By Ayya Lmahamad, Vafa Ismayilova
Against the backdrop of the recent strained relations between Iran and Azerbaijan, various media outlets and experts have shared their views about the ongoing developments.
It should be noted that Iran's very inadequate behavior in the past couple of weeks has flared up tension in its relations with neighbor Azerbaijan. Baku started charging customs fees for Iran's trucks illegally passing to Karabakh through the Gorus-Gafan road, the only motorway connecting Armenia to Iran. Baku had to take the step after its relevant protests were ignored by Tehran. The move was ensued by Iran's massive military drills near its border with Azerbaijan. It is noteworthy that Iran's state circles, officials, MPs and the media still continue their aggressive rhetoric against Azerbaijan, still claiming about an alleged Israeli presence near its border, which Baku officially dismissed as unfounded.
Iran's illegal transportation of goods to Azerbaijan's Khankandi without Baku's consent, its description of Armenia as a "brotherly and friendly country", the conduct of drills along the border with Azerbaijan, the closure of its airspace to planes carrying military supplies to Nakhchivan make one think about reasons what’s driving it all.
Iran unhappy about strong Azerbaijan
Political analyst Farid Shafiyev believes that fundamental contradictions lie under the current tension, but they surfaced only after the government change, where the reformers were replaced by conservative politicians.
"There are certain fundamental contradictions between Iran and Azerbaijan. In particular, Iran is a theocratic country, and Azerbaijan is secular, which does not satisfy the Iranian authorities. Also, Iran is actively cooperating with Armenia, and Azerbaijan with Israel, and we have always heard accusations about this,” the expert said.
He added that the surge in tensions was one of the consequences of the end of the Karabakh war.
"After the war, Iran felt that the situation had changed dramatically. Iran is generally against the emergence of a strong and independent Azerbaijan because it contradicts what Tehran wants to see on its borders. But the war showed that Azerbaijan was developing effectively both economically and militarily, and this worried Iran,” Shafiyev said.
In an interview with the local media, MP Sahib Aliyev said that certain circles in Tehran consider Azerbaijan as a threat to Iran. Speaking about Iran's violation of the relevant provisions of its constitution, he said that “it would be naive to expect a state that does not follow Islam to observe its constitution”.
“If Iran respected the name of Islam, it would not have supported Armenia that destroyed 63 mosques in Azerbaijan's [formerly] occupied territories and used two other mosques to keep pigs and cattle,” the expert said.
Lost gains from drug trafficking
Meanwhile, in its analysis, the Baku-based news website Day.az said that the liberation of Azerbaijan’s territories and the restoration of Baku's control over the Azerbaijani-Iranian border is very important taking into account that during the occupation this section served as a zone for drug trafficking, which brought enormous profits to Iran.
"Now as all this has ended, it makes Iran nervous," the website said.
Day.az added that the whole world knows about the hatred of Iran towards Israel, but diplomacy in international relations is used to hide away emotions and turn on rationality.
"Azerbaijan’s cooperation and friendly relations with Israel shouldn’t cause the southern neighbor’s hysteria and inappropriate behavior. However, it looks like Iranian diplomats and officials could not hide their emotions and started to accuse Azerbaijan of having 'Zionists' on the border and having intentions to change someone’s borders," the website underlined.
Future of ties at risk
Russian military expert Igor Korotchenko stated that during the decades of smuggling, cargoes from Iran continued to be supplied to the separatist regime in Karabakh, and after Azerbaijan liberated its territories the imposition of Iranian trucks on Azerbaijani customs duties caused sharp protests first by Armenia and then by Iran.
Speaking about Iran’s military exercises near the border with Azerbaijan, he underlined that these exercises are provocative in nature.
“When these Azerbaijani territories were under Armenian occupation, we never saw Iran training on the border. As soon as Azerbaijan liberated its occupied territories Iran launched military exercises there. This once again shows that the exercises are provocative in nature,” Korotchenko said.
Political analyst Tural Ismayilov stressed that Azerbaijan's position on Iran is clear and unambiguous. He underlined that none of various military exercises that Azerbaijan has held so far with Turkey and Pakistan were conducted on the border with Iran.
"Moreover, so far Azerbaijan has not joined an alliance against Iran and has not allowed anyone to use its territory against any neighbor," he said.
The expert noted that the future of Iranian-Azerbaijani relations is also at risk against the background of the Iranian foreign minister's and some provincial mullahs’ blatant statements.
“Iran's assessment of Armenia and Azerbaijan on the same scale contradicts Iran's own theses about Islamic solidarity and Muslim brotherhood. Acrimonious statements and allegations of the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Moscow have no basis whatsoever,” he said.
Iran's secret arms purchase
In the meantime, another local news website reported quoting a New York-based Iranian expert that Tehran's protest against Baku has no legal force or political significance.
“Official Tehran itself bought weapons from Israel during the Iran-Iraq war but kept it a secret. Why is it now protesting against Azerbaijan?” the expert emphasized.
Some believe that Azerbaijan's victory over Armenia and the restoration of its territorial integrity caused an explosion of envy and discontent in Iran. According to certain circles, this could trigger the start of a national movement of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran, who followed with admiration the Azerbaijani army's victory march after the 44-day Patriotic War.
Iran has so far failed to provide evidence to prove its accusations against Azerbaijan, which Baku earlier dismissed as unfounded.
It should be noted that during his visit to liberated Jabrayil near Iran border on October 4, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that everyone should know that the regional situation will change after the 44-day war.
"Therefore, the end of the second Karabakh war does not mean that the region will return to its previous state. It will never be the same. Everyone should know this. I know that some people are worried about this. Some believe that they are out of the process now. It is up to them," he added.
Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan earlier provided a platform for cooperation to all neighboring countries.
"Azerbaijan was the first country to support the cooperation platform proposed by the Turkish President [Recep Tayyip Erdogan]. If this does not satisfy anyone, we do not need that platform either," he said.
Ayya Lmahamad is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @AyyaLmahamad
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