Expert: Moscow and Baku’s positions on ISIL ‘very close’

Mon 12 October 2015 07:35 GMT | 12:35 Local Time

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Oxu.Az interviews General Director of the Institute for Caspian Cooperation Sergey Mikheev.

As part of its fights against terrorism in Syria, beside air strikes, Russia also used the Caspian flotilla near the Iranian coasts, which caused a great rush in the world. What do you think it is connected with? 

First of all, Russia and Iran have started direct cooperation in Syrian issue. Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria are taking part in a coordination center in Baghdad. These are the countries which allowed the missiles to pass via their airspace.

Second, the launch from another region was seemingly regarded as more problematic. The only alternative option was the launch from neutral waters in the Mediterranean Sea. Considering the proximity of NATO states in this region, they seemingly considered the Caspian Sea a safer place for launching missiles. 

Part of the Russian aircraft flied via the airspace of Azerbaijan, which gave the ground to suppose that Baku and Tehran fully support Russia’s plans. In this connection, how do you assess Russia’s interaction with Caspian partners in the sphere of security? 

As for Tehran, I have already answered. Our partnership in this issue is fixed with participation in a single coordination center in Baghdad and it is already not a secret to anyone. As for Azerbaijan, I do not know exactly how the aircrafts were flying and whether a special coordination was needed. But I am ready to suppose that Baku and Moscow also have an unspoken mutual understanding on this issue.

First of all, we have quite reliable partner relations, which have strengthened recently. Second, I think that Moscow and Baku’s positions on ISIL are very close if not identical. ISIL is potentially a direct threat to all countries of the region without exception. Third, I would take into account the factor that Azerbaijani Islam is predominantly Shiism and Russia supports the anti-ISIL fight of Shiites. 

Some believe that Russian strikes from the Caspian region will turn the region into one of the potential targets of the ISIL terrorists. What do you think about it? Are the countries of the region ready to resist this threat, if it is real? 

I do not think that these strikes will make any dramatic changes in the plans of ISIL and other terrorists. Caspian countries have long become potential targets for extremists. No illusions can be done here. ISIL emissaries appeared in all countries in the region and started their destructive activity long before Russia became active in the Syrian crisis. There were others prior to ISIL.

In Russia’s North Caucasus, these people started terror in the early 1990s. Iran has long been holding an open war against them. Extremist groups are periodically being neutralized in  Kazakhstan. A series of undesirable incidents with these people have recently occurred on the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. 

Azerbaijan is also not an exception. Extremists are present here too. This began long before the recent missile strikes. Just read and listen to ISIL leaders. They do not conceal that destruction of all national states, primarily, conditionally Islamic, is one of their mainly goal. Look at the map of their hypothetical caliphate – the whole Azerbaijan is on this map. Therefore, I would repeat: don’t have illusions. 

Do you think Iran’s support to Russia’s actions in Syria may affect Tehran’s rapprochement with the West and lifting sanctions? 

I doubt it. So far, the West is demonstrating jealousy and annoyance over the Russian-Iranian anti-ISIL war. For me, this is a proof that the West has always been insincere in its attitude to ISIL. There is an impression that for Americans ISIL is a very comfortable took for fighting regional and global rivals. Half a year of shelling nowhere and no result - that is their real ‘fight’.

Now they are accusing Russia of striking the anti-Assad opposition. Moscow asks to establish a contact with this opposition so that not to strike them. But the West keeps silence or dismisses the calls directly. Either there is no opposition at all, or it is suitable for the West that we hit them sometimes, or the West does not want ISIL to be defeated. Thus, I do not think that Iran had got additional points in the eyes of the West in this light. 

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