Israeli pundit talks Jerusalem's support for Azerbaijan, possible Iran-Taliban war
    Interview with Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  02 June 2023 - 10:49

    Vadim Mansurov

    The lens of global media stays focused on armed clashes between units of the Iranian army and the Taliban, which have grown from minor local skirmishes to a consistently more aggravated situation.

    The world media believes the apparent cause of the conflict this time to be a dispute over control of local water resources on the border between the two countries, although the key reasons are much deeper.

    What can this conflict turn into? Could it become the detonator of a new war in the Middle East? These and other questions of Caliber.Az are answered by former Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldier, writer, journalist, military expert and historian Grigory Tamar. 

    - What are the consequences of the armed incidents between Iran and Afghanistan and what is the reason for them? After all, at first glance, the policies of these countries are similar in their radical rhetoric, and the victory of the Taliban in 2021 caused a favourable reaction in Tehran.

    - No love and understanding between Iran and the Taliban are possible in principle. There are many cardinal inconsistencies: Iran has a Shiite regime, while the Taliban are Sunnis. And we are talking about two totalitarian theocratic regimes, both aggressive and predatory. It is only natural that they should have clashed. And in fact, if you look at the history of recent years, this is not the first such incident between them.

    However, those who say that the water crisis is just a shield and that there are other reasons behind it underestimate the importance of water for the region.

    It is enough to recall the 1967 war between Syria and Israel, one of the prerequisites of which was the Syrians' work to divert tributaries of the Jordan River from Lake Kinneret (Galilee Sea), which at that time represented 80 per cent of our state's water resources. That was long before the existence of desalination technology, and Israel would have died of thirst had it allowed Syria to complete the work.

    As for Iran and Afghanistan, we should also keep in mind that the origins of their conflict go back to the middle of the last century, when the issue of control over water resources in this region was fixed by the relevant treaty between these two countries.

    The last agreement in this regard was concluded between the parties in the 1970s, and since then, despite the change of political regimes, the parties have not violated it. So, the current failure of the agreements can be called unprecedented - it makes us think about its causes.

    But for now, we should not speak of any major escalation - there are only a few deaths on both sides. But one can guess the extent to which this conflict has a tendency to escalate.

    At the same time, the Taliban is a very formidable opponent for Iran, and as a "gift" to Tehran it could well put the entire Iranian-Afghan border under strain, forcing it to keep large troop contingents in the region, which would thin the overall defence capabilities of the country. Such a situation could go on indefinitely...

    Logically, we can expect that the parties will try to come to an agreement, otherwise, it will degenerate into a sluggish war between Iran's regular army and the Taliban's semi-partisan units. And this will be a serious problem for stability in the region.

    The fact is that quasi-states like Afghanistan, stuffed with weapons and radical dogma, are already inherently prone to exporting war. Such regimes themselves are structures which are hard to predict, as, indeed, is Iran itself with its extremely radical agenda.

    I would compare current Afghanistan to a cauldron of boiling water - it will boil one way or another, and the water will overflow sooner or later. In that sense, Iran is certainly not to be envied.

    - So, you're saying that theoretically a full-scale war - with an invasion of Iran by Afghanistan or vice versa - is quite possible?

    - Exactly. Afghanistan could invade Iranian territory but in its own tactical manner. One way or another, its actions will not be designed to seize and hold some territories under control but will be aimed at destabilisation, intimidation and acts of terrorism. That is, there will be a kind of half-guerrilla war, which Iran will find difficult to cope with. 

    Besides, even theoretically speaking, Iran may allow such foolishness and try to enter the territory of Taliban Afghanistan, and then this will plunge it into a sluggish, long-term confrontation, which will not bode well.

    An Afghan invasion of Iran is possible if the latter, say, suddenly weakens dramatically because of some regional conflict. This could happen if Tehran gets involved in a war with Israel and the United States or, God forbid, undertakes a clash with Azerbaijan.

    One thing is clear here - Iran would be more vulnerable in the event of a large-scale war because the Taliban have nothing to lose - they do not depend on infrastructure and other factors. It is worth remembering that at one time the British, the Russians, and the Americans bared their teeth in Afghanistan. They were all left with nothing.

    - The current strengthening of Azerbaijani-Israeli relations takes place in the backdrop of the deterioration of our country's relations with Iran. Is further escalation of tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan possible and could it escalate into war?

    - As you know, Tehran has already made a number of very bellicose statements and has taken quite an aggressive stance on Baku, so I think a military conflict is possible, at least on the border between the countries.

    In this sense, Iran is not much different from the Taliban - it is also an aggressive regime, which is ready to support international terrorism and terrorist organisations, as well as to attack other countries. And, again, as with the Taliban, one should not look for a logic of action or reason here.

    Of course, Tehran has no direct reason to start a war with a state like Azerbaijan, which has a clear sovereign policy and a strong army. But it seems to me that a major confrontation between the South Azerbaijanis, who are now known to be a discriminated ethnic group in the republic, and the authorities of the country may lead to war. This situation is prone to escalate, the extent of which is difficult to foresee.

    Perhaps then, Iranian missiles could follow the flood of refugees that is sure to pour into Azerbaijan. The horror of regimes like Iran's is that they are prone to unpredictable violence. This is what military history teaches us.

    But thinking logically, there is absolutely no reason for Iran to have enmity with Israel. After all, before the Islamic Revolution, the countries had excellent good neighbourly relations, because there is no basis for confrontation between the Persian and Jewish peoples - they got along fine together for hundreds of years.

    So, this conflict is completely artificial in nature - without the ideology of the aggressive ayatollahs, there is neither theme nor ground for hostility. It is approximately the same in the case of Azerbaijan - it is absolutely unclear what Shiites did not share with Shiites. However, Tehran is not settling down and only strengthens its bellicose rhetoric.

    And all this is against the backdrop of Azerbaijan's achievements in politics and economics. As many international analysts say, it is the success of the national-forming ideology, which Azerbaijan pursues very accurately and progressively, without sudden movements, but very convincingly and effectively.

    - How do you assess the visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Baku?

    - This is certainly a sign for all the enemies of our states. And of course, for Tehran to remember - Israel stands next to Azerbaijan, and vice versa - Azerbaijan stands next to Israel.

    At the same time, one should not ignore the fact that Israel takes practically no action in the security sphere without consulting Washington. And this visit has naturally been coordinated with our American friends.

    Yes, the presidential post is representative but the president's personality always has a very meaningful impact on the political field of our country. Isaac Herzog is a colourful figure in Israeli politics, not just a wedding general who signs papers, but a man with a political vision, huge political connections, and an impeccable reputation. And it is no coincidence, for example, that on the eve of his coronation the King of England took several hours of his time to talk with Herzog, and the minutes of this conversation are still unknown. Surely, they were discussing something very important.

    So, I assure you, Herzog didn't come to Azerbaijan for no reason, not to merely show off against the background of flags of the two countries and the Baku panorama. Now, when the situation in the region is very tense, Herzog's visit to Baku is very symbolic and demonstrates to all the regional actors the support the international forces have for Azerbaijan.


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