Increasing political and economic pressure on Iran, exacerbated by the renewed economic sanctions resulting from the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has led Tehran to seek support from the two major Eurasian political and economic powers Russia and China. Iran has also increasingly turned its attention toward its neighbors in Central Asia, which remain closely integrated into the political, economic and military projects of Moscow and Beijing. Central Asian leaders are well aware that a possible armed conflict between the U.S. and Iran would adversely affect Eurasian security.
This article was originally published by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) on 3 October 2019.
For a long time, the five Central Asian republics have presented a puzzle to researchers and policymakers regarding regional cooperation. They have a range of historical, linguistic, religious and political aspects in common: they were all part of the same bloc, the Soviet Union; they have Russian as a lingua franca, while most national languages are part of the Turkic linguistic family and largely mutually intelligible; Sunni Islam is the region’s predominant religion; and they exhibit similar political systems. Furthermore, Central Asian states share the fate of being situated in a largely neglected, landlocked region surrounded by more populous, powerful neighbours, namely Russia and China.
Oman has recently opened the doors of a new school in downtown Muscat to teach Persian language classes to its residents, both national and expatriate. It is being run by the Omani Ministry of Education, but students who complete the 12-week courses will receive a certificate from the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad in Iran. The Iranian Ambassador to Oman, Ali Akbar Sibeveih, hopes that Oman will open an equivalent Arabic language institute in Tehran in the near future. Undoubtedly, some of the first to register will be some of the 100-person delegation of Omani businessmen who have made plans to visit Iran in the upcoming months to develop cross-country business ties. Or perhaps those interested in furthering plans for a proposed natural gas pipeline that will run between Oman, Iran, and India.
Since the final vestiges of Persian rule were finally cleared out of Oman in the 18th century, Oman and Iran have maintained fairly consistent friendly ties, even when such ties appeared to be inconsistent with Oman’s joining the GCC with its Saudi-led antipathy toward Iran.