A TOP military adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has described the Muslim world as a future power that can compete with current dominating Western and Eastern powers, saying Iran and the resistance front are reshaping the geopolitics in the region.
Speaking at the International Conference on Iran and Neighbours on Tuesday, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi said the current century will witness the Muslim world as a new pole of power with a cultural, civilisational, economic, and demographic nature that would put up great resistance against Western and Eastern powers.
The geopolitics of resistance means ‘changing the social, cultural (religious), economic, and military structures and processes of the Islamic Ummah (community) so as to gain freedom and independence and form the Islamic world’s power in competition with the dominating powers of the West and East at various national, regional, and global levels,’ Rahim Safavi said.
‘The flag-bearer of this new geopolitics is the Islamic Revolution forces, the Islamic Awakening movements and the Resistance Front led by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and the late founder of the Islamic Republic (Imam Khomeini),’ he added.
Rahim Safavi also noted that following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the resistance focused on the issue of Palestine and the Zionist regime’s aggression and occupation, followed by the struggle against corrupt and oppressive governments in Islamic countries.
He also stressed Iran’s role in presenting and institutionalising the concept of resistance after the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s imposed war against Iran in the 1980s.
The commander further cited Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement, Palestinian resistance groups, Iraq, and Syria as members of a new resistance bloc, saying: ‘With the birth of the Ansarullah movement in Yemen, this bloc or axis is having another official member today.’
Rahim Safavi, a former chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), hailed the IRGC Quds Force as ‘the engine and operating agent of the resistance.’
‘In fact, what has made the United States angry with the Islamic Republic is the process of generating power in Iran’s regional politics. This power has been created in West Asia with the wise and courageous leadership of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and the role of the Quds Force in the battlefield under the command of the martyred general, Qassem Soleimani,’ he said.
‘In parallel with the advent of the new arrangement or order led by the Islamic Republic in West Asia, based on the shared goal of countering American hegemony, Latin American countries, including Venezuela, Cuba, and Peru, have also strengthened their ties with the resistance front,’ he added.
General Soleimani, Iran’s world-renown anti-terror commander, was assassinated alongside Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), in a US drone strike directly ordered by former president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.
Both commanders were highly popular because of the key role they played in eliminating the Daesh terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.
- A veteran energy expert says the implementation of the Turkmen gas swap agreement through Iran to Azerbaijan is set to strengthen Iran’s role in energy relations in the Caspian region.
The beginning of the swap deal for up to two billion cubic metres of Turkmen gas on Saturday marked the first step in efforts to turn Iran into the centre of gravity and gas hub of the region that began 25 years ago, Narsi Ghorban told the ministry of petroleum’s Shana news agency.
‘Iran, due to its geographical location, can receive gas from producing countries and deliver it to the countries that have gas shortages on the other side of the border. With this, Iran will turn into a major gas transmission conduit in the region,’ he said.
Iran is currently exporting gas to Turkey and Iraq, but other opportunities such as exports to Pakistan and India have not been utilised yet.
For the Turkmen gas swap, Iran is using the pipeline which it used to import gas. ‘If we want to increase the volume of the contract, we have to build more pipelines in the country,’ Ghorban said.
Iran’s gas reserves are the second largest in the world after Russia’s and amount to about 16 per cent of all world reserves.
Iran produced 267 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2019, making the country the world’s third-largest dry natural gas producer after the US and Russia despite the most draconian sanctions imposed on the country.
According to the expert, Russia has many pipelines for gas exports, and ‘if Iran wants to achieve a prime position in global gas transactions, it must strengthen its infrastructure in terms of gas production and transmission, and put consumption optimisation on its agenda.’
Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan signed the gas swap deal on the sidelines of the 15th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) in Ashgabat on December 28.
Under the swap deal, Iran will receive gas from Turkmenistan and deliver an equivalent amount to Azerbaijan at the Astara border. Turkmenistan will sell 5-6 million cubic metres of gas per day to Azerbaijan under the trilateral agreement.
Iran has major natural gas fields in the south, but has imported gas from Turkmenistan since 1997 for distribution in its northern provinces, especially during the winter.
‘By signing this agreement, a step forward was taken in the energy relations between the two countries, which will also help provide sustainable fuel for Khorasan Razavi, North and South Khorasan as well as Golestan and Semnan provinces in the winter,’ Minister of Petroleum Javad Owji said in the Turkmen capital.
The gas swap deal – although not large but an important step from the perspective of energy experts – is the first achievement of his ministry which has put activation of energy diplomacy and development of Iran’s cooperation with neighbouring countries on the agenda since assuming office in August.
Many experts agree that even with 100% domestic gas supply, gas imports from Turkmenistan should not be cut off, because the gas received from the country is cheap and economically rational. It allows Iran to consume the imported gas in the country’s north and export an equivalent amount at a higher price to neighbouring countries.
They believe each of Iran’s neighbours has advantages that should be taken into account in its international relations, especially with Turkmenistan which is a strategic neighbour.
‘Therefore, the continuation of gas cooperation with Turkmenistan will have countless advantages for us,’ Shana wrote, criticising the former ministry which was locked in a gas price dispute with the Central Asian country.
The news agency praised the new government for turning ‘the five-year failure of the gas agreement with the Turkmen into an optimal opportunity’.
Owji said during the signing of the swap deal that Iran was moving to resolve the lingering gas debt dispute with Turkmenistan, which claimed in late 2017 that it was owed $1.8 billion in payments for gas delivered to Tehran.
‘We will soon pay the first installment to clear the gas debt that we owe to the Turkmen side, after talks that were held earlier,’ Owji said, without giving the amount of the debt.
According to former deputy petroleum minister Mansour Moazzami, restoring economic relations with Turkmenistan is an important step.
‘Turkmenistan is a neighbour of Iran, and by concluding the gas contract, we have strengthened our relations with Turkmenistan. This is definitely in our country’s interest,’ he told Fars news agency.
‘In fact, my ideal is for Iran to buy all of Turkmenistan’s gas for exports and given its privileged geopolitical position, export it to other countries.’
Using Iran’s vast area for swaps, transit and facilitating transportation of neighbouring countries, senior energy expert Gholamhossein Hassantash says, is both economically positive and helps to strengthen political relations and reduce regional tensions.
‘Such agreements are in the interests of both foreign policy and the energy sector,’ he said.
More importantly, the gas swap agreement has been implemented under a grand strategic plan to dismantle the US strategy against Iran in the regional gas market.
In other words, with the conclusion of this agreement, the equations of the regional gas market have changed and the threat of the Trans-Caspian and TAPI pipelines to the Iranian gas market has been removed.
Turkmenistan’s leader has ordered construction of a $10 billion pipeline to Pakistan and India through Afghanistan to begin despite questions about the project, the Turkmen government says.
The Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline is planned to transport Turkmen and Kazakh gas to the European Union through Azerbaijan.
The TAPI pipeline aims to transport gas along an 1,800 km route from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Both projects and other schemes have been conceived with the US idea of bypassing most viable Iranian routes.
‘In fairness, the logic of the gas swap agreement from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan is very precise.
The issue is not just the supply or non-supply of gas to the five northern provinces of Iran; rather, Iran has found a positive window for cooperation with the Lapis Lazuli corridor – something that seemed very unlikely until two months ago,’ economic expert Majid Shakeri told Fars news agency, referring to an international transit route opened in 2018 linking Afghanistan to Turkey via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.