With the continuation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian war, Iran appears closer to Armenia, in addition to its historical support, which raises complex questions regarding the reasons for Iran’s support for Christian Armenia against Shiite Azerbaijan, despite Tehran’s policy that it is the leader of the Shiite world, while Sunni Turkey supports Azerbaijan.
It is noteworthy here that about 97% of the population of Azerbaijan are Muslims, 85% of them are Shiite Muslims, and 15% are Sunnis. The Republic of Azerbaijan has the second highest percentage of Shiite Muslims in the world after Iran.
Azerbaijan is considered a secular country. A Gallup poll revealed that only 21% of respondents are from Azerbaijan that religion is an important part of their daily life.
Azerbaijan is considered a middle country between Iran, Turkey and Russia, geographically, politically, ethnically and historically, and the Azerbaijani language is the closest language of the Turkish group to the Turkish language of Turkey.
Azerbaijanis currently represent about 16% of the population of Iran, and the province of Azerbaijan, which is located in northern Iran, previously declared its independence from Iran and the establishment of the Azerbaijan People’s Republic in 1945, taking Tabriz as its capital, where this republic lasted one year before ending after the intervention of the Iranian army, With the support of the United States of America at that time.
Nationalism and sectarianism
In the context, Ali Bakir, a researcher at the Orsam Center for Studies in Ankara says, “Citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan belong to the Turkish ethnicity, and because most of the newly created countries after the First and Second World War were formed on a national basis and not on a religious basis, nationalism is superior to other elements. From this standpoint, the Azerbaijanis define themselves in terms of the Turkish national identity and not the Shiite sectarianism, and therefore they are closer to Turkey than to Iran. “
Bakir added to Al-Jazeera Net, “The Iranians do not view the citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan as Shiites loyal to the Ahl al-Bayt in the same way they view, for example, some Shiites loyal to them in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, and others, knowing that the Iranian influence in moving the sectarian identity of Azerbaijani citizens It had started in the last two decades. “
He pointed out that Azerbaijan’s adoption of the secular-national model places it in complete contradiction to the religious-sectarian model presented by Iran, in addition to that, the two sides view each other with great apprehension due to the contradictory model they represent.
Researcher Bakir believes that the sectarian element appears with the Iranian side’s fear that the success of the (secular-national) model of Azerbaijan poses a threat to the Iranian model, which presents itself from a sectarian angle so that the Azerbaijani model becomes attractive to Iranian Shiites and Iranian Azeris as well in a way that leads to undermining the Iranian religious rule model. .
Moreover, Azerbaijan was constantly afraid of the policy of exporting the revolution practiced by the Iranian regime and therefore protected itself through rapprochement to the West, which helped widen the gap between the two parties, especially with Iran’s orientation towards Russia to relieve Western pressure on it, according to Bakir.
The researcher at the Orsam Center considered that Iran is closer to Armenia, as they both rely on religion and sectarianism to mobilize the public, and Christian Armenia – unlike Azerbaijan – does not pose a threat to the Iranian model.
Bakir explained that Moscow’s interests intersected with Tehran’s interests in the face of the Turkish role, which is seen as a competitor to them in areas that Russia considers part of its former Soviet empire, and Iran historically considers it part of Greater Persia and of Persian culture.
“Therefore, immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow preferred to allow Iran a wide margin in this region as well to confront the Sunni rise in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Accordingly, Iran’s standing with Armenia is in fact a stand for Tehran against Turkey and not against the Shiites of Azerbaijan, as well as It safeguards Iran’s interests with Russia in the region. “
Political and historical reasons
For his part, the leader of the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party, Rasul Tosun, said that Iran supports Christian Armenia for fear of the increase in the power of its neighbor Azerbaijan, in addition to the fact that millions of Azerbaijanis live in northern Iran, which fears their move in the interest of Azerbaijan, so Iran supports Armenia for political reasons.
As for Sunni Turkey’s support for Shiite Azerbaijan, Tosson told Al-Jazeera Net that this is due to nationalist reasons, as most of the Azeris are of the Turkic nationality, “just as we consider the Turks and Azerbaijanis as one people in two countries,” as well as for economic reasons such as gas and oil, as well as strategic reasons, Where Azerbaijan is the eastern geographical gateway to Turkey.
Regarding the reason for Ankara’s hostility to Armenia, Tosson attributed it to the historical dispute between Turkey and Armenia, and the latter’s adherence to the allegations of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottomans, and Ankara’s demand to recognize it.
The Turkish leader did not rule out the possibility of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish alliance in Nagorny Karabakh, similar to the Syrian file, but he would not be able to solve the problem except by the withdrawal of Armenia from the occupied territories, without which Turkey would not accept any step that justifies the occupation, according to Toson.
Observers believe that Ankara, with its support for Baku, is seeking to gain a foothold in the Caucasus region on the Russian border, to have a strong pressure card in its negotiations with Russia, and to obtain concessions from Moscow in the Syrian and Libyan file.