Recent developments have further strengthened the main argument of this volume. First, the two new energy agreements have significantly increased the role of Iran in the development of the energy industry of Central Asia, offering both economic rewards and political influence to that country. One is a ten-year agreement between Iran and Kazakhstan for the export of Kazakh oil via the existing Iranian facilities. It seems that two factors have convinced the Kazakhs to use the already tested Iranian route through which they exported oil in 1994 and 1995, and which will enable them to export a relatively significant amount of oil even after their own pipeline is in place. One factor is the uncertainty about the construction of the Kazakh pipeline via Russia reflected in the hesitation of the Western companies to implement their construction projects. Another is the unpredictability of future developments in Russia and that country's relations with Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs, who have been under pressure from the United States to choose the longer, less reliable, and less economically sensible and politically desirable route of Russia for their oil export, have now clearly indicated their preference for the available shorter Iranian route. This route enables them to ship their oil to the Persian Gulf and thereby to world markets much faster and more cheaply than via other routes.
The second agreement is the May 1997 Iran-Turkey-Turkmenistan agreement for the export via Iran of Turkmen natural gas to Turkey (23 billion cubic meters a year) through an Iranian pipeline. There is speculation backed by economic realities that Iran will merge this project with its 1996 agreement with Turkey for the sale of $23 billion worth of its natural gas to that country. Iran will probably construct one pipeline across its land (about 1,200 kilometres) to be used for both