Sunday, August 28, 2016


Iran, Azerbaijan, And Turkey: Zero Problems? Zero Chance

Major General Hasan Firuzabadi, the chief of the armed forces general staff, claimed he'd been misquoted.
Major General Hasan Firuzabadi, the chief of the armed forces general staff, claimed he'd been misquoted.
By Robert Tait
It hardly looked like the embodiment of a quiet-neighborhood policy.

First Iran's top military commander warned Azerbaijan's president, Ilham Aliyev, in language that brooked no diplomacy that he faced a "grim fate" for betraying "Islamic principles."

Then the head of an influential committee in Iran's parliament announced that the de facto head of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Murat Karayilan -- a man sought by Turkey for "terrorist" activities -- had been captured by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Kandil Mountains.

Unsurprisingly, each story created a stir in the countries next door -- before promptly being denied by Iran.

Major General Hassan Firuzabadi, head of Iran's general staff, had not in fact declared that "the people's awakening cannot be suppressed" or accused Aliyev's government of "giv[ing] freedom to the Zionist regime [Israel] to meddle in [his] country's affairs," according to a statement issued by the Iranian Embassy in Baku. Nor had he accused Aliyev of giving "command to bar Islamic rules."

Such quotes -- despite their wide attribution -- were the result of a "media misunderstanding," the statement said.

So too, it seems, were reports carried by Iranian news agencies of Alaeddin Borujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, announcing the arrest of Karayilan, widely seen as the PKK's No. 2 figure behind Abdullah Ocalan, currently serving a life sentence in Turkey.

With the Turkish media in a frenzy and Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, calling his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi for clarification, Iran again backtracked. Borujerdi told Turkey's ambassador to Tehran that he had been misquoted and had actually said that "it would be better had [Karayilan] been captured," according to the Istanbul newspaper "Today's Zaman."

A Warning Shot?

So was it all just an unfortunate communication breakdown?

Not in the view of many Azerbaijani and Turkish observers, who believe it followed a well-trodden path of Iran's Islamic regime playing diplomatic hardball. Nor did it wash with Azerbaijan's government, whose relations with Tehran have long been tense.

Firuzabadi's purported remarks prompted the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry to deliver an official protest to the Iranian Embassy in Baku.

Then Azerbaijani police arrested three members of the banned Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (AIP), a radical group that Baku claims is funded by Tehran with the aim of creating instability.

The three -- party Deputy Chairman Arif Qaniyev, Ramin Bayramov, the editor of an Islamist news site, and party member Abgul Suleymanov -- were initially charged with illegal possession of weapons and drugs.

But in fact the arrests -- and Firuzabadi's comments -- had a wider context. A joint statement from the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office said they were also suspected of "hostile activity against Azerbaijan" -- apparent code language for being in the pay of Iran.

Iran's Islamist Front

Accusations by Azerbaijan of Iranian interference, voiced periodically since the Azeris' independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, have intensified recently.

Baku has accused Tehran of being behind an increasing number of protests against Aliyev's secular, Western-backed regime. These include demonstrations organized on Facebook in March and a rally staged outside the Education Ministry in December 2010 in response to the Azerbaijani ban on Islamic hijab in schools.

Islamic Party head Movsum Samadov called for Ilham Aliyev's downfall.
Azerbaijan's official nervousness led to the arrest earlier this year of the AIP's leader, Movsum Samadov, who vehemently criticized the ban and then called on his website for Aliyev to be toppled.

Azerbaijani political analyst Arastun Orujlu says the latest arrests, unlike Samadov's, are directly related to Iran's actions and aimed at sending a signal to Tehran. While the Azerbaijani authorities "cannot arrest Firuzabadi," they can arrest "those whom they consider to have close ties with Iran. By this way they also send a message to Iran."

Vafa Gulzade, president of the Baku-based Caspian Policy Studies Foundation and a former Azerbaijani national-security adviser, believes Iran yearns for an Islamic republic to be established in Azerbaijan.

"After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Iran immediately began an aggressive policy against Azerbaijan," Gulzade says. "First, it was an attempt to export the Islamic religion, Hizballah-style, to Azerbaijan. A lot of Iranians came to Azerbaijan and spent a lot of money and arranged cells of Hizballah in the whole territory of Azerbaijan. Iran is continuing this job, to create in Azerbaijan cells and to support groups of Azerbaijanis for Iranian groups."

Sharing Suspicions

Baku's suspicions are fueled by the strong ethnic, religious, and cultural links between Azerbaijan and Iran. The modern Azerbaijani state was once part of Iran before being annexed by Russia in the 19th century. Nearly nine out of 10 Azeris share Iran's official Shi'ite Islamic faith. And most tellingly, Azeri -- a language close to Turkish -- is spoken by around a quarter of Iran's population, mainly in the northern provinces bordering Azerbaijan.

Yet these common bonds mean the suspicion cuts both ways. Iran feels threatened by Azerbaijan's close alliance with Tehran's two arch-enemies, the United States and Israel, and with NATO. Azerbaijan provides around 20 percent of Israel's oil supplies while Baku recently purchased Israeli weapons worth an estimated $300 million.

For Tehran, such links provide its Western foes with the perfect launching pad to foment division within its own population.

As the Texas-based think tank Stratfor noted in March: " concerned about Baku's use of its links to certain parts of Iran's ethnic Azerbaijani population to sow discord within Iran and serve as a launching point for the West into Iran. Tehran most recently accused Baku of such actions in the Green Movement's failed attempt at revolution in 2009. Geopolitically, the two countries' strategic interests often clash. Iran has strong ties with Armenia (Azerbaijan's foe), while Azerbaijan has good relations with the West, and political and military ties to Israel -- both of which are uncomfortable for Iran."

Israel's Shimon Peres visits Baku -- and makes Tehran nervous.
The idea that Israel could use the Azerbaijanis as a potential fifth column against Iran echoes a similar suspicion voiced in the past about Israeli infiltration of the Kurdish populations in Iran and Iraq. Indeed, senior officials with Israel's foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, have spoken openly of having a presence in Iran's Kurdish areas.

The truth of this, according to Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born political commentator with Israeli citizenship, is hard to establish. "According to reports in the Israeli press, Israeli military training and communication companies were active in Kurdistan a number of years ago but whether they or the Mossad continue to be there is unclear," he told RFE/RL in an e-mail.

"Iraq as a whole is an area of interest for the state of Israel, because of its importance to the Arab world, Iran, and the United States. It would be natural and logical for Israel to want to have influence there," Javedanfar continued. "Whether it can is another question. With Israel's increasing diplomatic isolation, more countries in the Middle East are moving away than toward Israel under [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu."

Iran: 'The Kurds For Syria'

But according to Sadraddin Soltan, a Baku-based analyst on Iranian affairs, Tehran is pressuring Azerbaijan to send a signal to Baku's more powerful ally, Turkey, over one of Iran's key foreign-policy preoccupations, Syria. The Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has, along with the United States, bitterly criticized the brutal suppression by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- Iran's close friend -- of mass protests against his rule.

"Tehran is irritated by all these developments. Iran is closely following NATO-Azerbaijan, U.S.-Azerbaijani ties," Soltan says. "Through Firuzabadi's statements, Iran is exerting pressure on Turkey and the U.S. [and sending the message] that it can create obstacles to their ally Azerbaijan, just as they [the Turks] press the Syrian regime."

The same belief has gained ground in Turkey to explain Iran's recent behavior over the recent phantom PKK arrest. The claim followed reports of recent Iranian incursions into Iraq to root out members of the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), a militant Iranian-Kurdish group (allied to the PKK) that had been mounting an effective sabotage campaign.

Even more pertinently, according to Turkish commentators, is that it preceded an anticipated offensive by Turkey in the coming weeks against PKK strongholds. Intelligence cooperation against Kurdish militants has been part of a general rapprochement between Ankara and Tehran in recent years. Knowing Turkish intentions to act against the PKK, some believe, Iran saw its chance to indulge in some underhand diplomacy.

"Iran is sending a message to Turkey," wrote Markar Esayan in "Today's Zaman." "A message saying it is willing to take action against the PKK in return for concessions by Turkey regarding the Syrian issue. To Turkey [the message is] you have a dominant role in the uprisings in Syria, which is an indispensible ally to us in the region. If you give up on Syria, we will deal with the PKK together; otherwise, we will become allies with the PKK."

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service contributed to this report from Baku
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: esther Haman from: DC
August 18, 2011 17:12
Azerbaijan is part of Iran and the part USSR controlled after WWII is now playing a game of hardball with Iran that it can not afford. They have made concession to us and the Zionist entity to threaten Iran from North and clearly that is not something that Iran can afford to live with or would allow to get out of hand. Azerbaijan who has lost territories to the Armenians has no other path but to make peace with Iran and its neighbors and either to get along regionally or get wiped out. Neither West nor the Zionist entity can afford to come to her rescue for all the oil that they think they have. PKK is not an issue between Iran and Turkey and only a small headache which both Iran and Turkey see eye to eye on that subject.
In Response

by: Ali
August 19, 2011 00:32
esther Haman, you are so wrong.

by: Taxpayer from: USA
August 18, 2011 23:12

It is important to understand that Azerbaijan is run by a Kurdish clan of Aliyevs. The former dictator of this artificial country - KGB General Heydar-baba Aliyev made his career in USSR off of establishing Kurdish resistance in Turkey to punish it for joining NATO. He was an ethnic nomadic Kurd born in Armenia. His son, the current Sultan Ilham Heydar-ogly Aliyev who inherited the throne by forging the signature of his dead baba, kept all the Kurdish elite he inherited and installed more of his fellow Kurds to key positions in the country. It is to the point now that every town and village in Azerbaijan is run by the Kurdish clan representatives who discriminate against the title nation of nomadic Azeri Turks the same way they discriminated against the native peoples of this land like Lezgi, Tolysh, Udins, Tsakhurs, etc.

Azeri Turks and Kurds are nomadic people whose civilization is radically different from the native people of what is now called "Azerbaijan Republic" and their neighbors in Iran who are called Azeris because they were under Turkic yoke for several hundred years. This changed their language but not their culture.

Azerbaijan harbors PKK and refuses to officially recognize it as a terrorist organization. In addition, Azerbaijani elite brings tens of thousands of Kurds from Turkey and Iran to populate the lands taken from Armenians.
In Response

by: Ismail from: Phoenix, AZ
August 23, 2011 16:09
I would love some of that stiky eeky you've been smoking. Aliyevs are Kurds ethnically, that much is true. The rest is fantasy. What part of Armenia did we occupy and are now persistently populating with Kurds?
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
August 23, 2011 22:58

I'm glad you agree with 90% of my post. The lands taken from Armenians are all the lands West of the river Kur. Some of these lands were taken by the invading Turkish regular army and nomadic "Caucasian Tartars" in 1918-20 who later were proclaimed "Azerbaijanis" by Stalin. And some of the Armenian lands were occupied by Soviet troops hired by the newly re-established Azerbaijan Republic during the Operation "Ring", etc. in late 80s and early 90s - so in both cases Azeri Turks had nothing to do with the actual fight, they just used friendly Turkish and Soviet troops to take Armenian lands. Now Azerbaijan is an occupational power still holding Artsakh and Armenia proper lands and settling Kurdish nomadic tribes from Turkey and Iran there.
In Response

by: Mephisto from: Megiddo
August 25, 2011 09:57
Which armenian lands? What you are talking about? There was no Armenia till May 27, 1918. And the territories of modern day Armenia were mainly populated by muslims - azerbaijanians, turks and kurds. Look at this 1856 made map by J. Grassl. Most of the territories of modern Armenia has had turkic names -
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
August 27, 2011 04:01

Dear Maphisto Nomad-ogly,

Armenia existed long before your nomadic Turkic-speaking ancestors arrived to this land from the Altai mountains of what is now Russian Siberia. The Turkic names are all over the places where this nomadic civilization committed genocides and killed well developed civilizations (from Central Asia all the way to Vienna, Austria) - the Turkic nomads had not much imagination coming from the flat steppes of what is now Mongolia-Kazakhstan so they named every hill a Black Mountain and every town they destroyed as "White Grave - Astana" in their own language.

The linguists say that they didn't have much choice because at the time of this brutal concur they had ONLY about 800 words in their vocabulary - equal to a 7 year old and enough to herd sheep... The rest of the Turkic language is "borrowed" from Farsi, Arabic, and other civilized languages on their bloody way from East to West.

So, if your argument is that so-called "Istanbul" is a Turkic city just because the nomadic invading Turks could not pronounce a 1000-years old Constantinople, and every mountain ridge should be called "Montenegro" or "Black Mountains" or "Black Garden" or "Nagorno-Karabakh" then you should go back to your ancestral Black Altai Mountains and re-settle there in the ultimate BLACK ALTAI MOUNTAINS of all Turks in Caravan Sarays equipped with Bazaars.
In Response

by: Mephisto from: Megiddo
September 06, 2011 04:50
Charles-Louis Montesquieu about turks:

OF all the nations of the world none has excelled that of the Tartars in the splendour and magnitude of its conquests. This people is the veritable ruler of the earth: all the others seem to be intended for its service; it is alike that founder and the destroyer of empires; in all times, it has afforded the world signs of its prowess; in every age it has been the scourge of the nations.
Twice the Tartars conquered China, and they still keep it in subjection.
They rule over those vast territories which form the Mogul’s empire.
Masters of Persia, they sit upon the throne of Cyrus and Hystaspes. They have subdued Muscovy. Under the name of Turks, they have made immense conquests in Europe, Asia, and Africa; and they are the dominant power in these three quarters of the earth.

In more remote times, from them issued forth some of those races who overthrew the Roman Empire.

What are the conquests of Alexander compared with those of Zenghis Khan?
Nothing is wanted to this victorious nation except historians to celebrate its achievements.

What immortal deeds have been buried in oblivion! Of how many empires founded by them is the origin unknown to us! This warlike nation, occupied exclusively with its immediate glory, and certain of conquest in every age, gave no thought to the commemoration of its fame.

by: Yashar from: yashar.birmandi@hotmail.c
August 19, 2011 03:38
This comment by Soltan, an analyst of Iranian affairs, is sheer nonsense - "Tehran is pressuring Azerbaijan to send a signal to Baku's more powerful ally, Turkey, over one of Iran's key foreign-policy preoccupations, Syria."
How on earth can he call himself an analyst when he does not know the underlying reasons for Iranian regime's enmity towards Azerbaijan - every high school student in Baku knows that !
Publishing this kind of nonsense is bad for Radio Free Europe's reputation. Please contact those who are aware of the elementray aspects of Baku-Tehran relations.

by: Elshan from: Baku
August 19, 2011 04:12
THIS SHOULD BE THE MOST LAUGHABLE COMMENT - "Iran is sending a message to Turkey," wrote Markar Esayan in "Today's Zaman." "A message saying it is willing to take action against the PKK in return for concessions by Turkey regarding the Syrian issue. To Turkey [the message is] you have a dominant role in the uprisings in Syria, which is an indispensible ally to us in the region. If you give up on Syria, we will deal with the PKK together; otherwise, we will become allies with the PKK."
Iran is having difficulties in dealing with PJAK and Turkey has not managed to defeat PKK after years of fighting it. SO HOW COULD IRAN DEFEAT PKK ?
Turkey is a major player in the region, but it simply does not have that sort of power to dictate it policy to Syria or give Assad an ulitimatum. Delusional fantasies of Turkey's power is a trade mark of some Turkish officials and journalists. Please do not encourage them by quoting from Zaman. It is bad for Radio Liberty's reputation.

by: Jason from: Seattle
August 20, 2011 10:04
Seriously how many friends does Iran really have? Only Russian-puppet state Armenia. Iran has threatened Israel, Europe and the United States and now its Azerbaijan's turn. For any reasonable person it is obvious Iran is a danger to the free world. And that danger must be eliminated like a cancer. I say "bomb Iran" and break it into smaller pieces, like this article says with the Azerbaijanis in Northern Iran. Iran, Armenia and Russia are the enemies of the free world.
In Response

by: Mary Stone from: Washington DC
August 20, 2011 21:27
Hezbollah already handed Israel a crushing defeat in the last Lebanon war ... more countries in the region respect Iran than Israel or the U.S. This is clear.
In Response

by: George from: United States
August 23, 2011 01:06
Armenians living in Russia have contributed a lot to Russian science, business and art. Russians are very thankful for that. Armenians have fought for Russian many times and so the Russians for Armenians. Armenia is not Russia’s puppet; they just have common interests in the region. Also, it is not that easy to bomb Iran. Iran is not like any other Arab state. Watch what you wish for because it might come to hunt you. Iran is much more respected in the region that Turks, Israelis, or even Americans. They have 5,000 years of history in the region and you should not under estimate that!! They have always been the big bosses of the region.
In Response

by: Azeri from: Canada
August 23, 2011 11:28
"Iran is much more respected in the region that Turks, Israelis, or even Americans"
A typical Fars (so called Persian delusion). Respected by whom???

by: brad allen from: Canada
August 20, 2011 11:34
Israel had a clear and long relationship in the south sudan split form sudan. With arms and advisors, Israel's long term survival depends on splitting countries around it so no unified foreign policy. The fact that Israel is in Azb and wooing the kurds is part of this plan. Israel will actively work to get Kurds on its side while promising them support for their own state which can only come with splitting up other countries in the area thus weakning their ability to fight the zionists. Azb has already provided Israel with an airfield which they can use to support any bombing of Iran.

by: Peter Walton from: Australia
August 20, 2011 21:24
Further proof the US and Israel are seeking to surround and destabilize Russia & China by focussing their influence in Central Asia and the Caucuses. It's all a prelude for the bigger targets: Russia and China.

by: Azeri from: Azerbaijan-Tabriz
August 23, 2011 11:17
Azeri people who are under occupation of Fars facists has no common background with those who call themselves Persian. They are systematically being abused and bullied by Iraninans.. We share no culture with Fars and we are not Iraninans no matter how mush they try to teach this to our kids in schools. We are Turks
And about Iran, Iran has no power to warn anyone. Iran is doomed and will be segragated into the pieces

by: Hassan from: Canada
August 24, 2011 15:59
Iran's Persian-Shi'ite-dictator government will be divided into probably five country soon. South and north Azerbaijan will be joined together under new democratic country. Persian-Shi'ite government is not problem after Shi'ite Syrian and Hezbollah. All non Persian ethnics are awake today. In our schools children send Turkish messages together. Internet, Facebook and weblog caused our people to be awake. Iran is governed by Turkic people for more than 800 years. But now the situation is different. Little but uni-ethnical countries are taking place. Any big country cannot be governed under dictatorship regime. Ninety years of Persian domination proved that this extremist Shi'ite people know nothing about democracy and respect to other ethnics. So the Iran's non-Persians like Arabs, Kurdish, Azerbaijani's, Turkmens, Baloochs and etc. want to establish their own countries. We have nothing with moron Firouzabadi's bullshits! he know nothing about diplomacy and at least respect! When he don't respect to his own people so lets him to go tnto hell!
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
August 27, 2011 04:10

Wishful thinking - just because Iranian people were forced to speak Turkic dialect - they didn't turn into nomadic Turks and have nothing in common with the Caucasian Tartars whom Bolshevik Stalin ordered to call "Azerbaijanis" - the rare nation in the world that is called by a made up geographic name rather then a historical ethnic development.
In Response

by: Hassan from: Canada
August 27, 2011 15:25
The only nomadic people in Iran were and are the Persians! You can go to Mashhad and see the way they live! I can refer you to the words they use, e.g. Gashoq (a Turkish word for spoon), Boshqab (a Turkish word for dish), Otaq (a Turkish word for room), Odjaq (a Turkish word for stove) and other words which show they learned Urbanization from Turks! Btw, Azeries (in north or south) are one unique people with one body and one soul. The historic name of Azerbaijan was and is Azerbaijan! It contains Azerbaijan + Aran + Hamadan + Qashqay Land + Afshar Land + Irevan + etc. These are the historic Azerbaijan’s provinces. I suggest you to read some basic historic books.

by: orhan Ertugruloglu from: the Netherlands
August 26, 2011 06:46
Iran was part of Azerbaijan up to 1828. She was divided into two , the North given to Russia and South given to so called Iran. The Azeri's-The Safavids-(Shah Ismail Hatai) were the founders of Iran. the Turkish Dynasties ruled Iran up to 1925. In 1925, The Turkish Speaking Kacar Dynasy was ousted from power by Coup d'etat and the farsi speaking Pahlavi Dynasty for the first time in Iran's history came to power. British were behind the coup. If Azerbaijan would not be divided, Iran would be a Turkish Spekaing country now. The Shii interpretaion of Islam was also introduced to Iran by the Turkish tribes like, Black Sheep, White Sheep , Kizilbash, Tekeli and Avshar misgrating from Anatolia. During the 12th and 13th Century (Omer Khayyams era) Iran was a Sunni country.
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
August 27, 2011 04:18

There was no Azerbaijan in 1828 - stop your Pan-Turkic mythology lies!! There were no "Azerbaijanis" until Stalin Bolsheviks invented them in 1936.

It is wrong to identify every Iranian whose ancestors were forcible Turkified into speaking Turkic dialects as Turks. 200 years of nomadic Turkic yoke can make you speak Turkic dialect but not to change your culture into a nomad. Thousands years of Iranian civilization could not be displaced with a historically short-term Turkic nomadic nonsense.
In Response

by: areaderabroad from: Turkey
August 28, 2011 19:22
well, where was the Persian Empire then dude?
which history shows that Iran used to be part of Turkey. i think you got it back wards. Persian Empire had from south of Russia way to Iraq, Afghan, ...
when they got divided, where Turkey is today, everyone before the time of Ataturk used to speak and write in Azeri. So, in theory, the whole continent was under Persian Empire with Persian blood in them. God blesses Ataturk soul who gave life to Turkey by changing the language from writing right to left in Azeri to Latin from left to right.
but again, if you look at the skin color, hair, many cultural values and family regards, the two nations still share same attributes.
thank you for reading.

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