In an interview on Iranian public television in late November, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stated that “Armenia is working to deepen relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields”.

As Tehran cracks down on protesters marching through the country’s streets and the number of young protesters being hanged increases every day, Armenia strengthens its ties to a torturous regime that no longer respects human rights.

Iran has been trying for years to return to the big game of the South Caucasus and takes a very dim view of the geostrategic axis that has emerged since the end of the second Karabakh war in 2020, between Baku, Ankara and especially Tel Aviv. . Israel’s arch-enemy Iran has therefore further strengthened its support for Armenia, which already has strategic and energy agreements with Russia, and which sees a new pariah regime supporting it without concessions.

While Tel Aviv and Baku recently strengthened their diplomatic and political ties, with the appointment of Azerbaijani ambassador to Israel, Iran, in turmoil since the protests started, recently threatened Baku for supporting the Jewish state.

As for Armenia, a small country historically landlocked between the regional powers Turkey, Russia, and Iran, it seeks solid support, is obsessed with its security and fears existential threats. In this context where Yerevan appears largely weakened in 2020 after losing Karabakh, which it has illegally occupied under international law for 27 years, can Pashinyan do without Russia and Iran? Impossible. And it serves the interests of Tehran, which outside of its influence in the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq and Syria), can hope to put its tentacles back in the South Caucasus.

Iranian influence in the region

The influence of the Iranian regime in the region has a long history. Having diplomatic relations for more than a century, Iran and Azerbaijan, both members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Organization for Islamic Cooperation, share pragmatic interests, starting with gas in the Caspian Sea region. However, since the war against Iran to Russia between 1826 and 1828, and even more so during the Cold War and the Soviet Union, Tehran has lost most of its control of the strategic region in the South Caucasus. Russia and Turkey then took over. Even more today.

Armenia is playing with fire through its alliances. Under international sanctions regimes, and under state bans, Russia and Iran are protecting Armenia, but for how long? In an article published in Atlantico, Iranian-born lawyer Ardavan Amir-Aslani details Tehran’s coup against Azerbaijan by conducting large-scale military exercises on its borders: “On October 17, Iran launched large-scale military exercises along the Arax River, which formed most of its border with Azerbaijan.” Moreover, he explained: “These drills are not uncommon and the Iranian media are even calling them “massive”.

Sulfur Alliance

The Iranian army has deployed tanks, several rocket launcher systems, as well as the famous kamikaze drones used in Ukraine by Russia. Also for the first time, Iranian troops simulated the crossing of Arax thanks to the floating bridge, on the northern edge of the natural border, on Iranian territory. Given the state of tension in the world and in the region, all of this seems very risky and Turkey is not about to let it happen.

To date, Armenia shares several points of agreement with Iran on the ground: the Lachin corridor bypass route against the Baku vision, the Zanghezour corridor connecting Azerbaijan with the landlocked Nakhchivan province, which is perceived as a threat by Yerevan; projects to build an energy corridor connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea, a common front against Turkish influence in the South Caucasus, finally relations with Russia even after the invasion of Ukraine since February 24 .

Me Ardavan-Amir Aslani has not hidden his support for Armenia and Iran today, without raising questions about the regime’s evolution over the past few weeks: “As a historical ally, Iran maintains a mission of protection and assistance against its neighbors, especially in the context of permanent aggression by its two Turkic-speaking neighbors.” The Iranian Foreign Minister went to Armenia on October 20 to officially open the new Iranian Consulate General in Kapan, a city in the highly sensitive province of Syunik, located between Azerbaijan and Iran. »

If Yerevan might not have such a sulfur alliance option, wouldn’t those two giant guardian angels likely drag it into a regional war that would surely harm it?

Sebastien BUSSOIS

Doctor of political science, researcher in the Middle East, Euro-Arab relations / terrorism and radicalization, lecturer in international relations, scientific collaborator of CECID (Free University of Brussels), OMAN (UQAM Montreal) and NORDIC CENTER FOR CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION (NCCT Stockholm)

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