Directorate of Intel] (gene*1
hgjyiesponse to soviet disunion
The rapid decline of central authority in the USSR will present President Rafsanjani with yet another serious foreign policy challenge. Rafsanjani hu invested heavily in improving relations with the Soviet Union-looking to Moscow as Iran's main source of modem military equipment,ource of some economic assistance, andounterweight to US influence Ln ihe Middle East. We believe thai Tehran will now strive to craftpolicy that preserves Iu ties to Moscow and allows It to gain influence in the republics. An immediate concern will be to ensure that the changes in Moscow do not jeopardize the arms relationship and to limit the danger that instability in the Soviet Muslim republics will spread to Iran. Iran also will focus on building official ties to the individual republics. Tehran will more actively seek to spread its Islamic ideology among Soviet Muslims-especially if it believes Turkey and Saudi Arabia are gaining influence in the republics-but we believe Iran's appeal will be limited in the near term in large pan because of the ethnic and sectarian differences with most Soviet Muslims. i
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IramResponse to Soviet Disunion
The centra] theme of Iranian policy toward Moscow ttnee the abortive coupugust has been the preservation of good relations. Tehran'i initial reaction to the coup was cautious and nonoomrniiuJ: the Supreme Council for National Security--comprising the senior leadership of Iran-met In ipecial session and announced that it was following the events in Moscow with "care andccording to Iranian press. Foreign Minister Velayati subsequently stated publicly thai Soviet developments were an internal issue and expressed his expectation that the changes would notafTect the "favorable -trend" in Iriiuan-Soviet relations. Upon President Gorbachev's return lo power, both Rifsanjani and Velayati congratulated him on the "return to law and order* and called for the expansion of relations between the two countries, according to Iranian press reports. |
Public suternents by Iranian leaden and newspapers suggest they would prefer totrong central government in Moscow under Gorbachev's leadership. On the eve of the coup, the Tehranhich generally reflects Rafsanjani's views, ran in editorial opposing "any weakening" of Gorbachev'seek later. Deputy Foreign Minister Bcsharati staled that "Gorbachev's leadership Is of irnportance toehran almost certainly will seek to deal with whomever wields real power in the USSR, but Iranian press commentary across the political spectrum strongly suggests thatuspactJ Russianl tain wfll become too close to ihe^
Tehran's desire to maintain what both Rafsanjani and Velayati have termed Iran's "strategic relations* with Moscow underscores the importance of the USSR in Iranian foreign policy calculation* and the difficulties posed for Iran by the collapse of Soviet power. Rafsanjani has invested heavily in improving relations with the USSR, lookingoscoweliable source of modern military equipment, for assistance in economic development, andounterweight to US influence in the Middle East. At the same time.
hat Tehran has sought to'MpTid^eTSoos'^UUhe republics, although this effort has been aimed at cultivating the generally conservative leaden there, whose positions may not be as secure in the wake orine coup. JUfsanjani. for example, wu hosting Azerbaijan's hardlir* ifeuoent MuUhbov in Tehran when the abortive coup occurred. tVaWaa>
Iran'i needtrong partner to balance Western influence in the region and help rebuild Iranian power probably will puih Tehranolicy emphasizing continued cooperation with Moacow, even as it adjusu to the new realities in the republics and seeks to gain Influence there. We believe Iran will focus on three main goals in Its Soviet policy:
o Preserving the ami and trade relationships.
o Encouraging stability in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
o Expanding Iranian influence. ^
Preserving the Anns and Trade Relationships
I we believe Iran will to avoid Ktions that would jeofWdlKitt continued access to Soviet equipment and spares. Tehran has made the strategic decision to rebuild Iu military strength with primarily Soviei equipment, and the USSR has become Iran's chief supplier of modem weapon systems. Tehran already has taken delivery ofndircraft from Moscow as well as missiles, artillery, and munitions. BBsaeasaalmay also receive transport and early warning aircraft, submarina, armored vehicles, and advanced surface-to-ir missile systems.
Because Western ami have largely been denied Iran the last decade, Tehran perceives it has no good alternative to Soviet and Iran's efforts to rebuild iu military forces-devastated in the Iran-Iraq war-will be dependenl on Moscow's continued willingness to supply
Tehran's desire not lo Jeopardise iu continued access to Soviet and spares will, for at least the near lerm, temper Iran's willingness to offend Moscow as it conducts relations with the Soviet republics, although Tehran probably recognises that, as one of Moscow's top customers. It will have considerable leeway before the Sovieu consider cutting off the arms supply.
Iranian trade with the Sovietlso important, although it is relatively small compared with Iran's trade with the West. Iranian trade with the USSR04ercent of iu total trade-while trade with the OECDcountriesillion. Nevertheless, the Soviets are Iran's only customer for natural gas. exports of which weiedujlxrweenSJCO and SVX million0 gaaeessssssssssssssss]
asBsaeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeW bertertng gas wtth Moscow for ai least some of the advanced Soviet weapons It Ii acquiring, allowing it lo preserve Iu limited hard currency. Tehran also puns io use natural gas exports to partially finance someillion in
development projecis.These economic ties
tJmoji certainly will rnnforociehrM's interest in maintaining good relations with the Soviet central government.
EocouragLnf Stability la the Caucasus aad Central Asia
Instability in the Soviet Muslim republics, and ways to limit iu impact, are growing concerns In Tehran. Senior Iranian leaden are worried about the potential for Soviet unrest degenerating into an ethnic civil war similar tonterior Minister Nuri has publicly expressed concern lhat instability could provoke an exodus of Soviet refugees to Iran, which already hosts more lhan one million Afghan and Iraqi refugees. Because of these fears, and because Tehran's ties to the Soviet republics are primarily with the existing ruling elites, we believe that for the near term Iran will encourage the current republic governments to remain in power, lo maintain domestic older, and possibly to retain close bes lo Moscow. Indeed, the Tehran Times has caurioned ne rerublici ixunu 'extremisind
[prior io (he coup,
"ehran was quietly urging Moscow to keep order in the republics. SinceIt has been reported that Iranian clerics prominently shared theAzerbaijani president Mutalibovolitica] rally supporting him
The potential impact of Soviet "extremist rationalistic move menu* on Iranian domestic stability willurther incentive for Iran to encourage subilit the Muslim republics.
for Iran if the Muslim republics were to become too restive. In particular, we believe Tehran suspects that Axeri and Central Asian nationalism over time may inspire similar separatist aspirations among Iran's ethnic minorities. The history of separatist revolts in northern Iran following both world wan and the generally secular, nationalist nature of the Axeri and Central Asianmovements win continue to color the Iranian response to Soviet events. Iran's most immediate problem will be its chronically restive Kurdish minority, but over the longer term ft may have to confront the reemcrience of
separatist sentiments among Iran's roughlyillion Azeris. L
oviet Axeri nationalists are In contact with likemi
is and that, during the rebellion in Soviet Azerbaijan inranian authorities reacted harshly to small, pro-Azcri oemoriatrabons iniewed as secessionist- SHHIHIHI ^PHHHVfmany Iranian Azerii are well assimilatcdinS^^
Iran's Persian majority, and this will serve lo limit the immediate appeal of Azeri nationalism.
Expanding. Iranian Influence
Iran ii likely to view improved ties to the existing government* of theas the best way to build influence in the republicsrelations with Moscow. Tehran has quietly expanded tradelinks to the republics during the past year, sending trade ortoKazakhstan,
according toSince the coup, Teh ran has
offered its good offices to help resolve the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the Tehran Times has suggested that the leaden of the six Soviet Muslim republics meet in Tehran tooordinated approach lo the emerging political structure In the USSR.lear sign that top Iranian policymakers are closely following and responding to the changes In the USSR, the Supreme Council of National Security declared its respect for the new union agreement concluded in Moscow and announced Iran's readiness to cooperate with all the republics in politics, economics, and cultural affairs. Rafsanjani reiterated these themesermon deliveredeptember and urged Moscow to give fair and equal treatment to all the republics. tTaaeaBel
In the coming months, Tehran probably will seek to establish an official presence in the republics and to broaden commercial contacts. It may seek to open consulates or trade offices; the US Embassy In Moscow reports that last spring Iranian officials discussedajik delegation the openingonsulate in Dushanbe. The commerical efforts will bejnostly symbolic inasmuch as their economiesn-complementary. BBaesssssssaBBBBBBsstaV^ BHHHHBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBnaaei despite the conclusion of an Iranian trade agreement with Tajikistan ins of1 there were no concrete results because of disorganization in both Tehran and Dushanbe. Iran might also seek to include some or all of the republics in the Economic Cooperationrilateral economic grouping of Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, that press reports indicate some of the republics have expressed an interest in joining. Some papers reflecting the views of hardline Iranian ideologues have urged the governo recognize the Independence of the republics, but Tehran is likely to carefully weigh the effect of such recognition on Its relations with Moscow before takingtep. Tehran, for example, did not recognize the Baltic states until several days after Moscow did.
Iran almost certainly will try to limit the growth of Saudi or Turkish religious or political influence among Soviet Muslims and will more vigorously promote its Islamic ideology. Iran probably will not hesitate to use overt methods to proselytize and will stress pan-Islamic themes to counter the nationalistmight infect Iran and also cause the largely Turkic Soviet Muslims to look to Turkeyodel. Iranian clerics have visited Azerbaijan and some Soviet Azeri seminarians plan to study theology in Com, according
lo press reporting.Tehnn
broadcasts Iilanuc fundamentalm and anti-Saudi radio programs into Ihe USSR, and, although such propaganda hasongslanding feature of Iranian programming/Tehran may give suchigher priority than it has in recent yean. keflH
Tehran almost certainly will also make covert attempts to exploit radical Islamic elements in the Muslim republics as another avenue of ^fluence, especially if the current leadership in the republics gives way lo more
progressive or nationalist forces. pJHaBBBBBBBBBBBBeaeaeBBBHhHiaBBlk^M
Iran is supporting fundamentalism in Azerbaijan and Central Asia, andthe Soviet press has reported al least one incident of an Iranian mu^ii^nce operative attemr.
The decline of Soviet central authority presents Rafsanjani with yet another difficult foreign policy challenge. Moscow's diminishing capability and willingness to compete with Washington for regional influence has undermined Rafsanjani's strategy of balancing the Soviets against the United States. At the same time, the growing autonomy of the Muslim republics is probably moreroblem than an coportunity for Tehran, which must carefully balance its interest in expanding influence in the republics against the dangeroscow or feeding instability on its border.vents in Moscow have been seized upon by Iranian factionsetaphor for Rafsanjani's efforts to reform Iran: his opponents view the collapse of Soviet power as an object lesson in overoependence on Western assistance; his lupportcrs point to the Soviet coup's failure as evidence that economic reform is irreversible. Rafsanjani will require all of his political skills to balance these competing interests, and for the next year Iranian policy toward the USSR is likely to be cautious.
Evenu In the USSR will lead Tehran to seek new waysry to counter US influence In the region. Inn will try to continue to use Iu relationship with Moscow, although Tehran almost certainly believes that Moscow will be an increasingly weak lever against Washington, especially given the rise of Boris Yeltsin, whom the Iranian press has identified as pro-West. Asconsequence, Iran probably will accelerate iu efforts to mend relations with sutes it has identified as political counterweigh is against (he United States:
o Tehran has already identified France as one power that might use diplomatic and economic influence to counter Washington in tbe Persian Gulf, and from time to time Germany, Japan, or the European Community are also touted for that role in the Iranian press.
o Tehran probably will seek to strengthen ties to Chins, viewing it as a
permanently on the UN Security Council.
o Iranian officials believe evenu in the USSR require Iran to expand relations not only with China but also with Pakistan to better resist US influence in the region.
As the Muslim republics begin to act more independently of Moscow, thereood prospecteprise of theOame" of competition for Influence in Central Asia and aueaaia, with Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia aa protagonisu. The Iranian press has already warned of the danger of growing
Turkish-and therefore NATO-influence in
The competition for the hearts and minds of Soviet Muslims Is likely to be brisk, but Iran may be the least able to compete.
may be able to translate iu gcograpntc proximil Istorical ties to Azerbaijan, and cultural ties to the Persian-spcaJdng-but Sunni-Tajiks into some political influence. Iu own economic and political problems do not makearticularly artractive rnodd for emulation by Soviet Muslims, kVHLITt-ts^BTksSM the ethnic and sectarian differences with most Soviet Muslims will be an additional obstacle to Iranian export of the revolution lo Central Asia or Azerbaijan.
Tehran probably tea in opportunity in Soviet upheaval toettlement in Afghanistan favorable so its Interests. The Iranian press has suggested Moscow now may be leas Insistent on maintaining Afghan President Najibullah in power, and Iran has met twice in the past two months with the Pakittanis and the Sunni and Shia Afghan resistance groups to try lo comeoordinated positionolitical settlement to the Afghan civil war. The perception of flexibility in Moacow, as well as Tehran's probable view that Afghanistan could serveotential springboard for Influence In the region, may cause Iran to more actively ace* an Afghan letuernent thai limits Saudi and US influence In Kabul.
changes in the Soviei Union may provioc, however, an incentive for Tehran to resolve the main points of friction between Iran and the United States. fflH-
Sorkrf-Iracuao Relations: Th* View from tbe USSR After tbe Coup
The post-coup Sovietnterested In piaintainlng foodith Tehran, especially In the wake of dlmlrushed Soviet Influence following the Persian Gulf crisis end the couprr^der-.tia) adviser Primakov's visit to Iran this month in-jests the eeritral authorities arpntciaie Tehran's support for the return of the lestirimale Soviet government in the USSR.he new Soviet leadership Is likely to mumc an even more cooperative relationship with the United Slate* In the Middle East, It will continue lo view good relations wilh Iraneans to help safeguard the USSR's southern borders and retain influence in tbe Oulf. Tbe hew central leadership will seek Tehran's supportegotiated Afghan settlement and for any Soviet regional security initiatives. It is Ukely to honor all current agreements for armj ulci and
I ecsywmic projects with Iran because the USSR desperately needs the currency WmtmfM
The new Soviet leadership may believe Improved relations with Tehran win help restrain Iran from invcJvemeot In uiler-efhnic conflku in the Central Asian republics and Azerbaijan, but II Is likely io reman, wary of tha potential for Iranian exploitation of such unrest. Moscow will therefore continue lo encourage expanded Turkish and Saudi ties to the Central Asian republics lo counter any disproportionate Iranian influence. Soviet Persian-language radiobroadcast* have commented unfavorably on calls by some Iraniansore aggressive stance toward Azerbaijan and Central Asia in the wake of the coup attempt and the greater assertivenesx of the MuslimmM
Tbe senders of the Russian Republic (RSFSR) and tbe Soviet Muslira republics have not yetolicy toward Iran but are likely to support the center's policy of improved political and economicbe RSFSR attention at this time Is focused more on developing tics to Western
wealthy countries than to Iran. While viewing anyith the Muslim republicsunction of those republic*,'. ilicy, RSFSR leaders are likely to try to guard againstromote Islamic fursdamentalism or anu-Russian nationalistOriginal document.