Tension over Iran complicates foreign policy equation for South Caucasus states

Tue 18 September 2012 04:50 GMT | 09:50 Local Time

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Jeff Goldstein

News.Az interviews Jeff Goldstein, senior policy analyst for Eurasia at the Open Society Foundations' Washington, DC office.

Are you sure that any country in the West could dare to attack Iran in near future?

At the moment, no Western government is saying anything in public that implies military action is imminent.

How tensions around Iran affect the situation in the South Caucasus? May any of the regional republics support openly any side of the Iranian conflict?

Clearly tensions around Iran complicate the foreign policy equation for the countries in the South Caucasus, especially Armenia, which wishes to have good relations with Iran, the U.S. and the countries of the EU.  As relations between the West and Iran continue to deteriorate that becomes increasingly difficult for Armenia, which is being squeezed between the two sides.

May this tensions or even attacks against Iran influence on a conflicts settlement in the South Caucasus? Some experts even assume that tense...

Renewed fighting in the South Caucasus is not in the interest of Armenia, Azerbaijan, or Georgia.  While you cannot rule out the possibility that increasing tensions will spark a cycle of violence leading to a full-scale conflict, I very much hope that the regional governments will show sufficient restraint so as to avoid this.

What can you say about Russia’s mediatory in the Karabakh conflict? Do you see in Putin a wish to be involved personally in the settlement process, like the previous president Medvedev was?

I have no way of knowing what’s in Putin’s mind, but during his first two terms as President he frequently met with the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, and I fully expect he will continue to do so now that he has returned to the Kremlin.

Do you predict any changes in American diplomacy in our region after upcoming presidential elections? What would be priorities of the American policy for years to come in this region full of energy as well conflicts and tensions?

I would not expect major changes, though certainly the Romney team has expressed a much more negative view of Russia, which could have an impact on U.S. policy towards Georgia.  Beyond the elections, I think the impending turnover of responsibility for military actions to Afghan national forces in 2014 is likely have a significant impact on U.S. policy in the Caucasus and Central Asia, as the factor of needing to ensure transit of personnel and equipment to Afghanistan will no longer be so all-consuming.




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