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June 25, 2009

ACNIS Holds Roundtable Discussion on
“Crisis in Iran: Lessons for Armenia”

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened a roundtable discussion today, entitled “Crisis in Iran: Lessons for Armenia,” assessing the recent post-election crisis in Iran and examining the lessons for Armenia.

After welcoming the nearly fifty participants, ACNIS Director of Administration Dr. Karapet Kalenchian presented a brief introduction of recent developments in Iran within a broader context of Armenia’s relations with Iran, explaining that “the future course of the strategic relationship between Yerevan and Tehran was largely dependent and affected by the outcome of Iran’s ongoing political crisis.”

ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian then presented an assessment of recent developments in Armenia’s southern neighbor Iran, which has been gripped by a powerful, and at times, even violent post-election crisis that has seen the largest anti-government demonstrations since the 1979 Iranian revolution, with hundreds of thousands of Iranian citizens protesting a disputed presidential election.  He argued that the “post-election unrest poses the most serious challenge to the Iranian authorities since they came to power in the wake of the Iranian revolution twenty years ago.” In addition, he noted that “the current wave of unrest is largely directed against the ruling elite, although it is not, at least yet, targeting the system itself.”

After providing a focused analysis of the Iranian crisis, Giragosian also presented several important lessons for Armenia, including the fact that “Iran is now facing its own March 1st post-election crisis, similar to the events in Armenia last year” and, in both cases, “led to the tragic deaths of civilian demonstrators after the use, and misuse, of force, with police and security forces applying an excessive and repressive response to the demonstrations.”  He went on to say that “in Armenia’s case, the March 2008 crisis remains unresolved, as the authorities have been unable or unwilling to fully and fairly investigate the events of March 2008” and warned that “Armenia, like Iran, is plagued by a failure to adequately resolve the underlying tension and demands emanating from that crisis.”

Giragosian explained that another lesson for Armenia from the current crisis in Iran was the fact that the election revealed that “very serious domestic contradictions quickly developed into a highly volatile and explosive internal situation that no ideology, no matter how powerful, could contain.”  And, “for the Armenian authorities, this lesson also includes a warning: that there can be no political panacea or substitute for not addressing concrete socio-economic problems. And with Iran, it is also clear that the recent crisis has shown that no country in this modern world can remain truly isolated,” he added.

He concluded by noting that the third lesson from Iran, the “economics of change” as a driving force behind this tension that was even more worrisome for Armenia. In both cases, he argued, “young Iranians and Armenians share the same hopes, for a brighter future, for economic opportunities, and for a voice in how their country is governed.”  He then warned that “for both countries, there is no return to the pre-crisis status quo, as the political and economic demands for change remain unmet, and to continue to ignore these basic demands and natural expectations, sparks a real risk of only prolonging the crisis, and most dangerously, of merely fueling the fire of discontent.”

In closing, Giragosian stated that “in terms of the outlook for Armenian-Iranian relations, there are both inherent limits, such as the Russian pressure on Armenia over the size of the gas pipeline to prevent the re-export of gas beyond Armenia, and inherent opportunities,” arguing that “Armenia can play a role as a strategic bridge to Iran, and as a platform for Russia, the EU and the US to engage Iran.”

ACNIS Senior Analyst Manvel Sargsian provided a presentation on the recent events in Iran and said that the protests in Iran revealed “a lack of confidence in the Iranian government and a challenge to the legitimacy” of the leadership.  He went on to say that the crisis was unprecedented and can be seen as tied to the international context, in terms of Iran’s isolation and pressure on its leaders.  He then closed by noting that the West was cautious in its response but that the real challenge was from Iran itself.

The two presentations were then followed by a series of questions and answers, as well as a lively exchange among two Armenian parliamentarians, leading Armenian analysts, experts and journalists.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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