In Iran, preparations are continuing for the construction of the Caspian-Persian Gulf shipping channel. The project is, as in the past, of strategic importance for our country. But the West, together with Turkey, directly or indirectly prevented the creation of this artery. By the way, the United States included it in anti-Iran sanctions.
Since the 1890-s, our relations with Iran were largely determined by the project of the Caspian-Persian Gulf shipping channel. Developed by Russian engineers in 1889 – 1892, it provided the shortest exit for Russia to the Indian Ocean basin, the Turkish Bosporus and Dardanelles turned out to be unnecessary for this purpose.
The project was promoted by the collective refusal of England, France, Austria-Hungary and Germany to support the Russian 1878 proposals of the year regarding the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles about the control of St. Petersburg over these straits and the deployment of its military bases along their coast.
The fact is that over half of Russia's foreign trade was carried out in this way. And it was precisely through him that the interventionists, supported by Turkey, repeatedly penetrated into the Black Sea and, accordingly, to the shores of the empire.
But preserving Russia's dependence on this route has been and remains one of the strategic tasks of the West in this region. For good reason in 1997, US anti-Iran sanctions were extended to the project of the Caspian-Persian Gulf channel. More precisely, companies and countries that assisted Tehran in the implementation of this plan were subjected to financial and other economic penalties. And although the US sanctions policy on Iran is being revised, it is not yet clear whether the bans on participation in this project will be lifted.
The joint Russian-Iranian commission for the construction of the canal, established at the end of the 19th century, began work in 1904. But the parties could not agree on the status of the project and the artery itself. Petersburg insisted on the principle of extraterritoriality, by analogy with the Suez and Panama Canals, which belonged to Great Britain and the United States at that time. The status of a condominium proposed by Tehran (a parity joint management) did not suit Petersburg, since there was no certainty about the clearly pro-Russian orientation of Iran. And the extraterritoriality allowed to ensure the military-political security of the route.
In 1908, negotiations were suspended, helped by growing pressure on Tehran from Istanbul and London on the status of the new channel and the timing of its construction.
The First World War, of course, did not allow the Russian-Iranian negotiations on the project to be resumed, and the subsequent normalization of Turkey’s relations with Soviet Russia reduced its relevance. As is known, the RSFSR and the USSR rendered military-technical and economic assistance to Turkey during its confrontation with the Entente and Greece (1919 – 1923). In return, Ankara in September 1924 ensured that the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles would never be used to the detriment of the interests of the USSR.
With the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in November 1938, anti-Soviet, more precisely, Pan-Turkist political trends in Ankara sharply increased. The best proof of this is her participation in the Fuel plan, a project of joint aggression with Britain and France against the USSR, scheduled for mid-March 1940. The plan included, in particular, the passage of British and French warships to the Black Sea.
But since the end of 30, Soviet-Iranian relations began to deteriorate, which was caused by the active influence of England, Germany and Turkey on Tehran’s foreign policy. There they were just preparing to terminate the Soviet-Iranian Treaty of 1921 of the Year “On Friendship and the Border”, according to which (article 6) the USSR, in the event of a threat to its security, had the right to bring its troops into the country.
Tehran-43. Unknown plot
From mid-April, 1941 Turkey under various pretexts made it difficult for the passage through the straits of Soviet ships with military and other cargoes for Yugoslavia, which was subjected to fascist aggression. The pro-Nazi policy of Turkey during the Great Patriotic War (at least up to 1944, inclusive) is also known. All these factors prompted the USSR to return to the idea of the channel Caspian-Persian Gulf. The project was finalized by the fall of 1942 — after the joint entry of Soviet and British troops into Iran in August-September 1941 and the anti-fascist forces led by Shahinshakh Mohammed Reza-Pahlavi came to power in Tehran.
The alarming events on the Soviet-German front, the threat of a Turkish attack on the USSR and the approach of German-Italian troops to the Suez Canal in 1942 could not but contribute to the intensification of work on the creation of the Caspian-Persian Gulf channel. Both sides described the project as mutually beneficial and therefore promising. The question was raised at the talks of I.V. Stalin with M.R. Pahlavi, held on 30 on November 1943-th in Tehran.
The sharp deterioration of Soviet-Turkish relations in 1945 – 1953, on the one hand, contributed to the reanimation of the Caspian-Persian Gulf project. But on the other hand, the attempts of the USSR in the same period to “join” Iranian Azerbaijan to the Azerbaijan SSR led to the strengthening of influence on Tehran of Washington and London. Because the project was forgotten for many years. Moreover, in the spring of 1953, the Soviet Union headed for normalizing relations with Turkey, as it were, as opposed to difficult relations with Iran.
Since the second half of 50's, the Iranian leadership has decided to restore the policy of what is called parity cooperation with the West and the USSR. In June-July 1956, an official visit of a government delegation led by Shahinshah to the USSR took place, unprecedented for history bilateral relations. A number of economic agreements were signed, which, however, did not concern the channel. However, at the talks, during one of the meetings of the then USSR Pres. Council N.A. Bulganin and Shahinshakh noted (according to the protocol record) that the parties attach great importance to studying the project of constructing the Caspian-Persian Gulf shipping channel. But this plot was not included in the final communique. Most likely at the initiative of the Iranian delegation, so as not to annoy the Americans, who dissuaded Tehran from the project.
Nevertheless, in 1962, a Soviet-Iranian commission was set up to work on the issue, the then head of the USSR Supreme Soviet, L.I. Brezhnev during his visit to Tehran in November 1963. It was then that the parties created a legal framework for the project, signing the agreement "On the joint use of water resources of the border rivers" and "On the development of transit of Iranian goods through the USSR, the Soviet - through the territory of Iran."
And in June, 1965, when the visit of Shahinshakh to the USSR, which was just as large as in 1956, took place, the parties agreed to speed up the reanimation of the project, but again without a corresponding mention in the final communiqué. A preliminary version of the channel was considered during the visit of the Soviet Prime Minister A.N. Kosygin to Tehran at the beginning of April 1968. The project was mainly approved by both parties. But by tradition, without mentioning it in the communique ...
In the same years, American-Iranian summits became more frequent, during which the United States directly or indirectly declared that the project did not correspond to the long-term interests of the United States and its NATO allies. This position was supported by Saudi Arabia. And in Iraq, on the contrary, they supported the project (providing the shortest route between this country and the USSR), which contributed to the normalization of relations between Baghdad and Moscow, which culminated in 1974 – 1975 in the bilateral treaty “On Friendship and Good Neighborhood”.
It is noteworthy that since the fall of 1975, plans for overthrowing the Shah regime and provoking the Iranian-Soviet and Iranian-Iraqi confrontations began to be developed in the United States. True, Washington observed the “etiquette” in the channel question: the American position on this project was also not included in the bilateral final communiqué ...
In Tehran, they did not dare to completely ignore the position of the United States. After all, up to 70 percent of the annual export volume of Iranian oil went overseas, and the share of the United States in foreign investment in Iran exceeded 40 percent. In addition, supplies from the United States at least by 60 percent covered the needs of the Iranian armed forces for weapons and ammunition. But in general, the share of NATO countries in providing the Iranian army reached 85 percent.
At the same time, Turkey from the second half of 60 began to periodically reduce the tariffs for the transit of Soviet foreign trade cargoes through the Bosporus and Dardanelles. This factor was important for the USSR, because, first, already in 60 at least 50 percent of the annual volume of exported Soviet oil was transported along this route. And secondly, the implementation of the project of the channel required colossal financial and technical resources, the allocation of which became problematic for the USSR for many internal and external economic reasons.
All this contributed to the fact that both sides did not even let down the strategic project, but chose not to accelerate its implementation. During the negotiations of Shakhinshakh in Moscow in October of 1972 and A.N. Kosygin in Tehran in March of the 1973 side again outside the communique recorded the channel’s mutual benefit, recommending that a number of technical parameters be clarified. However, the legal and technological base for future construction was still expanded: during these visits, in addition to the 1963 agreements mentioned, the Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation Program for 15 years and the memorandum On Mutual Encouragement of Capital Investments were signed.
In total, 60 – 70-ies in Iran with the help of the USSR built over 60 industrial, energy and transport facilities, including the Isfahan Metallurgical Combine, one of the largest in the region and adjacent to the Azerbaijan SSR, almost 500-kilometer-wide Trans-Iranian gas pipeline.
Washington, London and Ankara insisted that the main export stream of Iranian blue fuel be pumped through Turkey, but Moscow and Tehran in 1972 – 1973 agreed on the transit of Iranian gas to European countries during 20 years through the USSR. These deliveries were supposed to begin with 1976, but the deterioration of the domestic political situation and subsequent well-known events in Iran led to a “conservation” of the project.
In short, the Caspian-Persian Gulf trunk line, extremely advantageous to the USSR and Iran, ran into ever-increasing opposition from the United States and NATO. Although, judging by the mentioned agreements and tendencies in bilateral relations, legal, economic and technological ground was gradually being prepared.
Time to build
Today, the project in the list of priorities for Tehran and in contrast to the Shah period in the country does not at all conceal the parameters of the channel, or negotiations with other countries on its construction. According to Iranian experts and the media, the channel Caspian-Persian Gulf directly brings to the Indian Ocean not only Russia, but also most of the other ex-USSR countries, as well as Europe. For potential users, this path is more than twice as short as the traditional water route through Turkey. Therefore, not only Iranian, but also foreign specialists are involved in the finalization of the project. Channel commissioning is planned for 2020-x.
Similar assessments are expressed by the Russian expert community. In short, the Caspian-Persian Gulf shipping channel, which runs entirely through Iranian territory, is capable of providing the shortest possible access to the Indian Ocean basin from the North Atlantic, Baltic, Black Sea-Azov, Danube and Volga-Caspian basins. This route is necessary for the country not only as a transport corridor, but also to provide desalinated water to the central drylands. True, all this, though promising, but still only a prospect.
Back in 1996 – 1997, the leadership of the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Transport, sending delegations to Russia, reported a desire to attract its investments or technologies to build a trans-Iranian waterway. Our party, in principle, endorsed these proposals, speaking in favor of their comprehensive study, especially in the field of ecology, in view of the uniqueness of the Caspian's biological environment. At the same time, an agreement was reached on Iranian experts studying the Russian experience in hydraulic engineering. Iranian delegations sent by Tehran began to regularly visit the White Sea-Baltic, Volga-Baltic, Volga-Don canals. In 1998, a joint expert group was established to study the trans-Iranian water project, and the following year the government of the Islamic Republic officially approved the revised feasibility study.
The total length of the shipping route will be about 700 kilometers, including along the fairways of rivers of north-western (Caspian) and south-western Iran, including the international Shatt al-Arab, bordering Iraq, of the order of 450 kilometers. The required investment for the construction of the entire artery was estimated by the Iranian side in 2012 – 2013 years at least 10 billion, including the connecting trans-Iranian section (north-west - south-west) - in 5,5 – 6 billion dollars. Full payback of the project will come, according to local estimates, in the fifth year from the date of commissioning. According to the same calculations, the channel will provide Russia and Iran with transit revenues - 1,2 – 1,4 and 1,4 – 1,7, respectively, a billion dollars, starting from the third or fourth year of operation.
During the meetings at the beginning of 2000-s of the Russian-Iranian Commission on Trade and Scientific and Technical Cooperation, representatives of Tehran offered our country a number of options to pay for its technological assistance for the construction of the channel, as well as the construction of cargo (river-sea) and auxiliary vessels in the Russian Federation sought after by the waterway.
The recent publication of an expert group in Dagestan Pravda (Makhachkala) is noteworthy in this regard: “... The presence of shipbuilding factories in the republic is a strong argument in favor of creating a large industrial ship manufacturing cluster in Dagestan, including for the trans-Iranian route” . But the project of formation of such a cluster based on the Makhachkala shipyard-shipyard remained on paper. According to the chief engineer of this company, Mikhail Halimbekov, the drawings, technologies, calculations for the construction of modern high-tech production were prepared by a well-known shipbuilding company in Germany, but this did not move as far as it went.
It was also noted that in the opinion of “many scientists, including Dr. Sc., Professor Shikhsaid Abdullayev, based on the cooperation of republican industrial enterprises, it is realistic to organize a competitive production of river-sea vessels. Moreover, the use of the developments of the well-known Russian designer Hamid Khalidov for the creation of ships of mixed navigation of the new generation - "trimarans" - just meets the requirements and conditions of transit cargo transportation through such channels as the trans-Iranian. " Moreover, the world has seen an increase in demand for such vessels.
It is reasonable to assume that modern geopolitical factors, including the serious aggravation of relations with Russia provoked by Turkey, contribute to a more thorough study of the options for our assistance in creating such an important waterway.