The Islamic world suffers a lot due to Iran. In every country lacking authority or experiencing a civil war, unfortunately, Iran is involved. If countries such as Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria are in turmoil, it is because Iran supports one of the domestic warring parties.
Iran generally enters a country under the pretext of protecting the Shiite people, however, it does not leave once it has entered. As a strategy to increase its influence, it uses proxy groups formed from Shiite militia groups. It is said that pro-Iran proxy groups have around 150,000 militants fighting for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards today.
Nowadays, the new target is Azerbaijan. The majority of the Azerbaijani population is also Shiite but this fact is not enough for Iran to completely trust Azerbaijan. A strong Azerbaijan scares Iran because almost half of Iran’s population is made up of Azerbaijani Turks, including its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If Azerbaijan gets stronger, there is a high probability that Iranian-Azerbaijani Turks will turn from Tehran to Baku. That is why Tehran sided with the Armenians in all the Armenian-Azerbaijani wars.
Now they are threatening Azerbaijan again. “If the Armenian borders change, we will intervene,” says the Iranian Chief of General Staff Mohammad Bagheri. The intent of the intervention is to attack Azerbaijan. The same Iran was not at all bothered when the Armenian-Azerbaijani border changed in favor of Armenia and remained that way for 30 years (when Karabakh was under Armenian occupation). What is more, the Iranian regime supported the Armenians in taking Karabakh in 1992. The support continues, even if it appears useless, and directly threatens the Baku government.
The change in Armenian borders is a simple and baseless excuse for Iran. No country can threaten another over a change to its borders, unless its own borders change, but Iran is doing just that. The excuse that Israel supports Azerbaijan is also baseless. There is the “seller-buyer” relationship between the two countries in which Azerbaijan buys weapons from Israel and uses them against Armenia. If what the Baku administration is doing is wrong, then it is necessary to talk about Iran’s support for Hezbollah, the Houthis, the Assad regime in Syria and Shiite groups in other countries. If the problem is the Israeli base in Azerbaijan, whose existence has never been proven, Iran should look at its cross-border bases and proxy groups in many countries.
Threats but no fight
As we said at the beginning, Iran does not want a strong Azerbaijan. It does not want a strong Türkiye either. But it does not have the power to stop stronger countries. It shouts and threatens but avoids fighting. However, even if it does not do the fighting itself, it puts affiliated proxy groups to professional use. Therefore, it is likely that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will mobilize an Iranian-backed group against Azerbaijan. In fact, there is already a group called Huseyniyyun, but it seems it either could not be activated or failed to fulfill what was expected.
It is still possible for Iran to intervene in Azerbaijan but unclear whether a state called Iran will remain after the intervention. Because neither the Kurds in the west nor the Turkmen in the east supports the regime.
Normally, Iranian Azerbaijanis are loyal to the regime, however, if the country they are fighting is Azerbaijan, their support for the regime may suddenly cease. If we consider that they will not support or even start an internal revolt, only the Persians remain. This means that Iran could be divided into ethnic groups.
On the other hand, Azerbaijan will not be alone against Iran as Türkiye will not hesitate to back it if necessary. Except for some sectarian groups, no one in Türkiye will object to supporting Azerbaijan. Therefore, public support for the Turkish government will be almost absolute.
However, a divided Iran currently benefits no one. Because neither Türkiye nor other countries can handle a new wave of immigration emanating from Iran. But if Iran’s aggression continues, even immigration could be tolerated so as to save Azerbaijan.
It is our wish that Iran will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, particularly Azerbaijan nowadays. It should focus on its own internal affairs and ensure the loyalty of its own people before that of other countries. However, this possibility seems unlikely, thus Iran will likely continue to threaten the countries in the region.
First published in Daily Sabah