Reasons for the attacks of the current Iranian government against Azerbaijan   (Op-Ed)

By Javid Valiyev

After Azerbaijan liberated its territories from occupation as a result of the 44-day war, several countries were seriously worried. In this sense, the Azerbaijani public, politicians, and experts thought that mostly the West, especially France and the United States, where the Armenian diaspora has a significant influence would express concern. Unfortunately, the most serious concern in this sense came from Iran which is prone to military confrontation, and considers itself an Islamic state. Despite the alarming messages sent from Iran during the war and being a transit country for the purpose of military aid to Armenia, Azerbaijan extended a hand of peace to Iran as it did to Armenia in the period after the three-way ceasefire.

It was included both in the Zangazur corridor and in the 3+3 platform planned to be built in the region. In addition, President Ilham Aliyev visited the Khudafarin bridge as part of his visit to the territories liberated from occupation and called the Araz river, which is located on the Azerbaijan-Iran border, a border of friendship. Despite this, Iran's informational attacks against Azerbaijan continued at the level of politicians, former diplomats, and media close to the government. There are certain reasons for this.

Firstly, the change of government in Iran and the election of a new president. This new team has always had a negative attitude toward Azerbaijan. Because Azerbaijan has become a secular, modern state that cooperates with the world. The current government of Iran has been benefiting from war and conflict in the region for many years.

Secondly, after the Karabakh victory, the role of Azerbaijan and Türkiye in the region increased. The increase of regional projects proposed by Azerbaijan and Türkiye will further increase the influence of these two countries, while the role of Iran will decrease. Armenia, in particular, is the center of conflict in the region for Iran as well as for many countries. If Armenia's relations with Azerbaijan and Türkiye normalize, the current government of Iran thinks that it will be deprived of this opportunity.

Thirdly, the success of Azerbaijan and Türkiye attracts Azerbaijanis living in Iran and discredits the regime. In fact, the fall of the regime is the fault of the Iranian authorities and comes from their incompetence. As a result, internal conflicts have increased in Iran recently. If Iran had been open to cooperation in the post-war period and had developed a creative policy, we would be at a different level in terms of cooperation today. For this reason, the purpose of the steps taken by the Iranian authorities to increase the current hostility and confrontation is to prevent sympathy towards Azerbaijan and Türkiye within the country, on the one hand, and to increase pressure on those who feel sympathy, on the other hand.

Fourthly, the transport projects proposed by Azerbaijan were met with concern in Iran. Thus, the current government of Iran misinterprets the projects of Azerbaijan and thinks that the geo-economic and geo-strategic value of these projects will decrease if they are implemented. In fact, this comes from the Iranian authorities' hegemonic view of the South Caucasus region. It is also possible to say that there is jealousy in this sense. However, it is in their interest to participate in the proposed projects.

Fifth, of course, behind the populist and threatening speeches of the Iranian authorities in recent times, the growing discontent in Iran's domestic politics plays a big role. By creating a foreign enemy, they aim to unite the discontent within the regime against this "foreign enemy".

 Lastly, the recent softening of relations between Iran and Arab states in the Middle East, especially with Saudi Arabia, as well as the US Joe Biden administration's more conciliatory stance towards Iran, are encouraging it in the South Caucasus.

As a result, of course, this policy of Iran towards Azerbaijan is not new and there have been precedents. However, in all these confrontations, not Iran, but Azerbaijan strengthened its position. For this reason, Iran should choose cooperation rather than confrontation and it should be beneficial for the whole region.

Javid Valiyev, Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Baku-based Center for the International Relations Analysis (AIR Center)

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