Brussels Think-Tank Says Emerging Alliance Between Iran and Armenia Could "Circumvent" Western Sanctions

Jan 18, 2013, 10:24 ET from European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center (ESISC)

BRUSSELS, January 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

A report issued by Brussels-based think tank European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center (ESISC) places a spotlight on what some have termed "an unholy alliance" between Islamist Iran and Christian Armenia, an alliance that anlaysts warn could dilute the impact of Western sanctions.

Analysts at the ESISC have also said the alliance with Iran allows Armenia to prolong the low-density conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, where it has occupied Azeri land and refused to withdraw its troops despite four UN resolutions.

The report points out to "the special relationship" between Tehran and Yerevan offering Iran to "evade international sanctions and pursue its nuclear ambitions" and offsetting the recent efforts of the EU and the US to step up sanctions in order to isolate Iran in energy and financial sectors.

The potential sanction-busting alliance between the two neighbours also allow Armenian goods and services "to open up to warm seas routes" while permitting Iran "to benefit from access to the Black Sea and to circumvent international sanctions," reads the report.

Stressing the increasing cooperation between Iran and Armenia "not only in gas and electrictiy but also in hard industry, pharmaceuticals, mining and petrochemicals", the report ranks Iran as the fourth largest exporter to Armenia and refers to a future free trade area between Tehran and Yerevan which could render Armenia's economy less dependent on worker's remittance from Russia, loans from international institutions and foreign assistance from the Armenian diaspora.

Attributing the strong ties between Armenia and Iran partly to the survival of a well-integrated Armenian minority in Shiite Iran, the report further demonstrates the increasing convergence of political, strategic and economic interests of Armenia and Iran.

According to the report, the consolidation of Tehran and Yerevan axis is posing a growing threat to the peace and stability in the Caucasus preventing attempts to restore the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, especially by maintaining the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh since the 1994 ceasefire.

The report argues that Iran is favoring Armenia's position as it is opposed to "a package solution proposed by the OSCE", providing for the deployment of a peace-keeping force which could include Western troops. Nearly 20% of the Azerbaıjanı terrıtorıes remaın under occupatıon despite several UN, European Parliament and PACE resolutıons in support of Azerbaıjan's territorial integrity.

ESISC discusses Iran's financial assistance to Islamist groups and parties such as Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, the Jeyshullah and Hizbullah as part of its efforts to destabilise Azerbaijan.  Analysts say Iran is displeased with Baku's role as a secular and pro-western ally in fighting terrorism and in helping to guarantee Europe's energy security.

SOURCE European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center (ESISC)