A noticeable escalation in relations between Iran and Azerbaijan after Tehran announced, on Thursday, its intention to conduct military exercises, on Friday, in the northwest of the country near the border with Azerbaijan.
The move comes in light of severe tensions between the two countries over the past few weeks, after Azerbaijan began imposing fines on Iranian trucks and arresting a number of drivers trying to cross to Armenia through Azerbaijan.
On the other hand, video clips showed dozens of Iranian armored vehicles and military vehicles heading to the border with Azerbaijan, in a show of force through which Iran is trying to send messages to its northern neighbor, according to analysts.
Iranian state television published footage that it said was from the ground forces’ preparations for these maneuvers, during which dozens of military trucks appeared carrying armored vehicles, tanks and artillery.
How did the crisis start?
During the past weeks, Azerbaijan began to impose duties on Iranian trucks that use a vital route linking Iran to southern Armenia, but parts of it pass through Azerbaijani territory.
According to the American “Eurasia Net” website, some of the targeted trucks were transporting cement to the capital of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the region internationally recognized as Azerbaijan, but it has been under the control of Armenian forces since the first war between the two sides in the 1990s.
After the last war between the two countries last year, some land was handed over to Azerbaijan, including a town where the highway used by Iranian trucks passes, is guarded by Russian peacekeepers and is Armenia’s only link with Iran.
Earlier this month, Azerbaijani forces set up checkpoints and began charging and inspecting Iranian commercial trucks traveling on the highway, sometimes even arresting drivers.
Azerbaijani officials stress that the law requires all foreign vehicles, not just Iranian ones, entering the country to pay road and transit fees.
In an interview with Turkish media last Monday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that between August 11 and September 11 Baku counted 60 Iranian trucks traveling on the road.
Aliyev confirmed that some of these Iranian drivers were trying to hide their identity by using Armenian number plates.
He also noted that Iranian officials repeatedly refused to take any action, despite Baku issuing verbal warnings and then official notes before instructing border police and customs to act.
Aliyev states that his country was able, through this method, to control the road passing through Azerbaijani lands, reducing the number of Iranian trucks passing through it to zero.
But Iran rejects these measures, stressing that the maneuvers are “a sovereign matter and for the sake of peace and stability in the entire region,” accusing Baku of trying to influence the trade movement between it and Armenia.
The military solution is in place
Iranian political analyst Hussein Royran says that his country “rejects any change in the border areas with neighboring countries,” adding that “Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, is trying to occupy the Armenian border with Iran to open a corridor between Turkey and Azerbaijan.”
He adds to Al-Hurra website that this measure means “practically cutting off the land connection between Iran and Armenia, which is one of the main routes for Iranian trade with Europe.”
Roweran points out that “the stability of the Iranian forces in the region comes only to prevent a change of borders in this region.”
The Iranian analyst does not rule out Tehran’s resorting to a military solution, saying: “I do not imagine that Iran is joking when it comes to its national security,” stressing that if “Azerbaijan persists in issues related to the borders, it will face a military response.”
A recent opinion piece in Kayhan, a newspaper linked to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, warned of an alleged “invisible alliance” between the United States, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Israel, saying it could have a “significant impact” on Iran and Russia’s political weight in the Middle East. Region.
Alluding to the relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel, the archenemy of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday that Tehran “will not tolerate any form of the presence of the Zionist entity near its borders. In this regard, it will take what it finds appropriate for its national security,” without additional details. .
Iran and its northwestern neighbor Azerbaijan share a border stretching nearly 700 km.
A large group of Azeri nationalities live in Iran, especially in the northwestern provinces bordering Azerbaijan and Armenia, separated from Azerbaijan by the Aras River.
Turkish political analyst Faik Bulut does not believe that a military escalation between Tehran and Baku is possible, at least in the next few years.
Bulut told Al-Hurra that “events may develop and things may slip, and there may be skirmishes or limited clashes, but they will not rise to the level of war.”
However, Bulut asserts that “in the event that the conflict erupts, develops and continues for a long time, I think that Turkey will not be satisfied with providing only diplomatic and political support.”
Bulut enumerates the ways of Turkish support that Turkey will provide to Azerbaijan, albeit secretly. “In the long term, Ankara will support Baku, as happened in the conflict with Armenia by sending groups of mercenaries to Azerbaijan to fight against Iran.”
“Iran is proceeding with caution in the Caucasus, as it does not need to destabilize its northern borders in light of the challenges it is already facing in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan,” the website “Eurasia Net” quotes Azerbaijani political analyst Eldar Mamedov as saying.