Explainer: What’s Behind Fresh Tensions On The Iran-Azerbaijan Border?

Excerpts from a recent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty feature.

“Turkey has the second-largest NATO army, and Pakistan is a nuclear power in the region. When these two countries join Azerbaijan in military maneuvers, it worries Russia and Iran – and the Islamic republic’s military maneuver [reflects] its concern.”

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“On the eve of the [Iranian] exercises, the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, which expresses the view of the government and of the president of Turkey, chose the following headline for an interview with a member of the Azerbaijani parliament: ‘Iran Will Disappear From The Map.'”

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[Kioumars Heydari, the commander of the Iranian Army’s ground forces said] that Tehran was also worried about the presence of “terrorist forces that came to the region from Syria,” an apparent reference to reports that Turkey last year recruited Islamist fighters to go to Azerbaijan and help Baku in its war against ethnic Armenians in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. Heydari said Tehran wasn’t sure the fighters had left the region.

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The Iranian drills, which include artillery, drones, and helicopters, followed military drills by Turkey, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan that were launched on September 12 in Baku.