Iran & Armenia draw closer; Armenia politically exploits Turkey-Israel rift

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev states Israel-Azerbaijan relations are strong, despite the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Iranian regime MFA meets with Armenia, increases trade coop

Armenian media exploits Turkey-Israel rift through rhetoric for political gains

Rachel Brooks

Geopolitical commentary 

May 27, 2021 

Opinions expressed in this article are attributed solely to the author. 

On Wednesday, Mehr Agency wrote that the Iranian regime’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif met with the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Ara Ayvazyan. The two ministers met in Yerevan to discuss regional security. Zarif stated that the peace in the Caucasus “matters much” to the Islamic Republic’s national security. 

“Zarif described the Caucasus as a crucial region and the maintenance of its security and peace as a matter of Iran’s national security,” wrote Mehr Agency. 

The acting foreign minister of Armenia highlighted the importance of continued cooperation with the Islamic Republic. 

“The acting foreign minister of Armenia, for his part, pointed to the cooperation agreements between the two countries, stressing that the importance of regular talks between the leaders of the two countries,” wrote Mehr Agency. 

Iran continues to stress the importance of the Karabakh conflict to the IRGC’s national policy agenda. The meeting on Wednesday was one of a consecutive series of meetings between IRGC leaders and Armenia’s leaders. On May 24, the Asbarez Armenia media outlet wrote with regards to a meeting between the acting Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia Mher Grigoryan and the Islamic Republic’s Urban Development Minister Mohammed Eslami which occurred May 24. 

Armenia assured Iran that the “possibility of a corridor” would “never be discussed” with Azerbaijan, wrote Asbarez. 

“Yerevan gave assurances to Iran that the issue of creating a ‘corridor’ with Azerbaijan has not been and will never be discussed by Armenia, during talks on Monday between Armenia’s Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan and Iran’s Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami, who is visiting Armenia,” wrote Asbarez. 

Eslami continued to voice the IRGC’s support of “Armenia’s land integrity”, wrote Asbarez, during the meeting with the Deputy Foreign Minister. The IRGC has concerns regarding economic corridors and shifting of land control back to Azerbaijan, due to Azerbaijani cooperation with Israel in terms of regional surveillance. Iranian propaganda outlets have accused Israel of “stirring up trouble” in the Karabakh conflict. 

Iran and Armenia continued to pave the way for further cooperation. PressTV wrote on May 24 that Armenia and Iran had agreed to drop transshipment charges during the meeting between Armenian Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan and Eslami. As transshipment charges were waived, Eslami noted that Iran has a great interest in advancing its existing trade with Armenia. 

“Iran has increasingly used trade routes through Armenia since it signed a preferential trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in October 2019. Trade with Armenia, an EAEU member, and other countries in the bloc surged to $3.4 billion in the year to late March, according to figures by the Iranian customs office IRICA,” wrote Press TV. 

The report by Press TV was further corroborated by the Iranian Mehr Agency, which wrote that President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA) Mehdi Mir-Ashrafi and Edvard Hovhannisyan Chairman of the State Revenue Committee of Armenia had met and held talks likewise on May 24. The two officials discussed methods to “boost and increase bilateral cooperation in issues of mutual interests.”

“If Iran’s membership is finalized in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), it is expected that Armenia, as the gateway for the entry of Iran to Eurasian market, would play a key role in increasing bilateral exchanges between Iran and EAEU as well as reduction of time clearing and discharging goods and commodities to a great extent,” wrote Mehr Agency. 

The growing cooperation between Iran and Armenia has signaled concern for Israel’s security. Mutual support between Armenia’s politically fractured republic and the Iranian regime could bode ill for Israel’s national security, which was thrown into upheaval during the Israel-Hamas 2021 conflict episode that lasted for 11 days. 

Geopolitical experts have stated that, while Iran has voiced mediative support of both Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict, the Islamic Republic has closer ties with Armenia.  This, experts estimate, is due to the robust defense agreement between Azerbaijan and Israel. The Jerusalem Post wrote with regards to this relationship on May 25. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev spoke with The Nizami Ganjavi International Center on Thursday and stated that Azerbaijan has “full access” to “sophisticated Israeli weaponry” as Israel continues to support the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in the region.

Aliyev likewise addressed the Anti-Defamation League regarding the status of Azerbaijani-Israeli relations in the wake of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Aliyev assured the meeting that the relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel was secure despite the surge of political uproar over the recent conflict.

“Answering the question about our relations with Israel, I want to say that our relations are very diverse. We are active trading partners, and the volume of our trade is increasing … One of the important areas of our cooperation is the defense industry. This collaboration has been going on for many years. It is no secret that Azerbaijan has full access to Israeli defense industry products. Right now, we are already at the stage of new progress in this area,” said Aliyev, as he was quoted by The Jerusalem Post.  

This stance stands in sharp contrast to the Turkish president’s heated rhetoric in opposition to Israel. The opposing views of Turkey and Azerbaijan regarding Israel is a geopolitical issue that Armenia and Iran could use to their geopolitical advantages. The Armenian Weekly commented on this polarized viewpoint on May 26. 

“Azerbaijan’s infatuation with Israel initially started by copying the behavior of its “elder brother” Turkey, which had gone out of its way to curry favor with Israel and American Jewish organizations to be on the good side of the US government and to counter the Armenian-American community’s efforts in Congress to have the Armenian Genocide acknowledged,” wrote The Armenian Weekly. 

As the American stance toward Turkey appears to stiffen under the Biden administration, and likewise, as the American government’s position toward the Israel alliance appears incoherent, political actors such as Armenia and Iran may find an opportunity to exploit tense rhetoric to advance the purposes of lobbyism. At the same time, Azerbaijan has the potential to mediate the heated relationship between Israel and Turkey, as an ally of both nations, as was seen when Azerbaijan suggested hosting a trilateral summit between the three nations.