The Making of Iran's
Central Asia-Caucasus Policy
The Islamic Republic has the capability to fill the intellectual vacuums and cultural needs of these republics. Henceforth, all the countries seeking intellectual and cultural assistance can benefit from the resources of Islamic Iran. 1
-- Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's Foreign Minister
The emergence of a new constellation of states from the ashes of the Soviet Union provided the Islamic Republic with a large arena for foreign policy action. The disintegration of the Soviet communist system reduced considerably the intrinsic real estate value of "buffer" Iran in the geostrategic (post-1945) calculus of the world powers, but the diminishing importance of the country was staved off by the elements of the new era that transformed Iran, almost overnight, from a geostrategic support in the superpowers' rivalry into an autonomous middle power enjoying a sudden opportunity to permeate the vacuum of Soviet power in the predominantly Islamic Central Asia-Caucasus. A definite sign of changing times, the geographical widening of Iran's foreign policy "orbit" was seen as a nightmare by the Western powers (principally the United States) who shifted gears from anti-communism to the containment of Islamic fundamentalism in the "permeable" Central Asia and elsewhere. 2 A key player in a new "great-game" politics in the southern heartland of the former communist superpower, Iran's foreign policy decisions became definitely more complex in the fluid and unfamiliar milieu of post-communism.