Iran: May 17, 2002


: barracks in the capital, wounding two civilians. No one took credit.

According to a 15 May report from Kazakh Commercial TV in Almaty, Iran has put its naval forces on high alert. Iranian navy commander Rear-Admiral Abbas Mohtaj told the Iranian press that his units were ready to defend the country's interests, which in his opinion are threatened by Kazakhstan. 

The Iranian naval commander said that Tehran still considered half of the Caspian Sea to be its own territorial waters and the emergence of Kazakh naval cutters in it will be viewed as an attack on Iran.

Iranian Supreme Council of National Security Secretary Hassan Rouhani also noted that Tehran is concerned about Kazakhstan's plan, since, according to the information provided by the Iranian side, Kazakhstan's refusal to coordinate the its armed forces activities fails to conform to the CIS Collective Security Treaty [CST] terms. Ultimately, Tehran thinks that the Kazakh marines will be under the control of America.

That same day, Iranian President Mohamad Khatami accused "a small, but influential group in the United States of threatening the world with war." Khatami had been touring a northern Iranian province bordering the Caspian Sea.

In addition to political blustering, Tehran is not above practicing it's own version of gunboat diplomacy. In 2001, an Iranian gunboat and military aircraft forced two Azeri research vessels to retreat from an oil field claimed by both Iran and Azerbaijan. The Azeri ships had been hired by a British oil firm. 

Meanwhile, the Azeri Republic's President Haydar Aliyev is due to make a long-delayed visit to Iran this week to discuss a dispute over Caspian Sea territorial claims. Iran remains opposed to any Western presence exploiting oil and gas reserves in the region and argues that a settlement on the sea's status must come first. In short, Tehran wants to guarantee it has a piece of the Caspian oil pie despite Washington's aggravation. - Adam Geibel