Iran Says US Base in Azerbaijan “Intolerable”

*In an editorial–The New York Times opposes military bases in Azerbaijan.

TEHRAN (Reuters–New York Times)–Iran’said on Monday it would not tolerate the establishment of a US military base in neighboring Azerbaijan–which has been suggested by a senior Azeri official. Meanwhile on Friday–in an editorial–The New York Times also voiced opposition to said bases in Azerbaijan.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran would not tolerate such a base near its borders and we have expressed this matter to Azerbaijan’s officials," Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a news conference.

Vafa Guluzade–adviser to Azeri President Heydar Aliyev–said last month that Azerbaijan wanted the United States and Turkey to establish military bases on its territory to counter what he termed Russian threats to its independence.

Aliyev later said Azerbaijan–a former Soviet republic–had no immediate plans to host foreign bases but he stopped short of ruling out such a possibility.

Iran opposes the presence of US forces in the region and often slams Washington’s efforts to shut Iran out of lucrative energy deals in the Caspian Sea region.

In a Friday editorial–The New York Times also opposed stationing of a US military base in Azerbaijan.

Below is the Times editorial–entitled "No Military Partnership With Azerbaijan":

Seven years ago–a newly independent Azerbaijan emerged from the collapsing Soviet Union. Now Azerbaijan is offering to be host to the first American military base on former Soviet territory. Washington should pass up the offer. Basing American troops in Azerbaijan would needlessly complicate relations with Russia–Armenia and Iran. It would also bring the United States into too close a military relationship with Azerbaijan’s autocratic ruler–President Heydar Aliyev.

Washington already has significant security ties with Azerbaijan through NATO’s Partnership for Peace and a defense cooperation agreement. But some in Congress are pressing for even closer military cooperation–like the transfer of excess Pentagon equipment. The idea is to build up Azerbaijan and other former Soviet republics as buffers against potential future threats from Russia or Iran. Many energy companies–seeking continued access to oil reserves–also advocate closer ties.

But Washington must be cautious in deepening its military involvement. Azerbaijan and Armenia remain enmeshed in a conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh–now occupied by Armenia. Washington should remain neutral and try to mediate a political settlement. Instead Mr. Aliyev is courting an American military presence to offset the military support Russia gives Armenia.

Azerbaijan also fails to meet minimal standards of democracy and human rights. Detainees are tortured–demonstrations suppressed and journalists arrested.

Last year’s presidential election got failing marks from international observers.

Azerbaijan must improve in these areas and resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Closer American security links can wait until it does.

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