Turkey seeks allies

The reduction of the American presence in the Middle East and the possible strengthening of Iran’s positions in the event of the lifting of the sanctions imposed by the Americans, are forcing the leading countries of the region to reset their relations with their neighbors. In particular, with Israel, the existential enemy of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). And with Syria, trying to balance Tehran’s influence in this country.

Turkey is also trying to integrate into the conciliatory trend, but for different reasons. Turkey’s hyperactivity within the neo-Ottoman foreign policy paradigm was perceived by the overwhelming majority of Arab countries as a certain threat to the regional status quo. Ankara’s use of various Islamist organizations, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood , caused additional irritation from the Arab regimes.

It is not surprising that the ultimatum of the leading Arab countries put forward to Qatar (perhaps Turkey’s only ally in the region) included the termination of military cooperation with Ankara and the elimination of the Turkish base on Qatari territory among the conditions for lifting the blockade. Back in 2018, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Anwar Gargash called on the Arab countries to rally against the threat of the growth of Turkish (and at the same time Iranian) hegemonism in the Middle East About the same time Cairo called on the members of the League of Arab States (LAS) to develop a consolidated position to condemn the Turkish military campaign in Syria.

Ankara realized that it was in regional isolation, exacerbated by growing friction with the United States and NATO

They decided to start reconciliation with the three leading states of the region – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Relations with them in recent years have balanced on the brink of the Cold War, and the mutual exchange of reproaches, as a rule, proceeded in a sharp, if not offensive form. Along with “personal” contradictions with Ankara, all three countries are united by their rejection of the support of the Turkish leadership for the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Turkish activity in northern Iraq and Syria. The Emirates, by the way, reopened the embassy in Damascus. Cairo is actively lobbying for the return of Syria to the Arab League. Riyadh, at least, does not bother him in this.

The Saudi-Turkish dialogue resumed at the end of last year, in May the Turkish Foreign Minister visited Riyadh, but then the process stalled, although the Saudis lifted an unspoken ban on imports from Turkey.

At the end of 2020, the Turkish president announced his country’s desire to restore “historical friendship” with Egypt. In addition to “breaking through” political isolation, Turkey, whose foreign economic paradigm was becoming a European energy hub, was clearly counting on the transit of Egyptian natural gas through its pipelines. Such a project is not without interest in Cairo, but it has an alternative proposal – overland and sea transit through Israel (with which relations have been normalized for a long time), Cyprus and Greece (with which Cairo has become close, first of all, on the “gas” basis). 

Trying to improve relations in the region

This makes it possible to act without haste in the Turkish direction: “If we see from Turkey real actions to stabilize the situation in the region, and they will take place in parallel with the actions of Egypt, then this can become the basis for the normalization of relations,” – the head of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated with restraint. In full accordance with the old anecdote: “… if a diplomat says ‘maybe’, it means ‘no’.”

Relations with the UAE inspire more optimism in Ankara. Last November, Recep Tayyip Erdogan received the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the de facto ruler of the Emirates. At the talks, they discussed both the multi-billion dollar Emirati investments in the Turkish economy and the political situation in the Middle East. Upon their completion, the Turkish leader even rushed to announce the beginning of a “new era” in relations between the two countries.

Nobody talks about a “new era” in relations with Israel , the leaders of the two countries just started calling some time ago, and Erdogan, in the process of this communication, argued that “Turkish-Israeli relations are important for security and stability in the Middle East,” and “disagreements can be minimized if mutual understanding is shown on bilateral and regional issues. “

In order to stimulate dialogue, the Turkish side even staged an “incident” by arresting Israeli tourists on charges of espionage who were photographing one of Ankara’s main attractions, the new presidential palace. Then they were released, and the President of Israel thanked the Turkish counterpart for “humanity.” Again by phone.

Possible exchange of ambassadors with Israel

Also, according to a number of media outlets, the parties are preparing to exchange ambassadors. After Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the suppression by the Israeli security forces of the Palestinian protests that began in this regard, Turkey and Israel recalled their ambassadors.

Recent events in Turkish-Iranian relations – an example of how the escalation of confrontation is extinguished with the help of diplomacy

These relationships are a complex interweaving of cooperation and conflict. The two countries have been competing for influence in the Middle East (primarily in Iraq and Syria) for more than one hundred years, and such a story does not promote mutual trust.

In addition, today’s Turkey remains a member of NATO and, despite a whole series of mutual reproaches, is an ally of the United States – the “big shaitan” from the point of view of the Iranian authorities. In addition, Ankara is trying to reconcile with Israel and Saudi Arabia, which also cannot please Iran. As well as the active penetration of Turkey into Syria, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, moreover, under slogans that can be interpreted as pan-Turkic. And quite recently, this complicated process led to a demonstration of the full combat readiness of the Iranian and Turkish armed forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

However, to the surprise of many observers, on November 15, 2021, the Iranian Foreign Minister, following talks with his Turkish counterpart, said that the parties agreed to adopt a roadmap for long-term cooperation during Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Iran scheduled for December.

The presence of partners and a way out of regional isolation should, in the opinion of the Turkish leadership, raise its rating within the country and add political weight to it in the eyes of the world’s leading actors, and above all the United States, relations with which have been degrading for a long time.

Not particularly successful at the moment

So far the situation is not particularly successful for Ankara. Most experts are skeptical about reconciliation with the Arab countries. They are believing that the process will end not with the establishment of allied or even partnership relations. It will be only with a temporary truce in the Arab-Turkish confrontation. The situation has changed: even the Palestinian problem, with the help of which Erdogan tried to gain prestige among the Arab capitals, lost its relevance: it came to joint US-Arab-Israeli military exercises.

In trying to normalize relations with Israel, Ankara, given the geopolitical role of the Jewish state, is likely hoping to reclaim the White House. The transportation of Israeli natural gas is also of considerable interest. For its part, the Jewish state is ready to normalize ties. But, obviously, nothing more.

The economic interests of Turkey and Iran are complementary. Turkish market needs Iranian energy resources, the Iranian market needs Turkish industrial goods. And the threat of Kurdish nationalism “with a separatist bias” is equally painful in Tehran and Ankara. They also need to “do something with Afghanistan” and avoid clashes in Syria. And again, to confirm to ourselves and to the world the ability to find regional partners.

So far, it is rather a process for the sake of process. In order to achieve real results, Ankara will obviously have to revise a number of paradigmatic attitudes in foreign policy. It will be extremely difficult for the current Turkish leadership, which has spent a lot of effort on creating the current political image of Turkey.

Does Azerbaijan, together with Turkey, “eat” Georgia?

The next elections in Georgia pointing to problems that could turn into big shocks

Be Georgy Makharashvili

Western puppeteers pinned special hopes for the success of the opposition United National Movement on Adjara and Kvemo-Kartli. By a strange coincidence, these regions are quite problematic points. It is where the position of the Georgian state is weakening every day.

After the collapse of the USSR, a rather paradoxical situation developed in the South Caucasus. It would seem quite logical that Christian Georgia, which also belongs to the Orthodox confession, would gravitate towards Christian Orthodox Russia. The leadership of “free” and “independent” Georgia has declared Russia an “enemy” and an “occupier”. It maintains correct, but rather cool relations with its other Christian neighbor, Armenia.

On the other hand, Georgia became a member of an alliance of Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is completely unnatural for its historical development. The leadership of both these countries has long proclaimed the slogan of one people, divided into two states. Such a situation requires resolution. The only logical way out of it is to unite the divided people. Has the Georgian leadership thought about this?

Turkish President Recep Erdogan does not hide the fact that he considers some western regions of Georgia to be Turkish territories. Turkish dominance in Adjara is simply off scale. This expansion is increasingly acquiring the features of a creeping occupation. And this process to some extent distracts attention from the east of the country, where the situation is absolutely similar.

The Kvemo-Kartli region is the only one in Georgia where the majority of the population is represented by an ethnic minority. This alone gives Azerbaijan tangible levers of pressure, and it, following its “elder brother” – Turkey.

Erdogan’s soldiers and bayonets

Erdogan very aptly called mosques his soldiers and minarets his bayonets. The offensive of this “army” in Kvemo-Kartli is perhaps more effective. Even in comparison with Adjara. Muslims-Adjarians are still ethnic Georgians, while Muslims of the Kvemo-Kartli region are ethnic Azerbaijanis. They have never severed ties with their historical homeland. Several centuries ago, the ruler of Iran, Nadirshah, resettled the Turkic tribe to Kartli. Thus, the conquerors changed the demographic situation in the occupied territories in order to secure them more reliably.

Azerbaijan’s economic influence in Georgia is no less than Turkey’s. In the midst of Russophobia, Mikhail Saakashvili ended with the the Azerbaijani state oil and gas company SOCAR became a monopoly on the Georgian market.

Today SOCAR is one of the most important elements of influence on the Georgian authorities. More than once, situations have arisen when a simple shout from Baku was enough to suppress some of the initiatives of the Georgian government, which Azerbaijan might not like. SOCAR practically took the Azerbaijani minority of Georgia under its tutelage. Azeri young people are paid to study in Georgian universities or on the territory of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Baku

School textbooks from Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani schools receive financial aid and are supplied with textbooks printed in Azerbaijan. The content of these textbooks deserves special attention. On Turkish geographical maps, Adjara has long been represented as Turkish territory. In history textbooks for Azerbaijani schools it is written in black and white that modern Georgia and Armenia are located on Azerbaijani lands. Despite the fact that the Seljuk Turks invaded Transcaucasia in the 11th century. The history of Georgia and Armenia stretched back more than one millennium.

The idea that Kvemo-Kartli is originally an Azerbaijani territory is being constantly instilled in the local population and especially young people. Numerous and well-funded NGOs have consistently advocated this idea. The number of these organizations varies from 15 to 25. In addition to the branch of the Georgian State University, the Georgian-Azerbaijan Humanitarian University named after Heydar Aliyev has been opened.

All these efforts are not in vain. If an ordinary inhabitant of the Kvemo-Kartli region expresses a point of view that does not coincide with the opinion of the majority, he will be severely ostracized. One can come under fierce criticism only for calling the Azerbaijanis Kvemo-Kartli a diaspora. Of course, after this they will directly call him a traitor and explain that the Azerbaijanis living in Kvemo-Kartli cannot be a diaspora in a foreign state, since they live in their native land.

Political influence is underpinned by a strong economic presence. Industrial facilities, hotels, cafes, restaurants, entertainment establishments overwhelmingly belong to the Azerbaijani capital. The small 40 thousand-seat town of Marneuli has not only two universities, but has also been honored to open a casino. It is not hard to guess that local villagers are unlikely to have fun in it.

Turkey “historical friend and brother”

At the dawn of Georgia’s independence, its first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, shocked the sober-minded population of Georgia by declaring Turkey a historical friend and brother. Even in the most remote mountain village, people knew very well that Turkey had tormented Georgia for centuries, flooded it with blood, and oppressed the Georgian people. Today the “nationals” fanatically striving for power, headed by Saakashvili, are going the same way.

New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia

Players unite and face off so fast Eurasian integration’s chessboard feels like musical chairs prestissimo

By PEPE ESCOBAR

The Eurasian chessboard is in non-stop motion at dizzying speed. Caucasus and Central Asia are in the focus of developments.

After the Afghanistan shock, we’re all aware of the progressive interconnection of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). And of the preeminent roles played by Russia, China and Iran. These are the pillars of the New Great Game.   

Let’s now focus on some relatively overlooked but no less important aspects of the game. Ranging from the South Caucasus to Central Asia.

Iran under the new Raisi administration is now on the path of increased trade and economic integration with the EAEU, after its admission as a full member of the SCO. Tehran’s “Go East” pivot implies strengthened political security as well as food security.

That’s where the Caspian Sea plays a key role. Inter-Caspian sea trade routes completely bypass American sanctions or blockade attempts. 

Iran’s renewed strategic security anchored in the Caspian will also extend to and bring benefits to Afghanistan, which borders two of the five Caspian neighbors: Iran and Turkmenistan. 

The ongoing Eurasian integration process features a Trans-Caspian corridor as a key node. From Xinjiang in China across Central Asia, then Turkey, all the way to Eastern Europe. The corridor is a work in progress.

Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC)

Some of it is being conducted by CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation), which strategically includes China, Mongolia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the five Central Asian “stans” and Afghanistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) coordinates the secretariat. 

CAREC is not a Chinese-driven Belt and Road and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) body. Yet the Chinese do interact constructively with the Western-leaning, Manila-based ADB.

Belt and Road is developing its own corridors via the Central Asian “stans”. And especially all the way to Iran, now strategically linked to China via the long-term, $400 billion energy-and-development deal.

The Trans-Caspian will run in parallel to and will be complementary to the existing BRI corridors. There we have, for instance, German auto industry components loading cargo trains in the Trans-Siberian bound all the way to joint ventures in China while Foxconn and HP’s laptops and printers made in Chongqing travel the other way to Western Europe.

The Caspian Sea is becoming a key Eurasian trade player since its status was finally defined in 2018 in Aktau, in Kazakhstan. The Caspian is a major crossroads simultaneously connecting Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Central Asia and West Asia, and northern and southern Eurasia.

It’s a strategic neighbor to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – which includes Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and India. While also connecting Belt and Road and the EAEU. 

Watch the Turkic Council

All of the above interactions are routinely discussed and planned at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. These are Russia’s top economic meetings alongside the Valdai discussions.  

There are also interpolations between players – some of them leading to possible partnerships that are not exactly appreciated by the three leading members of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.  

For instance, four months ago Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev visited Baku to propose a strategic partnership – dubbed 5+3 – between Central Asia and South Caucasus states.

A specific problem is that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace – which is a military gig. And also of the Turkic Council, which has embarked on a resolute expansion drive. To complicate matters, Russia also has a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan. 

The Turkic Council has the potential to act as a monkey wrench dropped into the Eurasian works. There are five members: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Pan Turkism or Pan Turanism

This is pan-Turkism – or pan-Turanism – in action, with a special emphasis on the Turk-Azeri “one nation, two states.” Ambition is the norm. The Turkic Council has been actively trying to seduce Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Hungary to become members.

Assuming the 5+3 idea gets traction that would lead to the formation of a single entity from the Black Sea all the way to the borders of Xinjiang, in thesis under Turkish preeminence. And that means NATO preeminence.   

Russia, China and Iran will not exactly welcome it. All of the 8 members of the 5+3 are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace. While half (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia) are also members of the counterweight, the Russia-led CSTO.  

Eurasian players are very much aware that in early 2021 NATO switched the command of its quite strategic Very High Readiness Joint Task Force to Turkey. Subsequently, Ankara has embarked on a serious diplomatic drive. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Aka visiting Libya, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Translation: That’s Turkey – and not the Europeans – projecting NATO power across Eurasia.

Add to it two recent military exercises, Anatolian 21 and Anatolian Eagle 2021, focused on special ops and air combat. Anatolian 21 was conducted by Turkish special forces. The list of attendants was quite something, in terms of a geopolitical arc. Apart from Turkey, we had Albania, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – with Mongolia and Kosovo as observers.

Once again, that was Pan-Turkism – as well as neo-Ottomanism – in action.

Watch the new Intermarium

Speculation by Brzezinski nostalgia denizens that a successful 5+3, plus an expanded Turkic Council, would lead to the isolation of Russia in vast swaths of Eurasia are idle.

There’s no evidence that Ankara would be able to control oil and gas corridors. This is prime Russian and Iran territory. Nor to influence the opening up of the Caspian to Western interests. That’s a matter for the Caspian neighbors, which include, once again, Russia and Iran. Tehran and Moscow are very much aware of the lively Erdogan/Aliyev spy games constantly enacted in Baku. 

Pakistan for its part may have close relations with Turkey – and the Turk-Azeri combo. Yet that did not prevent Islamabad from striking a huge military deal with Tehran. 

According to the deal, Pakistan will train Iranian fighter pilots and Iran will train Pakistani anti-terrorism special ops. The Pakistani Air Force has a world-class training program – while Tehran has first-class experience in anti-terror ops in Iraq/Syria as well as in its sensitive borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Turk-Azeri combo should be aware that Baku’s dream of becoming a trade/transportation corridor hub in the Caucasus may only happen in close coordination with regional players.

India and Iran are developing their own corridor

The possibility still exists of a trade/connectivity Turk-Azeri corridor to be extended into the Turkic-based heartland of Central Asia. Yet Baku’s recent heavy-handedness after the military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh predictably engineered blowback. Iran and India are developing their own corridor ideas going East and West.

It was up to the chairman of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, Alireza Peymanpak, to clarify that “two alternative Iran-Eurasia transit routes will replace Azerbaijan’s route.” The first should open soon, “via Armenia” and the second “via sea by purchasing and renting vessels.”

That was a direct reference, once again, to the inevitable International North-South Transportation Corridor: rail, road and water routes crisscrossing 7,200 kilometers and interlinking  Russia, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, India and Western Europe. The INSTC is at least 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than existing, tortuous routes.

Baku – and Ankara – have to be ultra-savvy diplomatically not to find themselves excluded from the inter-connection, even considering that the original INSTC route linked India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Two Camps

Two camps seem to be irreconcilable at this particular juncture. Turkey-Azerbaijan on the one hand and India-Iran on the other. Pakistan in the uncomfortable middle.

The key development is that New Delhi and Tehran have decided that the INSTC will go through Armenia.

That’s terrible news for Ankara. A wound that even an expanded Turkic Council would not heal. Baku, for its part, may have to deal with the unpleasant consequences of being regarded by top Eurasian players as an unreliable partner.

Anyway, we’re still far from the finality expressed by the legendary casino mantra, “The chips are down.” This is a chessboard in non-stop movement.

We should not forget, for instance, the Bucharest Nine. These are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. That concerns a prime NATO wet dream. It is the latest remix of the Intermarium – as in de facto blocking Russia out of Europe. A dominating team of 5 +3 and Bucharest Nine would be the ultimate pincer in terms of  “isolating” Russia.

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

Central Asian Games – Iran & All, All, All

Who is with whom against whom?

A wave of panic erupted in the media over the report of US Congressman Eliot Engel that Azerbaijan provided Israel with its bases to strike at Iran. This message is supported by a whole series of facts. While world is watching Taiwan and Sotuh China Sea, Central Asia is quietly preparing for a possible war involving number of countries.

This is to present the situation in Central Asia from a military-technical point of view. Not a political one.

However, one cannot do without a minimum of political information on the topic.

On October 1, the exercises of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) began on the western bank of the Araks River, which flows practically along the border of Iran and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (NAR), an exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan (RA). The exercises are distinguished by a concentration of troops and weapons previously unseen for Iran. As well as an unusual location. In response, the Republic of Turkey (TR) began joint exercises with Azerbaijan and Pakistan on October 5. Turkish troops were delivered to the exercise area through the only short (9 km) section of the Turkish-Azerbaijani border in the NAR, the Dilak border crossing. The Azerbaijanis had to fly through Georgia to Turkey, then march through the same passage, but most of them were from the local contingent.

Is Azerbaijan really surprised?

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in an interview with the Turkish state agency Anadolu that he was stunned by the development of events in Iran. “ Each country can conduct any military exercises on its territory. This is her sovereign right. But why now and why on our border? »A big, respected person is playing an innocent sheep. But he knows very well that it was his armed forces that created a pretext for exacerbating relations. We are talking about blocking the road between the Armenian cities of Goris and Kapan by Azerbaijanis, arresting two Iranian drivers and levying a duty and tax (about $ 100) for the trip. But this is a pretext. The reasons for the exacerbation, of course, are deeper.

Let’s not plunge into the jungle of geopolitics and the history of the Middle East. Just note that the decades-long US and Israeli struggle against Iran’s nuclear program is unsuccessful. Numerous sanctions, sabotage against nuclear enterprises and even the killing of specialists did not help to solve the problem.

Leaked information or rumors?

On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the JCPOA (the so-called nuclear deal on Iran). In response, on the same day, Iran announced a phased withdrawal from the restrictions. There is an opinion that Iran has never stopped working on the creation of nuclear weapons. For example, the government of Israel on April 1 of the same year announced the continuation of the secret project “Amad” (started in 2000) to develop nuclear warheads for missiles. International attention has focused on Iran’s production of enriched uranium, while nuclear weapons include a range of specific materials. The JCPOA did not imply control over their production. In a word, the fears of the United States and Israel that Iran is close to production or has already produced nuclear warheads are quite justified.

According to leaked information (more rumors), after the failure of the Vienna talks, Iran is going to declare that it has nuclear weapons. In light of the impending aggression against them, the Ayatollah regime apparently hopes that this will have a powerful stopping effect on its main enemy, Israel.

Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises “Indestructible Brotherhood 2021”

I suppose that it was precisely this readiness of Iran’s nuclear weapons that became the main reason for the rush. And what we are now seeing is only the beginning of a large chain of events. The end of such a chain could be a full-scale global nuclear war. “

Interests of many countries involved

In the current geopolitical pyramid, with the foundations of Iran-Israel-Turkey-Pakistan-Azerbaijan-Armenia, the top is undoubtedly the United States. Although the pyramid should be drawn with this very top down. All those indicated in the base are more or less close. The Americans are on the other side of the globe.

At least 6 regional states and the United States can take the most direct part in the conflict. 

USA, population 333 million.

Not a single serious mess in the last 70 years is complete without them. Against the background of a series of failures here and there and the permanently threatening default, the Americans need some kind of uplifting event. Best of all is the “shiny little war”. And it is desirable so that they do not fly by themselves. I don’t think I need to waste your time to describe their interest in this matter. 

While keeping in the shadows, manipulating, directing, throwing intelligence and a little something. They can provide Azerbaijan with their Patriots, recently withdrawn from Saudi Arabia. Also Tel Aviv with the THAAD complex. They will not intervene immediately, but when the main hostilities subside in order to appropriate all the achievements. Americans can take part in air strikes with cruise missiles from their air bases in the Middle East and Turkey. And in naval operations. However, they may be the first to strike the main blow using nuclear weapons. Trident missiles from submarines. Other weapons are deeply buried – up to 500m, nuclear and missile objects cannot be hit in rocky soils. The United States has experience in bombing its bases with Iranian tactical ballistic missiles.

US base in Iraq attackeed by Iranian missiles

Iran has reported 80 deaths of American servicemen. The United States did not recognize the irrecoverable loss of personnel, only one destroyed plane, but on January 28, pressed by media footage about the evacuation of the wounded, they confirmed that 50 servicemen had received head injuries, on January 31 they agreed to 64, and on February 10 they announced that such injuries already diagnosed in 109 servicemen. Did it take a month for this diagnosis?

Iran, population 87 million. Azerbaijan, population 10 million.

Historically, Iran and Azerbaijan for centuries have been part of the same state. It was called by different names, with unstable borders. After a series of Russian-Persian wars, the Azerbaijani people were divided. Today, about 30 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran. This greatly strains the Iranian authorities. They fear an explosion of separatism. In this regard, the strengthening of Turkey’s influence in the Caucasus seems to them a real big threat. At the same time, there are many ethnic Iranians in Azerbaijan: Talysh, Tats, Kurds, Mountain Jews. Azerbaijanis have deep historical and cultural ties with Iran and even common ethnic and social traits. The population of the countries mainly professes Shiite Islam. That directly influenced the formation of similar morals and customs.

Talish- Iranian-speaking people living in the south of Azerbaijan. According to unofficial data, their number in this country reaches almost 2 million. Many of them are residents of Baku and Sumgait. They demand independence, though not very energetically.

Rulers on both sides swear love for their neighbors. So in the event of a war between them, there will be no occupation or seizure of Azerbaijan, but the “reunification” of fraternal peoples. There is an exchange of goods between the countries, but not much. Azerbaijan competes with Iran in oil and gas supplies to and through Turkey.

Armenia, 3 million people

Armenia, it seems, has chosen the role of a victim for itself and is not going to defend itself. Pashinyan is preparing, however, for a visit to Moscow. Both the head of parliament and the minister of foreign affairs came recently. Probably ask the Russians for weapons and protection.

The capture of Armenia is very desirable for Turkey. Entirely or in the form of a wide corridor to Azerbaijan.

Armenia is part of the CSTO. So when attacked Russia will be forced to intervene in full. So much for the 13th Russian-Turkish war. The 102nd base of the RF Armed Forces and the peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh are located in Armenia.

Turkey, population 87 million.

Turkey and Iran are sworn friends, they quarrel, then they reconcile. Both countries are fighting Kurdish separatists and hate Saudi Arabia. Turkey buys Iranian oil and gas. Iran buys Turkish goods with the proceeds, it turns out almost barter. But in Syria, they have fundamental contradictions. Turkey considers Syria the territory of the Ottoman Empire and opposes Assad. Iran needs Syria as a springboard for actions against Israel and Assad is a natural ally for them. 

Recently, Turkey has taken some steps towards rapprochement with Israel and Saudi Arabia. This cannot but anger Iran. But what really strains the Ayatollahs is Turkish pan-Turkism, which is the basis of their policy towards the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In general, Turkey does not need Azerbaijan as a springboard for strikes on Iran. They have a common border, there are Turkish air bases near it. For example, Diyarbakir, 500 kilometers away. There are hard-surface airfields even closer. But it cannot let Israel into its bases. Not by concept.

And the sharply complicated relations with Israel after May 10, 2021 are not conducive to an alliance. In Azerbaijan, they will have to interact with each other in one way or another. God forbid that it does not work out.

Israel, population 9.2 million.

Relations between Iran and Israel are the simplest and most understandable. Absolute mutual hatred. An unconcealed desire to destroy each other. Between them lie Iraq and Syria, distances from 1300 km in a straight line, and above the enemy for Hel ha Avir – the Israeli Air Force, territory. It is extremely difficult for aviation to operate at such distances. That gave rise to talk that Azerbaijan is needed as a springboard for Israel. 

However, Tel Aviv could have asked the United States to push through Iraq for the purpose of setting up “jump airfields” there. For example, at the Ain al-Assad airbase destroyed by the Iranian TBR. But with the organization of some kind of air defense. Otherwise, it will be like January 8, 2020. It is armed with medium-range ballistic missiles, supplied the LORA TBR (range 500 km, approx. 50 units) to Azerbaijan. Officially it does not have nuclear weapons, but everyone knows that they are.

“Israel has no nuclear weapons, but if necessary, we will use them” (C) Golda Meir (credited).

We will have to interact with Iran, despite many acute contradictions, especially on the Palestinian issue.

Pakistan. Population 228 million people

Relations with Iran have been good for a long time. Tensions between the countries arose after the US flight from Afghanistan. There was active trade between the countries. Pakistan has actively supported the Taliban government. It is an ally of Turkey and Azerbaijan in pursuing a pan-Turkist policy in Central Asia. Iran is totally unhappy with this. Pakistan also has nuclear weapons. Pakistan stated that if Iran starts a war with Azerbaijan, then Pakistani troops “will enter Iran through Tehran and leave through Tabriz.”

Does Iran have allies?

Two allies who will even take part in the hostilities – Syria and Armenia – are very weak and will not be able to seriously affect the balance of forces. Syrian airspace will not be friendly. Israel will have to take this into account.

Iranian tactical missile systems Fateh-110, Fateh-313, Hormuz with ranges of 200-250 km and drones may be in Syria with a high probability. It is not for nothing that Israel is bombing Damascus airport so thoroughly. As soon as the plane lands from Iran, F-16I Sufa with GBU-39 bombs take off in 10 minutes. 

Iranian electronic warfare systems and special forces DRGs can also operate from Syria and Armenia. Iranian special forces are worthy of a separate topic. There are whole divisions and brigades in the Army and the IRGC.

Armenia separates Turkey and Azerbaijan. It can become an insurmountable border for the Turks and Israelis. Taking into account Russian ability to block the delivery of military contingents, the transfer of aviation, and any military cargo to Azerbaijan through Georgia both by sea with transshipment and by air over the Black Sea, this line could, in principle, completely disrupt the ground operation. In the event of the outbreak of hostilities, Russia, of course, will formally make a request to Georgia to open a transport corridor to Armenia. With a probability of 500% it will be refused. This means that Russia will have to use the experience of the “Syrian Express” and deliver everything through Iran.

China and the DPRK

These two states, of course, will not take direct part in hostilities. China needs Iranian oil. Negotiations were under way to supply 150 Chengdu J-10 fighters (analogous to the F-16). However, the Chinese themselves still lack them. With the help of the Chinese, Iran developed the Bavar-373 air defense system, an analogue of the S-300 PMU-2, and Khordad-15, an analogue of the C-350. Both the PRC and the DPRK transferred their missile technologies to it, this is a fact. There are assumptions that they could have transferred nuclear technologies and materials. And even ready-made nuclear weapons, but this is not a fact.

Tajikistan emerges as Taliban’s new nemesis

Tensions between Dushanbe and Kabul will remain high until the Taliban forms a truly inclusive government

By NIKOLA MIKOVIC

With a growing hub of Afghan resistance figures and political exiles, Tajikistan has emerged as the primary foreign power ready to face down the new Taliban government. Reports of a push to form an alternative Afghan administration in the Tajik capital Dushanbe will only deepen hostilities between the neighbors.

Since the Taliban stormed Kabul, the militant group and Tajikistan have not lost time in trading threats. The Taliban accused Tajikistan of interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Kabul moved its special forces to their vast shared border. Tajikistan had already deployed 20,000 additional troops to the frontier. It also conducted a nationwide military drill involving 230,000 service personnel.

While a full-scale military confrontation remains unlikely, the tensions allow Russia to exert further influence over the region through a mediation role between the former Soviet republic and Kabul’s new rulers. Meanwhile, the saber-rattling from Tajikistan also reflects the domestic position of long-serving president Emomali Rahmon.

Tajikistan is one of the few neighbors of Afghanistan that have openly stated that they do not intend to recognize a Taliban government “formed through oppression.” President Rahmon has repeatedly criticized the Taliban for their actions. He demanded more rights for Tajiks in Afghanistan. They are the largest ethnic group in the country after Pashtuns.

Tajikistan has also made no secret of its support for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan. It is the only force opposing the Taliban, in Panjshir province. The majority of the population of Panjshir is also ethnic-Tajik.

Growing number of Afghan exiles in Dushanbe

After the Taliban launched an assault on the valley, resistance leader Ahmad Massoud and former vice-president Amrullah Saleh fled their final holdout for Dushanbe. There they joined a growing number of Afghan exiles plotting their next steps.

Complicating matters for President Rahmon, however, is that not all Tajiks look to Tajikistan for support.

A number of Afghan Tajiks have already sided with the Taliban. Authorities in Dushanbe fear that Afghanistan’s new rulers could use Jamaat Ansarullah. It is a militant group founded in Afghanistan by Tajik national Amriddin Tabarov in 2010. They might be used as a force against Tajikistan.

Tajik officials have said on several occasions that some of the Taliban-controlled gangs consisting of ethnic Tajiks are “ready to invade Tajikistan.” The Taliban rejected such reports, saying that no group would be given permission to launch an attack on any of Afghanistan’s neighbors. 

Tajikistan does not seem to trust the new authorities in Kabul. The country recently conducted joint military exercises with its ally Russia and other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). All along the 1,400-kilometer Tajik-Afghan border.

Tajikistan is Afghanistan’s smallest neighbor and the poorest country in Central Asia. As such, it represents a relatively easy target for the Taliban. Still, the Afghan group is unlikely to attack a CSTO member. It would have a serious impact on relations with Russia. 

Tajikistan’s tough position regarding the Taliban was almost certainly coordinated with Moscow. However, the Kremlin seems to play a double game in Afghanistan. Russia held several meetings with Taliban leaders, and unlike many Western countries, it never closed its embassy in Kabul.

No recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by Russia

Yet the Kremlin still refuses to remove the radical group from its list of terrorist organizations. Let alone to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Russia is actively arming Tajikistan and sending additional troops and military equipment to its base there.

Such a policy could allow Moscow to increase its influence in Central Asia. It might become one of the key players in post-American Afghanistan. If, however, the Taliban or their proxies eventually launch an incursion into Tajikistan, Russia would have no option but to provide full support to its ally.

For the Kremlin, a destabilization of Tajikistan could have a serious impact on Russia, which is the major destination for Tajik migrant workers.

More important, Russia has a Muslim population of 25 million and has an interest in them following a traditional form of Islam, rather than an extreme version like the one fueling the Taliban. That is why Moscow strongly supports Rahmon and his policy of active secularism in Tajikistan.

Taliban is accusing Tajikistan of interfering in Afghan internal affairs

The Tajik leader is reportedly preparing the ground for the transfer of powers to his son. Until Rustam Emomali, or some other figure, takes the helm of the country, Emomali Rahmon – who has ruled Tajikistan for 30 years – will unite the Tajik people against “the Taliban threat.” That is why Dushanbe will continue to support opponents of the Taliban openly.

Taliban’s acting first deputy prime minister accused Tajikistan of interfering in Afghan internal affairs, pointing out that “for every action there is a reaction.”

Indeed, Tajikistan firmly insists on the formation of an inclusive government in Kabul. It should protect the interests of ethnic Tajiks in Afghanistan. Until such a government is formed, Tajikistan is expected to keep treating the Taliban as a terrorist organization. Tensions between Dushanbe and Kabul will remain high.

This article was provided by Syndication Bureauwhich holds copyright.

NIKOLA MIKOVIC

Nikola Mikovic

is a political analyst in Serbia. His work focuses mostly on the foreign policies of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, with special attention on energy and “pipeline politics.”

India on the side of Armenia against Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan

The warnings of some political scientists about the importance of a small piece of land in Armenia called Syunik for the geopolitical coordinates of the countries of the region and large countries – economic and political giants, were ignored by practicing politicians. Russia, in fact, which allowed the 44-day Karabakh war to begin, stood up as a peacemaker and coordinator before the difficult and controversial elections. On both sides of the dividing line, there are countries with which Russia has the closest economic ties.

Having won the war, Azerbaijan set out to break through the so-called “Zangezur corridor” under the pretext of opening communications. He is fully supported by Turkey. In turn, “breaking through” the corridor is accompanied by infringement of the rights of Iranian carriers, since Azerbaijani checkpoints have been erected on the section of the Goris-Kapan road connecting Armenia and Artsakh with Iran, in the territories that came under the control of Azerbaijan.

They are clearly being cunning, since the road has never passed through the territory of Azerbaijan. Simply taking advantage of the defeat of Armenia, Azerbaijani troops advanced a couple of extra kilometers and took control of an almost 20-kilometer section of the road. In response to decisive protests, and then actions to transfer military units and heavy weapons to the Iranian-Azerbaijani border, Iran warned Azerbaijan that it would not allow the redrawing of borders and would not allow obstacles to its trade with Armenia, through which Iran has the ability to bypass tough US and Western sanctions have been dominating Iran for several decades.

Joint military exercises by Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan

In response, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan held joint military exercises, demonstrating the readiness of these countries to resolutely rebuff Iran. Having stood on the side of Azerbaijan during the Karabakh war and provided assistance in the form of weapons and a special forces detachment that reportedly participated in the capture of Shushi, Pakistan, as an ally of Azerbaijan, somewhat changed the alignment of forces, since it possesses nuclear weapons. And if Azerbaijan achieved victory thanks to active Turkish participation, which cannot but irritate Iran, Turkey’s competitor for the right to be a regional leader, Pakistan’s participation caused an immediate reaction in India, which is working with Iran on the North-South project.

For more than 30 years, Indian officials, who had not visited Armenia, unexpectedly visited Armenia in the person of Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on October 12-13. This was the first visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India to the Republic of Armenia.

“India as the largest democracy in the world, a large, fast-growing economy, as well as a peace-loving state can contribute to stability, development and peace in the South Caucasus,” Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said at a press conference.

India stepping in

In this context, the Foreign Minister again recalled the position of Armenia regarding the fact that the use of force cannot be the basis for resolving the conflict, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved through peaceful negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, based on well-known principles.

Ararat Mirzoyan stressed that Armenia highly appreciates the statement of the Indian Foreign Ministry made in May this year on the need to withdraw the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan from the sovereign territory of Armenia. In turn, Armenia confirms its position on assisting India in the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which are under Pakistani control.

If until recently India was ready to be content with a highway running through Azerbaijan, then in the new realities only the Armenian transit is seen by the Indian side as promising and profitable from a political point of view.

North-South Transport Corridor

Subramaniam Jaishankar fueled Yerevan’s optimism by proposing to make the port of Chabahar a part of the North-South transport corridor and take part in its construction and further operation.

It should be noted that the Pakistani port of Gwadara is located 200 kilometers from the Iranian Chabahar, which, as part of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, is reaching its design capacity.

Since the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India was rather unexpected, let us inform you that Armenia, or rather Armenians with India, have long-standing ties, the Armenians controlled the market of precious stones and metals, enjoyed the right of duty-free trade, as during the time of Catherine II in Russia. Today in Yerevan one can meet a large number of Indian students studying at Armenian universities, mainly at the medical university. Indian students come to study in Armenia with pleasure, because for them the ratio of “quality education” and an acceptable price is ideal here.

Armenia-India relations in the international arena have been marked by serious support. In 2008, India for the first time openly took the position of Armenia, rejecting at a meeting of the UN General Assembly the resolution proposed by Azerbaijan, recognizing “NKR” as an Armenian-occupied territory. Indian diplomats do not avoid using the phrase “Armenian genocide” in official statements and documents. During the 44-day war, the Indian media supported Armenia. The India Today newspaper wrote; “If the Armenians fail to stop the pro-Turkish mercenaries who have arrived in Karabakh, tomorrow they may end up in arms in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.” In May of this year, India officially condemned Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh ..

It is safe to say that India views Armenia as a strategic partner in the South Caucasus against the alliance of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan. And India is ready, together with Iran, to help her resist the pressure and threats of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.

By joining efforts, Russia, India, Iran and Armenia can completely cancel out Turkey’s ambitious plans to reunite the Turkic states and create the Great Turan, on the way of which the Armenian region of Syunik stands.

By Edward Sakhinov

Is Azerbaijan torn apart by Persians, Turks and Israel?

Victory in the Karabakh war can play a cruel joke with Azerbaijan and its regime. Turkey and Israel have noticeably strengthened, helping Azerbaijan to deal with the Armenians. But Iran does not intend to put up with this. Iran is considering the Turks as its competitors and the Israelis as mortal enemies. Iran also does not want Azerbaijan, which it congratulated through clenched teeth on the victory, cut off Armenia, its important trade and strategic partner, from it. A sharp change in the geopolitical situation in the region, in which Russia has also strengthened its position, puts on the agenda interaction between Russians and Iranians in the Transcaucasus. They are all interested that the Turkish fleet does not appear one day in the Caspian Sea.

Half of historical Azerbaijan – both in area and in population – is part of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). At the same time, the two countries were on the verge of war. Baku and Tehran do not want to cross it. The war would be unprofitable for both of them. The enemies of both Baku and Tehran will push them to aggravate in every possible way. With the consent and sanction of the United States and Britain, of course.

Israeli concern

The situation is especially aggravated by Israel. They definitely expect to divert Iran to the north and push it against Turkey. It is a great idea that the two enemies of the Jewish state and at the same time regional rivals weaken each other. And the conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites continues to flare up.

Israeli media, referring to anonymous sources, report that the Azerbaijani security forces have launched a large-scale operation against “pro-Iranian elements” in their country. According to Israel Hayom, there are arrests of activists acting on behalf of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah  Sayyid Ali Khamenei. The same newspaper writes that Azerbaijan is considering the possibility of acquiring the Israeli Arrow 3 long-range missile defense system. Moreover, it is reported that President  Ilham Aliyev has decided to close the mission of the representative of the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic in Azerbaijan.

The Jerusalem Post announces the arrival of a delegation of Israeli security officials in Azerbaijan. They are “to advise and express support to the Azerbaijani government against the backdrop of the continuing rise in tensions with Iran.” The source of the newspaper claims: “Israel has assured Azerbaijan that the Jewish state will support it and provide all possible assistance! Including technical assistance and air support in repelling any Iranian attack on its northern neighbor.”

Iran has officially protested in connection with the “attack” in the past few days on the building of its embassy in Azerbaijan, the Tasnim agency reported. This episode shows how intense the passions are.

Willingness number one

There are quite objective facts indicating a sharp aggravation of Iranian-Azerbaijani relations. The formal reason for this was the decision of Baku to make it difficult for Iranian trucks with goods to enter the Armenian part of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijanis began to demand a “road tax” of $ 260 from drivers. Two Iranians were detained on charges of delivering “illegal cargo” to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Iran also takes seriously Azerbaijan’s threats to lay a corridor to Nakhichevan by force. This would mean cutting off from Iran Armenia. Armenia is Iran’s important partner in the Caucasus.

Iran has entered a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union. Armenia is the only EAEU country that has a land border with it. Therefore this direction is extremely important for Tehran. Under the pretext of military maneuvers, Iran transferred additional units of its armed forces to the border with Azerbaijan. There have not been such large-scale maneuvers in this area for at least 30 years. Armored units, artillery, helicopters and drones are involved.

The official goal of the maneuvers that started on October 1 is called checking and increasing the level of combat readiness of the Iranian armed forces and testing military equipment as close as possible to combat conditions. Quite symptomatic is their name – “Conquerors of Khaybar”. T refers to the victory of Muslims over the Jews in 629. That subsequently led to their expulsion from this and other oases north of Medina to Syria. It easily deciphers Iran’s indignation over the growing ties of Baku with Israel.

Israel is interested in forming bases in Azerbaijan

The Jewish state is quite capable of making the regions liberated from the Armenians in the south of Azerbaijan its base for conducting subversive activities against Iran from there. Turkey transferred Sunni militants from Syria there last year. Before the start of the maneuvers, according to the IRNA agency, Brigadier General Heydari, the commander of the ground forces of the IRI Armed Forces, called the Israeli presence in Azerbaijan “an undermining of security” in the region, but assured that it was “fully under our supervision.” Is there a hint of Iranian drones in Armenia as well?

Baku and Ankara promptly reciprocated Tehran. From October 5 to 8, large-scale joint Azerbaijani-Turkish exercises of ground forces and armored vehicles Sarsılmaz Kardeslik – 2021 (“Unwavering Brotherhood – 2021”) are being held in Nakhichevan, bordering Iran. 

Iran on October 5 closed its airspace for the delivery of military supplies from Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan. In Baku, it was called a betrayal. And on the eve, Iranian Foreign Minister  Hossein Amir Abdollahian held talks in Tehran with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan . It is not hard to guess what they discussed, especially against the backdrop of a tough diplomatic skirmish between Tehran and Baku with mutual accusations “surprising” and “regrettable.”

Recrimination

Speaking the other day in Jebrail, which had been recaptured from the Armenians, Aliyev openly threatened Iran:

When recently a mullah of some Iranian province fabricated slander against Azerbaijan, we did not pay attention to it. But then, unfortunately, the officials began to put forward unfounded accusations against us – allegedly Azerbaijan brought Israel to these regions … Is there evidence? No.

On the same day, Leyla Abdullayeva , head of the press service of the republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “We do not accept statements about the presence of any third forces near the Azerbaijani-Iranian border, provocative attempts by these forces, because these statements have no basis.” These claims, she said, cannot even be a subject of discussion. So Abdullayeva commented on the words of the Iranian Foreign Minister that “during the liberation of Karabakh, a number of terrorist movements entered the region, and Israel is also trying to take advantage of this tension.” Iran will not tolerate the presence of Israeli forces near its borders, Abdollahian said.

The spiritual leader and leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, spoke in the same spirit  “The recent situation in the north-west of the country must be resolved without the intervention and military presence of foreign forces in the region.”

Drawing conclusions

If the situation develops in this direction, and some external players, especially Israel and Turkey, push Baku and Tehran to do just that, a real war may become a fact. The biggest victim of this war, if it starts, will be the Azerbaijani regime. Moreover, in both cases – and if Turkey and Azerbaijan, which Israel will definitely help, will emerge victorious from it, and even more so if Iran gains the upper hand. In the latter case, not only the regime will suffer, but also the people.

The fact is that the state built by  Aliyev is too secular not only for the clerical Tehran, but also for Ankara, the moderate Islamist  Erdogan . Therefore, this regime will become the main victim of the conflict in both cases – even if Aliyev wins. 

So what?

Russia in this conflict will clearly observe its interests. They appear to be quiet at the moment but there is a lots of talking happening behind the scene.

At the end of the day, Russia will probably support Iran. That only after doing everything possible to prevent the conflict. Russia certainly does not want to see Turkey coming to the Caspian Sea via their alliance with Azerbaijan. Russia also does not want to see “North – South” corridor threatened.

The emergence of new players in Transcaucasia (Israel) and its inevitable destabilization is not to be to Russian liking. . But in Washington, they will only be glad about it. And you can be sure that London would love to see that too.

In this situation, a lot depends on the Azerbaijani president. He has no space to make a mistake. There are no guarantees that he will not make it. The best way for Baku is to distance itself as much as possible from Turkey and Israel. Only in this case will the conflict with Iran be extinguished. Only in this case Russia will stay almost neutral player between Azerbaijan and Armenia.