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

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy