Troubled Waters, Uncertain Perimeters: The Aktau Agreement in Iran’s Ongoing Caspian Saga
Number: 37

This article will situate the recent Aktau Agreement reached by all coastal states of the Caspian Sea within the context of Iran’s protracted quest for sovereignty over parts of the Caspian, an endeavor that has been in place since the emergence of boundary confrontations and diplomacy with its northern neighbors during the eighteenth century. It will seek to either verify or dispel myths and rumors that have emerged within Iranian public opinion on the extent of territorial waters and coastline that Iran is entitled to, and has exercised control over during the past few centuries. The role of public opinion is heightened by the extent of popular affection for the Caspian Sea, which has remained, across the centuries, a location for political turmoil and transformation, as well as leisure and vacationing, due to the lush vegetation and pleasant climate.

The reactions to the Aktau Agreement within the Iranian polity will then be analyzed, with a view to comprehending unusual decisions, such as direct rebuttals of claims made by exiled opposition figures or media interviews in which myths distributed through social media were examined and discredited in great detail. It will also describe how the agreement did not fundamentally alter Iran’s precarious position in the post-Soviet negotiations, and Iran's previous inability, which is likely to continue in the short to mid-term, to conclude these negotiations from a position of strength.


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