Russia and Iran Might Be Behind the Flare-Up in the Caucasus

Last month, one of the cold war’s so-called “frozen conflicts” grew hot when Armenia attacked border outposts in neighboring Azerbaijan, killing eleven soldiers and one civilian. Most observers have linked the attack to the two countries’ decades-long conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region—occupied by Armenia since the early 1990s—but Irina Tsukerman argues that larger geopolitical forces are at play:

[T]his most recent attack was not launched from the occupied region, but rather along the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in close proximity to geopolitically essential oil pipelines. . . . The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, [which flows from Azerbaijan, through Georgia and Turkey, to the Mediterranean], provides Israel with 40 percent of its oil, but also ensures that Russia and Iran cannot monopolize delivery to Europe and Israel from the Caspian region.

Azerbaijan, already a top competitor to Russia and Iran in supplying European energy needs, is about to bypass Armenia and Russia to become a significant supplier of [natural] gas to southern Europe via the Southern Gas Corridor, which is scheduled to be fully operational by year’s end. The diversification of Europe’s natural-gas sources undermines Russian and Iranian political power, which is premised on the threat of leaving Europe out in the cold.

Indeed, in retrospect, there were warning signs, such as Iran’s growing presence in the vicinity and more direct assistance to Armenia for weeks prior to the attack. . . . Armenia and Russia are also interested in developing joint military forces. Not only is Russia completely running the show, but it is increasingly erasing any semblance of Armenia’s independence and asserting its own military presence in the region in a manner that can only be described as menacing.

In short, the Armenian attack served the interests of Tehran and Moscow, at the expense of those of Jerusalem, Ankara, and Europe.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Armenians, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy