Tensions on the border between Iran and Azerbaijan have recently reached such a level that the two countries are expected to face a war situation at any time.
A few days ago, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan held a joint military exercise called ‘Tinbhai‘. Which Iran did not take well. On the other hand, Iran is also deploying additional troops and weapons on the Azerbaijani border in the name of military training. The army presence there is increasing every day. The border tensions are spreading in the mainstream media of the two countries. And the netizens of the two countries have already started the war through social media.
After Iran and Iraq in the Middle East and Central Asia, Azerbaijan has the largest population of Shiites. About 80 percent of the country’s population believes in Shiite ideology. But Azerbaijan’s system of governing is completely different from other Shiite-majority countries in the region, such as Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. The country is constitutionally a secular state. And despite being a country with such a large Shiite population, its relationship with Iran, which is desperate to spread Shiite ideology, is very bad.
So bad that making friends with each other’s enemies. For example, Israel is Iran’s eternal enemy. But Azerbaijan has a very strong military relationship with Israel. On the other hand, Azerbaijan’s arch-enemy is Armenia, while Iran has strong military, trade and political ties with Iran.
Azerbaijan has the support of Turkey and Israel in the war that broke out last year between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On the other hand, Iran went against Azerbaijan and sent arms and military aid to Armenia by helicopter and truck. Even Iran could not be happy with Armenia’s victory in that war. Since then, Iran has not hesitated to call Azerbaijan another Zionist state like Israel on its border.
Now the question is what is the cause of so much hostility?
Here we can mention four main reasons.
1. There are about 40 million Azeri people living in Iran who have always been a potential threat to Iran’s state integrity. Although many of these Azeri are in high positions in Iran. But there are many Azeri who have taken a hard line against Iran. Many of them have been tortured to death in prison. Azerbaijan and Turkey have a good influence over these Azeri people.
2. Nagarno Karabakh problem. Iran is always pursuing its own interests.
3. Azerbaijan disputes between Iran and Russia over the distribution of mineral resources in the Caspian Sea.
4. Turkey’s relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia’s relations with Iran and Israel.
5. After the Karabakh War, the Shusha Agreement was signed between Azerbaijan and Turkey. That agreement has opened new horizons for Turkey in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The agreement will signal a major shift in Central Asian geopolitics over the next few years and Turkey’s active presence.
Let’s open these up a bit. Today’s Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia were once part of Iran. But from 1804 to 1827, there were two wars between Iran and Russia. Iran was defeated in that war in the early nineteenth century. Two treaties, Gulistan and Turkmenchai, were then signed with the Russian Empire and the Qazar dynasty of Iran.
Through that agreement, the borders between Iran and Russia were redefined. According to the agreement, they accepted the Aras River as their border. According to that, Iran was forced to give part of today’s Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to Russia. Then the Azeri people were divided on both sides of the Aras river.
North Azerbaijan became part of Russia and South Azerbaijan remained part of Iran. Then the region has gone through many ups and downs. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and many countries were born in Central Asia, this part of North Azerbaijan gained the status of an independent country as today’s Azerbaijan.
Immediately after independence, Iran recognized Azerbaijan. And builds good relations with Azerbaijan. At that time, Iran’s influence in Azerbaijan was noticeable. Iran was ready to provide all kinds of assistance to this newly independent country. The heads of state of the two countries visited. Iran was able to bring the newly born Azerbaijan under its influence. However, before the birth of Azerbaijan, there was a problem with the Nagorno-Karabakh region with Armenia.
The war with ethnic Azeri and Armenians lasted from 1964 to 1994. During the war, a peace treaty was signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1992, mediated by Iran. But three or four weeks after the agreement, the Armenian army invaded the Khojali region of Azerbaijan and carried out genocide.
Nagarno later occupied the Shusha and Lachin areas of Karabakh. Later that year, a coup took place in Azerbaijan. Abdulfaz Elchibai was elected President of the country.
Believing in Pan-Turkish thought, Elchibi was a staunch anti-Iranian. He started giving more importance to Turkey instead of Iran. Inspired the Azeri people with Turkish nationalism. He also announced the occupation of South Azerbaijan, which borders Iran, and made it part of Azerbaijan. This attitude spread widely among the Azeri Turks. A section of 3-4 crore Azeri living in Iran also have this idea.