Mideast Concerns: Armenia sees challenges, opportunities amid regional developments

According to analysts’ estimation, the current situation in the Middle East, which is similar to the boiling pot in the world, will also have its impact on Armenia and the South Caucasus.

Three important events have taken place in the region since the beginning of the year: the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Kurdish issue escalation in Turkey and the drop of international oil prices affecting such fuel exporting countries as Azerbaijan and Russia. Experts say that all these will have a serious impact on the developments in Armenia.

Vardan Voskanyan, an expert in Iranian studies, says that Iran has enormous importance for Armenia, therefore developments in the Islamic Republic will have their impact on Armenia.

Referring to the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the expert says that the war between the two countries is unlikely. However, their conflicts will continue.

“But the Iranian security threats affect the security of Armenia. Any developments linked to Iran are interesting and important for us,” says Voskanyan.

According to Araks Pashayan, an expert in Arabic studies, Saudi Arabia-Iran relations have always been strained since 1979, when the Islamic revolution took place in Iran.

The expert says that the countries in the Persian Gulf have always been concerned by the fact that Iran is meddling in the affairs of the region and is using Shiite communities to strengthen its influence. She points out that the war in Syria was in some sense a reflection of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, because Iran wants to keep the Assad regime, and Saudi Arabia, on the contrary, wants to remove Assad from power and to bring pro-Saudi forces into power.

“The Persian Gulf states have been trying, for several years, to prevent the actualization of Iran and the Six Powers Agreement. Against the background of the drop of oil prices the Persian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, are worried about the cancellation of sanctions against Iran, which would allow Iran to actively enter the oil market, exporting its oil,” said Pashayan.

According to her observation, fragile peace prevails in the political arena of the region, and it is disputable to talk about peace and conflict resolution at this stage because not only Syria but also Iraq is in crisis. Conflicts still remain unresolved in Palestine, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, and especially against the backdrop of this conflict the Sunni-Shia confrontation aggravates.

“We are part of the Greater Middle East. It’s true that those actions are not related directly to us, because we have a buffer zone, but nevertheless, the fact that our communities in the Middle East are experiencing material, moral and human losses has already shown that we have suffered in this conflict. Everything is not over by this, because the prospect of Christian communities in the Middle East is extremely controversial,” says Pashayan.

According to Voskanyan, besides talking about the risks affecting Armenia, chances that are being created also need to be presented. He says that Armenia is an area that can be both a deadlock and a crossroad, but it has broader prospects for becoming a transit country.

“From all conflicts in the region we have opportunities that can be used to our benefit. For example, against the background of Iran’s strengthening Armenia has quite optimistic scenarios for the future,” he said.