Iran: Lawmakers Reject Nearby Missile-Shield Presence
June 14, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian politicians have responded disapprovingly to a Russian components that the United States deploy components of a proposed antiballistic-missile shield in Azerbaijan instead of Central Europe. Those comments appear to expose distrust among Iranian politicians of Moscow, an ostensible ally often perceived as prepared to make deals with Washington over Iran's interests. Reactions also suggest dissatisfaction with neighboring Azerbaijan -- of whom Iran is wary, given its potential influence, and at times suspected mischief-making, with Iran's population of Azeri Turks.
Comments on Russia have shown the perception of Russia as wily -- even cryptic in its intentions -- and Machiavellian in the pursuit of its interests.
One legislator said Russian President Vladimir Putin's missile-shield offer was akin to calling the U.S. bluff: If the missile shield is aimed at a hypothetical threat from "rogue" states like Iran or North Korea -- and not Russia -- then why not place it nearer to those threats?
One member of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Hamid Reza Haji-Babai, on June 12 called Putin's proposal "a joke against Bush's policies" and "entirely unrealistic and unfeasible." Haji-Babai claimed that "Russia knows that America's missile shield in Europe is not for Iran," and that the proposal is a bid to reveal what the legislator called a new round of U.S.-propelled global "militarization." But like many commentators, Haji-Babai was not entirely convinced the proposal was not also a jab at Iranian interests.
The same committee's deputy head, Mohammad Nabi Rudaki, said the same day that the proposal could be to avoid U.S. installations in Poland or the Czech Republic. But Rudaki said it could also indicate an agreement between Russia and the United States to "contain" Iran, ISNA reported. He said Russia should neither "degrade" itself before the United States nor "stand with the forceful powers."
Another member of the committee, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, said Russia's perspective on Iran "has always been based on deal-making," according to ISNA on June 12. Falahatpisheh accused the Russians of having "sold Iran" in "grand agreements" in the past, referring perhaps to Russia's tendency to accommodate Western powers in voting against Iran's nuclear program at the United Nations. But Falahatpisheh said Iran "is beyond" the type of states over which Russia can make deals. He said Iran's "interaction" with Europe shows that it poses no threat to EU states.
Another member of the parliamentary National Security Committee, Reza Talai-Nik, said Russia may well be concerned over its security, but alleged that Putin's proposal on using a radar base in Azerbaijan followed "past tactics" and a Russian tendency to extract concessions from both Iran and the West, Fars News Agency reported on June 12. He said Tehran should respond firmly and sensibly to any new intelligence and military installation near its border. He also urged unspecified diplomatic initiatives with neighboring countries to prevent the realization of the proposal.
Suspicious Of Baku
Parliamentarians have also voiced suspicions about Baku and expressed irritation with a perceived enthusiasm in Azerbaijan for hosting U.S. installations or equipment. Lawmaker Rudaki said Iran's relations with Azerbaijan have progressed in recent years, but he said Baku's welcoming of the Russian proposal was "effectively disrespectful" to regional peoples and would "certainly affect" Iranian-Azerbaijani political and economic ties, "Iran" reported on June 12.
National Security Committee member Ali Ahmadi said the "political regime" of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev lacks popular support. He accused Aliev of seeking support from "superior powers," adding that "even the Israelis have begun some activities in that country in recent years," "Iran" reported on June 11. Ahmadi said Iran should not be silent over the proposal and "Aliev's positive response."
Another legislator, Hasan Abbasi, said he could not understand why Azerbaijan had embraced a proposal that did not benefit the region, according to "Iran." Abbasi suggested that Iran had what he described as an "unkind" neighbor.
Discussion of the shield seems to have coincided with -- or perhaps enhanced -- intermittent tensions over Azeris and ethnicity. On June 12, the representative for the northwestern Ardebil constituency, identified in a report as Noi-Aqdam, warned in parliament that Azeri legislators should stop uttering "baseless and irrelevant" statements that he said were "cooked up by American and Israeli spy organizations," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on June 13. "Aftab-i Yazd" suggested that the offensive statements had been about