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Iran’s Energy Interests in the Contemporary World

Nargiz Hajiyeva

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]n today’s shifting world order, energy geopolitics subjects to nation-states’ political and economic interests rather than physical control of energy resources. It also refers to the pivotal ability to impose prices on energy products, even to gain broad access to the wealthy energy resources through imposing leverage power by wealthy states over other countries in order to retain their multi-dimensional access to well-off energy reservoirs.

The geo-energetic policy of nation-states mainly focuses on the acquiring accessibility to affluent natural resources in other countries in order to provide their basic demands and needs with respect to energy resources.

Upon the lifting of sanction over Iran, there have been appropriate chances and possibilities in order to retake geostrategic and political steps towards other regions, mostly the Caspian Basin, and the Gulf region, and then reintegrate into international energy marketplace to export its energy products and services. Although amid the sanction period of Iran imposed by the UN, Iran was deprived of the involvement of the foreign investments in its energy sector, its production of natural gas did neither observe a significant decrease amid the sanction period nor did it escalate much. After 2012, when the sanction was going to be far more severe, Iran’s natural gas production fell slightly but went up again in 2014.

In spite of the sanction, Iran was eager to make cooperation with Russia properly in the field of energy in order to increase its influence in major regions regarding the Caspian Basin and the Gulf region respectively. Iran also tried to evade from the restrictions and pressures of the U.S and was engaged in series of oil and gas deals including Brazilian Petrobras, Chinese Sinopec and in particular India in order to achieve balance and provide its domestic consumptions in the energy sector.

The West’s coercive diplomacy (sanctions) put some barriers on Iran for its emergence as a major oil and gas exporter, because of the fact that the sanction limited the access to foreign investments in its important energy fields. At that time, the multilateral relations with Brazil, India, and China concerned the European States and put their interests under pressure to secure access to Iranian gas. Together with the UN sanctions, Western governments forced its energy industries to cut off relations with Iran because of its aggressive and controversial nuclear program.

Despite those kinds of efforts by the West, Russia, China and other developing countries had in mind to enlarge cooperation with Iran and in turn, Iran also showed its willingness toward multi-sided cooperation in conjunction with its geo-energetic positions. Moreover, Russian also emphasized that it has always shown huge interests in cooperation with Iran and therefore, the sanctions by the West will not be able to impede Iran’s energetic activities and relations with other countries and even with Russia. In 2010, Russia signed the new-fangled roadmap agreements with Iran concerning the future development of cooperation in the oil and gas sectors. Like Russia, other major developing countries, including China, India, and Pakistan also exhibit more willingness to close cooperation with Iran in order to not only uphold balance and security in volatile energy but also provide their energy interests and demands. Today, Iran is strategically located at the heart of potential energy pipelines routes that give it leverage power to affect the geostrategic decisions of the neighboring countries.

The significant role of Iran in the energy market can be interpreted with two possible reasons. The first factor is that Iran holds nearly 10% (158 bbl.) of the world’s oil reserves as a possessor of fourth largest oil reserves and almost 18 % (34 tcm) of the gas reservoirs as the second largest holder of natural gas globally. The second reason is related to the geo-energetic position of Iran. Currently, Iran has large-scale geopolitical possibility in terms of its geographical location: on the one side, it has a huge potential to facilitate trade between East and West, on the other side, it can be able to use the energy factor as a geostrategic and political weapon in order to engender threats and challenges toward the countries.  

Iran’s interests in the energy sector can be divided into two termed strategies: In terms of short-term strategy Iran tries to increase its accessibility to affluent energy resources and increase its economic participation in international energy market, in particular, gain large-scale access to the flexible Liquid Natural Gas by building more gas blocks in South Pars. From the economic perspective, the main ambition of Iran is to involve many foreign investors in energy sectors by the imposition of low oil prices that will contribute to the future development of energy sector. The long term strategy premises on the strategic and political target in order to exploit or use energy as a political means, mainly strategic weapon to influence or pose threats to other countries.  

Historically, Iran has been the major exporter of oil products and services to date, but currently, Iran tends to deal with flexible natural gas resources rather than oil sector and is eager to endeavors both production and export of natural gas resources in global marketplace. To a large extent, in order to achieve the escalation of natural gas production, first and foremost, the main ambition of Iran is to develop the gas fields located in South Pars which is a shared region between Iran and Qatar. To date, Iran has achieved the development of nearly 24 gas blocks in the region. As a consequence of lifting up sanction, Iran is going to increase these numbers significantly by building up further dormant blocks which in future can lead to the increase of natural gas capability in Iran. Currently, the process regarding building new dormant blocks is ongoing and is planned to build five more latent blocks during this summer quarter. Secondly, another important reason why Iran strives to deal with the natural gas resources is its economic and political willingness to acquire LNG export capability that would be beneficial for Iran in the diversification of gas export routes by giving them strategic flexibility and accessibility. Thus, As a consequence of gaining access to LNG export capability, Iran could be able to transport its natural gas products within an arch of more than 10.000 km with starting from the Klaipeda Terminal in Lithuania to Japan’s Nihonkai and China’s Lianyungang LNG terminals.

According to some scholars, after the Nuclear Deal, Iran will be able to gain potential power to increase its natural gas resources in the Gulf region. Another position of Iran is turned to be a major supplier of electricity for the entire region with respect to Turkey and the Gulf region. Iran’s main oil blocks are located in the Persian Gulf. At the same time, the strategic importance of the Caspian region force Iran to enforce both geo-energetic and political positions in conjunction with the Caspian countries.

1.Being the major guarantor or provider of the security of northern boundaries by upholding and preserving regional stability, and security in Central Asian states;

2.To achieve the development of close relations with the South Caucasian states and impede their integration to the Western-based energy projects and lessen its political and geo-energetic influence over the states;

3.To hinder the pro-Western activities of the South Caucasus countries and to solve the problems emerging in the region with the mutual efforts and understandings of the merely region’s countries;

4.To preserve close relations with Russia and Turkey;

Besides Iran, the other regional powers including Russia, Turkey, even China has own both political and geostrategic interests in the Caspian region and they always strive to participate in the geo-energetic game in the Caspian region.

Iran’s attitude or position toward Russia can be characterized both a rivalry and a partner. In terms of a rivalry Europe is trying to decrease its dependence on Russia and inclined to diversify its energy resources, therefore, Iran is eager to grab the chance to take control over European energy markets and export its products to Europe via Turkey, but it needs to gain access to the South Caucasus market to transport its products via successful infrastructures; the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, connecting the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. As a political and economic partner, Russia is important for Iran in order to take control over the Caspian Basin and decrease the West influence in this region. Therefore, Russia-Iran partnership is advantageous for both of them because of the fact that they are clearly aware of the nefarious threats that damage their interests and positions in the region. Take an example the European Union and NATO, who are increasing their democratic manifestation through political and economic agreements, the imposition of these kinds of treaties are highly destructive for both Russia and Iran and ostensibly, exhibit their opposition to the Western-based economic projects namely the Baku-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway, The Trans-Caspian transit route, TAP, TANAP and other projects in particular, NABUCCO South Stream pipeline*. Therefore, Russia and Iran have a common position to work together against the West-based activities.

In general, the geo-energetic positions of Iran are clear regarding the followings aforementioned above that obviously explained the geostrategic, political and economic positions and aims of Iran. Thus, post-sanction Iran with its affluent oil and natural gas reserves strive to restore its strategic leverage as an energy superpower. The high demand for Iran’s resources from both Asia and Europe, and its close partnership with the other regional energy power; Brazil and Russia has created the opportunities to strengthen its own position in the energy battleground. The termination of sanction has highly influenced Iran’s position in the energy sector and today Iran stands on its own feet to become a major player in the international energy market.  

*NOTE: The increasing interests of Iran over Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be considered as a clear evidence that arise due to the Western-sponsored economic projects, mainly NABUCCO and the highly integration of Azerbaijan to South Stream gas pipeline can put some barriers for the future integration of both Russia and Iran to the global energy market place and deprived them of being the major holders of the oil and gas exports.

Nargiz Uzeir Hajiyeva is a policy analyst and independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She holds master degree from Vytautas Magnus University and Institute de Politique de Paris (Science Po). She got bachelor degree with distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She was also a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, on how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons, by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School. She is also an independent researcher and a policy analyst at Observer.ge and Politicon.net platform, and Wikistrat.Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman In International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center.

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Saudi Arabia’s Entertainment Plans: Soft Power at Work?

Dr. Theodore Karasik

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Saudi Arabia recently broke ground on its ambitious “entertainment city” known as Qiddiya, near Riyadh. The splashy launch, attended by 300 dignitaries from around the world, highlights a frequently overlooked aspect of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan: the entertainment industry as a growing economic sector. As the kingdom diversifies its economy away from reliance on petro fuels, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been keen to showcase the increasing openness of his country, promoting festivals, concerts and sports events and ending the country’s 35-year ban on cinemas.

These projects are partially intended to bolster the economy and attract FDI—but not only. Saudi Arabia is also playing catch-up with other regional actors, such as Qatar and the UAE, in terms of cultural output and cultural participation. With Qiddiya and the other cultural projects in the works, Saudi is now carving out a road for itself to become a regional culture hub.

Thefirst phase of Qiddiya, which includes high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari area, is expected to be completed in 2022.  Saudi officials hope the park will draw in foreign investment and attract 17 million visitors by 2030; the final phase of the project is expected to be completed in 2035, by which point the entertainment resort will be the largest in the world, dwarfing Florida’s Walt Disney World.

Beyond these financial incentives, however, the Qiddiya project is Saudi Arabia’s answer to events like the Dubai Expo 2020 or the Qatar World Cup 2022 and suggests that the kingdom is trying to position itself as the next big destination for lucrative events – which also add to the idea that entertainment, culture, and innovation are key to Saudi Arabia’s economic vision and success.

Vision 2030’s emphasis on entertainment raises a key question: is Riyadh attempting to increase its soft power across the region in a constructive and proactive way?  The answer to that question is yes.

In the immediate future, Qatar and the UAE will remain the region’s foremost entertainment and cultural hubs.  From Qatar’s Islamic Museum of Art, which famous architect I.M. Pei came out of retirement to design, to Dubai’s theme parks, including a $1 billion behemoth which is the world’s largest indoor theme park, these two Gulf states are demonstrating their prowess to develop an arts and culture scene.  In Doha, Qatar is exemplifying its unique outlook towards world affairs by emphasizing humanitarianism and fourteen centuries of history.  Qatar is also hosting the World Cup in 2022, intended to bring Doha center-stage in the sports world. Abu Dhabi’s Louvre has been referred to as “one of the world’s most ambitious cultural projects”, while advertisements throughout the emirate insist that the museum will cause its visitors to “see humanity in a new light”.

Despite these Gulf states’ head start on developing vibrant entertainment sectors, there is still room for Saudi Arabia to offer something new. For one thing, some of its neighbors are dealing with trouble in paradise: Qatar’s once-strong economy is under increasing strain as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt boycott it; meanwhile, the company which owns many of Dubai’s largest theme parks lost $302 million in 2017.

The Qiddiya project also represents a particular vision that’s distinct from neighboring countries’ cultural programs. Qiddiya is designed to mix desert heritage and the ethos of the past with the technological advances of the future. The intended result is to be a fusion between aspirations and building on those achievements from desert to post-modernity, on a colossal scale.

The project is crafted both to satisfy domestic demand—it includes plans to build 11,000 homes to serve as vacation homes for Riyadh residents— and to compete directly against Saudi Arabia’s neighbors in the Gulf. With two-thirds of the Saudi population under the age of 35, building a thriving entertainment sector is particularly important.

The kingdom is hoping to use its idea of mixing the past with the future in Qiddiya to significantly alter the flow of tourist revenues in the Gulf. The UAE, Qatar and Bahrain rely on tourists from the Gulf and beyond for essential cash inflows—including the $30 billion a year Saudis spend on tourism abroad every year. By providing new entertainment options in-country for Saudi Arabia’s citizens and residents, who pay more than any other country’s citizens while on vacation, Riyadh aims to redirect some of this overseas tourism spending back into the kingdom. It’s set up concrete goals to this effect, hoping to increase domestic spending on culture and entertainment from about three percent of household income to six percent. Saudi Arabia also likely hopes that Qiddiya will attract significant international tourism as well—one senior official tied the park’s creation to the goal of making Riyadh one of the top 100 cities in the world to live.

Of course, it is likely to be a long wait before the kingdom itself starts producing the cultural output that will make it a real entertainment hub; after all, Saudi public schools still do not teach music, dance and theater, and the kingdom lacks music and film academies. But by taking the first steps of embracing the vast economic potential of the entertainment sector, the kingdom may well be on its way there.

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Israel, Ukraine, and U.S. Crack Down Against Press

Eric Zuesse

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On Wednesday, May 16th, Russian Television reported recent crackdowns against the press, on the part of both Ukraine’s Government and Israel’s Government. One headline story, “9 journalists injured by Israeli gunfire in Gaza ‘massacre’, total now over 20”, reported that Israel had shot dead two journalists:

“Yaser Murtaja, 31, a cameraman for Palestinian Ain Media agency, died on April 7 after he was shot by Israeli forces the previous day while covering a protest south of the Gaza Strip. He wore a blue protective vest marked ‘PRESS’.”

And:

“Ahmad Abu Hussein, 24, was shot by Israeli forces during a protest in the Gaza strip on April 13. He died from his injuries on April 25. He was also wearing a protective vest marked ‘PRESS’ at the time.”

The other 18 instances were only injuries, not murders, but Israel has now made clear that any journalist who reports from the Palestinian side is fair game for Israel’s army snipers — that when Palestinians demonstrate against their being blockaded into the vast Gaza prison, and journalists then report from amongst the demonstrators instead of from the side of the snipers, those journalists are fair game by the snipers, along with those demonstrators.

Some of the surviving 18 journalists are still in critical condition and could die from Israel’s bullets, so the deaths to journalists might be higher than just those two.

Later in the day, RT bannered “Fist-size gunshot wounds, pulverized bones, inadmissible use of force by Israel in Gaza – HRW to RT” and presented a damning interview with the Israel & Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch.

The other crackdown has been by Ukraine. After the U.S. Obama Administration perpetrated a very bloody coup in Ukraine during February of 2014, that country has plunged by every numerical measure, and has carried out raids against newsmedia that have reported unfavorably on the installed regime. The latest such incident was reported on May 16th by Russian Television, under the headline, “US endorses Kiev’s raid on Russian news agency amid international condemnation”. An official of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) stated there: “I reiterate my call on the authorities to refrain from imposing unnecessary limitations on the work of foreign journalists, which affects the free flow of information and freedom of the media.” An official of the CPJ (Committee to Protect journalists) stated: “We call on Ukrainian authorities to disclose the charges and evidence they have against Vyshinsky or release him without delay. … We also call on Ukrainian authorities to stop harassing and obstructing Russian media operating in Ukraine. The criminalization of alternative news and views has no place in a democratic Ukraine.” However, as reported by RT, Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General called the editorial policy of the anti-regime RIA Ukraine “anti-Ukrainian” in nature, amounting to “state treason.” So, the prosecutor is threatening to categorize and prosecute critical press under Ukraine’s treason law.

The U.S. regime is not condemning either of its client-regimes for their crackdowns. (It cites Ukraine’s supposed victimhood from “Russian propaganda” as having caused Ukraine’s action, and justifies Israel’s gunning-down of demonstrators and of journalists as having beeen necessary for Israel’s self-defense against terrorism.) In neither instance is the U.S. dictatorship saying that this is unacceptable behavior for a government that receives large U.S. taxpayers funds. Of course, in the U.S., the mainstream press aren’t allowed to report that either Israel or today’s Ukraine is a dictatorship, so they don’t report this, though Israel clearly is an apartheid racist-fascist (or ideologically nazi, but in their case not against Jews) regime, and Ukraine is clearly also a racist-fascist, or nazi, regime, which engages in ethnic cleansing to get rid of voters for the previous — the pre-coup — Ukrainian government. People who are selected individually by the installed regime, get driven to a big ditch, shot, with the corpses piling up there, and then the whole thing gets covered over. This is America’s client-‘democracy’ in Ukraine, not its client-‘democracy’ in Israel.

May 16th also was the day when the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee voted 10 to 5 to approve as the next CIA Director, Gina Haspel, the person who had headed torture at the CIA’s black site in Thailand where Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times and blinded in one eye in order to get him to say that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks; and, since then, Zubaydah, who has never been in court, has been held incommunicado at Guantanamo, so that he can’t testify in court or communicate with the press in any way. “The U.S. Government has never charged Zubaydah with any crime.” And the person who had ordered and overseen his torture will soon head the agency for which she worked, the CIA.

Whether the U.S. regime will soon start similarly to treat its own critical press as “traitors” isn’t clear, except that ever since at least the Obama Administration, and continuing now under Trump, the U.S. Government has made clear that it wants to seize and prosecute both Edward Snowden and Julian Assange for their journalistic whistleblowing, violations of “state secrets,” those being anything that the regime wants to hide from the public — including things that are simply extremely embarrassing for the existing rulers. Therefore, the journalistic-lockdown step, from either Israel, or Ukraine, to U.S., would be small, for the United States itself to take, if it hasn’t yet already been taken in perhaps secret ways. But at least, the Senate Intelligence Committee is strongly supportive of what the U.S. Government has been doing, and wants more of it to be done.

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JCPOA in Post-US Exit: Consequences and Repercussions

Nisar Ahmed Khan

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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal signed by the P 5+1 in 2015 was widely hailed as a landmark achievement made possible by sincere dialogue and diplomacy. Indeed, the agreement is to a greater extent an achievement of the nuclear non-proliferation regime that helped checked the increasingly disturbing power symmetry in the Middle East which in return has managed to contain the transformation of low intensity conflicts into all out wars. A relative stability is the hallmark which resulted from JCPOA in the Middle East which is extremely volatile region of the world. A vital question is: how these achievements are going to be affected by the US withdrawal from it?

The US withdrawal from JCPOA will adversely affect the aforementioned three areas of its accumulative achievement with variant degree. First, it has negative consequences for the norm that negotiated settlements in international arenas has the potential and lasting credibility to minimize violence or other coercive means led by war. The momentum and confidence the diplomatic means have garnered in post- JCPOA scenario will come to the crushing halt. The sealed and mutually agreed upon agreements in international arena especially in which the US is the potential party, will come under extreme scrutiny leading to an environment of gross trust deficit. Therefore, on the first instance this withdrawal has negative lasting consequences for the diplomatic norms in itself.

Secondly, US exist from the deal does not augur well for the nascent nuclear non-proliferation regime. This regime has a dearth of good precedents like the JCPOA which has deterred a nation from acquiring and operationalizing nuclear weapons as is the case with Iran. Keeping in view this backdrop of this institution, JCPOA has been its glaring example wherein it has managed to successfully convince a nation to not pursue the path which leads towards the nuclear weapons. Therefore, the US withdrawal has shaken the confidence of the non-proliferation regime to its core. It has engendered a split among the leading nations who were acting as sort of de facto executive to enforce the agreements on the nuclear ambitious states. Therefore, this US withdrawal has undoubtedly far reaching repercussions for the non-proliferation as an institution. This development may affect the nature and its future development as an institutional mechanism to deter the recalcitrant states to change their course regarding the nuclear weapons.

Thirdly, in relation to the above mentioned negative consequences on diplomacy and nuclear non-proliferation regime, the US withdrawal from the deal has far serious security ramifications for the volatile and conflict ridden Middle East. It has multiplied the prospects of all-out war between Iran and its regional rivals on one hand and Iran and Israel on the other hand. Just tonight the announcement of Trump exiting JCPOA and the Israeli aggression on Syrian military bases substantiates the assertion that there exists a correlation between this US withdrawal and the Zionist regime`s regional hegemonic designs. It has extremely positive message for the Saudi Arabia. The impulsive and overambitious Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) went on extended tours in the US and Europe to convince Western leadership that Iran should be contained.  Therefore, element of stability in the region – contained low intensity conflicts – got serious motivation to turn into all-out-wars  with non-exclusion of nuclear options at the disposal of Zionist regime in the Middle East. The Middle Eastern region with this exit of the US is going to observe substantial turmoil in the months to come which will have some extra regional ramifications.

As a conclusion it could be argued that the US exit has some far reaching repercussions for the diplomatic norms, non-proliferation regime and above all for the volatile Middle Eastern region. All these ramifications resulted from the US withdrawal will also in return have some serious consequences internally and externally. The status of the US as the sole super power of the world will be diminished with this decision. It will create an unbridgeable gap in the West. Henceforth, the EU foreign will be more autonomous, integrated and autonomous in her conduct.

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