I doubt that there will be any vigorous US policy in Caucasus - expert

Wed 27 Feb 2013 03:23 GMT | 07:23 Local Time

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News.Az interviews Gordon Hahn, research worker of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

What should we expect from the renewed Obama's team policy in the South Caucasus? Will this policy remain the same or there will be some changes? It seems that the South Caucasus with domestic problems is not in the priority lists of American foreign policy?

I doubt that there will be any vigorous US policy in the South Caucasus in the near future.  However, conflicts south of the region could spark increased focus on the region.  Most important among these are the growing threats of jihadism and general instability in Syria, Iraq, and Iran, which could prompt Washington to seek partial solutions to these challenges by partnering more with Azerbaijan.

There is Azerbaijan in general and there is the Tbilisi-Baku-Ceyhan pipeline which needs protecting and could become a target for Sunni-oriented jihadists from the north and/or south.  One needs only to recall the Caucasus Emirate's plot foiled last year and to consider the rising rise of Sunni-oriented jihadism and Islamism in Syria and elsewhere to Azerbaijan's south to understand the threat.

There are some fears in Azerbaijani analyst community that American policy in the region may be pro-Armenian with John Kerry (known for its ties with Armenian Diaspora) as a new Secretary of State. What do you think of that?

It is hard to imagine that Kerry would have that much influence over policy making, which is done mostly in the White House.  Indeed, a slightly better relationship with Yerevan might help facilitate a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as it might improve U.S. cooperation with Russia, which has been closer to Armenia rather than Azerbaijan.

In addition, one example that shows that the Obama Administration may be forced to take a balanced approach is the recent petition the White Hose has to address recognizing the Armenian slaughter of Azeris in the Nagorno-Karabakh war at Khojaly as an attempted genocide.

Armenians want to launch a new airport in Karabakh. Baku and co-chairs have already condemned these plans. How may this step (if it would be taken) affect the situation in the region?

This is obviously a provocative move that could tip the scales and renew open conflict, but I doubt it.  The most likely scenario is that the negotiating powers (Russia, the US, France and great Britain) can persuade Yerevan to back off these plans or step up efforts to resolve the conflict.

May we hope for a progress in the Karabakh settlement (frozen at the moment) despite of Presidential elections in Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2013?

Probably not, as candidates will be forced to demonstrate their patriotic credentials and thus engage in nationalistic rhetoric.

How did the last developments in the US (presidential elections) and Israel change their plans concerned Iran (peace or war scenario)?

I do not think the elections changed anything.  US-Israeli relations remain strained.  It remains to be seen whether President Obama's upcoming first trip to Israel as president will bring an improvement and better understanding on the president's part of the threats faced by Israel.  Despite Obama's accommodating attitude, the reality of US politics is such that if Iran acquires or gets so close to acquiring a nuclear weapon that it is unclear whether it has one or not, the Israelis and perhaps the US will have to use force, even if the president would prefer not to.

Iran's rejection of Vice president Joe Biden's offer to begin one-on-one US-Iranian talks by Ayatollah Khamenei demonstrates the bankruptcy of trying to accommodate the mullahs. The test of political stability in the upcoming Iranian election may be the last chance to avert war by way of an internal challenge to the regime and the appearance of new regime willing to negotiate and abide by a thorough inspection regime and other proposed solutions to the problem, such as the exchange of used fuel proposed by Moscow.

Elshan Rustamov
News.Az

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