October 4, 2021
Iran’s Supreme on Sunday warned about Israel’s interference or military presence in the Republic of Azerbaijan, amid tensions between the two neighbors.
“The military forces of the region are able to ensure the security of the region and should not allow foreign armies to interfere or have a military presence there to secure their own interests. What is happening in northwestern Iran, in some neighboring countries, should be resolved with the logic of avoiding foreigners’ presence,” he said.
Khamenei also appeared to be referring to Turkey’s alleged role in the current standoff between Iran and Azerbaijan when he warned that “the person who digs a well [to trap] for his brothers is the first one to fall into it”. Iranian officials have so far avoided directly referring to Turkey and have mainly focused their attacks on the threat from Israel’s involvement.
Last year when the war over Nagorno Karabakh took place between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Iranian officials and military commanders said that there were Israeli elements in the region and that Azerbaijan and Turkey had positioned Syrian jihadist militia in an area close to Iranian borders.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also said in an interview with the state-run broadcaster (IRIB) Saturday evening that Iran will never tolerate the presence and activities of Israel near its borders and threatened to “take due measures accordingly”.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran monitors this situation with sensitivity and determination while having a friendly attitude towards its neighbors, including the Republic of Azerbaijan,” he said while accusing Baku of allowing “terrorists” and Israel to find a foothold and be active in Azerbaijan.
Amir-Abdollahian also stressed that Iran will not tolerate “geopolitical change” in the region and at the borders. Iranian authorities have said that a secret alliance is forming between the US, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Israel which aims to alter the geopolitics in the region with strategic consequences against Iran and Russia. The concern has resulted from suspicions that Armenia and its premier, Nicol Pashinyan, are willing to accept the US and Turkish promises to allow Yerevan control of northern Karabakh in return for ceding Syunik province to Azerbaijan. This would entail undesirable consequences for both Iran and Russia.
Iran also appears worried about Israel’s access to Azerbaijan’s military basesand airspace from where it can target Iran’s nuclear facilities. Tel Aviv has reportedly been in negotiation with Baku recently to finalize an arms deal worth $2b.
In a tweet in Hebrew Saturday, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani urged Azerbaijan to be “vigilant” regarding “foreign influence” in the region. Nour News − a well-placed website close to Shamkhani – on Sunday threatened military action if faced with an Israel threat from Azerbaijan’s territory. “Iran considers it a right to act against terrorism and security threats, particularly the activities of the Zionist regime and will never tolerate any such threats,” Nour News wrote, adding: “Just in the same way as the joint activities of anti-revolutionary [Kurdish] groups and Mossad in Erbil, Iraq, was responded to with missile and artillery attacks while unequivocally warning that such attacks would continue if anti-revolutionary and terrorist groups continued their mischief.”
The Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev who angered Iranian military commanders and authorities with his recent criticism of Iran’s military drills, on Saturday made some remarks which could be considered as conciliatory. In an interview with EFE, a Spanish news agency, Aliyev said his country supported a 3+3 regional cooperation format consisting of Russia, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. “If we are able to manage to create this format of cooperation between six countries of the region, that will be the main guarantee against any kind of new hostility,” he said.
Iran has held extensive military drills in the past three days involving armored and artillery units, drones and helicopters in its northwestern border area, which was criticized by Azerbaijan. Tehran insists that it has the right to hold military exercises within its borders and the drills were planned and were no threat to its neighbors. Mohammad Pakpour, commander of IRGC ground forces, said Wednesday “neighboring governments “know the reason for the drills better than anyone” and that Iran will not tolerate its neighbors “coming under the influence of third-party countries”.