Russia and Eurasia

Azerbaijan and the Iran Crisis: Stuck in the Middle

0 2

The crisis between Iran and the Western powers continues to escalate. Sanctions, wargames, and the ‘covert war’ being conducted against the Iranian nuclear programme has heightened tensions and raised the risk of a regionally destabilising war.


BY ALEX JACKSON | APRIL 19, 2012

aliyev ahmedinejad

Most analysis has focused on the implications of the crisis for the Persian Gulf and the Arab world. Tensions between the US-armed Gulf Arab states and Iran has led to the conflict’s regional dimension being framed in ethnic and religious terms: of Sunni Arabs versus Shi’ite Persians (with a proxy version being fought in Syria).

But this is a one-dimensional view, which sees Iran solely as a Middle Eastern power. Iran’s northern neighbours – the Caucasus and Central Asian states – are neglected in most analyses of the current and future dynamics of the crisis. However, these states, particularly Azerbaijan, are a crucial part of Iran’s security landscape and will be increasingly important as the stand-off deepens.

  • Iran in the Caucasus

In short, Iran’s policy towards the Caucasus is one of realpolitik, overlaying centuries of competition with the Turkish and Russian empires. The Caucasus formed a buffer zone between the three empires, and different parts of the region changed hands many times over the centuries.

Today, the relationship with Georgia is the most distant. There are cordial ties between Tbilisi and Tehran, but geography, a lack of shared interests, and broader geopolitical issues (Russian hostility towards Georgia; Western hostility towards Iran) have prevented them from building a deeper relationship.

Based on the mischaracterisation that Iran is an irrational theocracy, one would expect poor relations with staunchly Christian Armenia. However the two sides have a strong alliance dominated by economic and strategic considerations. Armenia needs Iran as an outlet to the world, owing to the Turkish and Azeri blockades, whilst Iran supports Armenia as a counterweight to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Relations with Azerbaijan are the most complex and contradictory. Although there are religious and ethnic links between the two, Iran’s Azeri population (around one-fifth of its total population) is viewed with some suspicion in Tehran. Calls for greater autonomy have occasionally boiled over into irredentism and demands for unification with Azerbaijan: the border between Iran and then-Soviet Azerbaijan was demarcated for political reasons, dividing the Azeris in two.

Aside from concerns about separatism, Iran is wary of Azerbaijan’s secularism, its ties with Israel, and its geopolitical orientation: pro-Turkish and, to a degree, pro-Western. Azerbaijan is seen as a potential fifth column for Western penetration into Iran’s northern borders. Similarly, support for Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh (whilst professing a balanced approach) is intended to maintain the status quo in the conflict, reducing the danger of Western meddling as part of a peace settlement. At the root of all Iran’s Caucasus policies is the aim of limiting Western involvement in the region.

 


Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 3  No. 2

About the author / 

Admin

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

jga bookreview



cesran_unai


jga bookreview


jga bookreview


jga bookreview


jga bookreview


jga bookreview


jga bookreview


jga bookreview

CESRAN Blog

  • The inherent dangers of secrecy in the US foreign policy

    Since the Vietnam War, officials of the United States have increasingly abused the essential democratic safeguards of accountability and an informed citizenry in apparent attempts to protect themselves from being held accountable for their actions. They use secrecy and disinformation to prevent the American people from obtaining the information they need to evaluate their government’s…

  • 18th Issue of Political Reflection Magazine is Out Now!

    Vol. V | No. I – January-February-March 2019 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 05-06…..World News by Furkan Sahin 09-14…..The Ideological Potential of Climate Change: (Post) Politics in the Age of Global Warming by Miguel Angel Zhan Dai 15-18…..Yemen Civil War: A Conflict That Has Never Ended by Dr. I. Aytac Kadioglu 21-25…..NATO: The Shifting Sands of an Alliance by…

  • CESRAN International Named again amongst the Top Think Tanks in the World

    CESRAN International is pleased to announce that it has been named again amongst the world’s best think tanks. The 2018 Global Go To Think Tank Index ranked CESRAN International 141st among the World’s “Top Think Tanks in Western Europe” 76th among the World’s “Top Environment Policy Think Tanks” 152nd among the World’s “Top Foreign Policy…

  • New Issue is Out Now!

    Vol. IV | No. V – October-November-December 2018 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 04-06…..World News by Furkan Sahin  08-20…..Terrorism in Syria and Beyond: An Interview with Prof. Alain Gabon by Dr. Rahman Dag 22-24…..Erdogan’s Best Shot is Still in the West by Dr. Murat Ulgul 26-30…..Raqqa vs Kobani – Terrorism vs Revolution by Dr. Rahman Dag 32-34…..Future of…

  • Domestic Politics and the Design of International Institutions

    Abstract Scholars are increasing focused on how and why states design international institutions. International relations theories have historically guided research on these institutions, but have not provided adequate insights into the theoretical bases for their design. Rationalists’ theories of domestic politics offer an alternative approach to understanding institutional design. This study utilizes the positive theory…