April 19, 2015

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

How Does This Country, Neighbor of Iran and Friend of Israel, View the Iran Deal? (Josh Siegel,  April 13, 2015, Daily Signal)

"Being a neighbor of Iran and having a very long border, we of course are very interested in normalization of relations in the region," said Elin Suleymanov, the Azerbaijani ambassador to the U.S., in an interview with The Daily Signal.

In a Q&A below, Suleymanov, speaking from the Azerbaijan Embassy in Washington D.C., shares his country's unique perspective on the potential Iran nuclear deal and forecasts what the pact would mean for the wider region.

The Daily Signal: As a neighboring country to Iran, does Azerbaijan support the U.S.-led deal over Tehran's nuclear program?

Suleymanov: We welcome the agreement. And we hope the framework will bring down the tension in the region.

Being a neighbor of Iran and having a very long border, we of course are very interested in normalization of relations in the region. We are very concerned about potential instability.

I think the intention of having negotiations--to reduce the tensions and talk to the Iranians and bring down the threat of destabilization and weaponization of its nuclear program--is a very good one. Isolating Iran would not work. That has been shown.

We fully support talking to the Iranians and trying to figure it out. [...]

Q: How could the nuclear agreement impact Azerbaijan? In other words, what are the stakes for Azerbaijan with these negotiations?

A: We do have a dog in the fight in the sense we don't want to see the region destabilized. We don't want to see any more military activity in the region

Iran is a major player in the region. Whatever happens to Iran affects us just like it affects the whole region.

It's important American allies in the region, be it Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey or Israel, all feel somewhat comfortable with the solution.

It is us who live in the region.

And don't forget there is a significant number of ethnic Azerbaijanis living in Iran who are citizens of Iran. [...]

Q: Do the ethnic Azerbaijanis living in Iran generally support a nuclear deal? What are their biggest concerns in the negotiations?

A: The concern is their welfare. That they don't get involved in military conflict and that they don't suffer.

They would favor a deal. I think everybody would favor a deal. The question is what kind of deal. [...]

Q: What is the relationship like between the U.S. and Azerbaijan right now? Do you feel a commitment from America?

A: Azerbaijan is a partner with the U.S. in counterterrorism. We are a strong defense partner.

The long-term commitments and relationships to allies in the region is the most important thing here. We are one of few countries committed to post 2014 Afghanistan.

We have forces in Afghanistan. We provide civilian training for their police, customs and civil service. Forty percent of NATO military goods come through Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has done its share. We have felt strong support of the U.S. for years.

The entire WoT has been about empowering the Shi'a crescent.
Posted by at April 19, 2015 7:32 AM
  

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