The Caucasus' Zangezur Corridor

Jun 27, 2012 | 16:54 GMT

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The Zangezur Corridor

The Zangezur Corridor is a large piece of flat and well-watered land in an otherwise rugged, arid region. It lies where the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, the Anatolian highlands and the Zagros Mountains meet. The Zangezur's relative arability makes it a valuable asset in its own right, but its true value is its role as a transport corridor. Whoever controls the Zangezur Corridor can project power into the Turkish sphere of influence in Anatolia, the Russian sphere of influence in the intra-Caucasus and directly into the Persian core territories. This small, seemingly forgotten patch of land has been the crossroads of regional competition since long before there were Turks and Russians. Currently, the Zangezur is not under singular political control. The bulk of the Armenian population lives in the Zangezur's northeastern quadrant, the corridor's most arable zone. The northwestern quadrant is the least arable, but holds the strategic high ground of Mount Ararat and is exclusively Turkish. The southwestern quadrant is Iranian territory jutting up between Turkish and Armenian territory. The southeastern quadrant is the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. The four portions do not have any significant geographic insulation from one another. Although Turkey, Russia and Iran have not paid much attention to the Zangezur Corridor in recent years, they are certain to revisit the Zangezur issue in time. Iran and Turkey are both rapidly rising powers already competing for influence across much of the Arab world, and Zangezur is by far the most strategic spot along their shared border. Russia, in contrast, is in sharp demographic decline. Its position in the Caucasus generally and Zangezur/Armenia specifically are only sustainable as long as the Russian army can continue to be a numerically massive force. Collapsing demography could make that impossible by 2020.