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Tajikistan's five-year civil war also has eroded security in Central Asia. The country's eastern provinces have served as a staging area for opposition forces and international terrorist organizations such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). In August, the IMU reportedly staged several incursions from bases in Tajikistan into a remote mountainous region bordering Uzbekistan and southern Kyrgyzstan. The situation is leading other Central Asian states to consider reprisals against Tajikistan if Dushanbe is unable to control its borders. (JANE'S DEFENCE, 25 Apr 00) However, Dushanbe has asserted that very little armed opposition remains in the country and has called charges of armed militants infiltrating the territory of neighboring states from Tajikistan "unfounded." (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 16 Sep 00; via The Current Digest Of The Post-Soviet Press) While, theoretically, the situation might call for increased surveillance of the Tajik-Afghan border, as well as rapid reaction forces to defend that border, Tajikistan has neither the military or financial resources to do so. Consequently, this consideration might be used by Moscow to increase still further Russian intervention in Tajikistan.
Iran and Tajikistan are to continue to discuss regional security issues on the CIS southern borders, including ways to end the Afghanistan crisis. The two countries already have participated in a UN-sponsored roundtable discussion of the "Six plus Two" group -- Russia and the United States, as well as China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan which border on Afghanistan -- over the problems in Afghanistan. The Taliban, which is estimated to control approximately 95 percent of Afghanistan, is viewed as posing a serious threat to the region. Taliban victories against the northern alliance in the mountainous northeastern corner of Afghanistan after fierce fighting in September have displaced "tens of thousands" of persons. (KAYHAN INTERNATIONAL, 17 Sep 00; FBIS-NES-2000-0922, via World News Connection) An estimated 150,000 persons in northern Afghanistan have taken shelter in the Pamir mountains on the border with Tajikistan. However, Tajikistan lacks the resources to deal with this growing refugee crisis. Humanitarian relief, including UN assistance, is required to prevent a disaster.
Iran and Tajikistan are expanding parliamentary ties and economic cooperation through various contact groups and joint commissions. Iran is decidedly interested in increasing cooperation with Tajikistan in the military sphere. Indeed, common security is indispensable for harnessing the Caspian basin's untapped energy resources and supply routes. The region is thought by analysts to contain key global energy reserves and to be geographically well positioned to respond to sharp increases in world demand for oil and gas, particularly in East Asia and South Asia. Iran wants to capitalize on the revenues that will result from the exploitation of Caspian energy products. (JANE'S INTELLIGENCE REVIEW, 1 Apr 98) While some have argued that a north-south pipeline across Iran would be the shortest and cheapest route for transporting Caspian oil, Iran remains, of course, on the US Congress list of terror-supporting states and providing Tehran with a stranglehold on oil would hardly be considered safe.
Iran and the Central Asian states have much to gain from regional stability, and much to lose from regional conflict. The recent breakthrough in Iran-Tajikistan is likely to enhance Iran's prestige throughout the region and provide it with a foothold in Central Asia.
The above story orginially was posted on EurasiaNet partner site, the NIS Observed, a publication of the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Peace at Boston University. Chartered in 1988, ISCIP focuses on conflict-prone societies in crisis, especially Russia and other post-Soviet republics, paying particular attention to destabilizing factors of a political, ethnic, and/or international nature. The members of the ISCIP research team contribute biweekly surveys of the developments in their regions which are posted in The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review.