The Jamestown Foundation: Iranian Soft Power in Tajikistan: Beyond Cultural and Economic Ties

Posted: April 23, 2012 in Tajikistan

On March 9, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi wrapped up a three day visit to Tajikistan to discuss developments in joint economic projects including the construction of the Cangtuda-2 dam, Istiqlol tunnel and the beginning of a new Aini hydroelectric station in the Zarafshan River (ozodi.org, March 6). This visit comes on the heels of a February 24 announcement of Iran’s intention to build a 100 hectare industrial park near the capital, Dushanbe, which could significantly increase bilateral trade. Last year, the trade volume between Iran and Tajikistan reached $200 million, representing a 50 percent increase from the previous year (BBC Tajiki, February, 25). (For further background on Iranian-Tajik economic ties see EDM, April 5, 2011.)

Salahi’s trip anticipates a more high profile visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad planned later this March on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. While a shared common language, culture and history are often cited as reasons for close Iranian and Tajik ties, some experts cite Tajikistan’s secular government and predominantly Sunni population as a decisive limiting factor in Iran’s bid to increase its influence. Many have even come to the conclusion that the Iranian projection of soft power in Tajikistan is merely intended to serve Tehran’s strategic rather than ideological aims.

However, in spite of the challenges, Iran does attempt to project religious/ideological soft power that goes beyond the more obvious economic and cultural cooperation. Various organs of the Iranian government maintain Tajik language media outlets (printed in the Cyrillic alphabet) such as Radio Tajiki or “The Voice of Khorasan.” Launched on December 23, 1992 and under the indirect control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Radio Tajiki, in addition to providing regional world news and social and political commentary, is also tasked with the mission of: “Familiarizing audiences with Islam and the message of the Islamic Revolution and the propagation of the pure ideas of the founder of the system of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini (peace be upon him)” (http://tajik.irib.ir/tajiki/16-Таърихча.html).

via The Jamestown Foundation: Iranian Soft Power in Tajikistan: Beyond Cultural and Economic Ties.

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