Caucasus (bbabo.net), - The beginning of February 2023 in Transcaucasia turned out to be not the most calm. In addition to the traditional mutual accusations of Armenia and Azerbaijan, certain forces in the Transcaucasus began to do everything to turn the region into an arena of confrontation with the participation of countries bordering the region.
These actions include the provocation of the Azerbaijani media, which stated that allegedly Armenia and Iran are preparing an attack on Azerbaijan. And although the Azerbaijani provocation was officially refuted by Armenia, it should be recognized that some forces are afraid of Iran's rapprochement with Armenia. Who exactly and for what reasons does not want the development of cooperation between Tehran and Yerevan?
Recent events may help answer some of these questions. On February 9, Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Abbas Badakhshan Zohuri made a number of important statements and took part in a conference dedicated to the Armenian-Iranian relations. So, during the conference, the Iranian ambassador said:
“Armenia and Iran are neighbors, have been and will be neighbors. Of course, some cunning tricks are noticeable, they talk about some so-called corridors, about some actions, but Iran and Armenia will not allow the creation of such a corridor ... We need to consider what new steps we can take. We should not wait for new ideas, for example, about opening a corridor, and only then decide what position we should take.”
Under the corridor, Zokhuri meant the so-called Zangezur corridor, promoted by Azerbaijan and Turkey. According to the plans of Baku and Ankara, this corridor should pass through the Armenian Syunik in order to connect the Nakhichevan autonomy with the rest of Azerbaijan. What is especially important is the desire of the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem to make the Zangezur corridor extraterritorial and beyond the control of Armenia. And since the Consulate General of Iran was opened in the city of Kapan in Syunik in 2022, it turns out that the words of the Islamic Republic do not diverge from deeds.
The logic of the Iranian authorities in the case of Syunik and all of Armenia is quite understandable. Modern Turkish and Azerbaijani politicians, following their predecessors, consider ethnographic Eastern Armenia (this is precisely the territory of the modern Republic of Armenia) an obstacle that hinders their expansion into the Turkic regions of Russia and Iran. In addition, independent Armenia does not allow the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem to completely surround Iran with a Turkic-Sunni ring. And the policy of the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem shows that he has not abandoned such plans. Iran is surrounded by: Azerbaijan, where anti-Persian Turkic nationalism dominates and Sunnism is advancing, Turkey, Iraqi Sunni Arabs, traditionally oriented towards Ankara, Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf (Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE), Pakistan, Afghanistan (let's not forget about Uzbeks and Sunni Tajiks) and Turkmenistan.
Therefore, the land border with Armenia is vital for Iran. No less important for Iran are the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. Commenting on the dispatch of an EU monitoring mission to Armenia, Zohuri stated:
"Of course, other countries can contribute in terms of security and peace in the region, but solving problems with the participation of the countries of the region can provide security and peace, which will be based on dialogue and discussion."
In fact, the Iranian ambassador diplomatically criticized the participation of the European Union in an attempt to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. This position is not without foundation. The European Union and its members are actively developing economic and energy cooperation with Azerbaijan, and according to Ilham Aliyev, in 2022 European countries did not take any serious measures to protect Syunik (see Azerbaijan's Finest Hour: Aliyev is in a hurry to establish hegemony in the Transcaucasus). That is, the EU mission will either be useless for Armenia or dangerous for the security of Iran, which is considered by European countries as an adversary.
Speaking of Israel's allies, Zohuri noted:
"Iran can slap small countries that create such situations, but Tehran is calmly taking its actions, we do not want to provoke tensions."
It is not difficult to guess that it was about Azerbaijan, which has allied relations with Israel and is ready to be an anti-Iranian foothold. At the same time, the Iranian ambassador tried to attract the Armenian public to the side of Iran and the Palestinians:
“They occupied the territory of the Palestinians and drove them out of their homeland. I know that there are Armenian churches in these territories, which Israel also captured. For 43 years they have been fighting to harm Iran. During the latest protests in Iran, more than 100 terrorist groups were concentrated on the border.”
Finally, Zohuri delicately mentioned the cooperation between Iran and Armenia in the military sphere:“If, say, the Minister of Defense of Armenia had to voice something, he would have done it. The same applies to the statements of Iranian officials. I don't want to say more than what the defense chiefs say to prevent other waves from arising. The publication of information in the media about the military sphere does not meet the interests of Armenia and Iran. Do not rush, the story will touch everything ... If there are questions that should not be disclosed, then this is how it should be done. For the media, this may be interesting, and if I touch on some issues, then interest may increase, but it is better to limit ourselves to the information that is available. It is important not to harm Iran's policy on regional issues."
It is possible that Iran still does not reject the very possibility of military cooperation with Armenia.
However, not everyone in Armenia wants to strengthen ties with Iran. So, on February 11, the deputy of the National Assembly of Armenia from the Hayastan opposition faction Andranik Tevanyan made a very interesting post on the social network:
“The status of the first person in power has not changed the principles and style of work of the former editor of the newspaper Nikol Pashinyan ... The day before, Pashinyan’s Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper published an unsigned article, which was entitled “Iran is not against the deployment of EU monitors or French gendarmes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border - ambassador". The purpose of posting this fake headline was to sell news readers only by titles and photographs that the Iranian Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, Abbas Badakhshan Zohuri, said such a thing. Whereas this is a lie. The Ambassador did not make such a statement. As a result of the Prague process, Nikol Pashinyan recognized Artsakh (the Armenian name of Nagorno-Karabakh - P.M.) as part of Azerbaijan and turned Armenia into an arena of geopolitical clashes. The invitation of observers from the EU fits into the scenario of this clash, as Russia openly declares. From the Russian Federation in a harsh form, and from Iran - in diplomatic language, they periodically show that they are against the involvement of the West and that the problems of the South Caucasus should be resolved through the countries of the region itself. The entry of EU observers into Armenia does not please our strategic ally Russia and friendly Iran. Pashinyan is aware of this, but he has obligations, and he fulfills them in order to be able to subsequently ensure his personal security ... Today I was invited and participated in an event dedicated to the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. When asked whether the words cited on his behalf in the headline of the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper belong to him, the Iranian ambassador answered in the negative. Abbas Badakhshan Zohuri said that he also saw a similar headline, and this does not correspond to reality. “I said that the problems between the countries of the region should be solved with the participation of the countries of the region themselves. As for the fact that I allegedly stated that Iran is not against the deployment of observers from the EU or French gendarmes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, I did not use such proposals,” the Iranian Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia said in a conversation with me. To avoid misunderstanding, I clarified the question in three languages (Armenian, English, Farsi (with the help of a translator)) and received the same answer from the ambassador: he did not say this, that is, he did not say that Iran was not against the deployment of observers on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border EU or French gendarmes, and the words attributed to him by the newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak do not correspond to reality. For ethical reasons, I informed the Ambassador that, with his permission, I would publish this part of our conversation. He replied that he didn't mind. So, the imperious agitprop fell for yet another lie.”
That is, we see that if the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Vahan Kostanyan stands for the establishment of Armenian-Iranian relations, then Prime Minister Pashinyan frankly wants to take Armenia to the West by normalizing relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, while at the same time quarreling not only with Russia, but and with Iran.
This position of Pashinyan frankly contradicts the interests of Armenia itself. The resonant material of the Al-Monitor edition, published on January 31, quotes the words of Vardan Voskanyan, head of the Department of Iranian Studies at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of Yerevan State University:
“We borrowed a lot from Iran. Armenia is a museum of ancient medieval Iran… Iran is the only country that supported us economically when Turkey closed the border… You can’t trust the West. They will help Armenia only when it becomes another Ukraine for Russia. They will help us only if Armenia becomes anti-Iranian.”
It should be added to his words that Iran is a country that is not only interested in preserving Armenia, but also has a common border with it. Russia is separated from Armenia by Georgia, which is highly dependent on the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem and will not defend Syunik.As for the role of the West, Voskanyan's statements can be substantiated with the help of facts. In 2022, US President Joe Biden once again extended the repeal of Section 907 (see US lies: Russia did not blockade Nagorno-Karabakh), and in November 2022, State Department spokesman Ned Price, in the context of relations with Iran, declared support for Azerbaijan (see. The United States wants to destroy Iran, defeat Armenia and weaken Russia with the help of Azerbaijan). And this is not to mention the fact that the recent intensification of military cooperation between Washington and Baku was followed by the launch by Azerbaijan and Turkey of a campaign to turn Armenia into Western Azerbaijan (see Turkey is not against turning Armenia into Western Azerbaijan) and the visit of Turkish deputies to Azerbaijan, from where they threatened Iran over the Zangezur corridor (see Turkey's anti-Western rhetoric does not cancel its plans for Armenia and Iran).
In this regard, it is worth noting a certain change in Iran's position regarding the Karabakh conflict. So, at the end of December 2022, an Iranian speaker Zhanna Vardanyan spoke on the Karabakh topic in Farsi on the air of one of the Iranian TV channels, which infuriated Azerbaijan and its agents in Iran. Another event is no less interesting. From January 26 to 30, 2023, at the invitation of the Diocesan Council of the Tehran Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the human rights defender (ombudsman) of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Gegham Stepanyan and the deputy from the Hayastan opposition faction Aspram Krpeyan visited Iran. Note that if the visit of Stepanyan and Krpeyan were undesirable, then the Iranian authorities would simply not let them in.
It is noteworthy that on January 27, both visitors took part in a rally in support of Karabakh on the territory of the Tehran church of St. Sargis, which was attended by thousands of Iranian citizens of Armenian nationality. Characteristically, the head of the Tehran diocese, Archbishop Sepuh Sargsyan, and the head of the Karabakh diocese, Archbishop Vrtanes Abrahamyan, also spoke at the rally. It is noted that after the rally, Stepanyan and Krpeyan were received by the Archbishop of Tehran, and deputies of the Iranian parliament of Armenian nationality were present at this meeting. The rest of the visit consisted of visiting organizations and institutions of the Armenian diaspora in Iran.
Behind this event lies the desire of Iran to adjust its policy in the Transcaucasus, taking into account the hostile policy of Azerbaijan. Iran did not recognize the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, but did not support a forceful solution to the Karabakh conflict, as Azerbaijan and Turkey wanted. Moreover, unlike the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem. The Islamic Republic of Iran did not confuse the Karabakh conflict with its attitude towards Armenians. It seems that the new realities forced Iran to try to act professionally, working with the Armenian society as a whole, and not only with the power circles of Armenia, among which there are too many Euro-Atlanticists.
Thus, it turns out that the opponents of Iran's rapprochement with Armenia are Western countries (primarily the United States), the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem and Armenian Euro-Atlanticists, who are ready to turn Armenia into an anti-Russian and anti-Iranian bridgehead for personal gain.