With Baku flogging British Petroleum for the drowsy pace of its oil production, Iran has come along offering Azerbaijan to pick up the slack.
In case that dilly-dallying British corporation fails to put its act together, I want you to know that I am always there for you, Tehran told Baku on October 17. “Iran is ready to help Azerbaijan compensate the energy deficit if BP stops production of crude in the countries of . . . Central Asia,” the Iranian foreign ministry said, Azerbaijan's APA reported. “We have repeatedly demonstrated that we help our neighbors in . . times of trouble.”
But don't think altruism here. A recent report from the International Energy Agency noted that sanctions have badly damaged Iran's oil industry, a critical source of income. So, time to take a stab at drumming up new business, perhaps?
Azerbaijan's Parliamentary Speaker Ogtai Asadov said on October 16 that BP has received the final warning to deliver on its oil production commitments. Last week, President Ilham Aliyev lashed out at the company for failing to pump out the volumes it had promised for several years on end.
But Tehran may be getting ahead of itself. Thrusting itself between BP and an oilfield is no easy task and Baku may not be particularly eager to sooth its anger in an Iranian embrace. BP is making moves to allay Azerbaijani officials, and the business stakes in the Caspian energy game are too high for a large Western corporation to pack up and leave.
Baku is also unlikely to see Tehran as reliable replacement in any way, shape or form. True, President Ilham Aliyev and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sat down in Baku on Monday and declared that nothing can mar their brotherly relations, but we've heard that line before.
Aliyev and Ahmadinejad did try to move away from the mostly muffled animosity that led to a streak of tit-for-tat arrests on spy charges this year. But their fundamental differences such as Baku’s friendship with the West and Israel, and disputes over Caspian Sea energy resources are not going anywhere.