around $58.6 million in 2018 and $42.9 million in 2019, respectively. Continue reading