CENTRAL ASIA AND PAX IRANICA: COOPERATION AND INTERDEPENDENCE

Murat LAUMULIN


Murat Laumulin, D.Sc. (Political Science), Senior Research Fellow at the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies (Almaty, Kazakhstan)


Introduction

For ten years now, Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan have been establishing a Persian-speaking community in Central Asia. The Turkic republics of Central Asia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey started moving toward a Turkic-speaking community as soon as the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The Persian-speaking countries acquired their chance in the early 2000s when the Taliban, an inveterate opponent of the IRI, was overthrown and Tajikistan ended its civil war.

In fact, the entire region is more or less involved: Tajikistan is a Central Asian state, while the other two are its close neighbors with a long history of belonging to the region at one time or another.

Today, Central Asia, Iran, and Afghanistan have economic interests, security concerns, and geopolitical imperatives in common. Iran, which badly needs a wider Pax Iranica, is the natural driving force behind integration of the Persian-speaking countries, a far from easy mission in the present geopolitical and international context. In Afghanistan, the Persian-speaking communities are dominated by the Pashtoons, the state-forming nation, who are dead set against all attempts to split the country into ethnic units. The U.S.-led occupation authorities, likewise, are firmly opposed to Irans stronger influence on the Tajik and Hazara minorities.

Tajikistan is a homogenous part of Central Asia; its ties with the region and the post-Soviet expanse are too strong to allow it to completely integrate with the Iranian world. To strengthen its position in both countries, Tehran is contributing to their large-scale economic, energy, transport, and humanitarian projects.

It should be said that, in the past, the Iranian culture extended to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Iraq, and vast areas in the Middle East, which gives the IRI the opportunity to push its influence westward. With no chance of exploiting the ethnic and linguistic affinity there, Tehran relies on the Shia minority, which is rapidly developing into an important political factor in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf countries.

Iranthe Center of Pax Iranica

In one way or another, Tehrans foreign policy invariably involves Central Asia. This is true of its relations with Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Turkey, and the South Caucasian states; the Middle East being the only exception.

Many of its problems are caused by its very specific international status and the foreign policies of its leaders, whose nuclear ambitions have isolated the country once more from the rest of the world. In the 1990s, Iran restored its relations with the outside world and,.


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