Critical Thinking On Congressional Background Paper On The Caucasus/ Caspian Sea Region
The region is very important to US for stability of global oil prices and controlling influence of Russia.
The northern region has benefitted more than the southern region from the oil and gas pipelines especially the BTC pipeline resulting to the formation of SAPP army.
The split of northern and southern provinces of Iran has led to formation of Ahurastan and Luristan republics.
The US government has been able to maintain public works and refugee assistance programs in order to promote stability in Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The US government has also been able to enhance economic development and security cooperation activities in Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Russian continues to use its military in Abkhazia and south Ossetia regions and applying diplomatic pressure to ensure that objective is not achieved.
In 2017, US, Russia, EU, and Chinese economic and diplomatic efforts succeeded in convincing Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment plans and agreed to sign IAEA monitoring.
The attack of Metsamor nuclear plant by the FKM has continued to delay peace process in the region.
Russia has begun to focus its attention to internal affairs that are currently facing Russian society and economy and this may provide opportunity for other actors to resolve the problem.
It is important for the US government to push for the demilitarization of the disputed region in order to allow for diplomatic negotiations.
The region is very important to the US government for a number of reasons. First, it is rich in energy resources mostly gas and oil and peaceful settlement of the problem ensure stability of the global energy prices. Secondly, the involvement ensures stable political, economic, and social progress of the region, hence minimizing possibility of emergence of Islamic extremism and influence of Russia. The northern region has benefitted more than the southern region from the oil and gas pipelines especially the BTC pipeline. As a result, the southern population has formed the SAPP party in order to increase their economic and political representation. The party has also formed a military wing in order to push for their agenda. In 2017, the SAPP army begins to conduct training in the northern river, near Azerbaijan’s oil infrastructures. With increased military attack from the enemies’ side, the Azerbaijan security forces asked for more assistance from the U.S. In 2018, the US responded by dispatching a special force to assist Azerbaijan’s force to conduct internal defense operations. A part of the special force is based in Baku in order to contain the increasingly active Azeri army. The government of Azerbaijan also asked for assistance from turkey who responded with F-16 fighter squadron.
The US government has been able to maintain public works and refugee assistance programs in order to promote stability in Georgia and Azerbaijan. The program provides displaced persons and refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh region with various forms of assistance. This assistance includes medical treatment, food, and primary education programs in the refugee camps. The US government has also been able to enhance economic development and security cooperation activities in Georgia and Azerbaijan. In the last two years ago, US army especially the engineering unit have been involved in upgrading the infrastructure in Georgia as part of the USEUCOM’s cooperation efforts. Through these efforts, the rail system from Batumi through Tbilisi, Poti and Baku has been improved and properly maintained.
In 2017, US, Russia, EU, and Chinese economic and diplomatic efforts succeeded in convincing Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment plans and agreed to sign IAEA monitoring. At the same time, ethnic Bakhtiaris, Azeri Turks and Lurs became more aggressive for independence and Iran government lost control of southwest and northwestern regions. Ethnic Azeri continued to hold protests to show their dissatisfaction with the Tehran rule. Finally, northwestern provinces of Iran became autonomy and independent as “Ahurastan” in February 2019. The new Ahurastanian government started to support the SAPA more often than the Iranian government used to do. They began to provide cross-border support to the insurgents of SAPA. Outside Georgia and Azerbaijan in 2017, FKM, a group comprising of Azerbaijan refugees increased their attacks against Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In 2019, a part of this group attacks a nuclear power plant in Metsamor resulting to radiation leaks that could be detected even in the surrounding countries.
Major Strategic and Operational Challenges
First, by 2018, the SAPA units were very active in the North West border of Iran-Azerbijan region. They used the area for staging attacks, refitting, and training soldiers to carry raids in the Azerbaijan region. Although US and other European countries continues to support Georgia govern in its efforts to be integrated in NATO, Russian continues to use its military in Abkhazia and south Ossetia regions and applying diplomatic pressure to ensure that objective is not achieved. The attack of Metsamor nuclear plant by the FKM has continued to delay peace process in the region. For example, the attack caused contention between Yerevan and Ankara. Turkey estimated between 30 to 40 curies per km2 of cesium after the attack in the Igdir province. Political and economic interests among various players have played a centre stage in delaying the resolution of the current problem. For instance, turkey support Azerbaijan against Turkmenistan and Ahurastan since it view them as a threat to its oil and gas share through the pipeline that passes through its region. It fears that its future economic growth will be affected negatively if Iran gain control over its rivals. Turkey has also threatened that any move by the Ahurastanian into the Nakhichivan area of Azerbaijan will lead to Turkish response. Finally, Russia has continued to supply Azerbaijan and Armenia with modern military equipment such as naval forces in order to increase their presence in the disputed region. A state owned agency for arms, Rosoboro-Nexport said it has signed an agreement with Tuekmenistan in 2017, to sell weapons to it in the exchange of natural gas and oil.
Since 2017, Russia has begun to focus its attention to internal affairs that are currently facing Russian society and economy. It is also dealing with ambitious internal separatist groups such as Tararstan that are also fighting for autonomy. It has adopted a less belligerent approach to its foreign affairs making it possible for other players to develop a long lasting solution to the current problem.
Although Iran government has dropped its urge to develop nuclear capability two years ago, it has lost control of its western region. This has led to the formation of Ahurastan and Luristan republics that have economic independence from Tehran. These new republics have already started to show their support to the separatist groups such as SAPA, and could accelerate the current problem as they continue to take sides in the diplomatic issues. Secondly, Iran has sufficient ballistic missile capability that could be dangerous if the government fail to honor the agreement signed two years ago. Missiles such as nodong 1, scud-c, shahab-3, among others remain a threat to the peace and stability of the region especially in the long run.
The US has been able to pursue an initiative to change the export route for oil and gas from the region to a different route in order to minimize the influence Iranians and Russians. At the present, Ahurastan Is independent under the command of the western area command, the former armed force for Iran. The new authority is vigorously challenging the Azerbaijan claim for the Caspian Sea region. In fact, their naval vessels in July this year have confronted Turkish, Azeri and western that were carrying out oil exploration in the disputed region. In October this year, the Ahurastan army provided crucial sporadic support to the SAPA insurgents that were carrying out cross-border raids. As the northwest provinces of Iran were declaring their autonomy and independence, the southwestern provinces are now split. These southwestern provinces are now independent of Luristan as at February this year. The good thing about these new independent provinces is that they do not claim any land or resources that outside their borders. In addition, they are supporting any terrorist or separatist group in the region or in any other part of the world. Some Georgia regions, Abkhazia and south Ossetia continued to exist independently. They are recognized by only four countries namely, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru. In the early 2019, Russia seeks belligerent foreign policy in the disputed area, as it continues to address economic and domestic issues it is facing currently. It also gives two conditions in order to agree on the US-led operations in regards to the Caucasus region. First, the operations to ensure part of the Azerbaijan gas and oil to pass through its pipeline in the western region. Secondly, recognize the legitimacy of the Russian forces in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.
Conclusion and Recommendation
It is true that the current problem is complex since it involves many parties that have different interests. However, some progress have made so far especially in convincing Iran and Russia to cease their ground on their respective interests. The role that US government, together with European countries, have played in convincing different parties to agree is important but more need to be done in order to solve the problem, not only now but also in the future. First, it is important for the US government to push for the demilitarization of the disputed region in order to allow for diplomatic negotiations. Since 2017, Russia has implemented a naval blockade in a large area of the Caspian Sea as it expands its oil exploration there. This move has made some parties such as Iran to raise their dissatisfactions with the Russian action. Secondly, the committee supports the continued involvement of the US government in the region both commercially and politically. Involvement of European organizations and countries is also highly encouraged due to their proximity to the Caspian and Caucasus regions. Thirdly, it is important to support independence of Armenia and Georgia in order to safeguard them from unnecessary Russian political, economic and security pressure. Russia should also be compelled to obey cease-fire agreement that was signed in 2008 in order to minimize conflict with Georgia over Abkhazian and south Ossetia regions. Finally, the US should also encourage any agreement that support a fair transit route for natural gases from the disputed regions in order to promote peace coexistence. This will ensure the current problems related to oil transit route are resolved.
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