Azerbaijan Caught in the America- Iran Crisis: ‘A Close Neighbour’ or ‘a Distant Ally’?

You are here: Main page »» International Relations »»
 0 comment Line Spacing+- AFont Size+- Print
Line Spacing+- AFont Size+- Print

Recently, in the last few years, the level of tension between U.S. and Iran has risen and this issue has become a threat for both regional and international security. Naturally, increased level of tension has been reflected up on Azerbaijan as well. As U.S. would like Azerbaijan to clearly determine her policy against Iran, Iran on the other hand; pressures Azerbaijan into staying either neutral or siding with her against U.S. ambitions. Consequently such a tension has brought in both opportunities and threats for Azerbaijan. At this point what is crucial for Azerbaijan is to protect national interests while eliminating the threats. 

The U.S., in order to protect and continue its worldwide hegemony has used its economic, political and military power along with the threat of international terrorism to invade Iraq, thereby also strengthening its ownership of energy resources in the Middle East. Though it attacked Iraq on the grounds of a nuclear and chemical threat, when upon invading neither nuclear nor chemical weapons were found, the true reason behind the invasion became apparent[1]. Some sources suggest that the real reason for the U.S.’ invasion of Iraq is as the first step of their plan towards creating a ‘Great Middle East’. Though some claim that the real aim of the ‘Great Middle East’ project is to protect Israel’s power in the region[2], the U.S.’ strategy to carefully control its energy supply is the true reason behind this impetus.[3] At the same time, the U.S. refers to other governments in the region as the ‘Axis of Evil’, and threatens them as such. Although it has failed to completely solve the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S is now accusing Iran of wanting to acquire nuclear weapons (not because it genuinely does), and has thereby chosen this country as its newest target in its ‘Great Middle East’ project.

Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and his colleagues continue to make irresponsible statements unfit for politicians, which are likely to increase the U.S.’ desire to invade Iran even further- much like Don Quixote waving his sword at the windmill. This bears significant similarity to Saddam Hussein’s statements directed at the U.S. preceding the latter’s invasion of Afghanistan. The fact that Iranian Naval Forces have arrested British soldiers in the contested zone, and have aired their ‘confessions’ on the television for the world’s perusal has not gained Iran any political advantage. It seems very likely that Iran itself is aware of this fact, but is using the matter to shape national public opinion for its own purposes. When in the last few months Iran captured the U.S.’ unmanned aerial reconnaissance device, we might conjecture that it was displaying a similar attitude.

The world press are offering a variety of possible situations regarding the subject of when the U.S. or Israel will attack Iran. However controversial it may seem, it is suggested that the U.S. will attack Iran before resolving the situation in Iraq, and hit military, commercial and other strategic targets using rockets with the capacity to aim at specific destinations. The U.S. may even ‘accidentally’ aim a few rockets at a few civilian targets just to see what the collective political and psychological atmosphere is among the Iranian people. By doing this, it can also easily find out whether the Iranian populace is in support of its government or not.

Due to the fact that the U.S. is operating a worldwide hegemony, any changes in its foreign, economic or security policies will naturally lead to significant outcomes on the international stage. The important thing for Azerbaijan is to use these changes to maximise its own national interests, and from this perspective the crisis between the U.S. and Iran will affect Azerbaijan too. This is especially because the U.S., in light of the country’s geopolitical position, is trying to make it take sides in the conflict. Since the late 1990’s, the U.S. has made it clear that it wishes to create military bases (consisting of mobile forces) in Azerbaijan[4], and the idea is one that occasionally crops up during meetings between the two sides. Azerbaijan’s late President Haydar Aliyev acted cautiously in this matter, and, in paying attention to the states which have the ability and means to change the political balance in the region (namely Russia, Iran and Turkey), he did not express a particular opinion on the matter.

The U.S.’ recent desire to instate an air-based defence system in one of the South Caucasian states has made Russia and Iran rather uncomfortable. Although it has not expressly named a particular country in this regard, the U.S. has now caused Azerbaijan and Georgia to come under close scrutiny from Russia and Iran.

The U.S. has not even hurried to express an opinion on the matter to Georgia, which it sees as its key ally in the region. And although Azerbaijan has been behaving in a more reserved and cautious fashion, the Russian and Armenian press have published a series of reports that suggest that it is a target. Such allegations are part and parcel of the psychological warfare waged by Russia and Armenia against Azerbaijan, and this is not without effect on the recently increasing tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran. It is in this atmosphere that Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev is trying to continue the politics of his predecessor, Haydar Aliyev. But the international security system is currently undergoing major change, and in the ongoing crisis between the U.S. and Iran (and particularly if the crisis deepens or military operations are embarked upon) the U.S. may well in light of the terrorist attack of 21st September, 2001, make announcements to world governments regarding its view of Iran, as either on the U.S.’ side or against it. Such an announcement would be of great significance particularly among Iran and its neighbouring states, by both threatening them and providing them with an opportunity for action. This would naturally place Azerbaijan in a rather difficult position. If the U.S. were to attack Iran, this would not concur with Azerbaijan’s strategic aims in the world’s current geopolitical climate. Any military operations in the region would pose a serious threat to Azerbaijan’s economic and political development. In this situation, the U.S.’ demand to use Azerbaijan’s air space and land in military operations against Iran would be the least desirable development.

The future conflict between the Arab and Kurdish population of Iraq which is predicted to arise when the U.S. withdraws, may make the situation even more complicated. If we look at the matter from a different perspective, however, it may be in the U.S’ favour to take military action against Iran when a conflict situation arises in the Middle East. If the governments which are asserting themselves in the region following the ‘Arab Spring’ which has been ongoing in the past year (namely those of Egypt and Syria), should suffer unrest in their internal political situation, this is likely to weaken their chances of forming an alliance against the U.S.

If we look at the most recent developments in the conflict between the U.S. and Iran, it seems more likely that the U.S.’ short to medium-term action will entail attacking strategically important Iranian targets with rockets, as opposed to sending military forces into the country. Wider military operations are currently not a likely development.

Azerbaijan should be careful in these matters, and make it clear that it agrees with the U.S. on certain subjects, but it must always aim not to take legal liability for this. It should follow the politics of ‘be patient and observe’ and pay close attention to the way in which the situation develops.

If it happens that the U.S. has decided or will decide to take any action against Iran, or start up military operations, Azerbaijan must act with the utmost caution and consider the possibility of allying itself with the U.S. from a large number of perspectives.

If the political balance in the region is to change, Azerbaijan must also take part in the creation of the new balance. It can stage an intervention only by involving itself in the process, not by staying outside of it. The most important thing, however, is for it to protect its own national interests in face of any adverse situations.

South Azerbaijan must consider all possibilities and means of gaining independence or autonomy. For now, the most important priority should be the unification of the South and North of the country- but this must occur within the necessary boundaries to ensure that it takes place in the medium to long term.

Azerbaijan may, on principle, see the U.S.’ demand for a military base in a positive light. Yet it must not allow the U.S. to use this base in military operations against Iran. If the U.S. builds military bases in Azerbaijan, this will necessarily prove provocative against Iran. In this situation, the pressures exerted by Iran and Russia on Azerbaijan may to some extent decrease. In other words, Azerbaijan must not allow the U.S. to attack Iran from within its own boundaries. This could have serious consequences for Azerbaijan (but the possibility that it might allow the U.S. to do so must not be made out of the question). There are important reasons why Azerbaijan should persuade the U.S. on this subject. First of all, Iran is Azerbaijan’s neighbour and no matter what the outcome, it will always be its neighbour.

There are around 30 million Azerbaijani Turks living in Iran and if the U.S. military operations should prove unsuccessful, the Iranian government could prove very dangerous to it.

The U.S. already has military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is important that military operations are conducted from this region, for the safety of both Azerbaijan and South Caucasian in general.

The Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan oil pipeline will come under serious threat. Iran and Armenia may support terrorist groups against the region’s energy sources, oil and natural gas pipelines.

If the U.S, in spite of all these potential outcomes, should wish to create a military base in Azerbaijan, and use the country as its base for political, economic and military sanctions against Iran, Azerbaijan must make the following demands:

-The U.S. must withdraw its financial aid to the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which it grants in spite of claiming that it recognises the unity of Azerbaijan, or else channel this aid to Karabag through Azerbaijan

-The U.S. must remove all representatives of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from its country

-The U.S. must wholly remove article 907 of the Freedom Support Act (an agreement made to promote countries that have recently gained independence) which bans aid to Azerbaijan

-It must either agree to also give aid to Azerbaijan as part of the Millenium Programme, or reduce or stop aid to Armenia in this context

- Bearing in mind the military alliance between Armenia and Russia, the U.S. must suspend its military aid to the former

- The U.S. must put an end to sanctions placed by Armenian expats on Azerbaijan in the Senate and Houses of Parliament in order that Azerbaijan can recover the land invaded by Armenia

-The U.S. must guarantee that it will not place any political, economic or military sanctions on Azerbaijan

-The U.S. must help Azerbaijan reduce pressures placed by Russia in order to start to take military action in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

-It must prevent Armenia from benefiting from the military force and ammunition of a future Russian military base in Armenia currently being discussed, and must prevent Russia from giving any military aid to Armenia

- The U.S must either help to lighten the European Union’s pressure and sanctions against Armenia, or take opposing measures

-It must put pressure on Armenia to withdraw from the occupied territories, and not grant it political, economic and financial aid if war should arise

-Once the U.S.’ military action against Iran has been concluded, the U.S. must reimburse Azerbaijan for the financial losses it incurs as a result of this action (including the influx of refugees etc.)

-The U.S. must agree not to take severe military action in the regions of Iran where the Azerbaijani Turkish population is concentrated

-Finally, the U.S. must allow South Azerbaijan to use its rights to self-determination once the Iranian regime has fallen.

These requirements are important factors in changing Azerbaijan’s future. Provided that Azerbaijan creates a successful and multi-faceted political plan, it can guarantee that it protects its national interests as much as possible during the U.S.-Iran crisis. In order to ensure this, it must consider international relations from every perspective, research the factors that are likely to threaten regional security, and finally imagine a variety of political and military solutions for this purpose.

 Dr. Hatem Cabbarlı 

  • [1]  David Wolsh, Irak’ta Kitle İmha Silahı Yok. ABD Medyası Yalana Devam Ediyor, (In Turkish, translated by: Batur Özdinç),, 17th May 2003; EL Baradei: ‘‘Irak’ta Nükleer Silah Yok’’ (In Turkish),, 7th March 2003.
  • [2] Hasan Şafak, Büyük Ortadoğu Projesi/İsrail’in İmparatorluk Planı, Profil Yayımcılık, Kasım 2006, Hasan Yurtsever, İsrail ve Büyük Ortadoğu Projesi, İstanbul, 2004 (In Turkish).
  • [3] Necdet A. Pamir, ‘‘Irak’a Müdahale ve Petrol Boyutu’’ (In Turkish), Jeopolitik Dergisi, 5th Edition, Winter 2003, p.43.
  • [4] “ABŞ Azerbaycanda baza qura biler” (In Azerbaijani) (U.S.A may have a military base in Azerbaijan),  20th December 2008 (In Turkish and Azerbaijani).

New Times

Related articles

Azərbaycanın xarici ölkələrdəki diplomatik nümayəndəlikləri twitterdə

↳Yeni layihə

Foreign press

What peace could mean for the South Caucasus
23 February 2021

What peace could mean for the South Caucasus

The South Caucasus is a region historically known for its instability, largely because it has stood at the intersection of the zones of influence of first Byzantium and Iran, then the Ottoman Empire and Iran, and finally between Russia, Iran and Turkey.

German portal highlights burning of houses by Armenians before Kalbajar handover
17 November 2020

German portal highlights burning of houses by Armenians before Kalbajar handover

The portal says the Armenians must pull out from the district according to the agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, brokered by Russia.