Does Russia preclude Armenian-Iranian projects?
Armenia's Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan is on an official visit in Iran, during which he already met with Iran's first vice president Eshaq Jahangiri, the chairman of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. However, Armenian analysts are skeptical about the prospects of his visit: "Why are there no projects of regional and international programs, why did the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, which was built in 2006, not become transit and was designed with a small diameter that does not allow to divert gas from Armenia to other parties?"
On the one hand, these questions are relevant, and on the other hand - there is an answer: all this can give Armenia political and economic independence, and this independence does not meet Russia's interests, which tries to exert pressure on Armenia to torpedo strategic Armenian-Iranian projects," 1in.am writes.
It is interesting that two months prior to Karapetyan's visit, Iran was visited by Serzh Sargsyan. But his visit clarified only one thing: after the removal of sanctions imposed on Iran in connection with its nuclear program, the information discourse on the Armenian-Iranian relations has become more active, but it doesn't look like they have reached a fundamentally new level.
As expected, mutual assessments of the importance of the Armenian-Iranian bilateral relations, as well their features, and prospects, were voiced during the visit of the Armenian Prime Minister. The two sides also discussed the importance of deepening and expanding cooperation in a number of spheres, particularly in energy, agriculture, tourism, the creation of free trade zones in Armenia's Syunik Province and and along Aras River , as well as about the increase in trade between the two countries, but a number of Armenian political scientists made an unexpected conclusion that, despite close contacts, the Armenian-Iranian relations still have a deficit of strategic projects.
What is meant by "strategic projects" is that these projects should be of wide regional and international significance, well beyond purely bilateral economic relations, but it limited to just statements. Even the North-South highway project is being accepted with great reservations, and the Armenia-Iran railway was not even discussed, as well as the possibility of Iranian gas transit through Armenia to Europe, which can make the country a real independent transit country, they discuss with great doubt and purely theoretically," Armenian politicians complain. And then they immediately come to the conclusion: everything that is capable of giving Armenia political-economic independence and does not meet Russia's interests is blocked and suppressed by the "elder brother".
And this was said by the representatives of the country, which ranks second in terms of aid received from Russia - $37.3 million. A country that, in fact, lives at the expense of Russia. But the amount of Russia's actual assistance was often larger than announced. For example, over the past two years, the Armenian Armed Forces have been seriously replenished with the most modern Russian-made weapons at the expense of the $200 million loan provided by Russia, which included Smerch multiple rocket launcher systems, Igla short-range man-portable air defense systems, Autobase-M passive radar systems, Heavy Flamethrower systems TOS-1A 'Solntsepek', guided missiles 9M113M, armored vehicles, Russian armored cars 'Tiger', engineering means, communications and so on.
But the political elite of Armenia is not used to returning the favour. And now it lives day to day, assessing Karapetyan's visit to Iran from the standpoint of the benefits and what Karapetyan has cared for: the growth of Armenia's independence and sovereignty, or vice versa, Russia's interests.
Despite the seemingly simplified formulation of the issue, the country's ruling clan hopes to test not only the "trustworthiness" of the active prime minister, but also to test how loyal the Iranian authorities are to their Armenian neighbors and whether they are ready to move with them in one direction, "moving" aside Russia's interests.
Of course, Iran does not intend to interfere in the internal political life of Armenia, but in economic terms it is extremely important for the activation and development of the Armenian economy. But there is one little issue, which has not been considered by the distrustful Armenian elite: Iran's economy just got out of the sanctions, and it will take a long time for the country to restore it. Moreover, the situation with the Iran nuclear deal is hanging by a thread due to the position of US President Donald Trump, and it is not in its interests to destabilize it, even by insignificant statements regarding the prospects for economic cooperation with neighboring Armenia, and Russian economists are perfectly aware of that.
Therefore, there is still a lot of work to be done by Armenia, during which it will be necessary to consider not only the international role of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but also Russia's role, to the relations with which Iran attaches higher priority and is unlikely to decide to implement any "parallel" projects to the disadvantage of a mighty power. And it is unlikely that Karen Karapetyan's current visit will make a difference in this situation.