As expected, last summer’s nuclear deal is already shaping up to be an economic boon for Iran. From stepped-up post-sanctions trade with countries in Europe and Asia to newfound access to some $100 billion in previously escrowed oil revenue, the agreement (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) has put the country on the path toward a sustained national recovery.
But it has also done much more. As Iran’s economic horizons have expanded, so have its global ambitions. The Middle East is already feeling the ramifications. There, Tehran has assumed an increasingly aggressive, adventurist foreign policy in recent months, including expanded intervention in Syria and Yemen. Tehran’s designs don’t stop there; the ayatollahs are now busy expanding their regime’s strategic presence in a variety of other global theaters—and Eurasia is prominent among them.
FRESH CONTACTS IN THE CAUCASUS
Tehran, seeing the region as a hedge against international isolation, has long angled for a larger role in the so-called post-Soviet space. For years, however, Iran’s international pariah status—and wariness on the part of nations in the region about getting on the wrong side of the United States and Europe—has constrained its regional contacts. But now, unfettered from international sanctions, Iran is finding fresh opportunities.
Economically, the country is insinuating itself ever more deeply into the region’s markets. Most conspicuously, it has made a diplomatic play to join key regional energy projects, such as the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) that stretches from Azerbaijan to Turkey. The strategy, as officials in Tehran see it, is to link their country’s massive natural gas reserves to European markets via the South Caucasus, which would help turn the Islamic Republic into an indispensable energy source for the eurozone.
As part of this effort, in recent weeks, Iran has launched fresh diplomatic talks with all three South Caucasus republics (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) over energy arrangements that would make it a key player in
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