Iran warns in Hebrew of 'foreign influence' amid Azerbaijan tensions

Iran warned a recent drill along the Azeri border was meant to serve as a warning to alleged Israeli influence in Azerbaijan.

 "Conquerors of Khaybar" exercise conducted by Iran near border with Azerbaijan (photo credit: MEHR NEWS AGENCY)
"Conquerors of Khaybar" exercise conducted by Iran near border with Azerbaijan
(photo credit: MEHR NEWS AGENCY)

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, warned Iran’s neighbors against “foreign influence” in a tweet published in Persian, Arabic, English and Hebrew on Saturday, amid heightened tensions with Azerbaijan.

“Powerful #Iran has always been benevolent to its neighbors & never posed a threat to them,” wrote Shamkhani on Twitter. “Problems will be resolved with the cooperation of all countries in region [sic]. Any foreign influence is fruitless so we call on neighbors to be vigilant in this regard & to stay away from them.”

The statement comes after Azerbaijan began targeting Iranian trucks with fines and arrests, and Iran moved military forces to the border and warned against Israeli influence near its borders.

Iranian trucks were fined, and at least two were detained as they traveled on a road between the Armenian towns of Kapan and Goris, which partially crosses through territory handed over to Azerbaijan after the Nagorno-Karabakh war last year, according to RFE/RL. The highway, patrolled by Russian peacekeepers, is Armenia’s only link to Iran.

Tensions also rose recently due to joint military exercises carried out by Azerbaijan and Turkey in the Caspian Sea, with the Iranian Foreign Ministry warning that such drills violated international conventions banning the military presence of countries other than the five states that border the sea.

Iran launched the “Conquerors of Khaybar” exercise on Friday in northwestern Iran, near the border with Azerbaijan. Kioumars Heydari, commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, said that the exercise was being conducted in order to test weapons and equipment, and assess the readiness of the armed forces in any arena and along the borders of Iran, according to the Fars News Agency.

The name of the exercise, “Conquerors of Khaybar,” seems like a reference to the Battle of Khaybar in 628 CE, when Muslims, led by Muhammad, fought against the Jews there, eventually defeating and imposing a tax on them.

 ''Conquerors of Khaybar'' exercise conducted by Iran near border with Azerbaijan (credit: MEHR NEWS AGENCY) ''Conquerors of Khaybar'' exercise conducted by Iran near border with Azerbaijan (credit: MEHR NEWS AGENCY)

Iranian officials have stressed that the exercise is meant to “send a message” to Israel and ISIS, warning that Tehran will take any action necessary to defend its borders.

In the interview with the Turkish Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev expressed shock at Iran’s decision to hold a military exercise along its border, saying it was the first time in Azerbaijan’s 30-year history of independence that this had occurred.

While Aliyev admitted that every country has the sovereign right to conduct military exercises in its own territory, he questioned why Iran chose this specific time to do so. The president said that he does “not wish to see a single fact that would undermine long-term cooperation in the region,” and hopes that the “emotional reaction” to Azerbaijan’s “legitimate steps” is temporary.

Azerbaijan and Turkey will hold a military exercise in Azerbaijan near the border with Iran from Tuesday to Friday, amid heightening tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced on Sunday.

The exercise, titled "Unshakable Brotherhood," is being conducted in order to "develop friendship, cooperation and coordination between the Turkish and Azerbaijani Land Forces."

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, warned on Sunday against foreign interference in the region, saying it is the cause of “discord and damage,” and that all issues and incidents should be resolved without foreign interference, according to Fars News Agency. He issued the warning at the joint graduation ceremony for cadets of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces Academies at Imam Hossein (PBUH) University.

Khamenei also urged countries in the region to achieve national security without relying on foreigners, saying this is “normal” for Iran, but difficult for other countries, including European nations. The supreme leader warned against allowing foreign militaries to intervene or have a military presence in the region.

“The events that are taking place in the northwest of Iran, in some neighboring countries, should be resolved with the same logic of avoiding the presence of foreigners,” the supreme leader said. “The armed forces of our dear country always act with authority and rationality, and this rationality should be a model for other countries and a factor in solving the existing problems – and everyone should know that if someone digs a well for his brothers, he will fall into the well first.”

Khamenei’s Twitter account published tweets paraphrasing the statements as well.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned Azerbaijan on Saturday that Iran “will never tolerate the presence of the fake Zionist regime and its provocative actions near the border with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the geopolitical change of the region and its borders, and we have serious protection against it.”

Amir-Abdollahian said that political relations are “strong and growing” between the two countries, but added that “bad things happened,” and terrorist movements entered the Karabakh region during the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan last year.

The foreign minister claimed that Israeli tried to “make the most of this opportunity” in an attempt to get closer to the borders of Iran and were present in Azerbaijan, claiming that the “dirty games and hands of the Zionists and terrorists” were quite clear in the country. “We are really worried that, in the not too distant future, they will cause problems for the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” the foreign minister said.

FORMER IRANIAN diplomat Amir Mousavi claimed that there were 1,000 Israeli operatives and 1,800 ISIS ones in Azerbaijan. Mousavi said in an interview with the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen news on Saturday that Iran had deployed its military on its border with Azerbaijan in order to warn the country “not to play with fire.”

Mousavi additionally claimed that Israelis with advanced equipment in Azerbaijan played a role in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Abbas Mousavi expressed outrage to Iranian media on Saturday after a protest was conducted in front of the Iranian embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, and aftabehs – jugs used for cleaning after using the toilet – in the colors of the Iranian flag were placed next to the embassy.

An article on the website of Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB said that the Islamic Republic considers it its right to confront terrorism and security threats, and warned that attacks – such as rocket and artillery attacks that the article says Iran conducted against “counter-revolutionary groups and the Mossad” in Erbil, Iraq – would continue if necessary.

The Saudi newspaper Elaph reported on Saturday that a senior Israeli source had informed it that an Israeli security delegation had gone to Azerbaijan to provide advice and support to the Azeri government amid the ongoing tensions with Iran.

The source told the paper that Israel reassured Azerbaijan that the Jewish state would stand by it and provide all possible assistance, including participating technically and from the air to repel any attack launched by Iran against its northern neighbor.

An opinion piece published in Kayhan, a newspaper associated with Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, warned against an alleged “invisible alliance” between the US, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Israel, saying that it could have a “major impact” on Iran’s and Russia’s political weight in the region.

The author of the piece warned that Turkey and Azerbaijan must know that “Iran can thwart the conspiracy designed for them in a regrettable way.”

Azerbaijan and Israel have close ties, with the president of Azerbaijan saying in a discussion with the Nizami Ganjavi International Center in May that relations with Israel were very diverse and were especially strong in the defense industry. “It is no secret that Azerbaijan has full access to Israeli defense industry products,” Aliyev said at the time.

Israeli arms, including the LORA missile and the Israel Aerospace Industries Harop suicide drone, were reportedly used by Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh war with Armenia last year.