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Presidents from Turkmenistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia at the Caspian Summit in Astrakhan, Russia, Sept. 29, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service).

As Iran Deal Nears, U.S. Must Also Reassure Central Asia, Caucasus

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

As negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries—the U.S., France, U.K., Germany, Russia and China—over Tehran’s nuclear program enter the home stretch before their June 30 deadline, much of the attention in Washington and the media has been focused on the U.S. need to reaffirm its commitment to its Persian Gulf allies, in order to reassure them that an Iran nuclear deal would not compromise their security. In addition, however, the United States also needs to develop a strategy for managing the likely growth of Iranian influence in Central Asia and the South Caucasus that would follow any nuclear agreement.

To be sure, the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus are more enthusiastic than the Gulf states about the possible advantages of a reconciliation between Iran and the West. Iran’s northern neighbors have publicly welcomed the prospects of an Iranian nuclear deal. They generally support the U.S. goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons without the use of force, as they fear they would suffer disastrously from any major war involving Iran due to resulting refugee flows, disrupted economic ties and other adverse consequences. Meanwhile, a genuine reconciliation between Iran and the West that resulted in the comprehensive relaxation of sanctions would allow them to trade and invest more with Iran, a logical economic partner, as well as use Iranian territory to transship goods into and out of Iran’s Persian Gulf ports. ...

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