"Kazakhstan should strengthen military cooperation with Azerbaijan"
    Caliber.Az interview with expert Emin Jabbarov

    INTERVIEWS  06 February 2023 - 17:04

    Vadim Mansurov

    To all appearances, decisive times are coming for the establishment of peaceful life in the South Caucasus, and Azerbaijan, as the main architect of this process, faces a lot of hard and tough work. It is hard because such serious challenges as the Armenian revanchism and the Iranian policy, hostile and aggressive towards our country, are hampering the peaceful coexistence and development of the region.

    In his interview with Caliber.Az, Emin Jabbarov, Senior Lecturer at the International School of Economics and the Kazakh Humanitarian-Law University, international security expert, shared his views on the outlook for the South Caucasus in the near future, and the risks Baku must be prepared for.

    - How do you assess the situation in the South Caucasus, how volatile is it and what role do Iran and Armenia play in it?

    - Iran is a world-sanctioned, pariah-country with little relevance for international law, but there have been a number of features in its policies over the last ten years. The West undoubtedly benefits in some ways from having a toxic player like Iran in the Middle East. And Tehran, one might say, has cultivated a constant external threat factor, to which the entire foreign policy of the country can be diverted if the need arises. As you may recall, Iran's elections once brought Hassan Rouhani, a Ph.D. graduate from a British university, to power, representing a bloc of Iranian reformers. Rouhani wanted to sign a nuclear deal with then-US President Barack Obama. All seemed well, all was signed, but then populist Donald Trump was elected and broke the deal. But when Rouhani came to power, many Iranians really believed that there would be a warming between Iran and the West, that Iran's foreign accounts would soon be unfrozen, and that oil could be sold freely. In those days there was joyous excitement in the country... But soon the reformers lost credibility in Iran, and then Ibrahim Raisi, a man from the conservative bloc, came to power and everything changed noticeably. Iran began to pursue a very different policy, and now radical, conservative forces dominate the country's politics. In fact, the reformist bloc has been humiliated by the West. So such patterns in Iranian politics should definitely be taken into account.

    Today's conservative Iran is quite strong in hybrid warfare - this is something it is well capable of doing and is certain to remain as provocative as possible. The actions of its ally, Armenia, however, seem more illogical. Armenia does not seem to benefit at all from positioning itself as an aggressor, since it is not a force in the South Caucasus. Armenia has a large outflow of the population for political, economic, and demographic reasons. It does not have a strong army or strong secret services. At the same time, Armenia pursues a very aggressive policy, supports destructive elements in Karabakh, in the territory of sovereign Azerbaijan, attracts a large number of foreign think tanks and media outlets, uses its lobbying groups in Europe and America, and all against Azerbaijan. One would think, why? Why do you need it?

    To a certain extent, this clarifies the confrontation between the two conventional centres of power in the South Caucasus: Azerbaijan-Türkiye-Georgia and Iran-Armenia. Iran also supports such destructive forces as the Husits, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, and various movements in southern Iraq. While Iran and Armenia are as aggressive and destructive as possible, Azerbaijan, Türkiye, and Georgia, on the contrary, are committed to the development of the peace process in the region, ready to cooperate, acting with maximum soft power, rather than showing muscle for nothing. And this is much more difficult.

    - Recently joint military exercises of three countries - Azerbaijan, Türkiye and Georgia - "Winter 2023" took place. How do you assess their significance, what is the objective necessity of such maneuvers for the security of the South Caucasus?

    - I have always been interested in Türkiye's role in the South Caucasus, in Central Asia. I can state confidently that Ankara is determined to have strong partners in those regions. I have enough experience, and I am a career officer in the Republic of Kazakhstan - I served for 15 years, graduated from a military university, and I will note an amazing feature: Türkiye has always provided all opportunities for training both Kazakh as well as Azerbaijani servicemen. The Turks even have a practice of settling military men from their brotherly countries in barracks, and in this way, they can openly transfer their best military experience to all foreign cadets, and send them to their troops for a one-year specialization after training...

    The Master's programme at the Turkish Military Academies is designed to transfer as much as possible of the accumulated scientific and military, scientific, and practical potential to all the students from other countries. It is the same at training exercises: for example, Turkish commandos who have been to Kazakhstan have provided the best instructors to train our special forces.

    Russia, on the other hand, treats its allies quite differently. Of course, the Russian Federation has its own scientific and military potential, scientific-industrial complex, and weapons technology in almost all fields. But they do not share anything with foreigners. Only Belarusians are trained by Russians, but they don't let Kazakhs and other natives of Central Asia into their military secrets. Kazakhs, even if they are educated in conditions of Russian military defenсe, are limited in everything: they study at special faculties and live in military hostels. Recent exercises of three countries - Türkiye, Azerbaijan, and Georgia - showed that Ankara is interested in its partners being independent, strong states. Based on the experience of cooperation with the Russian Federation, we can conclude that Moscow wants its allies to be as weak and dependent as possible. The level of military exercises with Russia and cooperation in the military-industrial complex is also appropriate.

    I have to say that Azerbaijan actively uses this approach of Türkiye with its close partners, while Kazakhstan, unfortunately, does not. For some reason, we are not oriented towards such international exercises, while they are significant. At the same time, both Tehran, Moscow, and Yerevan are aware of this and, I am sure, are quite wary of such a Turkish contribution to the armed forces of their partners and allies.

    - During the exercise, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the Zangazur corridor would be an important bridge between the regions. It will contribute to peace and stability in the region, he is convinced. What do you think, will Armenia eventually agree to unblock the Zangazur corridor, will Iran reconsider its position in this situation, and will a full-fledged settlement of relations between Yerevan and Ankara take place?

    - Iran is afraid of launching the Zangazur corridor because it is afraid of losing logistical advantages, while Armenia again acts and thinks contrary to the logic of things in this issue in line with the same toxic revanchism. I believe that Armenians in their arrogance have completely missed the opportunity to establish themselves as a strong state. Now that Azerbaijan, as a victorious state, has every right to dictate its conditions, it is very important, in my opinion, not to yield to the Armenian provocations - the last thing it has as a weapon, as a tool for their manipulations. This means that Baku needs to conduct a very subtle and delicate policy in Karabakh, convincing local Armenians that they will not be treated the way Armenians were treating Azerbaijanis at one time. This is a very difficult job, and of course, the pressure on Azerbaijan will continue to be strong because there are many countries under the influence of the Armenian lobby - I personally expect a bunch of provocations. The Armenians will be hindering this work as much as possible, including the Armenian diasporas in France and the USA, who have the support of politicians in those countries. Here, it is important for Azerbaijan to stand firm, to act extremely carefully and in cold blood, and to set an example of the highest political skill.

    This, of course, requires large resources, investment in research centres, and mass media targeted at the English-speaking audience. It is a very difficult but very important challenge for Azerbaijan in its modern history. Only on such a positive background, I think, will the issue of the Zangazur corridor be solved - even the most ardent opponents of Azerbaijan will find it difficult to oppose this initiative. And this corridor will be a huge advantage for all the countries of the South Caucasus and, of course, for Armenia itself. But Iran will undoubtedly oppose this important initiative of Baku in every possible way.


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