Does Iran threaten Azerbaijan because of relations with Israel?

Iranian media began to mount rhetoric against Azerbaijan, with a headline claiming that Baku “denied the presence of the Zionist regime near the border with Iran,” a claim that seems to contrast with its insinuation that the close relationship Israel with Azerbaijan is a threat to Tehran.
The larger context is that Iran carried out military maneuvers near the border with Azerbaijan and Armenia and hosted an Armenian delegation, signaling its commitment to a robust policy that requires the status quo to be. maintained at the border. What is really going on here? A year ago, Azerbaijan launched a war against Armenian forces in the disputed area of ​​Nagorno-Karabakh. In Baku’s view, backed by Turkey, the Armenians have dominated for too long the disputed areas they captured in the 1990s. From the Armenians’ point of view, these were historic lands where Armenians lived and which the Soviet Union had arbitrarily made an autonomous part of the Azeri Soviet Republic in the 20th century.

No matter who is right in this dispute, it shares similarities with many others like in Northern Cyprus, the West Bank and other places. What matters is that a nascent and increasingly powerful Azerbaijan asserts itself militarily.

Israel and Iran‘s northern neighbor have a close relationship, and Baku has acquired a large number of Israeli-made drones in recent decades, becoming a pioneering drone power. Azerbaijan frequently displays Israeli-made drones and boasts of their effectiveness. Recent videos posted online even appeared to show IAI Harop drones in launch formation from the backs of trucks visited by Azeri leader Ilham Aliyev, according to videos on Twitter.

Iranian media claim that “Zionists” could be at Iran’s doorstep by working with Baku. But it also prints Azerbaijan’s denials. “Azerbaijan pursues an independent foreign policy and on this basis establishes relations with its neighbors and does not allow anyone to interfere in its internal affairs,” Aliyev said, according to Iranian Fars News.

A woman mourns in a cemetery during a remembrance for the Azeri serviceman killed in conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on his first birthday, in Baku, Azerbaijan, September 27, 2021. (REUTERS / AZIZ KARIMOV)
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR Iranian media, linked to the IRGC, used to print denials without printing the accusation? The reason Iran is doing this is because the regime is careful not to escalate the rhetoric and stir up tensions with Azerbaijan.

But Tehran also wants to send a message to Baku that “we know what you are doing.” Iran has done this before, leaking information to pro-Iranian militias in Iraq to have those militias accuse Azerbaijan of being the base of alleged drone attacks against pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, head of Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, a key component of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) claimed in 2019 that “we have precise and confirmed information that this year the Americans have introduced four Israeli drones. via Azerbaijan to operate in the US fleet to conduct flights and target Iraqi military bases.

The Guardian reported at the time in August that “the development comes as Shiite militants in Iraq claim Israel used drones launched from Azerbaijan to attack targets in the north and center of the country – areas which, according to regional officials, have become transit centers for arms sent to Iranian positions near Israel.

Shortly after, the United States killed Muhandis and IRGC Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in January 2020, the drone in this case being flown from the Gulf. The point is, Iran and its allies in Iraq were already accusing Baku of being a base for Israeli drones in 2019.

Now Iran accuses Azerbaijan of similar activities. This comes against the backdrop of regional Iranian attempts to harass and strike Israel-linked targets, including attacks on ships off the coast of Oman where Tehran used drones in July that killed two people on a ship. , and a recent suspected conspiracy in Cyprus.

IRAN’S MEDIA printed a long list of Azerbaijan’s comments on Tuesday. “We demand respect for our sovereign rights and non-interference in our internal affairs,” said the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. “The charges against us must be formally substantiated. Let them come here and find a foreigner… They claim that Azerbaijan opened the door to Israel in these areas… Where did they see Israel here? ”

This illustrates that Tehran continues to express tensions with Baku. Iran wants Azerbaijan to insist on the friendship between the two countries. Iranian newspapers claim they share a historic friendship. “We do not accept the allegations of the presence of third countries or any country close to the Iran-Azerbaijan border, or the provocative actions of such forces, as such opinions have no basis,” a spokesperson said. of Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, during the presentation of the credentials of the new Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan, said that “we do not tolerate the active presence of the Zionist regime in Azerbaijan against the security of Iran.

Iran also carried out a military exercise near the border. The foreign minister recently said of Iranian border exercises that “such exercises inside Iran fall within the framework of Iran’s national sovereignty and have clarified the regime’s movements. Zionist along the joint borders of Iran and Azerbaijan, ”according to Fars News.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran does not tolerate the presence and activities of the Zionist regime against its national security and will take all necessary measures in this regard,” Iran said.

IRAN HOSTED the Armenian Foreign Minister this week to hammer home his commitment to Armenia and to discuss border tensions. While Yerevan stressed the need to open roads to its Nagorno-Karabakh communities, Tehran discussed trade and other issues.

Trade and operation of the Armenian transit route is one of the major problems of the two countries, Iran said. “By defining transit and trucking trade routes, we will not allow Iran’s relations with its neighbors to be affected by foreign interference. “

Iran’s foreign minister then said he was worried about the presence of “Zionists in the region…. Our South Caucasus region and our neighbor are still suffering from conditions, and the presence of the Zionists is of serious concern to us. He has mentioned it on several occasions, discussing the foreign “actors” who were hurting relations in the region.

Amir-Abdullahian stressed that the region’s problems should be solved away from foreign interference, adding that, “given the intense crises and the approach of the end of the Corona crisis, we declare that our region will not tolerate further crises “.

It is not clear whether Iran will want to push this issue more or if it feels it has said enough. His desire is to send a message to Azerbaijan and show his commitment to Armenia. However, the Islamic Republic does not wish to increase tensions with Turkey, preferring that these border issues be compartmentalized. Indeed, Iran, Turkey and Russia share other common interests in the US withdrawal from Syria as well as Afghanistan and trade talks.

Iran does not really want to be a party to a conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia: it wants to send messages and show where its red lines are.

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