Following President Herzog's visit to Azerbaijan, Tehran warns the rulers of Baku against further developing relations with Israel and promises that it will know how to deal with this problem. "Azerbaijan," Iran's leader mouthpiece, wrote:
At a time when most of the Muslim world has realized the folly of trusting the US, let alone forging ties with archenemies of the Islamic Ummah, such as the illegal Zionist entity, a land in our immediate neighborhood which for over two millenniums was an integral part of Iran and which was forcibly separated from the motherland through colonial designs, has been establishing unnatural relations with Israel and attempting to demonize the Islamic Republic.
"Kayhan" maintains that the people of the Caucasus Republic of Azerbaijan have a long and close relationship with Iran and share a common history, culture, and religion. The two countries share a common border and are both Shia-majority countries. "This has not been welcomed by US imperialism, Zionism, or some divisive forces in the region."
Iran claims that the people of Azerbaijan are not interested in developing closer ties with the United States and Israel and that the Azerbaijani government is pushing for these relationships. "Kayhan" argues that "The result is the current wave of unwarranted hostility by some elements in Baku which have blundered in establishing diplomatic ties with the illegal Zionist entity and by the dictates of the Israelis, are trying in vain to disrupt the brotherly ties with the rest of the Iranian people."
Iran's Foreign Ministry's Spokesman expressed surprise at the recent travel advisory of the Republic of Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry to its citizens against traveling to Iran, calling it "insinuation from the fake Zionist regime." He tweeted that the Azeri people should be afraid of the "Zionist regime" and not the "civilized Islamic Republic of Iran."
"Kayhan" summed up by writing that this is only a "temporary situation, and it will soon be over, and the wise policies of Iran to promote Islamic solidarity will lead to the elimination of the Zionist entity from Palestine."
The strengthening of relations between Azerbaijan and Israel following the visit of the President of Israel and its Foreign Minister to Baku raises concerns for Iran regarding the potential increase of Israeli influence in its backyard.
Iran is wary of the potential intelligence-sharing between Azerbaijan and Israel, Israeli intelligence gathering from Azerbaijan, and Israeli presence on its borders, particularly in matters related to Iranian security - mainly its nuclear program infrastructure. This concern has been exacerbated recently in light of statements by the Prime Minister of Israel and military officials about Israel's willingness to thwart the nuclear threat, given the recent progress made by Iran.
Iran is also wary of the growing military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel. The latter has sold Azerbaijan various weapons, including drones, precision‐guided anti‐tank missiles (Spike LR), and artillery, and also provided training to Azerbaijani military personnel.
Iran perceives the closer ties between Azerbaijan and Israel as part of a broader effort to counterbalance Iran's influence in the region and encircle it geographically. This includes countering Iran's support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, its involvement in Syria, and its regional aspirations.
Iran views any external support for separatist movements as a direct threat to Iran's national security, unity, and stability. The government is concerned that Israel's support for Azerbaijan could extend to backing separatist movements within Iran, particularly those representing ethnic Azeris. The ethnic issue in Iran has been a sensitive subject for years, sometimes sparking protests and even violent confrontations in the areas where members of the Azeri minority reside.
The Iranian government fears that this support may fuel aspirations for independence among various ethnic minority groups within Iran, such as the Azeris, Kurds, Arabs, Balochs, and Turkmens. Iranian authorities worry that such actions may encourage calls for secession (''Greater Azerbaijan") or autonomy among these minority groups, leading to the fragmentation of Iran's territorial integrity.
The concern intensified following a letter signed (April 2023) by 32 Knesset (Israeli parliament) Members from both the coalition and the opposition that was sent to the Foreign Minister, urging for international forums to address the oppression faced by Azeris. In Tehran and among the regime's opposition, this move was seen as support for violating Iran's territorial integrity. The letter comes at a critical and sensitive time when the opposition groups to the regime are striving to form a united coalition in their struggle for the future of Iran.
The bottom line: Iran is deeply concerned about strengthening relations between Azerbaijan and Israel. It fears the potential increase in Israeli influence in its milieu, leading to intelligence-sharing, Israeli presence on its borders, and Israeli intelligence gathering related to Iranian security, particularly its nuclear program. Iran also worries about the growing military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel, including weapons sales and military training. Moreover, Iran perceives these ties as part of a broader effort to counterbalance its regional influence and encircle it geographically. The Iranian government views any external support for separatist movements, particularly among ethnic Azeris, as a direct threat to its national security, unity, and territorial integrity.
At this stage, Iran is only issuing implicit threats to the leadership of Azerbaijan, but should it feel threatened, it could potentially take more practical steps to dissuade it from getting even closer to Israel.