Analysis: Why Ahmadinejad visited Belarus

The two-day stop in Minsk received much less attention in the West than it deserved.

ahmadinejad 298.88 (photo credit: )
ahmadinejad 298.88
(photo credit: )
Strangely enough, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two-day official visit to the Belarus capital of Minsk last month received much less attention in the West than it really deserves. Most dispatches were based on Russian and Iranian sources, which gave scant details on Ahmadinejad's talks with his authoritarian counterpart from Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko and Speaker Vladimir Konoplyov. The reports claimed that the main outcome of the Iranian leader's visit to "one of our very best friends" had been an agreement on energy resources: Belarus will be now supplied with Iranian oil. The Belarusian and Iranian presidents announced the deal on the first day of their summit. Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to accept Belarus's proposal for joint development of the Jufeir oil and gas deposit in Iran. Belarusneft - a large, state-run oil production enterprise - first made the offer to Iran in late 2006. Teheran has studied the overall plan carefully, and approved it. Under the plan, Belarus will be allowed to extract oil in Iran and use it at its own discretion. Belarus's ambassador in Israel, Igor Leshchenya, told The Jerusalem Post that Ahmadinejad's trip to Minsk was considered an attempt to break the Western boycott against Teheran. Leshchenya said the visit was "totally transparent," as all relations between Minsk and Teheran are. The sides discussed only "issues of economical cooperation," he said. Analysts noted that Lukashenko's so-called "economic miracle" in his former Soviet republic had mostly been based on cheap oil and gas from Russia. On the other hand, Belarus has lost 20 percent of its budget due to Russia's charging higher prices for energy resources. Russian fuel will cost Belarus even more next year. As a result, Belarus has been trying to break into the international oil market. And the Iranians have come to the rescue, helping what they consider a fellow "pariah state." US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was quoted by The Associated Press as saying two years ago that Cuba, Myanmar, Belarus and Zimbabwe as "outposts of tyranny" requiring close US attention. "In some cases Belarus is even worse, as its weaponry is used everywhere, even in Darfur and by the Chinese and Hizbullah," Rice said. If everything works out as planned, Belarus and Iran could succeed in breaking the political blockade imposed by the US and its allies. Minsk provides a perfect, roundabout way to acquire anything Teheran needs. There are no strict sanctions imposed on Belarus, and so it is capable of serving as a shipment point for any goods, and a foreign mouthpiece for any political position of the Iranian regime. And those were the real reasons for Ahmadinejad's visit to Minsk.