Is Tehran in the Azerbaijan region

Iran and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The Iranian Interior Minister Rahmani Fasli was determined. Should the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan spill over into his country's territory, his country will react. Fasli was referring to the launch of a missile from the combat area that fell in a village in the border region of northwestern Iran last week. The governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia had been told that they had to better control the fighting. If the situation does not improve, "we will take appropriate measures if necessary," said Fasli.

At the same time, the government in Tehran offers itself as a mediator in the conflict. "We call on both sides to exercise restraint, to end the conflict immediately and to resume negotiations," said the Iranian Foreign Office spokesman Said Chatibsadeh.

Iran's "Azeri Turks"

Above all, the government in Tehran wants to prevent the conflict from spreading to Iranian society. Because in Iran there is an Armenian as well as an Azerbaijani minority. With around 100,000 people, the Armenian population is significantly smaller than the so-called "Azeri-Turks", as the Iranian citizens with Azerbaijani roots are called. Their number is around 15 million, out of a total of 82 million people in Iran. This means that their number is also greater than that of Azerbaijani citizens. A total of around 10.3 million people live there.

Today the Azeris are one of the most influential ethnic groups in Iran. They control large parts of the Tehran bazaar, the most important marketplace in the country. The spiritual leader Ali Khamenei is also of Azerbaijani descent on his father's side. Four of its representatives published a statement a few days ago, according to which there is "no doubt" that the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region belongs to Azerbaijan. President Hassan Rouhani informed Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian that Armenia must work to end the conflict.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region has flared up again since the end of September

Statements like these are also a reflection of the internal balance of power in Iran. Unlike the Armenians, who attract little attention, many Azeris are openly on the side of their "Muslim brothers" in Azerbaijan. Last week they organized several large rallies in cities in western Iran. Among other things, the slogan "Death of Armenia" could be heard there. According to Iranian media, security forces broke up these gatherings.

Suspicious eye on Baku

Relations between the two countries go back a long way. Parts of today's Azerbaijan belonged to the Persian Empire until the 19th century. In 1828 this ceded the region around Baku to Russia. In 1991 Azerbaijan became independent in the course of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since then, the government in Tehran has been concerned about Baku's influence on the Azeri minority in Iran. The fear is repeatedly expressed that Azerbaijan wants to smash Iran with the support of the USA in order to then incorporate the Iranian provinces of western and eastern Azerbaijan into its own territory. The government is also concerned about the close cooperation between Azerbaijan and the USA and Israel. Both countries consider Azerbaijan to be a key country in the South Caucasus, both militarily and economically.

The indirect involvement of Russia and Turkey in the war in its immediate neighborhood is also a headache for Tehran. While Turkey supports Azerbaijan, Russia stands by Armenia. Iran maintains a network of relationships with both countries that is as complex as it is fragile. In Syria, for example, he is on the side of the Assad regime together with Russia. Turkey, in turn, supports the Assad opponents. Iran and Turkey are linked by a more or less strong opposition to Israel. Both states were hostile to the recently signed normalization agreement between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. They are also both on the side of the emirate of Qatar, which is facing a boycott led by Saudi Arabia.

The Baku oil and gas fields are also of interest to the EU. A pipeline already leads through Turkey to the Mediterranean

Permanent loser in oil exports?

Economic aspects also play an important role in Tehran's relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has close ties with Turkey, particularly in the raw materials sector. In 2005, for example, the 1700-kilometer pipeline between Baku and the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan went into operation. Even before the sanctions were imposed, this pipeline represented strong competition for Iranian oil exports. While these have shrunk, the government in Tehran has to watch as the Turkish-Azerbaijani trade relations are strengthened via the pipeline and, as a result, also those of the both countries to Europe. Because from Turkey, the oil arriving from Baku is shipped on to the European buyer countries. A dynamic has developed in this sector that Iran can only catch up with with great difficulty if the US sanctions are lifted at some point.