The commander of Kazakhstan's navy last week paid a visit to the country's neighbor across the Caspian Sea, Iran. And if you believe Iran's media, at least, Rear Admiral Zhandarbek Zhanzakov's trip cemented the firm, brotherly relationship between the two countries and their navies. In the space of three days, Iran's Fars News Agency carried six stories on the visit, during which Admiral Zhnzakov visited Tehran as well as Iran's Caspian Sea naval base of Bandar Anzali, and expressed interest in widening naval cooperation in various ways:
“We hope that Kazakhstan's experts come to Iran to undergo training and this is feasible,” Admiral Zhanzakov said.
Admiral Zhanzakov pointed to his visits to the military training centers of many countries, and said, “Iran has the best military training centers among the world states.”
The Kazakh navy commander reiterated that Iran’s military training centers are more capable than other countries.
On Tuesday, Admiral Zhanzakov asked Tehran to provide his country with its experiences in building warships.
Speaking to reporters after meeting his Iranian counterpart Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Admiral Zhanzakov said Kazakhstan’s Navy is a rather new force, “and Iran’s experiences in the field of military industries and building warships are very important to us”.
He [Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari] noted that in the meeting the two sides discussed conducting joint operations in the Caspian Sea in a bid to protect the sea as the sea of peace and friendship as well as fighting piracy, smuggling, protection of environment and conducting joint relief and rescue cooperation.
“With these operations we will protect the Caspian Sea and prevent the entry of the alien into the region,” Admiral Sayyari said, adding, “The Caspian Sea belongs to its littoral countries and there is no need for the presence of others to control and maintain security of the sea and the Kazakh commander had a positive about this."
He reiterated that the political and military officials of Kazakhstan are looking for expansion and consolidation of ties with Iran, and said, “We have promised to cooperate with them and transfer our experiences to them."
“At the meeting the Kazakh commander stated that the Iranian Navy has had an eye-catching growth in the last several years and its presence in the world’s open seas indicates the Iranian Navy’s prowess,” Admiral Sayyari said.
That reference to "alien," incidentally, is code for the U.S. and Europe, which both Iran and Russia are deadset against gaining any sort of military presence in the Caspian.
During a 2009 visit by U.S. naval officials to Kazakhstan, the deputy director of Kazakhstan's border service said that its relations with Iran were the cooler than those of any of the four Caspian littoral states -- but still not bad. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable, Kazakhstan officials described their ties with neighbors thusly: "excellent relations with the Russian Federation -- but also good relations with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. 'With Iran, however,' Mazhitov declared, "we have a common understanding, but uncertainty over the borders of the Caspian is a significant problem.'"
It's noteworthy that Kazakhstan's media, in contrast to Iran's, appear not to have covered Admiral Zhanzakov's visit at all. While Iran and Kazakhstan have generally good relations, and the kind of vague cooperation that Admiral Zhanzakov suggested is certainly understandable for two friendly neighbors, Kazakhstan doesn't have much to gain, either from its own population or from the rest of its international partners, by loudly touting its friendship with Tehran.