While Iran is using home-grown Shia Islamists to undermine the secular nature of Azerbaijan, the growing influence of Salafi groups in the North Caucasus is now spilling into neighboring countries. At the same time, poorly designed and inadequately executed responses by various governments have contributed to this increase in extremism.
Given this situation, how can South Caucasian governments and the international community prevent the spread of radicalism and promote traditions of tolerant Islam that allow co-existence and cooperation among Christians, Jews, and Sunni and Shia Muslims? What is the U.S. security strategy and vision for the Caucasus region? What is Iran’s strategy in the South Caucasus and to what extent should the region shape U.S.-Iran relations?
These questions are especially timely as the U.S. continues its withdrawal from Afghanistan, instability mounts in North Africa and the Middle East, and Tehran continues to reject international calls for a halt to its enrichment activities. Such turmoil also underscores the importance of strong and stable American allies in a region, the South Caucasus, of increasing importance to U.S. interests.
Hudson’s October 10, 2013 conference on The Rise of Radical Islamism in the South Caucuses featured two panels of distinguished experts, the first moderated by Richard Weitz, Hudson Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis, and the second moderated by Ariel Cohen, Senior Research Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at the Heritage Foundation.