How serious is the current crisis over Iran? Can it be solved by sanctions?
The crisis with Iran is very serious. There is no trust between Washington and Tehran. There is a sense in the United States and Europe that time is running out and that, absent stronger measures, Iran will achieve the capability to make nuclear weapons.
Iran will only reverse course if the costs of its defiance become greater than it can bear. None of the sanctions in place right now will compel Iran to change its policy. Only overwhelming sanctions leading to Iran’s economic collapse can work, but with Russia and China shielding Iran, such crippling sanctions appear unlikely.
Can you say that it is fact that Iran has an aggressive nuclear program? I mean Iranian officials are still trying to assure the international community of its peaceful goals.
The most recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report raises questions about Iranian nuclear activities that have nothing to do with generating electricity. Iranian scientists, for example, have worked on bomb triggers and utilized plutonium. Likewise, while some Iranian officials tell international counterparts that their intentions are peaceful, other Iranian officials have endorsed the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons.
For example, in December 2001 former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani threatened to use nuclear weapons when Iran acquired them. In 2005, an Iranian newspaper quoted Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharrazi, secretary-general of Iranian Hezbollah, as saying "We are able to produce atomic bombs and we will do that." A few months later, Hojjat ol-Islam Gholam Reza Hasani, the supreme leader's personal representative to the Iranian province of West Azerbaijan, declared possession of nuclear weapons to be one of Iran's top goals.
How likely is a military invasion of Iran? Or may it be that the US is on its own or has enough international support to form a coalition?
There is absolutely no discussion — even among American conservatives — of invading Iran. When people talk about a military option, they are discussing airstrikes, such as those which President Clinton launched against Iraq in 1998.
Azerbaijan and Iran have an agreement that the territory of neither state can be used against the other country. In the event of war, may the West nonetheless convince Azerbaijan to support a military operation against neighbouring Iran, as they fear in Tehran?
I do not believe that the United States seeks to use Azerbaijan for any offensive operation. There is some hope that Azerbaijan might be used for defensive purposes only, for example with regard to radar systems.
Iranian officials criticize Azerbaijan's contacts with Israel and the US. How serious is the threat of the export of “Islamic fundamentalism” from Iran to Azerbaijan?
Whether or not Azerbaijan has relations with Israel, the Islamic Republic will seek to undermine the Republic of Azerbaijan. After all, while Azerbaijan and Iran share a religion, Azerbaijan is more successful than the Islamic Republic. That fact alone can lead Iranians to question whether their system of government is best. The Iranian government has tried to offer scholarships for religious students from Azerbaijan to study in Iran, where it tries to radicalize them, just as Saudi Arabia has tried to radicalize Sunni clerics. This poses a long-term threat to Azerbaijan’s stability.