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Azerbaijan may pay too much for opposing Iran

Azerbaijan may pay too much for opposing Iran

Azerbaijan made the first move by sidelining the Iranian NIco company, participant of Shah Deniz consortium from the planned pipeline projects.

Baku is playing with fire, in the firm belief that the West will back Ilham Aliyev if the latter openly confronts Iran, and may even turn a blind eye to the lawlessness prevailing in Azerbaijan – “the most tolerant and democratic country of the region”. Azerbaijan has recently declared itself the strategic partner of the U.S., with certain encouragement by the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Baku Richard Morningstar who mostly engages in advocating U.S. interests in the Caspian region.

PanARMENIAN.Net - Azerbaijan made the first move by sidelining the Iranian Naftiran Intertrade Co (NIco) company, participant of Shah Deniz consortium from the planned pipeline projects, including the Trans-Anatolia pipeline project. In its “U.S. Ally Azerbaijan to Exclude Iran From Gas Pipeline to Europe” article, businesweek.com quotes Vaqif Aliyev, head of State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan’s investments department as saying that Nico’s participation in the Trans-Anatolia pipeline or other pipelines is not being considered. Meanwhile, Naftiran Intertrade holds 10 percent of Shah Deniz.

Azerbaijan is known to have supported U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In June 2012, Azerbaijan and Turkey signed an agreement to build the 2,000 kilometer (1,240 mile) Trans-Anatolia pipeline, or Tanap, which will deliver at least 10 billion cubic meters of Azeri gas a year to the EU border through Turkey. The project is estimated to cost $7 billion.

SOCAR plans to share its 80 percent of Tanap with Shah Deniz partners. “In independent projects like this, the selection of shareholders and their stakes are agreed upon mutually by the partners in accordance with their strategies and interests,” Vaqif Aliyev said, without elaborating on the reason for sidelining Iran.

Shah Deniz is estimated to contain 1.2 trillion cubic meters of gas, enough to supply demand in the European Union for about 20 years. BP (operator - 25,5%), Statoil (25,5%), SOCAR (10%), LUKOIL (10%), NICO (10%), Total (10%) и Turkiye Petrolleri AO (9%) are Shah Deniz partners.

According to the "Country reports on Terrorism 2011" of the U.S. Department of State, through the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation Prevention Program, the Azerbaijan government assumed responsibility for the sustainment of seven radar stations along the Caspian coast used by the Navy, Coast Guard, and State Border Service to conduct maritime surveillance and detect smuggling threats. In addition, the government of Azerbaijan completed the modernization of its Central Reference Laboratory, a state-of-the-art biosafety facility that will make joint research on potential bioterrorism threats possible, the report says.

The paper also mentions that Azerbaijan actively opposed terrorist organizations seeking to move people, money, and material through the Caucasus. However, the thing is that deployment of U.S. radar stations along the Caspian coast should be linked with the upcoming military intervention against Iran. Therefore, build-up of control over Iran from Azerbaijan’s territory is a key factor of this military strategy.

For his part, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei summoned top Iranian military chiefs for what he called “their last war council”, debka.com reports.

“We’ll be at war within weeks,” he told the gathering, Debkafile’s exclusive Iranian and intelligence sources disclose.

Khamenei put before his war council a timeline of weeks for the coming conflict – September or October.

Azerbaijan goes for much risk by supporting the U.S. and opposing Iran. Meanwhile, even Turkey, a far more serious political player with larger military potential does not make similar moves against Iran; yet it does not pull up Baku either. Maybe this shows Ankara’s decision to allow Azerbaijan independently get out of the mess it will soon appear in, namely, respond to Iran’s military attack. Baku is Washington’s ally, yet a temporary ally, indeed. Since U.S. went to abandon Mubarak and its other faithful allies, Aliyev will certainly share their fate.

Karine Ter-Sahakian
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