Afraid to Make New Enemies, Iran Wants to Stay Out of the Caucasus Conflict

Historically, Tehran has aligned with Christian Armenia over Shiite Muslim, but pro-Western, Azerbaijan. Yet the recent outbreak of fighting between the two former Soviet republics poses a dilemma for neighboring Iran, as members of its large population of ethnic Azeris have been vocally expressing their support for their brethren across the border. Alex Vatanka explains:

Azerbaijan, one of four Shiite Muslim-majority countries in the world (together with Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain), also happens to have close economic, military, and intelligence ties with Israel, Tehran’s regional archfoe. But the popular momentum behind fully siding with Baku has been so great that Tehran has not even allowed Azerbaijan’s close partnership with Israel to get in the way. . . . Simply put, Iran is not in a position to act in opposition to its own Azeri minority.

Also at play in Iran’s calculations will be Turkey, the third-party actor in this conflict that Tehran watches the most intently. Tehran has accused Ankara of fueling the conflict by urging Azerbaijan to . . . attempt to recapture as much of its occupied territory as possible before agreeing to a ceasefire and diplomatic talks. However, while Iran is still tangled up with Turkey in Syria—where Iran supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad while Turkey backs the opposition—Tehran won’t want to escalate tensions over Armenia and Azerbaijan too far.

[Moreover], despite the lingering suspicion between the two powers, Turkey is an important neighbor and trading partner for Iran. Thanks to its isolation, Tehran does not want to see Ankara join its (already long) list of open adversaries. No matter how carefully the Iranians play their cards in this latest conflict in the South Caucasus, the simple reality is that Tehran holds a much weaker hand in the region now than it did in the early 1990s.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security, Turkey

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict