Central Asia Policy Brief No. 34, February 2016
By Abdulfattoh Shafiev
Muhiddin Kabiri, chairman of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), labelled as a “terrorist” in his country since his party was officially banned in September 2015, ended the year visiting Iran and meeting the most influential Iranian political figure – Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Tehran’s move an-gered Dushanbe and was followed by an official protest, naming Iran a “supporter of terrorism”, as well as a sea of Soviet-style propagandist articles in official media aimed at vilifying Iran. At the same time, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon paid an official visit to the main rival of Iran in the region, Saudi Arabia, and returned with unprecedented business contracts. This visit coincided with the escalation of tensions in the Iranian-Saudi relationship. Is Iran going to bet again on the Islamic opposition in Tajik politics? Was it Iran’s answer to recent pressures over Islam in Tajikistan or to the visit of the Tajik president to Saudi Arabia? Or it is a simple strategy to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket as Russia does in Central Asia?