Amid ongoing anti-government protests in Iran, Tehran has heightened tensions with its neighbor, accusing it of interfering in domestic affairs. One of these neighbors, Azerbaijan, has Turkey’s support and opposition.
Iran recently conducted military exercises on its border with Azerbaijan, warning Baku not to agitate Iran’s important Azerbaijani minority.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has carried out numerous drone attacks against Kurdish groups based in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, accusing it of agitating Iran’s Kurdish minority. .
Saur Gasimov, an expert on the area at the University of Bonn, said the drills and attacks were part of a systematic policy by Tehran.
“Iran is trying to turn the attention of the Iranian people to foreign policy, border disputes and disputes with neighboring countries,” Gasimov said. “Military exercises were held not only on the border with the Republic of Azerbaijan in the north, but also on the border with Iraq and Turkey. I have.”
But Baku has fought back against Tehran and is conducting its own military exercises on the Iranian border. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani security forces detained 19 people this month, accusing them of working for Iran’s intelligence services.
Hussein Bagchi, head of the Ankara-based Institute for Foreign Policy, said Baku was encouraged by support from Turkey, some of which is included in a common defense pact.
“Turkey and Azerbaijan [are] Brother, friend,” Bagchi said. “And they have a non-binding but important Shusha Agreement. If Azerbaijan is under attack or in danger, Turkey will help Azerbaijan unconditionally. Iran has its influence. but Turkey is like a barrier that stops Iran’s influence in Azerbaijan.”
Turkish military support was essential for Azerbaijan in 2020, which decisively defeated Armenian-backed forces in a dispute over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
Earlier this month, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev condemned Tehran’s military exercises and pledged to defend his country’s secular and ethnic Azerbaijanis, both in Azerbaijan and Iran. Analyst Gasimov said Aliyev’s increasingly aggressive stance on Tehran was a big change for the region.
“Over the past 30 years, Baku has been very cautious in its relationship with the very large Azeri-speaking community in northern Iran,” Gasimov said. “However, the conduct of military exercises on the border with Iran was seen as a reaction to Iranian military exercises by the Azerbaijan side. [At] At the same time, the new discourse in Baku about Iran’s Azerbaijani speakers is two gestures directed at Iran’s political class, saying that something has changed in the region. ”
Baku opens an embassy in Israel. Despite Tehran’s warnings, the two countries already have close military ties. For now, Ankara has refrained from commenting on the turmoil in Iran, but some analysts warn that its silence will be tested if Tehran escalates tensions with Baku.