Ahmadinejad will face a united front of Russia and the three former Soviet republics in pushing for a new “legal regime” that divides the sea equally among the five member states. But the issue for Iran is the existence of binding treaties that divides the sea equally between Iran and revolutionary Russia, and later between Iran and the Soviet Union. The birth of the three new republics bordering the Caspian after the collapse of the Soviet Union should not have changed Iran’s share of the sea. But this is not what Russia and its allies have on their minds. They do not want to divide the Soviet’s share into four, but the whole sea into five equal parts, reducing Iran’s share from half to one-fifth.
In 1921, the first of the two Caspian treaties was signed between Reza Shah's government and Lenin, then the new head of the revolutionary Russia. In 1940, Iran and the Soviet Union signed a second treaty reaffirming the equal division of the Caspian between the two nations. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation of four Caspian republics in its place should not have changed Iran’s shares.
That’s the dilemma Ahmadinejad will face in Baku: if he goes along with Russia and signs the new “legal regime,” he runs the risk of being labeled a traitor by many Iranians. Still to this date, the memories of Qajar-era treaties with Tsarist Russia, when the Persian monarch relinquished vast territories of the country to Russia, are fresh on the minds of almost all Iranians. Ahmadinejad’s signing off on the new Caspian legal regime would be the déjà-vu of a disastrous period in the Iranian history.