The International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) published a new book entitled, “Iran’s Policies Towards Central Asia and the Caucasus: Investing in Opportunities and Ousting Competitors,” by Dr. Ahmed Algarni. The book addresses the significance of Central Asia and the Caucasus from Iran’s strategic perspective; the extent of Iran’s ideological influence through exporting Khomeini’s revolution; its political impact in entrenching its hegemony across the Middle East; and its economic impact through oil exports and trade. The book also reviews the nature of Iran’s policies towards this region, deconstructing its political, economic and security dimensions.
In the book’s 119 pages, divided into four chapters, Algarni offers insights into key issues and strategies related to Iran’s quest for hegemony in the region. In Chapter 1, Algarni reviews Iran’s strategic perspective towards Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus as well as the geographical and historical determinants of this region in the context of Iran’s vision. He further explores the goals and principles of Iran’s policy and its security dimensions towards the countries of Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus.
Chapter 2 details Iran’s ideological and cultural efforts to spread its control in the countries of Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus and Iran’s approach towards the region’s secular governments, exploring the limits of Iran’s soft power and how it exploits its cultural heritage and nationalism for its own benefit.
Chapter 3 discusses Iran’s commercial and economic relations with the countries of Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus, shedding light on the debate on how to split the Caspian Sea’s riches, Iran’s project to exploit the oilfields in the Caspian Sea. It also highlights Iran’s trade volume with the countries in the region, the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) — a network of roads, railway lines, and maritime routes which boosts and expands the volume of trade between the countries of South Asia, the Arabian Gulf, Central Asia and southern Europe.
Chapter 4 reviews Iran’s competitors vying for influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus, analyzing the course of competition between Iran and regional and international powers, whose ambitions conflict with those of Iran’s. Russia, the United States, China, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia are Iran’s most prominent competitors in this region.
Finally, this compelling book chronologically clarifies Iran’s role in this region by analyzing Iran’s strategic perspective and historical pillars. It also highlights how Iran embodies the cultural and ideological components in its soft power strategy to impose its control across vital areas in Central Eurasia. However, following the dramatic changes in their foreign policies, the countries of Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus managed to overcome their dependence on Russia and Iran. Algarni forecasts that Iran cannot establish good relationships with the countries of Central Asia due to the negative aspects of the determinants of its policy. Furthermore, he argues that Iran cannot instrumentally invest in the available opportunities in this region.