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Source: i24News

Sep 10, 2023

Iran issues threatening message to Azerbaijan, adds warning: Israel, beware

By Avi Monakov

Iran has been fueling the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, providing weapons and support to Yerevan

Iran is actively escalating a new round of conflict in the southern Caucasus region.

Against the backdrop of reconciliation efforts between Azerbaijan and Armenia under the aegis of the EU and U.S., Iran has been making every effort in recent weeks to fuel revanchist sentiments in Armenia, and acting on it by mediating arms purchases from India and demonstrating military support.

According to official Iranian sources, particularly the official Telegram channel of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), on Friday, September 8, units of the Iranian Land Forces and possibly Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were concentrated near the border of Azerbaijan. Video captured from a helicopter and published on Telegram shows several Iranian armored vehicles in the vicinity of the border river Araz. 

Another video shows Iranian troops near the border with Armenia. Similar information was also shared via the Hezbollah terrorist organization’s Telegram channel, posting a map indicating the locations of Iranian forces. 

The IRGC, following its usual MO, has initiated a propaganda campaign by disseminating video clips in which it not only directly threatens Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, but also Israel, which is a strategic ally of Baku. A video titled "Warning to Aliyev” shows off weaponry and exercises depicting territorial capture (presumably of Azerbaijan), and with music that begins with the words “Israel, beware."

Iran may not limit its military presence just to the border. Russian sources suggest that Tehran may, in coordination with Yerevan, introduce its armed forces into Armenian territory. Armenia has been one of the channels for the transfer of military equipment to Russia since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine. This move aims to prevent Azerbaijan and Turkey from establishing the Zangezur transportation corridor. Iran considers this corridor, referred to as the "project of Zionists and NATO," to be one of the alternative routes from the East to Europe that bypasses Russia. In Iran's view, this corridor would cut off Iran from Armenia, thus disrupting a key channel for covert shipments both to and from the Islamic Republic.

This is one of the reasons why Tehran, in order to strengthen Armenia, lobbied for its purchase of Indian weaponry worth a quarter of a billion dollars. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, Russia, Iran, and India have reportedly transferred a substantial amount of high-quality weapons and military equipment to Armenia in the past month.

An unnamed source within the special unit of the IRGC, Sepah-e-Qods, confirmed to Al-Jarida that it includes drones, tracked vehicles for troop transport, ground-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles, as well as radar systems of Russian and Indian origin. According to the source, "these actions are aimed at creating a balance of power to deter Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Israel from occupying the Syunik region of Armenia." He explained that "intelligence received by Moscow and Tehran” confirms that the Azerbaijanis plan to cut off overland communication between Russia, Armenia, Iran, and India.

The source revealed that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, personally issued orders to prevent this, "even if it requires the intervention of Iranian armed forces to support Armenia in case it becomes unable to resist."

According to the source, Iran's General Staff of the Armed Forces received permission from Khamenei to train Iranian Armenians and deploy them for military service in Yerevan. It is being  reported that "the IRGC began training Armenian Iranians to operate Iranian military drones a year ago because they could quickly grasp their operational software due to their knowledge of the Persian language, in contrast to the difficulties encountered during the training of Russian personnel."

In the event of an armed conflict in the South Caucasus involving Armenia, Iran and Russia would likely become involved. This is possibly why Azerbaijan has increased its purchases of Israeli weaponry in recent months.

In August 2023, the Israeli think tank Middle East & Central Asia Research Center published an analysis highlighting that Armenia is becoming a tool in Iran's proxy war against Azerbaijan.

The document noted that Iran is a relatively weak country in terms of conventional military power, and traditionally relies on asymmetric warfare rather than direct confrontation. Iran has managed to bolster its asymmetric capabilities by using missiles, drones, and proxies. One of Tehran's proxies in this regard is Armenia, which it employs against Azerbaijan.

The analysis also pointed out that Iran's former ambassador to Syria, Mehdi Sobhani, was appointed to be the envoy in Armenia. The position of Iran's ambassador in Damascus and Beirut carries not only diplomatic significance but also a military rank. The ambassador is responsible for coordinating with Lebanese Hezbollah, the Assad regime, and the IRGC. Sobhani's appointment reveals the military importance of Yerevan to Tehran, and suggests that the IRGC is planning to escalate tensions with Azerbaijan.

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