Vehicles carrying refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, a region inhabited by ethnic Armenians, queue on the road leading towards the Armenian border, in Nagorno-Karabakh, September 25, 2023.

Politician Says Iran Losing Key Gateway As Azerbaijan Takes Karabakh

Monday, 10/02/2023

The former head of Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee says Azerbaijan's attack on Karabakh is the beginning of a regional crisis.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh told Didban Iran [Iran Monitor] website in Tehran that the country is facing a serious challenge as one of its gateways to Europe is threatened because of the military development in the Caucasus. 

Falahatpisheh also pointed out that Iranian officials and military commanders who used to deliver passionate speeches about Iran's interests and authority in the region are silent in the face of threats to Tehran's interest. 

During the past months, several Iranian military commanders and politicians warned Azerbaijan not to attack Armenia and avoid closing Iran's gateway to Europe at its borders with Armenia. As Azerbaijan expelled 120,000 Armenians from the enclave, it now threatens to enter and occupy the narrow strip of land connecting Iran via Armenia to Russia and Europe.

Iran has also long warned Azerbaijan about its close military relations with Israel, which is the Baku’s main arms supplier.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the former head of Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee

Mashregh News, a media outlet with close links to Iranian security and intelligence organizations on September 9, called an attack on Karabakh Iran's "red line" and maintained that such an action will entail consequences for Azerbaijan. The threat later proved to be hollow. 

Iran's silence in the face of the development is apparently linked to a visit to Iran by Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu immediately before the attack. Meanwhile, Tehran's inaction was quite embarrassing for the regime and its military commanders considering months of bragging on IRGC media outlets and social media channels about Iran's swift reaction in case Azerbaijan attacked Karabakh. 

Some Iranian social media users ridiculed the Iranian military and posted a photo of a smiling Iranian military attache' walking alongside victorious Azeri officers in Karabakh following the attack. One user wrote: "I wrongly thought that the Iranian regime's officials were trying to be strategically patient in the face of Azerbaijan's alliance with Israel."

Falahatpisheh told Didban Iran that "All this is an outcome of Iran's outdated foreign policy. At times we saw Iranian officials delivering irresponsible speeches at the borders with Azerbaijan. If what is happening now is Iran's real policy, those speakers should be accountable for agitating the society at the expense of Iran's national interests." 

The former lawmaker said that the forced displacement of ethnic Armenians in Karabakh is not the end of the conflict. On the contrary, it marks the beginning of a new crisis in the region. Tens of thousands of Armenians have been displaced and their private and public rights poses a new challenge for the region's leaders. This is likely to turn into a chronic challenge not only for Azerbaijan and Armenia, but also for other players such as Turkey and Israel. Particularly because Iran will perceive Israel's presence at its borders as a true challenge. 

He said: "Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan's stance during the conflict were more realistic that the other leaders involved. At least he acknowledged that Iranians are not going to like the closure of one of their key gateways to Europe and the outside world. 

Meanwhile, Erdogan’s call for a meeting between the leaders of Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to discuss the aftermaths and implications of the attack on Karabakh, without mentioning Iran. 

Falahatpisheh pointed out that Iran's policy about the region dated back to three decades ago and Tehran was oblivious to the developments and dynamics that have been taking shape during the past thirty years in the region. 

He argued that as a result of the current conflict, Azerbaijan will have to allocate a major part of its annual budget to military spending. He added that by inviting countries from beyond the region into this conflict, Azerbaijan has made a mistake. It could have solved its problems with Armenia in a different way. 

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