This article is essential reading for those who want to understand the overall issue of the division of the oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea between littoral states.  All the different options in dividing the Caspian Sea are presented with great clarity.  The interesting point that the authors want to make is that it is in the interest of Iran to accept a smaller section of the Caspian Sea due to its economic gains if it could participate directly in the transport of hydrocarbons.  As the authors put it, the transportation of hydrocarbons through Iranian territory is the less costly and more secure option among all possibilities.  That would also be a good thing for the environment as the pipelines routes supported by the US, the Baku-Ceyhan (that connects Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean) and the Baku-Supsa (that goes to the Black sea) are also very costly in terms of environment.  One could also say that the authors do not put enough emphasis of the impact of political problems on economic decisions.  It has been a political decision of the US government to avoid the Iranian option and to support, no matter would be the cost and the risk, the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipe (which has started to operate in 2007).  So, in this context, if there is not real change in the US policy towards Iran, there are few chances that Iran will be able to transport Caspian hydrocarbons through its territory.  Besides, due to US opposition and the political rivalries, one cannot expect the authors’ proposition of a joint Caspian oil and gas company in which all littoral states would have a stake.  Conversely, the authors are definitely right in emphasising the fact that a greater economic cooperation of Iran with its Caspian neighbours and a greater integration of Iran in the world economy would have a positive impact on Iranian society and politics.  But the point is, that for political and strategic reasons (whatever they are), the US government wants to economically isolate Iran.  In conclusion, one should admit that it is difficult to just look at the economic side of this problem.

Thierry Coville, Negocia School, Paris
CER: I-8.1-688