Russia and Iran Are On The Same Page Regarding Armenia

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Conor here: It’s difficult to keep track of all the neocons’ machinations, but the efforts to stir up trouble, but efforts in the Caucasus to use Armenia look to be hitting a few major roadblocks. The thinking in neocon circles is that should there be another conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it would potentially lead to a wider regional conflict with Iran backing Armenia and frustrating Russia’s efforts to diffuse tensions in its backyard.

If Korybko is right, Tehran and Moscow are unwilling to play into Washington’s hands. The same could be said for Baku and Tehran foiling neocon dreams to use Azerbaijanis in Iran to further their goal of regime change there.

One has to wonder if Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is really prepared to enlist Armenia as another US proxy or if he’s making an attempt to play both sides for Armenia’s benefit like his Turkish neighbor Erdogan does for Turkiye. The problem is Armenia doesn’t hold as strong of a hand, and Pashinyan isn’t as skilled at the game as Erdogan.

By Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based American political analyst who specializes in the global systemic transition to multipolarity in the New Cold War. He has a PhD from MGIMO, which is under the umbrella of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Originally published at his website

The Iranian leadership doesn’t share some of its online supporters’ misinformed economic views nor their ultra-nationalist ones, which is why Foreign Minister Abdollahian just scolded Armenia for its joint US drills instead of signaled interest to militarily intervene in that country’s support against Azerbaijan like they wanted.

Press TV reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed concern to his Armenian counterpart during a call on Wednesday about the presence of US military forces in that South Caucasus country. 85 American soldiers are carrying out drills there from 11-20 September, which coincides with a drastic deterioration of Russian-Armenian relations. Here are some background briefings for those who haven’t been closely following this situation:

* “It’s Easy To See Why Russia Is So Dissatisfied With The Armenian Premier’s Latest Interview

* “Armenia’s Three Latest Anti-Russian Provocations Risk Sparking Another Karabakh Conflict`”

* “The US Would Be Delighted If Iran Was Dragged Into Any New Conflict Over Karabakh

In short, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – who came to power after the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” – has capitulated to pressure from the ultra-nationalist French- and US-based diaspora to become the West’s newest proxy for dividing-and-ruling the region by clinging to his country’s failed irredentist crusade. Tensions predictably soared with Azerbaijan as a result of his failure to comply with the terms of the Moscow-mediated November 2020 ceasefire, which recently prompted worries about another war.

Social media accounts sympathetic to Iran’s worldview wildly speculated that the Islamic Republic might militarily intervene against Azerbaijan in Armenia’s support if another conflict breaks out. This saber-rattling thankfully abated after Foreign Minister Abdollahian spoke to his Azerbaijan counterpart on Monday and received reassurances from him that Baku doesn’t plan to attack Armenia. He then talked to Armenia’s top diplomat two days later and conveyed his displeasure with that country’s joint US drills.

The odds of Iran getting dragged into any new conflict over Karabakh therefore receded, and this couldn’t have come at a better time since Russian-Armenian relations continue to worsen. Yerevan confirmed that it’ll ratify the Rome Statute, which will legally obligate the authorities to arrest President Putin if he ever visits in spite of Armenia still nominally remaining a member of the Russian-led CSTO. Pashinyan then dropped two bombshells in an interview with Politico that was published on Wednesday.

Most of the international media headlines focused on his claim that Armenia no longer considers Russia to be a reliable guarantor of its security, but what he said about how “the EU and the United States are also supporting us when it comes to democratic reforms agenda” was equally important. These statements suggest an impending divorce between those two official allies in the coming future since Armenia is openly pivoting away from Russia towards the West on security and governance matters.

It therefore shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone that Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a press conference on the same day that his interview debuted that “more and more questions come up” about Armenia’s latest moves. She was specifically responding to its plans to ratify the Rome Statute, but added that “This is not merely an isolated move, which, as the Armenian side clearly understood, would raise questions from us, it is a series of connected moves”.

A day later, Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky said that:

“Now Washington is ready to ‘help’ Yerevan, apparently dreaming of creating a new anti-Russian foothold in South Caucasus. But all its plans to weaken Russia are crumbling before our eyes. This is what we should remember! ‘Sponsorship’ from across the ocean has not benefited any country in the world, bringing only misery and grief, blood and destruction. And this is exactly what American-style ‘partnership’ and ‘development assistance’ eventually leads to.”

These strong words show just how upset Russia is at Armenia’s pro-Western pivot.

Against this context, Russian-Iranian ties might have become strained had Tehran not earlier scolded Yerevan, which is why it was earlier assessed that Foreign Minister Abdollahian’s call with his Armenian counterpart and the publicly reported contents thereof couldn’t have come at a better time. The Islamic Republic soberly assessed the emerging strategic situation in the South Caucasus and concluded that it’s not worth risking a wider war with Azerbaijan and by extent Turkiye for the sake of the US’ newest proxy.

Iranian policymakers deserve credit for rebuffing the public pressure recently put upon them by those social media accounts sympathetic to their worldview who agitated for that country to militarily intervene in Armenia’s support against Azerbaijan should regional hostilities resume. Those people might have intended to signal support for what they sincerely believed to be Iran’s national interests, but they veritably lacked a proper understanding of the aforesaid as proven by subsequent developments.

One of the most popular arguments that these influencers put forth to justify the scenario of Iran waging war against Azerbaijan was the supposed need to prevent Baku from cutting off its trade corridor with Armenia. They made it seem like that would crush the Iranian economy, but Iranian-Armenian trade was only $711 million last year. When compared to Iran’s estimated $388 billion GDP in 2022, this accounts for a statistically insignificant portion of the economy that’s not worth fighting a larger war over.

The other argument bandied about by many of those same people is that Azerbaijan is supposedly a “fake country” due to its people’s multi-millennia civilizational ties with Iran that were only severed as a result of Russia’s imperial expansion in the 19th century. They therefore claim that this country “doesn’t deserve to exist” and should thus be forcibly reabsorbed by Iran despite the will of the Azeri people. Those who hold these views would do well to read what President Putin wrote about Ukraine in 2021:

“Things change: countries and communities are no exception. Of course, some part of a people in the process of its development, influenced by a number of reasons and historical circumstances, can become aware of itself as a separate nation at a certain moment. How should we treat that? There is only one answer: with respect! You want to establish a state of your own: you are welcome!”

Just like Russia accepts Ukraine’s independent statehood in spite of their millennium-long civilizational ties, so too should those social media accounts sympathetic to the Islamic Republic’s worldview accept Azerbaijan’s independent statehood in spite of its multi-millennia civilizational ties with Iran. To be clear, neither Ukraine nor Azerbaijan should exploit their independent statehood to threaten others, but Azerbaijan hasn’t been turned by the West into an anti-Iran like Ukraine was turned into an anti-Russia.

The Iranian leadership doesn’t share some of its online supporters’ misinformed economic views nor their ultra-nationalist ones, which is why Foreign Minister Abdollahian just scolded Armenia for its joint US drills instead of signaled interest to militarily intervene in that country’s support against Azerbaijan. His statement reinforces trust with Russia, protects the integrity of Iran’s anti-imperialist foreign policy by showing that it won’t be duped into backing an American proxy, and therefore stabilizes the region.

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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    “Don’t know much about history, don’t know much about geography.” I guess that the U.S. forgot the French they took, too. All one has to do is look at a map to see that Armenia is in a complicated and not-easily-defended place. With what? A population of six million?

    This is the U.S. elites kicking a hornets’ nest to see what may happen.

    One wonders about the traditional idea that Russia is a guarantee for the Orthodox countries adjacent to it. Armenians aren’t Orthodox, but falling for thinking that the U.S. of A. is going to fly in truly is delusional.

    As to Azerbaijanis and the problem of fake countries. There are even more Azerbaijanis is Iran–millions more. A friend of mine who is a Middle-East expert once mentioned that Azerbaijani Turkish was commonly spoken by the shahs and their circle. Likewise, the Ottoman court spoke Persian.

    Things in the Middle East are intertwined and complicated: But not in the way that the malign U.S. foreign-policy elites think.

    1. Polar Socialist

      I’m not saying that US isn’t interested in creating hot spots and brewing trouble in Russia’s borders, nor do I have much of knowledge of the area, but to me this looks more of Pashinyan being a dumbass of his own volition.

      Armenia is the weakest country in the region, and kinda short of friends already. Many commenters elsewhere have pointed out that Azerbaijan would be, for multiple reasons, more natural ally to both Iran and Russia. So Pashinyan turning to West, loosing a war, talking of giving up the whole Nagorno-Karabakh and then blaming Russia for everything doesn’t really sound to me like a plan.

      It does have the neocon symptoms of “making your own reality”, though.

      Meanwhile, the Armenian troops in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) went on high alert last night due to the movements of Azeri armed forces towards the line of contact.

    2. hk

      The relationship between Eastern Orthodox (eg Russia and Greece) and Oriental Orthodox (eg Armenia and Ethiopia) Churches is something that I was always curious about. While not quite strong an affinity as, say, between Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches (both Eastern Orthodox), my sense was always that there are fairly strong ties between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches compared to vis a vis the Catholics or the Protestants?

  2. ambrit

    The Caucus has been a hotbed of intrigue and “fell plots” for millennia.
    I wonder what effect the religious divides between Apostolic Christian Armenia and Shiite Iran has on this drama. Previously I would have expected the Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to tweak Iran’s nose by supporting the Azeris in this, but Arabia has recently “made up” with Iran. Could this more reserved policy of Iran be enabled by the relaxation of tensions between the Islamic countries in the region?
    Finally, hasn’t Armenia been paying attention to recent events in their region? Look at how well Georgia’s American prompted and backed adventurism turned out. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are now de facto autonomous regions “allied” with Russia. Also, to supply Armenia in any way, the Americans will have to get approval from Ankara to fly over or drive through Turkey with the needed supplies. A small “training” force, I can see doing this, but a full sized military supply effort for a national army?
    Some of the lineaments of the “new” multi polar world begin to take shape. America had better take heed now, before it loses all in futile “adventures.”

    1. hk

      Not to mention that Armenia would be warring against Turkey’s ally, Azerbaijan. It would be suicidal in many dimensions for Armenia to try this, as it would literally alienate all its neighbors (except Georgia, I guess–but they are treading carefully these days, too).

      I do imagine that a renewed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan would complicate relationship among Russia, Iran, and Turkey while making things uncomfortable for Georgia, which I’d guess to be the real design (in fact, the former is pretty much Korybko’s point, as I gather.)

  3. The Rev Kev

    Hard to see what Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan thinks he will get out of all his antics. Could it be that the EU and the US has promised him that one day he can go not only into the EU but also NATO? But Armenia has already lost one war against Azerbaijan and that was due to that country having a bigger economy and was able to afford more modern weapons. And that has not changed. Does he think that if he gets into trouble, that he could call in the US? The US is hard pressed to send weapons to the Ukraine and as ambrit points out, he saw how well that worked out for Georgia not that many years ago. Add in the fact that Armenia borders Turkiya who happens to be Azerbaijan’s ally to the east and that they have Iran to the south, they could very easily find themselves hung out to dry if they start something.

  4. Starry Gordon

    I would not go on the assumption that neocons / sociopaths / death-and-destruction worshipers would desire things to go well. A failed war, in terms of death and destruction, can be almost as gratifying as a successful one. So offering Armenia financial and other support to start a war could be considered a success even if Armenia loses.

  5. Susan the other

    Korybko’s report was very clear about the what but ignored the why. I’m speculating on the obvious, that all the talk and contention about oil, the Black Sea and Crimea being controlled by Russia is the objective. Skirmishes from Georgia to Dagestan probably do not foment because of ancient ethnic disputes. They probably happen because the West is literally desperate for oil and these countries’ cooperation is critical if the US, the UK and Israel are planning to take the oil/natgas from around the western rim of the Caspian and pipe it to Europe. It’s common knowledge that this is one of the plans now in the works. I’d just guess that that was what Burisma was all about. And the incomprehensible carnage in Ukraine. Oil is the no-brainer here and Nordstream was the tell.

  6. esmael ostadi

    I am an Iranian-American and travel to Iran annually and I have noticed that many Iranians do not have a clear understanding of the RealPolitik and geo-Political Pragmatism. They are also highly influenced by the Anti Iran propaganda outlets such as BBC Persian, VoA Persian, etc., so it does not surprise me that even the supporters of the regime in Iran do not understand the true nature of the events in The Caucuses. I was also astonished to notice that some Iranian websites and publications are very much anti Russian and Pro-Ukrainian to the point that I thought they were stationed in London or Washington DC and to my surprise they had an Iranian address in Tehran. Unfortunately most people in Iran do not have access, due to Iranian government denial of access and censorship; to sites such as NC, The Duran, or other NON-MSM outlets to educate themselves about the events taking place in the world but can easily access the Western Propaganda outlets through their Satellite TV’s. This perhaps explains why these Iranians have such a convoluted understanding of these events.

    1. ComradePuff

      Thank you for that. I see some of that in Russia as well as there is little barring Russians from propagandizing themselves on Western MSM. Generally they still support Russia, but they lack discernment when it comes to English language media, and tend to believe that if it is printed and presented in a serious manner, then it must be credible.

      Also just as an aside, Russia is full of Armenians who speak perfect Russian and are fully integrated into Russian society, while also being very nationalistic/tribal when it comes to Armenia.

      When Azerbaijan and Armenia have their spats, you see it on the streets in Moscow where both groups drive their cars with flags and are generally rowdy and visible.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        Can attest to all of that. Although here in Yekaterinburg, the numerous Armenians and Azerbaijanis kept it relatively calm when the conflict last went hot (as far as I recall, in any case). Their community leaders at least pointedly did not want any trouble and I don’t remember any major incidents, though obviously it caused a stir among them.


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