Azerbaijan and Iran have been sparring since July 23, when an Iranian gunboat challenged two Azerbaijani oil exploration vessels which were conducting environmental studies on behalf of the BP Amoco conglomerate in the disputed Araz-Sharg-Alov field. Iranian officials asserted that the Azerbaijani ships were operating in Iran's territorial waters.
When US President George Bush met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in bucolic Slovenia in June, something curious was underway near the Caspian Sea. The 'neutral' government of Turkmenistan struck a deal with Russia to exchange gas for Russian arms.
In a cautiously worded speech at Columbia University on July 10, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi declared his country's "religious democracy" was eager to promote trade and encourage regional friendships.
EurasiaNet: What do you expect President Khatami to do with his election mandate? During the campaign, he seemed to be hesitant about his candidacy. Was this a tactical maneuver, or do you think he's a genuinely reluctant leader?
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami won a second term in a electoral landslide on June 8. The reform-minded Khatami received unprecedented support 21.6 million votes, or about 77 percent of the ballots cast for a president seeking re-election. His closest rival, conservative former supply minister Ahmad Tavakoil, received 15 percent of the vote.
Towering over a Tehran highway, there stands a billboard commemorating the death of an early 20th century Muslim cleric, Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri. The billboard, like many of the pictures of gray-bearded clerics or revolutionary soldiers, is meant to sell a political viewpoint.
Shamkhani pointed out "Iran had good capabilities to equip the Tajik national army well," based on earlier agreements for military cooperation, including technical assistance and military equipment. (IRNA, 1842 GMT, 8 Mar 01; FBIS-NES-2001-0308, via World News Connection) Iran and Tajikistan initiated military cooperation in 1998 with a memorandum in Tehran.
Iran has reason to be hopeful and Western business interests have cause for concern as the five Caspian Basin states gear up for a critical conference that aims to create a framework for the division of the sea's natural resources.
Azerbajani President Heidar Aliyev on March 12 began a state visit to Turkey. The same day, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was wrapping up a landmark summit meeting in Moscow with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The travels of these two key Caspian region leaders indicate that the competition over the region's vast oil and gas resources is kicking into high gear.