Interview with Vitaly Naumkin

The security threat from Iran has been exaggerated, according to Vitaly Naumkin, the President of the International Centre for Strategic and Political Studies. His comments followed the Caspian states summit in Tehran.

Russia Today: It looks like the declaration has been signed. What is the significance of this? What message is it going to send to the international community?

Vitaly Naumkin: I think there are two main messages: the first is that these five states agreed that they will not allow a third state to use the territory of any of them in case of any attack against any Caspian state.

RT: A threat to the U.S.?

V.N.: Exactly. It probably has some message for the U.S. After the signing of this declaration the U.S. will not be able to use the territory of Azerbaijan in case of any military operation against Iran. Same applies to Russia. This part of the declaration is important for Iran and can be interpreted as its victory.

The second one is about these ships. It is more important for Russia.

RT: The proposal is to divide the coastline into equal parts among the five states. Will all the parties be happy about that, especially Kazakhstan which has a bigger coastline?

V.N.: Absolutely. These parts are not equal from the point of view of the resources available. And the depth of the sea is different. And there are the disputed areas, where someone can try to dig in the seabed. So there are a lot of questions.

RT: Can that still be sorted? Is the threat from Iran as big as many in the international community think it is?

V.N.: I don't think so. I do not think the Iranian leadership is so stupid as to plan an attack against, for instance, the U.S. or even Israel. Even if Iran has not always been friendly to Israel, it has more problems with the Arab neighbours rather than with the Israel, or Jews in general. For the Iranians, who are not happy with the unfriendly surrounding environment, it is more like a problem of survival or defense, rather than thinking of some attacks or counter-attacks.

RT: Time and time again Russia has called on Iran to work under international law. It has called for transparency but it has also called for dialogue. Why is Russia such a good mediator? Indeed, do you think Iran actually listens to what Russia has to say?

V.N.: I have some hope that the Iranians can listen to what Russia is saying. If we recall what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had to say recently, he mentioned that unilateral sanctions, or the aggravation of sanctions by the U.S. unilaterally, can only complicate the situation. The Russian view is that not only military action is counter-productive, but even the escalation of sanctions, especially unilaterally, is absolutely counter-productive. Only dialogue. There is a hope that the Iranians can listen to Russia and the others, and to be transparent and open in their relationship and their dialogue – first of all with the IAEA and the international community in general.