Iran Deploys New Military Equipment and Forces to Azerbaijani Border

Orkhan Jalilov Feature 11 October 2021
Iran Deploys New Military Equipment and Forces to Azerbaijani Border

Iran has sent new equipment and forces to its northwestern borders amid tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan and Turkey following their recent military drills near border areas.

“We do not have any security problems and our border guards are protecting the country’s borders, and we have sent new equipment and forces to the borders,” Iran’s Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari said on October 9, referring to the recent developments in the country’s northwestern borders.

Tensions between Iran and Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan have risen in the past several weeks over military drills in border areas of the two neighboring Caspian littoral states. 

On October 1, Iran held a large-scale drill close to its border with Azerbaijan in response to the joint military exercise codenamed “Three Brothers - 2021” carried out by Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Pakistan in mid-September. On October 5, Iran closed its airspace for Azerbaijani military cargo flights to Nakhchivan, ahead of the “Indestructible Brotherhood” military drills of Azerbaijan and Turkey, which took place in the Azerbaijani exclave that borders Iran, Armenia, and Turkey on October 5-8. 

Relations between Tehran and Baku have also soured following illegal trips by Iranian lorries to certain parts of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region, where the Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily deployed. On August 11, Iran’s ambassador to Azerbaijan received a Note Verbal from the foreign ministry in addition to an earlier verbal notification about Baku’s dissatisfaction with the illegal transit of goods to the Karabakh region.

However, the verbal notification and Note Verbal were ineffective in settling the controversy. Around 60 Iranian trucks illegally traveled to the Karabakh region from August 11 to September 11. The trucks moved from Iran to Armenia, then to the Karabakh region via the Lachin corridor. 

Later, some media reported that Azerbaijan’s police and customs officials began imposing road tax on Iranian truck drivers on the Azerbaijani part of the interstate Gorus-Gafan highway. On September 13, Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee said in a statement that vehicles of foreign countries are subjected to road tax when entering and leaving the country under the legislation. 

On September 15, Azerbaijan detained two Iranian truck drivers for illegally crossing into the territory of Azerbaijan.

In addition, Tehran also accused Baku of accommodating Israeli “presence” near Iran’s borders. However, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev described the allegations about the presence of the Israeli forces in the country’s territories as “groundless.”

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies Rashad Nabiyev has recently met with Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Issa Zarepur in Istanbul on the sidelines of the Transport and Communications Council session to discuss the development of bilateral relations.

In the meantime, Iran’s north-western province has reopened its land border crossings with Turkey, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iraq, after 19 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The borders of this province were reopened for passengers and vehicles the traffic since this morning” Ali Mostafavi, a deputy governor general of the Iranian north-western province of West Azerbaijan, told the state-run news agency IRNA on October 8. 

He added that “according to the decision, those who intend to enter and leave the borders of West Azerbaijan must be vaccinated and need to carry a negative PCR test result”.

West Azerbaijan shares three border checkpoints with Turkey and one each with Iraq and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The province’s border crossings had been closed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020.

Iranian officials have repeatedly voiced their concern about the alleged presence of the Israeli forces along the border between Iran and Azerbaijan, but Baku denies the allegations.

On October 8, Iranian Border Guards Commander Brig-Gen Ahmad Ali Goudarzi said that Tehran is monitoring Israeli agents in the neighboring Azerbaijan, and accused Israeli intelligence of actively fomenting tensions between the two countries. 

Goudarzi said that that while it was “proven” Israel had a presence in Azerbaijan, precise information wasn’t available on how many military bases they had, and added that the country had the most Israeli presence of all Iran’s northwestern neighbors.

He said that Israelis had a presence in “sensitive areas” in the armed forces of several of Iran’s neighbors, where they carried out intelligence work, and added “they are completely under surveillance. They are completely under the intelligence bombardment of the Islamic Republic”.