News

Voice of America 4/16/97

IRAN, RUSSIA AND THE UNITED STATES

BYLINE=JOAN BEECHER
TELEPHONE=619-3422
DATELINE=WASHINGTON
EDITOR=GARY EDQUIST

CONTENT= (INSERTS AVAILABLE IN AUDIO SERVICES)

INTRO:
IN THE WAKE OF LAST WEEK'S GERMAN COURT 
VERDICT LINKING TOP IRANIAN LEADERS TO
THE MURDER OF KURDISH DISSIDENTS IN BERLIN
FIVE YEARS AGO,  ALL EUROPEAN UNION NATIONS 
EXCEPT GREECE HAVE WITHDRAWN THEIR 
AMBASSADORS TO IRAN. MEANWHILE, RUSSIAN
LEADERS HAVE VOWED TO IMPROVE TIES WITH
IRAN, FOLLOWING THE FIVE-DAY VISIT TO RUSSIA
OF IRAN'S PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER, ALI AKBAR
NATEQ-NOORI.  BUT AS VOA CORRESPONDENT
JOAN BEECHER REPORTS, SOME OBSERVERS 
BELIEVE RUSSIA HAS REASON TO WELCOME THE 
INCREASING ISOLATION OF IRAN.  

TEXT:
THE  UNITED STATES HAS LONG ARGUED THAT 
EUROPE'S POLICY OF "CRITICAL DIALOGUE" WITH
IRAN IS MISTAKEN.  NOW, EUROPE MAY INDEED
RE-THINK THAT POLICY, AT A TIME WHEN THE
OFFICIAL U.S. POLICY OF ISOLATING IRAN HAS BEEN 
INCREASINGLY CHALLENGED AT HOME.   

SOME CRITICS, LIKE FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY
ADVISOR ZBIGNIEW BRZESINSKI, HAVE ARGUED
THAT THE U-S POLICY NO LONGER SERVES U-S 
INTERESTS.  OTHERS HAVE COMPLAINED THAT
THE POLICY ACTUALLY SERVES RUSSIAN INTERESTS.
MOST SPECIFICALLY, IT SERVES THE RUSSIAN
INTEREST IN MAINTAINING CONTROL OVER 
CENTRAL ASIA AND AZERBAIJAN, ACCORDING
TO FREDERICK STARR, WHO HEADS THE CENTRAL ASIA
INSTITUTE OF JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY.   

MR. STARR DESCRIBES RUSSIA'S POLICY TOWARDS
THOSE REGIONS AS "ENERGY-DRIVEN."  AND THE
AIM OF RUSSIA'S POLICY, HE SAYS, IS TO MAINTAIN
CONTROL OF ITS NEIGHBORS' ABUNDANT ENERGY
SUPPLIES.   

TAPE:    CUT #1       STARR   

"THEY DO TRY TO DICTATE TO CENTRAL ASIANS 
AND AZERIS THAT THEY SHOULD EXPORT ALL 
THEIR OIL AND GAS THROUGH RUSSIAN LINES.
AND IF THEY DON'T SUCCEED AT THAT, THEN 
[THEY] MAKE SURE THAT RUSSIANS OWN A STAKE
IN ANY COMPETITOR LINES.  AND THEY'VE TRIED
TO PUT RUSSIAN FIRMS INTO ANY INTERNATIONAL
CONSORTIA PUT TOGETHER BY AZERBAIJAN OR
CENTRAL ASIA; [THEY] FORCE THE CENTRAL 
ASIANS TO ALLOCATE ENERGY TO C-I-S COUNTRIES, 
MOST OF WHOM DON'T PAY THEIR BILLS.  AS A
RESULT, A COUNTRY LIKE TURKMENISTAN 
REALLY REMAINS POOR.  IF IT WERE EXPORTING 
IN A NORMAL WAY, IT WOULD ALREADY BE WEALTHY.
AND IT [RUSSIA] CLAIMS THAT CENTRAL ASIAN
DEBTS TO RUSSIA -- MOST OF WHICH ARE QUITE
ARTIFICIAL -- ARE ADEQUATE BASISFOR [GIVING
RUSSIA] SHARES IN REFINERIES AND PROCESSING 
FACILITIES THERE.  THAT'S BEEN PARTICULARLY 
TRUE IN KAZAKHSTAN."

TEXT:    
AND IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MR. STARR SAYS, THE 
RUSSIANS SUPPORT COUPS AGAINST LOCAL
LEADERS, AS THE RECENT HISTORY OF AZERBAIJAN
DEMONSTRATES.   IT PUZZLES HIM THAT THE
RUSSIANS GET AWAY WITH IT.

TAPE:    CUT #2     STARR

"NOW, I THEN ASK MYSELF, WHAT'S REALLY GOING 
ON HERE?  AND THE ASTONISHING CONCLUSION IS
THAT ALL OF THIS IS POSSIBLE BECAUSE THERE IS 
A PECULIAR RUSSIAN-AMERICAN COLLUSION GOING 
ON.  THE UNITED STATES HAS HAD A POLICY OF
COMPLETELY ISOLATING IRAN.  IT'S BEEN OF ONLY
LIMITED SUCCESS.  AND IMPOSING THAT POLICY, IT
HAS TAKEN THE POSITION THAT IF THIS MEANS 
CENTRAL ASIANS AND AZERIS EXPORTING THEIR 
ENERGY LARGELY THROUGH RUSSIA -- IN OTHER 
WORDS, RUSSIAN CONTROL -- SO BE IT.  THAT 
DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS THIS COUNTRY'S STATED
SUPPORT FOR THE INDEPENDENCE AND SOVEREIGNTY
OF THESE NEW NATIONS. I DON'T THINK IT IS 
APPROPRIATE FOR THE UNITED STATES TO MAKE
CENTRAL ASIA AND AZERBAIJAN HOSTAGE TO ITS 
IRAN POLICY. " 

                           //BEGIN OPT//

TEXT:    
FOR EXAMPLE, THE BEST ROUTE FOR THE EXPORT 
OF TURKMENISTAN'S GAS IS THROUGH IRAN -- BUT
THE UNITED STATES HAS BLOCKED THAT.  THAT
LEAVES TURKMENISTAN NO CHOICE BUT TO USE 
RUSSIAN LINES.  MR. STARR SAYS THIS  GIVES
RUSSIA ALL THE LEVERAGE IT NEEDS TO PRESSURE 
THAT COUNTRY INTO COMPLIANCE.

TAPE:    CUT #3    STARR

"WHEN TURKMENISTAN BEHAVED INDEPENDENTLY, 
RUSSIA SIMPLY CLOSED OFF THE GAS EXPORT, EVEN
THOUGH TURKMENISTAN HAD LEGAL EXPORT 
CONTRACTS.  BUT RUSSIA, AS THE MONOPOLIST 
EXPORTER, PUT THE SCREWS ON UNTIL THEY SUBMITTED. 
AND THEY DID THIS TWICE.  AND THEY'VE DONE THE
SAME THING WITH REGARD TO KAZAKHSTAN.  AND
THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR:  YOU DO IT OUR WAY -- 
OR NO WAY." 

                           //END OPT//

TAPE:
MEANWHILE, RUSSIA AND IRAN FORGING WHAT 
SOME OBSERVERS SEE AS A TACTICAL ALLIANCE.   

RUSSIA AND IRAN HAVE CERTAIN INTERESTS IN
COMMON.   FOR EXAMPLE, THEY TAKE A SIMILAR 
POSITION ON THE CASPIAN SEA -- NAMELY, THAT 
IT IS A LAKE, AND THAT ITS OIL RICHES ARE 
THEREFORE THE COMMON PROPERTY OF ALL 
THE LITTORAL STATES (I.E. THOSE STATES THAT
BORDER ON THE CASPIAN SEA).  RUSSIA HAS 
SUPPLIED IRAN WITH SUBMARINES AND OTHER
WEAPONS, AS WELL AS WITH OIL EQUIPMENT, 
AND IT WILL BE CONSTRUCTING  A NUCLEAR 
REACTOR IN IRAN. EXPANDED ECONOMIC TIES 
ARE ENVISIONED BY THE AGREEMENTS SIGNED
BY THE IRANIANS AND RUSSIANS THIS WEEK.  
BUT IN MR. STARR'S VIEW, NONE OF THIS ADDS
UP TO AN ALLIANCE.  

TAPE:    CUT #4        STARR

"THE FACT IS IN MANY RESPECTS THESE COUNTRIES
ARE AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN COMPETITORS.  
THEY HAVE A LONG HISTORY OF THE MOST 
INTRICATE RELATIONSHIP.  AND I THINK IF THEY
HAVE BEEN COLLABORATING IN CERTAIN RESPECTS
TODAY, WHICH IS QUITE NORMAL, WE CAN EXPECT
THEM TO BE COMPETING IN MANY RESPECTS ALSO, 
WHICH IS EVEN MORE NORMAL."  

TEXT:
POSSIBLE COMPETITION OVER PIPELINES FOR
CENTRAL ASIAN AND AZERI OIL AND GAS ALREADY
WORRIES THE RUSSIANS.  DURING A VISIT TO
TEHRAN LAST DECEMBER, RUSSIAN FOREIGN 
MINISTER YEVGENY PRIMAKOV EXPLICITLY
WARNED IRAN AGAINST PROVIDING ALTERNATIVE
PIPE LINES FOR CENTRAL ASIA.  WHAT DISTURBS
MR. STARR IS THAT U-S POLICY, IN EFFECT, 
PROTECTS THE RUSSIANS FROM IRANIAN COMPETITION.

SUPPORTERS OF THE U-S POLICY OF ISOLATING IRAN
AGREE THAT IT HAS BEEN HARD ON CENTRAL ASIA
AND AZERBAIJAN. BUT THEY DO NOT THINK THIS
IS SUFFICIENT REASON FOR RELAXING THAT POLICY,
ESPECIALLY SINCE THERE ARE PIPELINE OPTIONS
THAT BYPASS BOTH RUSSIA AND IRAN.  THEY
ARGUE THAT IT WOULD BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
TO REWARD IRAN BEFORE IT HAS ACTUALLY 
CHANGED ITS BEHAVIOR.  AND CRITICS LIKE 
MR. STARR AGREE WITH U-S POLICY-MAKERS THAT
TIES CANNOT BE RENEWED WITH IRAN UNTII ITS
LEADERS RENOUNCE INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM.  

THE GERMAN COURT VERDICT CONCERNS 
ASSASSINATIONS THAT TOOK PLACE FIVE YEARS 
AGO, BUT EVIDENCE HAS ALSO SURFACED ABOUT
POSSIBLE IRANIAN INVOLVEMENT IN MORE 
RECENT ACTS OF TERRORISM, NOTABLY THE
BOMBING OF A U-S MILITARY COMPOUND IN 
SAUDI ARABIA LAST YEAR.  SO AT THIS
POINT,  BOTH CRITICS AND SUPPORTERS OF U-S 
POLICY TOWARDS IRAN AGREE IT IS UNLIKELY 
TO BE RE-EXAMINED SOON.  [SIGNED] 

16-Apr-97 12:59 PM EDT (1659 UTC)
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