Azerbaijan, Baku, March 23 /Trend E.Tariverdiyeva/
Azerbaijan will play a significant role in how the West deals with Iran in the future, the leading expert of the Heritage Foundation for Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy, member of Trend Expert Council, Ariel Cohen said.
"Azerbaijan provides a unique and tolerant secular Shia Turkic model which should be a guiding light to other majority-Muslim countries. It is a major oil and gas supplier. No matter what happens in Iran, it is and should remain a long-term partner and friend of the United States." Cohen wrote in an analytical article in "The National Interest".
The United States has a clear national-security interest in keeping Baku safe, the author writes.
"Washington should lead the West's efforts to boost cooperation with Azerbaijan, including counterterrorism, intelligence cooperation and border-security improvements." Cohen writes.
Cohen noted that to achieve this goal the administration of Obama should appoint a new, highly visible U.S. ambassador to Baku after Matthew J. Bryza's recess appointment expired at the end of 2011. Before Bryza's appointment, the ambassador's residence in Baku was empty for over a year.
"This behavior does not help to win friends and influence the gas-rich country. America is also high time to help Armenia and Azerbaijan to reach agreement over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. This will help us to make Azerbaijan a true strategic partner in the region," Cohen writes.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts.
According to Cohen Azerbaijan is playing an increasingly important role in situation with Iran due to its unique location.
"So far this year, Azerbaijani security services have arrested three groups of Iranian agents planning terrorist attacks against American businesses, Western oil companies, Israeli diplomats and prominent members of the Jewish community," Cohen writes.
According to Cohen Iran may not like the fact that Azerbaijan actively develop its relations with Turkey, the United States, NATO and Israel.
Azerbaijan is not the only country in the region that Iran targets. The Iranian intelligence conducted operations against Israeli targets in Tbilisi, as well as in New Delhi and Bangkok last month.
The United States and the West, with Israel's encouragement, have led the effort to impose sanctions to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. As sanctions start to bite, Iran may grow more dangerous, Cohen added.
Common interests have led to stronger ties between Azerbaijan and the West. For example, Israel has supplied Azerbaijan with $1.6 billion worth of arms while reportedly building a drone factory there. Iran's ally Armenia, embroiled in a long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, is in a rage, as Azerbaijan will acquire a special significance to the West.
It is highly unlikely Baku would agree to provide air bases for operations against Iran, Cohen added.
Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at firstname.lastname@example.org