News / Middle East

Iran, Armenia Find Solidarity in Isolation

Iran and Armenia Find Solidarity in Isolationi
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March 12, 2013 8:32 PM
While the West seeks to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear program, landlocked Armenia seeks to build relations with its neighbor without violating international sanctions. James Brooke reports from Yerevan.

Iran and Armenia Find Solidarity in Isolation

James Brooke
While the West seeks to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear program, landlocked Armenia seeks to build relations with its neighbor - without violating international sanctions.  

In all of Christian Armenia, there is only one mosque: "The Iranian Mosque," restored 15 years ago by Iran.

The mosque offers classes in Persian and is an essential landmark for visiting Iranian VIPS, like Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He came to Yerevan 15 months ago to meet with Armenia's President Serj Sarkisyan.
 
The West seeks to isolate Iran, believing its nuclear program is being used to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies the charge.  But Armenia is positioned between two historic enemies - Turkey to the west and Azerbaijan to the east. Armenia has no trade or diplomatic ties with the two nations. Instead, it trades north with its Christian neighbor, Georgia. Now it is trying to expand trade and investment to the south, with Iran.

"Armenia is the only neighbor of Iran where the regime or the government in Iran feels quite comfortable, and is actually keen to increase relations,” says Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center, a Yerevan think tank. “From the Armenian perspective, there is a shared sense of isolation, where both Iran and Armenia feel surrounded by either hostile or rival states and feel under blockade or sanctions."
 
  • Built in the 1760s by a Persian ruler of Armenia, Yerevan's "Blue Mosque" was renovated in the 1990s with financing from Iran, Feb. 25, 2013. (V. Undritz/VOA)
  • The Prayer Hall under the blue dome, Yerevan, Armenia, Feb. 25, 2013. (V. Undritz/VOA)
  • At the madrasa, or Koranic school, at the Blue Mosque, Persian is also taught, Yerevan, Armenia, Feb. 25, 2013. (V. Undritz/VOA)
  • At the Blue Mosque's museum, vessels and dishes speak of the centuries of Persian influence in Armenia, an overwhelmingly Christian nation, Yerevan, Armenia, Feb. 25, 2013. (V. Undritz/VOA)
  • Iranian trucks drive north through Armenia's winding, mountainous roads, Feb. 21, 2013. (V. Undritz/VOA)
  • A memorial sign for an Iranian trucker who missed a curve on Armenia's main road link to Iran, Feb. 21, 2013. (V. Undritz/VOA)
  • Iranian truckers stop to check snow chains on tires before crossing Armenia's 1,800 meter high Tukh Manuk Pass, Feb. 21, 2013. (V. Undritz/VOA)

Looking for alternatives

Iran and Armenia are linked by a narrow border - a 35-kilometer long stretch of the Aras River.
 
A two lane mountain road links Armenia with Iran, a nation with an economy and a territory about 50 times the size of Armenia's.
 
With the highway slow and often dangerous, Armenians look for alternatives.
 
Iran expert Gohar Iskandaryan says a top priority is to extend Armenia's Soviet-era railroad south.
 
"Once Armenia can find investments, we can connect our railway to the Iranian rail network and have access to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf," says Iskandaryan, an Iran expert at the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia.

One bright spot
 
Six years ago, Armenians started to heat their homes with gas coming through a new pipeline from Iran.  Now Armenia wants to build an oil pipeline from Iran and two hydroelectric power plants on their shared river border.
 
But Iskandaryan says sanctions over Iran's nuclear program could block funding for these projects.
 
"This is not only Armenia's choice,” she says. “It's an issue for the big powers - the United States and Russia."
 
While sanctions have hurt Iran's economy and cut trade with Armenia, Giragosian sees one bright spot.
 
"The Iranian government has actually banned the import of luxury items which includes laptops, makeup and cosmetic products, to even chocolate,” said the think tank director. “Therefore, it will only encourage the rise or emergence of somewhat of a black market where Iranians coming to Armenia for tourism purposes begin to start to acquire these now-prohibited consumer items." Some Iranian tourists to Armenia are looking for more than lipstick.

Arayik Vardanyan, executive director of Armenia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says they are buying apartments. “Many Iranians are coming,” says Vardanyan. “And that could mean that they are searching in advance for places they can leave to if war breaks out.”

The ebb and flow between Iranians and Armenians goes back almost 3,000 years to the construction of Erebuni, a hilltop fortress that gave its name to Yerevan.  If modern-day leaders have their way, these two ancient neighbors will continue trading and visiting, paying little heed to the outside world.

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Comments
     
by: Ray from: Los Angeles
March 13, 2013 7:03 PM
A healthy thriving Iran is required for Armenia's survival. Anyone who objects should open a book and read the geographical history of Armenia, or shut up. Also, both Iran and Armenia have a very long history together (some good, some bad).

Some countries claim Iran breeds terrorists...They breed assassins (Just like the CIA, MOSAD, MI6, etc). So what is the difference between an American drone dropping a bomb killing scores of "innocent" people, vs a terrorist attaching a bomb to themselves and detonating it in a crowded marketplace?

The answer is NOT A SINGLE THING. They are both designed to achieve a hidden agenda which many claim to understand, yet they do not have a clue.

The Zionist controlled media has everyone brainwashed. All they do is portray Middle Easterners as terrorists, barbarians. They show Arabs shooting AK's into the air dancing. lol..I bet if you grab a camera and go down to the Red Neck infested areas of the USA, you will see people shooting in the air and dancing too. The Zionists were showing Arabs celebrating, singing, dancing immediately after the 9/11 event, but those videos were fabricated to make YOU the viewer become hateful towards these people. Once you build up enough HATE, you then start supporting the hidden agenda without even noticing. The key ingredients to winning a war is to have the people stand beside their governments decision. In order for the war to become popular, the Zionist media masters fabricated video after video, showing guys with turbans and AK's shooting at "American" peacekeepers, until the American general public said "We Want War."

The Iranians are civilized people who are demanding a piece from the same pie that all other developed countries eat from. But since these Greedy Zionists want the world to themselves, here we are sitting in the middle of this hidden agenda with our thumbs up our ***, asking ourselves "what is going on in this world."

Long story short...Iran is a good country. A bit old fashioned and TOO much religion, but a good country.

REMOVE RELIGION FROM THE WORLD, AND YOUR PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED.


by: George from: USA
March 12, 2013 10:45 PM
The big powers are trying to destroy Iran's economy. Turkey and Azerbaijan are trying to do the same to Armenia. So, here is an excellent opportunity for both Iran and Armenia to improve their economic conditions by trading with each other.

Let the big power fume or huff and buff. Who cares? They should not even publicly announce all trade between them. When the world is unfair, you don't have to show all your cards.


by: Kerim
March 12, 2013 7:28 PM
Is it not funny that the Armenian lobby in the US still presents Armenia as a US ally? The fact nonetheless remains the same: Armenia has allied itself with US rivals/enemies of Russia and Iran, while Azerbaijan has taken the side of West and Israel. I wonder how long it will take before the Armenian lobby stops being effective in obfuscating the facts, making black look white and white black. Still, I am sure the professionals in the US foreign affairs circle can tell their friends from the friends of US enemeies.

In Response

by: Kerim
March 18, 2013 1:43 AM
So, Mary, let me get this straight. You can represent your Armenian perspective out of love of country and truth, and everybody else who does it for their side is a paid professional. Sounds pretty arrogant and silly to me.

In Response

by: Anonymous
March 13, 2013 10:42 PM
@Mary This is them at their best

In Response

by: Mians
March 13, 2013 9:33 PM
If Azerbaijan is US and Israel's ally then why it hasn't cut its ties with Iran, are you going to deny the fact that Iran still serves as the shortest route from Azerbaijan to Nakhijevan? Everyday hundreds of trucks pass the Azerbaijani-Iranian border towards Nakhijevan. Stop trading via Iran and show your loyalty to the West and Israel.!!

In Response

by: Mary from: USA
March 13, 2013 2:14 PM
Kerim,
You comment on anything and everything having to do with Armenia(ns). You are so predictable in your statements. Is this your Azeri assigned professional job?

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