In particular, Tehran says that it will not tolerate “geopolitical changes in the map in the Caucasus,” although it is unclear what “geopolitical changes” in the region are implied, since Baku has no claims to the territory of Armenia.
What is the reason for Iran’s aggressive rhetoric and who benefits from the new destabilization in the region? Yakov Kedmi, Israeli politician, diplomat, former head of the Nativ liaison bureau, and Abraham Shmulevich, Israeli political scientist, President of the Eastern Partnership Institute (Jerusalem), answer these and other questions.
Yakov Kedmi links the aggravation in the relations between Iran and Azerbaijan to the growing contradictions between Tehran and Ankara: “The new Iranian government is more actively promoting the role of Iran in the world and in the Caucasus in particular. But an armed conflict with Azerbaijan is hardly possible. Iran is not interested in armed conflicts at the moment. Iran’s current priority is strengthening its position, signing the nuclear weapons agreement, lifting the sanctions, and trade agreements.”
When asked why Iranian officials keep mentioning Israel in their statements, accusing it of trying to destabilize the region, Kedmi said that his country is constantly featured in Iranian propaganda as the root of all evil: “The Azerbaijan-Israel relations are a spoke in Iran’s wheel. However, in a possible conflict with Iran, Israel will always support Azerbaijan.”
Abraham Shmulevich, on the other hand, believes that the main reason for Iran’s aggressive rhetoric lies in its claims to the territories of Azerbaijan: “Tehran literally said that if Azerbaijan continued to violate its interests, Iran would occupy Karabakh and annex it to Iran. Iran considers Azerbaijan as part of its territory. In other words, Iran in fact does not recognize the independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan—or Armenia, for that matter. Iran considers these lands its own. Official Tehran, of course, waxes poetic and signs all sorts of international declarations, but this is not what is on Iran’s mind. And the latest escalation showed the true colors of this country. Iran is an aggressive state taken with the idea of getting its territories back, including the entire territory of modern Azerbaijan. We must bear that in mind. There are good reasons why Tehran has supported Armenia throughout the entire post-Soviet history, from the very beginning of the First Karabakh War. During the last 44-day war, Iran provided Armenia with intelligence data. It was via the territory of Iran that Russian weapons were delivered to Armenia. If Iran had cut off these supplies, Armenia might have surrendered sooner.
“There was also the notorious incursion of the Iranian troops into the territory of Azerbaijan in Jabrayil District to allegedly protect the Khudaferin reservoir. The Iranians did not let the Azerbaijani army move forward during the offensive, which delayed the end of the war and led to losses among the manpower of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.
“Iran is also the only country that has not signed the declaration on the delimitation of the Caspian Sea. In fact, Iran lays claim to the territories on the Caspian shelf, which are now part of the Azerbaijani economic zone. If I am not mistaken, there were even situations when Iran threatened to use force against Azerbaijan if it started developing deposits in the Caspian. That is, these were also territorial claims against Azerbaijan.
“Such incidents are too many to list, which once again emphasizes the fact that Iran views Azerbaijan as a hostile state. As for Armenia, it is viewed by Iran as a vassal. Now we can see the scale of drug trafficking that went through Armenia. Everything suggests that the section of the Iranian-Azerbaijani border previously controlled by Armenia was used for drug trafficking. One can imagine the amount of drugs that crossed this border. It is a known fact that drug trafficking is one of the ways of funding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). As a result of the last elections in Iran, the IRGC practically came to power and now determines the policy of Tehran. Now the IRGC is losing a lot of money as a result of Azerbaijan’s de-occupation of its territories. This is another reason behind Iran’s resentment. Armenia was viewed by Iran as a loyal vassal, although they call Yerevan an ally. Iran used Armenia to do its dirty deeds. Iran also used the scientific and technical potential left in Armenia after the collapse of the USSR to strengthen its armed forces. Let me remind you that agreements were reached between Yerevan and Tehran on the joint development of weapons and so on.
“Armenia cannot pursue an independent policy; it has neither the potential nor the resources for this. Azerbaijan, on the contrary, is a completely independent player with great potential, and Iran cannot turn it into its obedient puppet like Armenia—hence this hostile attitude. Armenia is entirely dependent on Iran. Yerevan depends on Tehran no less than on Moscow—in a sense, even more. Iran can exert any pressure on Armenia if it wants to. We have seen the Iranian policy over the past decades, after Azerbaijan gained independence. This policy has been aimed at supporting Armenia and the Armenian army in the occupation of Karabakh,” the political scientist said.
As for the Israeli factor mentioned by the Iranian leadership, Shmulevich believes that Tehran’s anger caused by the Israel-Azerbaijan alliance shows how important this cooperation is for Baku.
“Iran sees Israel as its main enemy. The Iranian authorities have repeatedly stated that they want to destroy Israel. But the Azerbaijani-Israeli cooperation is an important factor in strengthening the defense capability of Azerbaijan. Besides, should Iran resort to armed aggression against Azerbaijan, Israel will undoubtedly provide instant assistance if Baku requests it. Tehran understands this. Turkey and Pakistan will not leave Azerbaijan on its own either,” Shmulevich summed up.
Translated from Caliber.Az