War of words between Iran and Azerbaijan creates tension between the neighboring countries
A propaganda war between Azerbaijan and Iran escalated when semi-official sources in Azerbaijan openly called for Iran’s large ethnic Azerbaijani minority to break free, Eurasia.net reported in an analysis it published on Friday.
The article highlighted the headline of an article that was published on August 26 in Calibre.az, a website connected to Azerbaijan’s presidential administration that said: “The time has come: Southern Azerbaijan should secede from Iran.”
An article the following day in Haqqin.az, a site connected to Azerbaijan’s security services, was headlined “Southern Azerbaijan is striving for independence!” suggesting that Baku was ready to help as “The Azerbaijani state has enough mobilizing force to defend the rights of its compatriots.”
Zangezur corridor a concern for Iran
Eurasia argued that Iran was worried about an emboldened Azerbaijan after the country won the battle against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Iran is especially concerned about Azerbaijan’s intentions for a new transport link connecting Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan with the Azerbaijani mainland, a route that Baku calls the “Zangezur corridor,” Eurasia said, adding that the route will pass along Armenia’s border with Iran, with uncertain consequences for Armenia-Iran commerce.
In a July 19 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated that concern. “If there is an effort to block the border between Iran and Armenia, the Islamic Republic will oppose it because this border has been a communication route for thousands of years,” he said.
The article also evoked some of the incidents that flared up tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran.
In May, Aliyev got into a public argument with an Iranian analyst who accused Baku of allowing Iranian Azerbaijani separatists a government-supported platform. Last fall, the arrest of two Iranian truck drivers by Azerbaijani police escalated into Iranian military exercises on Azerbaijan’s borders.
And on August 24, a Turkish pro-government tabloid printed quotes of what it said was an audio recording of a former senior Iranian diplomat, Ebulfezl Zuhtevend, making various insulting and provocative comments about Azerbaijan. “Azerbaijan is a frightening phenomenon for us. Nakhchivan should be completely annexed to Iran,” he reportedly said.