Tension at Iran-Azerbaijan Border: Tehran’s Tough Answer


Tension has been reported at the border of Iran and Azerbaijan for a few days. The Azerbaijani media reported border incidents in the past two days, including casualties.

On March 10, the Azerbaijani press informed about a case of border trespassing near Horadiz, followed by a shooting and death of one Azerbaijani border guard and a trespasser. Two days later, on March 12, Azerbaijan informed about a new case of trespassing and shooting. This time a trespasser was killed. Reportedly, a group of 6 tried to cross the border from Iran to Azerbaijan, carrying a lot of drugs and psychedelic drugs, as well as weapons.

It should be noted that this trespassing attempt was in Yardimli which is in the territory of the Talish autonomy.

Is there a political aspect of these incidents at the Azerbaijani-Iranian border reported in the past few days? Of course, it is hard to tell but the incidents are happening in the context of several essential factors. After the visit of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to Tehran and the statements made there the Iranian Azerbaijanis protested and burnt the Armenian flag. Around 30 people were arrested. Could official Tehran discern Baku behind this circumstance? At least, afterwards the Azerbaijani foreign minister Mammedyarov’s visit to Tehran was announced where, as it became known later, he was introduced as the ambassador of Azerbaijan in the website of the Iranian president.

At the same time, when the Armenian prime minister was in Tehran, Fahraddin Aboszoda, the Talish leader, was kidnapped from the Russian prison and taken to Baku. Later it became known that Moscow had a decision to extradite him. It was a blow to Tehran, in fact, considering the link of the Talish people with this country.

The Iran-Azerbaijani situation is certainly part of a bigger issue. Despite the close economic cooperation between Iran and Azerbaijan, it is beyond doubt that there is a deep lack of strategic confidence in Tehran towards Baku.

In this context, Tehran sticks to the policy of carrot and stick, letting Baku know that if no risks occur at the northern border of Iran, Azerbaijan will enjoy Tehran’s support and otherwise Baku may face serious issues.

Currently, the situation is interesting in the context of the large-scale drill that Baku has started which is linked to the possible upcoming Pashinyan-Aliyev meeting, the issue of Artsakh, nevertheless concerns for Tehran are not few and it is beyond doubt for Iran that Baku’s arsenal in the north of Iran is a rifle hanging on the wall which may fire any time in the direction of Iran, and anyone could pick it up and shoot, including Turkey, Russia, Israel and the West.

In the context of these strategic issues and concerns Azerbaijan is getting so-called “pinpoint” issues at the border of Iran. This time nobody switched off the water power plant of Mingechaur like in the summer of 2018 when Baku was holding another big drill but it was thwarted and half of Azerbaijan, including the capital, was in blackout. By the way, there was unrest in the second city of Azerbaijan, Ganca, where there was an attempt on the mayor. Baku clearly indicated that Islamists were behind this who were supported by Iran.

This time Baku gets a warning from the border, not Mingechaur, perhaps also to demonstrate the diversity of possible targets.

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