A Caspian Sea summit may have been what brought Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Baku recently, but it was Iran’s bilateral relations with Azerbaijan that commanded a greater share of attention.
Amid the ongoing controversy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, Azerbaijan appears caught in a delicate balancing act between cooperation with the United States in implementing sanctions against Tehran and the reality of its own longstanding ties to its southern neighbor.
In a move likely to raise eyebrows abroad, Georgia and Iran have dropped visa requirements and resumed direct flights in a bid to expand economic ties. The agreements between Tbilisi, Washington’s closest ally in the South Caucasus, and Tehran come amid ongoing efforts by Iran to press ahead with its nuclear program, despite opposition from the US and European Union.
It’s a deal that has the potential to win its brokers a Nobel Peace Prize. Or it could ultimately be remembered as an exercise in appeasement. What’s already certain, though, is the May 17 announcement that Iran is willing to ship the bulk of its enriched uranium to Turkey has instantly become an important milestone in the long-running controversy over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The once-cozy relationship between Russia and Iran has undergone a striking shift in recent months, as Moscow has grown increasingly critical of Tehran's defiant pursuit of nuclear capabilities. The Kremlin has even warned that it could support sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council -- something it resisted for years.
An April 12 conference held in Washington assessed Iran's social-networking sphere. Panelists asserted that even in the face of severe government repression, the vibrancy of Iran's blogosphere is offering the international community opportunities to develop citizen diplomacy and people-to-people connections with Iranians.