A terrorist is shooting at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran on January 27, 2023. A frame from a surveillance camera

A terrorist is shooting at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran on January 27, 2023. A frame from a surveillance camera

The attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran on January 27, during which a diplomat was killed, regardless of the attacker's officially declared motive, is seen as a political act, the trail of which stretches from last year's August attack by a radical Shiite group on the Azerbaijani embassy in London.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has already described the event as political, calling the attack a terrorist act. "...We demand a speedy investigation of this terrorist attack and punishment of the terrorists. Terrorist attacks against diplomatic missions are unacceptable!" Aliyev wrote on Twitter.

The version of the conspiracy of radical Iranian circles against Baku is weakened by the facts of the attack in the last decade of last year on the Azerbaijani diplomatic missions of Armenian radicals in Paris, Washington, Beirut, which can show the terrorist attack in Tehran as a widespread phenomenon caused by an emotional echo of the aggravation of relations between Baku and the Armenian-Iranian axis. But it is not so.

The Iranian-Azerbaijani relations since the declaration of independence of the Azerbaijani state have always been strained due to different vectors of development: Iran is a clerical state accused of supporting terrorism, and Azerbaijan is a state that stands its development on secular principles. In this sense, the parties see each other as a mutual threat.

The latest upsurge in the aggravation of Iranian-Azerbaijani relations, and unprecedented before, begins on August 4, 2022, when members of the radical Shiite group The Mahdi Servants Union broke into the building of the Azerbaijani embassy in London, staging a pogrom.

Further, the aggravation went on increasing after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 as a result of her beating by the Iranian vice police for violating the dress code.

This death blew up Iran, giving rise to the “hijab revolution”, in which all layers and ethnic groups of the country took part, including Azerbaijanis, representing a significant layer of the Iranian ethnos. It was they who were at the forefront of the anti-Shah revolution of 1979 and always presented a problem to the clerical regime, which overthrew the banner of the young Iranian democracy and eliminated the many years of total rule of the mullahs.

Tehran hastened to explain what is happening as interference and indulgence of external forces, including Azerbaijan. Before the visit of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to Azerbaijan, which took place on October 3, Iranian Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri accused Baku of interfering in Iran's internal affairs. And on the site associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), there was information that Azerbaijan, Israel and Turkey are transporting weapons to the territory of Iran.

Troops were deployed to the northern frontiers of Iran populated by Azerbaijanis. The show of force by war was accompanied by political rhetoric. On October 17, the day before the celebration of the Independence Day by the Republic of Azerbaijan, the exercises of the ground forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) began in the Araz River area in the provinces of East Azerbaijan and Ardabil.

Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, Commander of the IRGC Ground Forces, announced: “The message of these exercises for neighboring countries is peace and friendship, strengthening stability in the region, and for enemies, it is a demonstration of the readiness of the IRGC Ground Forces, along with other armed forces, to defend the borders of the country and respond decisively to any threat". It is noteworthy that this time Baku acted confidently and adequately.

On November 1, the State Security Service of Azerbaijan announced the exposure of an illegal armed group operating under the control of the Iranian special service.

A day later, on November 2, the exercises of the military units of the Special Forces of the Azerbaijani Army in the border zone with Iran began.

On November 7, the Ministry of Information and Intelligence of Iran accused Azerbaijan of organizing a terrorist attack on October 26 in a mosque in the city of Shiraz, where at least 13 people were killed.

At the same time, a report appeared in the Cypriot press about the arrest in Cyprus of Orkhan Asadov, an Azerbaijani citizen recruited by the IRGC, who was supposed to carry out the murder of five Israelis.

On November 11, the US Department of State reacted to Iran's recently intensified rhetoric against its neighbors in the region, including Azerbaijan. “It was very clear to us that Iran was a threat to the region,” spokesman Ned Price said at a daily press conference.

A TURAN correspondent asked Price about the heightened tensions between Tehran and Baku in recent weeks following Iran's mounting accusations against Azerbaijan, and whether Washington is prepared to defend Iran's neighbors like Azerbaijan if Tehran's rhetoric continues. "We will continue to support our partners, and ultimately resist the destabilizing influence that Iran has - in the region and possibly beyond," Price said.

Baku at that time continued to make political demarches.

On November 11, at the summit of the Organization of Turkic States, President Aliyev called on his colleagues not to remain indifferent to the problems of their compatriots abroad. “Unfortunately, most of the 40 million Azerbaijanis living outside of Azerbaijan are deprived of these opportunities,” Aliyev said, referring to ethnic Azerbaijanis living in South (Iranian) Azerbaijan.

On the same day, Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Seyyed Abbas Mousavi was summoned to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, where he was expressed dissatisfaction with the anti-Azerbaijani campaign launched in the Iranian media.

On November 14, the State Security Service of Azerbaijan announced that 5 citizens of the country had been exposed for spying for Iran. On the same day, a group of Iranian deputies sharply reacted to the statements of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the 9th summit of Turkic states on the language rights of Azerbaijanis living outside of Azerbaijan.

The severity of relations began to decrease as the tension in Iran itself decreased. On New Year's Eve, Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Abdullahian called his Baku counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov and congratulated the Azerbaijani people on the holiday. A process for restoring friendly relations was proposed.

This happened at a time when the authorities and the people calmed down in the "hijab confrontation", which testified to a certain balance of forces that were not able to turn the tide of events in their favor. Although, by and large, the refusal of the authorities from the classic broad repression can already be seen as a defeat.

As we can see, the rise and fall of tension in relations is most of all connected with the internal problems of Iran, and in the future, we should expect another more serious complication because the “hijab revolution”, which has taken a break, as a reflection of the crisis of the regime, will certainly manifest itself in a broader political context. It's a matter of time.


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