The overall atmosphere in Azerbaijan is grim when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Yet, the release from prison of Taleh Baghirov, a young, charismatic Shia Muslim cleric, goes against the general trend in Azerbaijan.
Hopes are running high in Armenia that the pending end of international sanctions against Iran, its southern neighbor, will advance strategic investment projects. But Armenian analysts caution that Russia, Tehran’s longtime regional rival, may foil Yerevan’s ambitions.
The Iranian nuclear deal has broad trade implications for Eurasia. The pending lifting of sanctions would allow Iran to take advantage of its favorable geographic position, as it straddles the commercial crossroads connecting Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
Did a door to Europe just open up for Central Asia?
The five Central Asian states have been independent for nearly 25 years and throughout that time -- as talk continued about recreating the ancient Silk Road -- there was always one direction that was off limits: the route through Iran.
The late January visit to Armenia by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif got little media attention, but it could have significant ramifications for geopolitics in Eurasia. Specifically, the trip could help Russia gain a trade outlet that softens the blow of Western sanctions.
It has been a chastening few months for gas-rich Turkmenistan. Two long-standing energy buyers have indicated they will stop purchasing the country’s natural gas, potentially leaving Ashgabat dependent on Chinese demand.
It appears Turkmenistan is about to lose its second-best customer for natural gas, Iran.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on August 11 that his country no longer needed gas from Turkmenistan. Zanganeh went so far as to say, "Iran is importing Turkmen gas just because it is important to promote political and economic relations with Turkmenistan."