Iran stirs the pot in the South Caucasus


There has been a lot Saber rattles in the last few days on the Iranian side of their border with Azerbaijan. An analysis suggests three reasons: a joint exercise by Azerbaijani, Pakistani and Turkish troops, which took place 500 kilometers from the Iranian border; Azerbaijani road access restrictions for Iranian truck drivers as, instead of passing through to Armenia as announced, they drove to the Russian peacekeeping-controlled region of Karabakh in Azerbaijan; and Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel.

Iran too pretends to be concerned on the joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises in Nakhichevan. However, the two countries emphasize that these are defensive and not offensive. Indeed, many observers do not seem to know that Turkey is a guarantor of the status of Nakhchivan as part of Azerbaijan under the Treaty of Kars (1921), which established the borders of Turkey, the three South Caucasus states and the Russian Federation and was signed by them Socialist Soviet Federal Republic (the USSR was not established until 1922).

Indeed, for the first time, Iran is conducting military exercises and exercises on the border with Azerbaijan. It never did this when the neighboring Azerbaijani territories were occupied by the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia, and it never objected to this occupation. Iran‘s anger could be due to the fact that it can no longer engage in illegal activities in such “gray areas”.

Underlying all these complications is the fact that Armenia has for decades objectively acted as an ally of Iran and subjectively viewed itself as an ally of Iran; and Iran is a terrorist state that has metastasized like a cancerous tumor throughout the Middle East, including, but not limited to, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Some apologists for Iran claim that this is all about Israel, and even invoke Iran’s absurd thesis “encirclement“From Azerbaijan and Israel. Other repeat Iranian allegations of Israeli presence in Azerbaijan.

They are following the example of Iran in pretending that it is about Israel; But Iran chose the Armenian side in the 1992 South Caucasus conflict, but Azerbaijan did not begin to develop strategic relations with Israel until 1998. In 2007, Iran has opened a major gas pipeline to Armenia as a lifeline for energy, built two hydropower plants on the Araks River, which marks their common border, and built a highway and a railway line between the two countries.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry called Azerbaijan “to prevent third parties” [i.e., Israel] from the use of its territories and borders. ”President Aliyev has clearly answered that “Azerbaijan will continue to plan its external and internal affairs as it sees fit.”

Azerbaijani-Israeli security cooperation has indeed helped prevent Iranian-inspired terrorist attacks in Azerbaijan, for example at the Eurovision Song Contest 2012. It also foiled a conspiracy against the Israeli embassy in Baku in 2013.

Iran’s recent actions on its border with Azerbaijan show that it is not interested in peace and stability in the South Caucasus and has no intention of joining the Six-Way Platform (with Russia, Turkey and the three South Caucasus countries) to contribute. to ensure economic development and the humanitarian well-being that depends on it. Iranian aid was vital to Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan in the early 1990s and the occupation of the country.

However, there are positive signs between the two South Caucasus countries. The day after Iran closed its airspace to Azerbaijani planes flying to its exclave Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijani plane was blocked for the first time Transit over Armenian territory on such a route.

In response to Iranian law, Azerbaijan has closed The office of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei in Baku and an associated mosque (allegedly for reasons related to Covid-19).

It seems Tehran is trying to mobilize Moscow’s support for its new confrontation with Baku. At least this is the impression made by the provocative remarks made by the new Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on his recent visit to Moscow. Iran says it will not accepted “Geopolitical changes” in the South Caucasus, although from the early 1990s to the end of last year she raised no objection to the geopolitical changes caused by Armenia.

Typically, Iran’s rhetoric creates the impression that it wants to do this about Israel; but it’s not about Israel – it’s about Turkey. According to the Lebanese Shiite scholar Sheikh Subhi Tufayli, Iran’s foreign minister Told him that Iran “wants to cut off Turkey’s ties with the other Turkish states” and therefore supports the Armenians “so that there is a barrier against Turkey”. For the same reason, Tehran cynically manipulates the Israel issue in the South Caucasus.

Contrary to the warlike declarations of Iran, there have been positive developments between Armenia and Azerbaijan after these two countries To meet at the foreign ministerial level, suggested by the OSCE Minsk Group, on the sidelines of the opening of the UN General Assembly. In addition, Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov did not share the concerns of his Iranian colleague and called for regional cooperation to be stepped up.

President Aliyev recently reiterated his offer to Prime Minister Paschinyan for a bilateral meeting without intermediaries so that the two sides can discuss matters affecting them face to face. This development is, frankly, inevitable and the only way to bring long-term peace to the region.

Robert M. Cutler is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of

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