by Sophie Baron
August 12, 2018, may well be remembered in the future as another of the most shameful days in Iranian history. After over twenty years of stalling and dispute, the Khomeiniist regime, represented by Hassan Rouhani, signed a Russian-drafted “agreement” in Aqtaw, Kazakhstan, on dividing ownership rights to the Caspian Sea that gave away most of Iran’s northern territorial waters.
Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, two treaties made between the USSR and Iran in 1921 and 1940 governed the sea’s ownership and divided its waters equally between the two states. After the emergence of the new nations of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan, however, with each wanting a share of the Caspian, the ownership fell back into question. Iran’s position was, as the new nations were successor states of the USSR, their share of the Caspian waters should be taken out of USSR’s 50%, leaving Iran’s half untouched. Russia, on the other hand, held that the 1921 and 1940 treaties were voided and ownership must be renegotiated.
The agreement signed on Sunday, the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, divides the Caspian seabed according to the share of each country’s coastline, leaving Iran with the smallest area at 11% of the sea, a huge giveaway from once having possessed 50%! The text of this agreement was drafted entirely by Russia, with no one from any of the other four countries invited to participate. In addition to determining seabed ownership and navigation rights, the agreement also bans outside military forces from basing themselves along the Caspian shore – legally preventing any possible future NATO membership or cooperation for Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan was something both Russia and the Khomeiniist regime strongly desired. As such, this is another example of the regime’s obsessive anti-Americanism taking precedence over defending Iran’s national interests.
This is hardly the first time a mullah has signed away Iranian interests to Russia. The infamous 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay, by which Iran ceded to Russia 1/3 of its territory along with all navigation rights to the Caspian (which it wouldn’t regain until 1921), came about after fanatic mullahs secretly on the Russian Tsar’s payroll harangued and dragged Iran into a disastrous, losing war. One of them, a certain Mir Fatah Agha, was awarded a medal by Russia for keeping the Shi’a population of Tabriz “pacified.” A few years later, Iran’s then prime minister, a mullah named Haji Mullah Abbas Irvani, invited Russian soldiers to keep in order in what was then known as Turkestan, ceding away more Iranian territory. The Qajar dynasty rulers Nasereddin Shah and his son Mozafareddin Shah, both of whom allowed the mullahs to essentially dominate Iran, both bankrupted their country by taking huge loans from foreign countries, above all Russia, for expensive pleasure trips through Europe. In 1909, extremist mullahs led by Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri assisted Russian soldiers’ bombing of the Iranian Majles, fighting on behalf of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar’s attempt to preserve despotism from the Iranian people’s democratic Constitutional Revolution. The 1921 treaty mentioned above, while supposedly renouncing Tsarist imperialism, gave the USSR the right to invade Iran if it felt “threatened,” the USSR used that treaty to justify their 1941 occupation of Iran and deposition of Reza Shah the Great. Later during the 1940s, the Soviets tried to strong-arm Iran into giving them rights to the Caspian Sea’s oil; on that occasion Iran’s firm resistance combined with help from the USA prevented it.
Today, however, the Khomeiniist regime’s anti-western policy results in it having nobody to turn to in defense of Iran’s Caspian rights. Conceivably, Iran could have the matter referred to the UN Security Council, but even if it did, why would a body whose rulings the regime has consistently ignored and rejected help save them from the prodding of one of their five permanent members?
One person in the photo below committed the highest treason unprecedented in the last two centuries and surrendered 80% of his country’s territorial sovereignty in the Caspian Sea. Can you guess which one? #CaspianSeaSellOut #Iran @Rouhani_ir @JZarif pic.twitter.com/4ooazgfU1u
— Rastakhiz (@sedaye_iran) August 12, 2018
— Tavaana توانا (@Tavaana) August 13, 2018
The new Caspian agreement is deeply unpopular in Iran. Shortly after the signing, Iranians around the world began Tweeting #CaspianSeaSellOut. Opposition leaders, notably including Reza Pahlavi, condemned it. Within the regime, members of the Islamic Majles have expressed their anger. Even members of Rouhani’s entourage are claiming he is not pleased with the agreement and claiming he was told to sign it by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. There may possibly be some truth in that allegation, after all, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Patrice Lumumba University graduate and longtime advocate of a Russian alliance Khamenei was only doing what pleased his “friends” in Moscow?