It has been almost one year since the IV Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, where the presidents of the five Caspian states signed a political declaration that denied any foreign military presence in the Caspian Sea.
This means that possible future deployment of NATO forces in the area will not be allowed. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, this declaration “sets out a fundamental principle for guaranteeing stability and security, namely, that only the Caspian littoral states have the right to have their armed forces present on the Caspian.” The Caspian Sea has been a relative strategic backwater for most of history, which begs the question: why are Russia and Iran, in particular, so interested in protecting the sovereignty of Caspian waters now?
In 1722, Tsar Peter the Great created Russia’s Caspian Flotilla. At the Flotilla’s headquarters shines a plaque still today with a quote from him that says, “Our interests will never allow any other nation to claim the Caspian Sea.” This has been the case for centuries as no state dared to challenge Russia over the Caspian. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and formal recognition of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan as sovereign independent states, things in the Caspian have begun to take a more interesting turn.
The Caspian Sea holds about 40 billion barrels of oil and is second to the Persian Gulf in regards to the size of oil and gas reserves. When Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan gained sovereignty after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, they contracted with Western oil majors to explore the Caspian’s untapped potential. However, figuring out which state controls what in the area has remained an extremely fickle endeavor. Even though some of the states have settled with bilateral treaties to divide the sea, many boundaries remain uncertain. A project called the “Trans-Caspian Pipeline” is one of the issues that the states have difficulty agreeing on. Turkmenistan would like this project to begin in order for them to ship natural gas to Azerbaijan and then on to Europe but Russia and Iran do not agree.
This tension has led to slight conflicts between the Caspian littorals. In 2001, Iran used jets and a warship to threaten a BP research vessel prospecting on behalf of Azerbaijan in an area that each country thought was their own. In 2008, there was another case of uncertain boundaries when Azerbaijan used gunboats to threaten oil rigs operated by Malaysian and Canadian companies who were working for Turkmenistan because these companies were operating in an area close to the water border between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. In 2009, an Iranian oil rig accidentally entered waters that belonged to Azerbaijan. Rather than the show of strength it performed in 2008 with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan instead did nothing and complained about being powerless against an aggressive Iran.
So, back to the original question, why do Russia and Iran care so much about keeping foreign militaries, especially the United States and United Nations, out of the Caspian? Do they share the same ideas and reasoning? Looking at the Trans-Caspian Pipeline, this project would allow Turkmenistan to sell natural gas in a way that exclusively benefits itself and those they sell to. If this happened Russia might see a decrease in its energy sales, since it would be available elsewhere, but the real heart of the matter would be the loss of Russian strategic soft power. It is not interested in seeing any state, Caspian or Western, compromise its ability to dictate power through natural resources. This has always been an important aspect of Caspian control for Russia.
In 2013, Russia’s crude oil, petroleum, and natural gas exports made up 68% of their total export revenue for that year. 14% of this was natural gas sold to Europe. According to Dmitry Shlapentokh, professor of Soviet and post-Soviet history, “Russia is strongly against the project for a trans-Caspian pipeline carrying gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and may threaten to use military force should the two former Soviet republics decide to go ahead regardless.” This is a problem not only for Turkmenistan, but also carries over to the current issue of Russia and Iran preventing a UN or US military base in the area. If there was a Western base in the Caspian region, then Russia’s expectation of being able to ‘persuade’ Caspian littoral states when needed could become much more complicated.
So not only could Russia be worried about the financial and strategic implications of foreign militaries in the Caspian, there might also be another factor: namely, the relationship between Russia and the United States. After Russia decided to get involved in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and allowed for the annexation referendum in Crimea, tensions have been high. The sanctions that were implemented by the West in response represented the toughest action taken against Russia since the peak of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Having a Western military forces in the Caspian area could certainly deter Russia from possibly making the same type of foreign policy decisions to its other neighbors which, if this was an option Russia wishes to keep, could be why Russia has worked to prevent foreign militaries in the Caspian.
But why would Iran care? Does Iran agree with Russia’s foreign policies so much that it is willing to push as hard as Russia? Or is there another factor that is driving Iran’s decisions? Recently, the nuclear accord struck with Iran and which the US Congress could not block, has been front and center in Western media. The majority of Americans believe that Iran will break the agreement. If Iran does have plans to break the deal, or wishes to have that option available to it strategically, a US or UN military base or military forces in the area could stop such plans from becoming explicitly realistic.
The decision to block foreign militaries from the Caspian Sea is a threat to the strategic interests of America and, to a lesser extent, the EU. Potentially, it could have negative repercussions on energy security. By removing any Western military influence in the region, Russia will be able to maintain the regional hegemony it considers its natural birthright. In addition to that, Iran will be able to ensure greater strategic flexibility moving forward with the nuclear accord. While in the West these maneuvers will inevitably be portrayed as dangerous and destabilizing, some credence must be given to the Caspian littoral states, especially Iran and Russia, for how dangerous and destabilizing they themselves might see foreign militaries operating freely in their own backyards upon Caspian waters. As the old adage goes, what you see depends largely upon where you stand. This seems especially apropos when trying to figure out the complexity of military life in the Caspian.
 Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.
 Dettoni, J. (2014, October 1). Russia and Iran lock NATO out of Caspian Sea. Retrieved from http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/russia-and-iran-lock-nato-out-of-caspian-sea/
 Kucera, J. (2012, June 22). The Great Caspian Arms Race. Retrieved from http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/06/22/the-great-caspian-arms-race/
 Metzel, M. (2014, September 29). Real breakthrough reached at 4th Caspian summit – Putin. Retrieved from http://tass.ru/en/russia/751856
 United States Energy Information Administration. (2014, July 23). Oil and natural gas sales accounted for 68% of Russia’s total export revenues in 2013. Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=17231
 Dettoni, J. (2014, October 1). Russia and Iran lock NATO out of Caspian Sea. Retrieved from http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/russia-and-iran-lock-nato-out-of-caspian-sea/
 Agiesta, J. (2015, September 13). Poll: Americans skeptical Iran will stick to nuclear deal. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/13/politics/iran-nuclear-deal-poll/
India Acquiring Thermonuclear Weapons: Where Is The Global Outcry?
The atomic bomb revolutionized modern warfare not by enabling the mass slaughter of civilians but by vastly increasing its efficiency—the ease with which densely populated cities could be annihilated. Many of the crucial details are top secret, and the mundane terms used in official discussions tend to hide the apocalyptic consequences at stake.
A new nuclear arms race has begun to match each other’s overkill capacity. The new nuclear arms race does not center’s on the number of weapons but it depends on the qualitative refinement of nuclear capabilities and their increasing deadlines.
Recent nuclear missile tests by India show that India is blatantly flaunting its nuclear power vertically, posturing as tough and responsible “protectors” while in reality it puts the world at large risk. This attitude from Indian side of continuous arming herself up is alarming for the region to a greater extent.
When we shuffle the pages of history, it appears that India – a champion of nuclear disarmament during much of the Cold War – reversed its position in the 1990s. With the passage of time their double standards have led them built their nuclear arsenal at a faster pace. Former Indian governments’ position was – that nuclear weapons are unacceptable weapons of mass destruction designed to slaughter civilians – no longer holds sway in New Delhi.
Perhaps equally distressing is the behavior of the international community that up till now failed to loudly condemn India for their continuous missile and nuclear development program.After critically analyzing the current and past events one can come to know that the world powers and so called pundits of nuclear disarmament failed to criticize the actions of India to a greater extent. In contraststates have responded with deafening silence or worse: a renewed focus on rearmament. These moves by India creates incentives – or perhaps a pretext – for other states to develop similar arms.
India even after acquiring nuclear weapons is yet not internationally recognized as a nuclear-weapons state under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India detonated its first plutonium device, which it called a “peaceful nuclear explosive” in 1974. Again in 1998, it tested its first nuclear weapons under the ambit of peaceful nuclear explosion. Since India conducted its tests in 1998, India has undergone impressive developments for both its nuclear program and missile arsenal.
It is necessary to expose these myths and highlight the existing realities. India sees its nuclear weapons capacity to be an integral part of its vision as a great power, and its nuclear program is important for both its prestige and security doctrine. Currently, India is increasingly developing its nuclear capabilities that could potentially support the development of thermonuclear weapons, raising the stakes in an arms race with China and Pakistan. These revelations highlights that India is expanding its weapons and enriching uranium in addition to plutonium. India’s nuclear deal with the United States (US) and the granting of a waiver for importing nuclear materials (which must be for non-military purposes) allows it to use more of its indigenously produced nuclear material for weapons. India is has also heavily invested in research on using thorium in reactors (or even potentially weapons), which will free up its other nuclear material for weapons. India hopes to soon operate thorium reactors.
Meanwhile, the US Foreign Policy magazine in 2012 reported that India had built two top-secret facilities at Challakere, Karnataka. These sites would be the South Asia’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories and weapons and aircraft-testing facilities. The research further stated that further says that another of the project’s aim is “to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal. Despite these activities, the US and its Western allies are busy selling nuclear reactors and material to India for commercial gains and advocating its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
None of the South Asian states believe the common story of India’s nuclear program—that India developed nuclear weapons in response to China’s or Pakistan’s nuclear program. Nuclear test of India was an extension of India’s aspiration to become a great power. It is beyond doubt that as long as the international community focuses its efforts on “irresponsible” nuclear behavior, such as proliferation and nuclear testing, global nuclear disarmament will remain difficult to achieve.
The Original Sin of Space
There has been a lot of talk in the news these past several months about the current American administration’s interest in the creation of a new ‘Space Force,’ both in serious terms and in comedic light. This perhaps has distracted people from realizing just how much ‘space’ has been an important and expansive part of American national security and is increasingly crucial to 21st century global security across many different countries.
A brief history of this domain shows that a military element has always been part of the American conceptualization of space and its usefulness. After all, there were satellites even before there was a NASA. In fact, DARPA (the secretive and to most Americans mysterious Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) was created FIRST. This in turn made some fairly wise minds in Washington realize it might behoove the nation to create a more open, civilian-oriented agency that could proudly toot the country’s space achievements with full transparency while the more national security-oriented DARPA could remain behind-the-scenes and out of the limelight. Thus, peaceful exploration and the advancement of national security science have always been closely and strategically aligned for Americans when it comes to the final frontier. It also means the American understanding of space as an important domain for the projection and maintenance of power.
It is because of this innate duality from the very beginning that most of the extensive legal acts and treaties that have developed over the decades have not always made every important area of cosmic definition and demarcation explicit. Locational sovereignty, territoriality, type of mechanisms used, definition of technological purpose, and many other important concepts are still left a bit open for creative interpretation when it comes to objects in space. This was perhaps not such a major concern when space was basically dominated exclusively by the United States with no real rival competitors on the near horizon. But today sees the emergence of several so-called near-peer competitors who may or may not share the same interests about the utilization of space as America. The opinions and ultimate behaviors of countries like China, Russia, and India, to name a few, will become paramount vis-à-vis this overall lack of legal and diplomatic space specificity.
This criticism isn’t even about the frustrating inability to definitively acknowledge the difference between ‘militarization’ and ‘weaponization,’ something that has been relatively analyzed in the past decade. After all, the reality today is that 95% of all satellites launched into orbit are ‘dual-use.’ Ostensibly this means that while the formally pronounced purpose for most satellites is commercial and non-military, they can all be easily converted on the fly (pun intended) so that they suddenly become quite strategically militaristic and weaponized, or at least connected to a weaponized system. Again, none of this seemed overly concerning or dangerous when space was the habitat of a single country that also happened to dominate the on-the-ground global economy and military development races. But the horizon that once seemed incredibly distant, or even possibly fictitious, is now unbelievably closer than anyone could have guessed just a decade ago. That dominance is now not so dominant.
This is why before anyone, America included, gets more serious about talks to create an active space force of any kind, it would be better for the global community to fix what was space’s ‘original sin.’ These once benign ambiguities in past space treaties have now been combined with malignant ambiguities in present-day space technologies that create a critically dangerous new domain with far more than just a single dominant player. These grey areas of space potentiality provide ample opportunity for friend and foe alike to manipulate and provoke new areas of conflict between states on the global stage. With no global consensus, formal rules, explicit restrictions, vague definitions, and ambiguous legal interpretations, what could possibly go wrong?
At the moment, there seems to be an international presumption that space is a ‘new’ thing and thus modern concepts of global governance, peace mediation, and weapons-free are the natural characteristics that will dominate the domain. This is dangerous because of how historically inaccurate it is when it comes to man’s presence and purpose in space. Since space has always had within it the potential for being a domain for warmaking (and states saw it as such literally from the very beginning that they began to make technology to reach it), there need to be concrete steps taken today to ‘correct’ the ambiguities of the past. This demands the creation not just of a single space force by a single country, but an internationally-created and consensus-governed multination alone. This is the path most likely to result in moving forward focused on the peaceful advancements in science that space exploration inevitably brings, rather than focused on the powerful innovations in weapons and military strategy that also comes with space exploration. This science-dominant focus for peace might also result in the creation of new legal projects that the majority of the world (and the most powerful players more importantly) will sign on to and obey. For now there are not only no such legal projects being drafted with this purpose in mind, there really aren’t any states or non-state organizations clamoring for the need to do so. There is just so much innocent assumption about the natural good and righteousness of space. It is not that these assumptions are entirely erroneous. It is just that these hopes are too easily toppled when space’s original sin is not addressed.
So, if the ultimate desire is to see space develop into a domain that only represents the best of humanity and the peaceful advancement of technology for all of humanity’s progress and prosperity, then international organizations the world over need to start being a bit less naïve, a bit more honest, and a bit more ambitious. After all, one country’s space force can just as easily be another country’s space invader.
The role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with regional terrorism
The creation of a Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq was a great step that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) took to increase the military power of the people and the army against ISIL, which caused to open the blind knot of the confused Iraqi crisis in a large extent.
The onset of the political crisis in Iraq and Syria led regional and transnational actors to pursue a particular policy in the face of insecurity, based on their own interests. Given the geopolitical and geostrategic significance of the two countries in Southwest Asia, the approaches of each of these actors differed in their dealings with the story. Strategies and policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, compared to some supporters of chaos and insecurity in the field of foreign policy based on religious teachings, rationality, interests of the Islamic nation and national interests, It is therefore very different from the contradictory and shaky policies of the governments contending to fight terrorism, human rights and democracy.
Change the rule of game in Syria
With the onset of the Syrian crisis and the role of regional and transnational states that were largely in the interests of the terrorists and rioters, Iran also expressed its willingness to resolve the crisis with Syria’s desire. Initially, activities began on diplomacy, and Iran was able to play a diplomatic role, and invited some countries, such as Russia and China, to play a more active presence in the Syrian case. Despite the effective efforts in this field, Iran came to the conclusion that not all diplomacy capacities could be used to cope with insecurity and they have to pursue the issues more seriously. Although this presence declaration was not so favorable to the US and its allies, it was natural that the national interests of each country, such as Iran, were at the head of national security, and our country also has a tolerance border to these areas. The Islamic Republic of Iran could not simply witness the crisis of various confrontational and terrorist groups and their supporters in the region, with only the role of spectator in the scene. Defense policy of Iran in MENA region has based on the principles , therefore on the basis of these principles, Iran protects the sovereignty of legitimate and legal governments. Naturally, due to the principled belief of the Islamic Republic of Iran about the sovereignty of the Syrian people to determine their political destiny, the support of the legal government of the country against insurgents was emphasized as a general principle in foreign policy. In the battlefield and defense policy, the Syrian government faced turbulence on the one hand, which was gradually expanding its influence, and on the other hand, US and its allies make any attempt to support terrorists militarily and financially. The Syrian government’s approach and its defense policy to deal with this crisis was accompanied by weaknesses and in the set of these approaches, there was little efficiency to solve the problem.
The weakness in identifying the causes and sources of insecurity and the lack of use of the popular mobilization in dealing with terrorists and the unfamiliarity of the Syrian classical army with urban warfare led to a more complicated crisis. The presence of these factors led Syria to invite Iran to fight the terrorists, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), as the executive arm of the regime, went to this country for guidance and controversial activities. With the presence of the IRGC in the area and the use of military advisories by the Iranian forces, the Syrian army began to regain defenses, and practically with changing the rules of the game, the terrorist attacks were stopped in many areas. It was so; the classical Syrian army has developed its defense capability in dealing with terrorists and has been able to learn urban warfare techniques with the help of the IRGC’s training and Finding a defense policy with the lowest casualties. Using the power and capacity of the popular mobilization and communication with tribes and tribesmen, as well as the followers of religions and different creeds and the intelligence assistance provided by the Syrian army, put the terrorists in a state of turmoil. Those countries who had pursued the Syrian conflict on the basis of their arrogant goals , now saw their hopes unattainable.
Westerners and other supporters of the terrorist currents in this situation were completely concerned about the changing circumstances on the battlefield and tried to accuse Iran of military intervention in Syria. Although it was very good at first glance on its interest, but the release of documents from the insurgents proved that Western, Arabian and Hebrew axis support Terrorist and Takfiri groups in obvious and hidden. Along with this, the victory of the Axis of Resistance in Aleppo as a result of the military assistance and military advisories of IRGC and the widespread use of mass mobilization was a turning point in the Syrian case, strengthening the Syrian government’s position to continue to confront the insurgents and Terrorist groups. The influential role of the IRGC in Syria has led advocates of terrorism, especially the United States, who used to take all the necessary tools to weaken Iran’s position in the region, Following the developments on the Syrian front, they were forced to confess the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran to resolve the crisis and urge Iran to engage in Syrian settlement talks.
When ISIL borders narrowed
The rise of ISIL as a terrorist power in Iraq and Syria has caused changes in equations in the region since a few years ago. The rapid progress of the Takfiri (unbeliever) group in the Iraqi crisis had created difficult conditions. The ISIL have faced little resistance of IRAQ and Syria. The combat capability of this terrorist group and the support of the Arab countries of the region on the one hand, and the apparent betrayal of some of the commanders of the middle classes of the Iraqi Army and the Ba’athist survivors of the Saddam Hussein era, It provided the ground for the Takfiri group to flourish in military arena like a rebel horse for a long time and occupy vast sections of Iraq’s five major provinces. In those days, Invisible whispers of some US-led countries was announced, the formation of an unlucky coalition would be called in the name of the anti-ISIL coalition, but its initial rumblings fell from the very first days of its formation. The bitter satire was that some of the Arab and European countries that participated in this coalition were the main suppliers of financial and weaponry of ISIL. The US and European advanced aircraft fighters targeted civilians instead of bombing the positions of this takfiri (unbeliever) group.
Naturally, these promotional measures did not contribute to containment of terrorism but it was also strengthened it. Since Iran saw the lack of integrity between participating members as the most important reason for the failure of the coalition, has pursued another path to assist the Iraqi people to repel ISIL. Arms assistance and advisory services to the army and volunteer groups in Iraq were one of the effective ways for Iran to eliminate this intrigue. For example, Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish region of Iraq, said in a news conference that Tehran has provided weapons to Peshmerga forces. We demanded weapons and Iran was the first country to provide us weapons. The creation of a Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq was a great step that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) took to increase the military power of the people and the army against ISIL, which caused to open the blind knot of the confused Iraqi crisis in a large extent. The successful operation of the IRGC in Iraq’s field greatly weakened the role of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition in the country and raised Iran’s position as the guiding and the leadership of the resistance. The military and intellectual confrontation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps with ISIL as the most dangerous combat force against the resistance axis, while limiting the sphere of influence and the circle of their activities, has also led to the defense of Iraq’s territorial integrity. The IRGC’s advisory operations in Iraq led to mobilization of different a range of country including the Kurds, Sunni tribes and Shi’a Hadesh al-Sha’bi against ISIL, and retreating terrorists and Takfiris (unbeliever) from the occupied territories. The other thing was that as a result of these efforts, the ghost of war and chaos that had shadowed Iran’s border lines in the early days had been forbidden hundreds of kilometers away.
Meanwhile, the role of Major General Hajj. Qassim Soleimani is undeniable. The nations of the region considered him as one of the greatest saviors. Therefore, the Strength of the IRGC in resolute clash with regional terrorists has increased our soft power for boosting bargaining and growing popularity in other countries.
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