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Iran’s rising affect within the South Caucasus – Democracy and society


In November of final yr, the Azerbaijani particular forces launched navy drills close to the Iranian border. This was adopted by Ilham Aliyev’s speech on the summit of the leaders of the Group of Turkic States in Samarkand, the place he referred to as upon the states current to concentrate to the rights of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran who’re ‘disadvantaged of the chance to review of their mom tongue. Including gasoline to his speech by him, Aliyev declared that Baku will proceed its efforts to make sure that these ‘separated from Azerbaijan stay loyal to the concepts of Azerbaijanism and by no means lower ties with their historic homeland.’

Just a few days later, at a global convention in Baku, he introduced the difficulty up once more, this time overtly saying, ‘we are going to do our greatest to guard the Azerbaijanis residing in Iran,’ whom he referred to as ‘a part of our folks.’ It’s price noting that the subject of ‘Southern Azerbaijan’ these days occupies a distinguished place in Azerbaijani media. Even the Iranian Overseas Ministry summoned the Azerbaijani ambassador over ‘unfriendly statements’ by Azerbaijani officers and ‘misinformation about Iran’ within the nation’s media.

In December, Azerbaijan held one other massive drill alongside the Iranian border, this time with Turkey, codenamed ‘Brother’s Fist’, which was yet one more irritant for Tehran.

Russia’s rising reliance on Iran

This assertiveness could possibly be understood as a response to the current shift within the Iranian safety equipment in regard to Azerbaijan. Following the Second Karabakh Struggle, Iran began to see its northern neighbor as a direct safety menace, shifting away from a earlier strategy based mostly on the ‘Muslim/Shiite neighbourhood’ precept.

The rising Israeli actions and Azerbaijan’s threats to determine the ‘Zangezur Hall’ by drive resulted in relations with Baku being delegated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the Overseas Ministry. Iran’s navy workouts in 2021 and 2022 close to the Azerbaijani border ought to be evaluated on this context. This rationalization makes much more sense in gentle of claims that Iran might transition from a theocracy to a navy dictatorship following the loss of life of the Supreme Chief.

Nonetheless, these newest incidents present Baku would not hesitate to threat, a minimum of for now, escalating tensions with its southern neighbour. Azerbaijani decisionmakers suppose Turkey’s and Israel’s assist shall be a ample deterrent towards Iran, which is slowed down in inner and exterior issues. Nevertheless, there is likely to be one issue that they missed when figuring out one of the best coverage vis-à-vis Tehran: Russia’s rising reliance on Iran.

Iran has seen Russia as a colonial energy within the area and a counterbalance to Iran.

The relations between the 2 international locations have flourished because the outbreak of the battle in Ukraine. Ukrainian chief Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned in October that Russia had ordered over 2,400 Iranian-made assault drones to terrorize Ukrainian cities. As Russia’s aggression in Ukraine continues, the amount and high quality of weapons bought from Iran will more than likely change. Nonetheless, Tehran is a dependable associate for Moscow to bypass robust Western sanctions.

Traditionally, Iran has seen Russia as a colonial energy within the area and a counterbalance to Iran. However now, the paradigm shift compels Moscow to make some concessions to Iran, together with in its yard, the South Caucasus. Russia is popping a blind eye to Tehran’s actions, rising Iran’s leverage within the new geopolitical configuration. In a gathering with Iran’s Overseas Minister Amir-Abdollahian in 2021, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov made it clear that Moscow was against Tehran’s navy workouts alongside the Azerbaijani border. It’s arduous to think about that Lavrov can say the identical these days.

On this regard, the IRGC’s large-scale battle video games on 17 October 2022, have been by far the loudest manifestation of shifting dynamics in Iran’s favour. Baku was disillusioned by Russia’s lack of response to the drills, significantly to Iran’s elite forces’ observe crossings of the Aras River that types the border between two states.

An open vacuum

Iran acts as a guarantor of geopolitical borders within the area with respect to Armenia. Tehran’s essential concern stems from the ‘Zangezur Hall’ challenge, which is promoted by Baku to attach mainland Azerbaijan with its Nakhcivan exclave after which additional to Turkey by way of Armenia’s Syunik Province. Moscow helps the challenge since it is going to join Russia with Turkey and be guarded by Russian navy personnel. In the meantime, Iran views the hall as detrimental to its pursuits, fearing that it’ll lower off the transit path to Armenia. It appears Iran’s energy is ample, a minimum of for now, to find out Baku from placing sufficient strain on Armenia to comply with the opening of the hall. Not surprisingly, the main target of Azerbaijan’s political agenda has shifted from the ‘Zangezur Hall’ to the ‘Lachin Hall’ in current months. In return, Tehran, which is glad with the present establishment, would not touch upon Azerbaijan’s blockade over the Nagorno-Karabakh area, not like western international locations.

Nevertheless, if Azerbaijan continues its anti-Iran actions, particularly its irredentist aspirations, tensions between the 2 international locations will attain new heights. On this case, not like Russia, Turkey’s presence is not going to be ample to find out Iran because the energy steadiness between the 2 shouldn’t be asymmetrical. The US might fill the vacuum left by Moscow’s partial withdrawal, however Baku shouldn’t be a proper ally of Washington. Apart from, bringing the US into the area doesn’t seem like an possibility for Azerbaijan, which is cozying as much as Russia.

Azerbaijan would not have affect over Iran’s massive Azerbaijani-speaking minority to problem its northern neighbor from inside. Even throughout the newest nationwide unrest, protests amongst Iranian Azerbaijanis didn’t tackle overtly ethnic connotations. Quite the opposite, Iranian authorities use such irritants to consolidate an already polarized society towards an ‘exterior enemy’ and improve its deterrence vis-à-vis Baku. It could strengthen navy and political assist for Armenia, decreasing Azerbaijan’s leverage over the latter. Whereas the battle in Ukraine guarantees new waves of pressure for the area, Baku ought to make its cost-benefit evaluation fastidiously earlier than additional antagonizing Iran.


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