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June 30, 2007

ACNIS Examines Regional Security, US-Iran Relations

Yerevan—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) today initiated a foreign policy discussion entitled “The Challenges of Regional Security: Iran, the United States, and Armenia.” With an eye on the continued downturn in relations between the United States and Iran, this gathering of state and political figures, leading analysts, policy specialists, media representatives, and officials from the US and Iranian embassies analyzed the potential conflicts of interest, far-reaching miscalculations, and structural pitfalls this standoff presents. The conference considered threats to both macro- and micro-regional forces, including Armenia. Various scenarios, possible solutions, and plans of action were presented throughout the day.

The day’s agenda opened with remarks by Raffi K. Hovannisian, ACNIS founder and newly-elected Member of Parliament. “It is our professional as well as civic duty to examine and elucidate, against the background of likely developments, the issues that directly affect Armenia’s security,” Hovannisian said, adding that the Republic needs to reveal past and putative omissions within its foreign and domestic policy framework with the aim of defending its national interest and finding ways and means for surmounting current geopolitical challenges. “A strategic mutual reassessment is in order for two very important nations—the United States and Iran—whose ultimate meeting of minds is crucial for regional security and world peace in the new era. Armenia, from whose vital interests this flows, must be prepared in every way to facilitate such a strategic imperative,” Hovannisian suggested.

The roundtable’s morning session focused on the dangers and risks not only for Armenia but for the entire region if differences between the United States and Iran are resolved militarily. The first speaker was analyst Richard Giragosian of Jane’s Information Group. Giragosian addressed the key factors of discord and possible cooperation in Iranian-American relations, primarily interpreting Washington’s policies toward Tehran. Giragosian asserted that “since Armenia is partner with strategically important countries such as Iran and Russia, it can play a pivotal role and become a unique platform in the region.” Giragosian, however, expressed disappointment that the Armenian government did not take full advantage of certain opportunities. Here, Giragosian specifically referred to Armenia’s structural dependency on Russia—with respect to the “Property for Debt” deal whereby the management of several Armenian enterprises were transferred over to Russia—as well as the lacking significance of the Iran-Armenia gasline in the region and in terms of transit.

Political scientist and new Heritage MP Stepan Safarian then presented the main scenarios of “programmed war” as designed by certain American experts. He noted that a volatile situation could ensue in the region, including missile attacks and partial military strikes against Iran and this, in Safarian’s view, mainly pursues the objective of spreading fear to compel Iran to carry out the requirements of the UN Security Council and the European Union troika. “Armenia enjoys normal relations with Iran, and this allows Armenian diplomacy the unique chance to be the initiator and become the mediator in reducing the tension,” Safarian argued. He added that the conduct of incorrect methodology—the mongering of fear—toward Iran can marginalize the latter and make it become unpredictable. According to Safarian, any country at war attempts to take the military platform outside its borders and when that happens the military, political, and economic consequences are inevitable.

Former Minister of Environment Karine Danielian intervened next. She spoke about the adverse environmental consequences that might result from potential military conflict. According to Danielian, the intense breakdown in the Earth’s crust as a result of rapid usage of the petroleum and gas mines cause man-made catastrophes and deteriorate the regional environmental conditions. “There is, at present, a greater artificial threat to the ecosystem of our region, and this could bring unforeseeable consequences. I refer to international reaction to Iran’s nuclear agenda, and if this reaction were to enter the military phase it would cause volatile results,” Danielian said. She also noted that Armenia would be the first to bear the brunt of the dangers threatening Iran, and called on the roundtable participants to join her in declaring this region a nuclear-free zone.

The first session concluded with a talk by Mane Hakobian of the Association for Sustainable Human Development, who concentrated on the ramifications of any military operations and the potential ripple effects on the region as a whole. She pointed to the variety of factors that might endanger Armenia’s stability. “The real disaster could start when the US Armed Forces decide to bomb and destroy the uranium enrichment complexes within Iranian territory. The sole avenue for annihilating underground bunkers is to use powerful bombs, and this would result in high-magnitude artificial earthquakes with a circumference of one thousand kilometers,” Hakobian said. She also expressed concern that should this happen the all of Armenia would be at the epicenter of a seismic disaster. “If this matter is not peacefully resolved the reality could be even worse,” Hakobian concluded.

The afternoon session was keynoted by Iran specialist Emma Begijanian, who presented an overview of probable retaliatory measures by Iran. “An attack on Iran can cause the opposite result, and this would encourage Iran to start a large-scale production of nuclear weapons,” she said. According to Begijanian, Iran has sufficient levers to counter the US and one such lever is to close the Hormuz Strait, which is considered the channel in the Persian Gulf for the international energy conduits. Begijanian also expressed a conviction that producing nuclear weapons is not Iran’s objective and that it is prepared to enrich uranium under international watch.

The foreign policy roundtable concluded with an exchange of views and policy recommendations among Giro Manoyan of the Dashnaktsutiun Party; Vardan Khachatrian from Heritage’s parliamentary group; political analyst Davit Petrosian; former MP Arshak Sadoyan; director Simon Kamsarakan of the Armenian Center for Fundamental Sciences; Armen Dovlatian from the Social-Ecological Party; director Stepan Grigorian of the Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation; chairman Boris Navasardian of the Yerevan Press Club; Edward Antinian, deputy chairman of the Liberal Progressive Party; and several others. Roundtable participants also came to the conclusion that everything must be done so that the developments concerning Iran follow a pacific path.

Founded in 1994 by Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs Raffi K. Hovannisian and supported by a global network of contributors, ACNIS serves as a link between innovative scholarship and the public policy challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian people in the post-Soviet world. It also aspires to be a catalyst for creative, strategic thinking and a wider understanding of the new global environment. In 2007, the Center focuses primarily on civic education, democratic development, conflict resolution, and applied research on critical domestic and foreign policy issues for the state and the nation.

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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