"It is important for Tehran to keep the temperature high in the South Caucasus"
    Israeli expert's opinion on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  28 March 2023 - 14:23

    Vadim Mansurov

    The Iranian authorities are clearly far from the idea of peace in the South Caucasus. Tehran continues to test Baku's patience, periodically employing bellicose rhetoric toward Azerbaijan and IRGC carries out military drills right on its border. At the same time, the Islamic Republic, realising that it may finally find itself in the ring of unfriendly countries, is cunning, trying to find common ground with the centres of power in the West. Thus, Iranians started again to cooperate with IAEA, demonstrating to all and sundry that they work exclusively with a "peaceful atom".

    There are certainly many intrigues and tricks in Tehran's policy. How should Baku interpret its southern neighbour's behaviour, where are Tehran's fears coming from, should Iranian threats be feared and, God forbid, should it start preparing for war? These and other questions are answered by Israeli journalist and Iranian researcher Michael Borodkin in an interview with Caliber.Az.

    - Against the background of bellicose statements by the Iranian authorities towards Azerbaijan and military maneuvers on its border, do you think there is much likelihood of escalation of tension between our countries and what the mullahs' regime is actually trying to achieve?

    - I am inclined to consider the new military exercises of Iran as continuation of its attempt to pressure Azerbaijan and to compel it to refuse or at least to postpone the plans on Zangazur corridor, and indeed any action for the final liberation of its occupied territories. It is also possible that the Iranian leadership really believes that Israel will soon begin to strike at nuclear facilities of Iran from the territory of Azerbaijan. Tehran seeks to demonstrate its readiness to repel such an attack and "punish" Baku for helping Tel Aviv in such an operation.

    Here it is important to understand the nature of the game: for the Iranian regime it is more important to maintain tension in the South Caucasus, to prolong the situation of permanent frozen or simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, than possible benefits from participation in the transit corridor. The empire always prefers to pit its neighbours against each other and play the "responsible adult" role, rather than let them negotiate and cooperate on their own. Moreover, Iran is convinced that the corridor will serve as a tool for Türkiye to strengthen its influence in Central Asia and as a means to strengthen the alliance of Turkic states in the region. And the mullah regime sees all this as a threat to itself. Tehran has long accused the Turkish authorities of supporting "separatists", and cannot stand idly by as Ankara strengthens its position.

    Tehran also claims that the Zangazur corridor will cut it off from both Russia and Europe and create a convenient transit route for Central Asia and the West, bypassing both Iran and Russia, i.e. threatening its economy. It is clear that to minimise the possible negative consequences, it is sufficient to abandon the imperial foreign policy, but this is impossible without regime change.

    - What does restoring relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia mean for Israel? And is Tehran's resumption of cooperation with the IAEA and efforts to reach out to the West a game or a desire to renew its currently negative political profile?

    - The resumption of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia is still nothing but a formal step. It seems to me to be primarily a demonstration of Riyadh's deep distrust of the US and its ability to protect allies from Iran. US-Saudi relations under Biden have been very bad, and Riyadh is gradually betting on China as a security guarantor, but time will tell whether that bet is justified. If the Iranian regime does not change, then its expansionist policies will continue. That is, everything will remain the same as it is now, only with a Saudi ambassador in Tehran. And this is a test for China - will it be able to contain Iranian ambitions towards its neighbours?

    It should be noted that in Iran itself the attitude to normalisation with Saudi Arabia is mixed. Many, of course, are triumphant and say that Iran has "outplayed everyone," most notably Israel, which itself has a policy of reaching out to Arab countries and hopes to establish relations with Riyadh. But there are also conservative circles who insist that no concessions should be made to the Saudis, and who stress that the IRGC will not consider itself bound by these agreements.

    And I take the contacts with the IAEA as an attempt to buy time and continue the nuclear programme, the aim of which is to be able to develop nuclear weapons in the shortest possible time. This is a goal that the Iranian government has not abandoned and will never abandon.

    - An EU police mission is now in Armenia at Pashinyan's invitation. At the same time, Iran accuses Azerbaijan of collaborating with the enemies of Islam - the Israelis. What is the essence of Tehran's hypocritical policy and for whom is it designed?

    - Accusations against Azerbaijan are a typical imperial position. Iran says the Azerbaijani government is not independent and cannot be independent by definition, it is simply a tool for Israel, Britain, and further on the list. For the Iranian empire - and this country is exactly imperial, despite the pseudo-republican system, Azerbaijan will never be a sovereign state and a subject of international politics, as many other neighboring countries.

    - With the opening of Azerbaijan's embassy in Israel, we clearly feel that Tehran is escalating tensions. Is it possible that on that day Iran may step up border provocations or other incidents?

    - Anything is possible, in my opinion. Provocations at the moment of embassy opening are quite possible, not only on the Azerbaijani border but also in Israel itself. For example, with the help of terrorists from the Lebanese Hezbollah or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

    - The US has said that it should support Azerbaijan against Iranian pressure and threats. Does it mean that Washington believes Tehran may attack our country? How do you think Israel will act in case of Iranian aggression against Azerbaijan?

    - I do not have the American intelligence data and I cannot say what information they have, but the Iranian rhetoric towards Azerbaijan cannot but cause concern. The Iranian leadership is, unfortunately, able to suggest that it is a good time for adventures, because Türkiye, a close ally of Azerbaijan, is in a difficult situation due to the consequences of the earthquake, there is a domestic political crisis in Israel, and the West is busy with Ukraine. But I don't know whether Tehran will really go for direct confrontation in the near future, or arrange a "special military operation", nor can I assert what kind of support Israel will provide in case of such a war. But assistance to Azerbaijan will certainly be provided, that is quite clear. At the very least weapons and intelligence will be provided.


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