Over the past 18 months, tensions have gradually continued to escalate between Azerbaijan and Iran. Ties have been strained by a combination of diplomatic spats and military drills along their border. Azerbaijan perceives Iran as posturing dangerously towards its southern regions, while Tehran is threatened by Baku drawing closer to the Islamic Republic’s regional rivals—particularly Israel. Absent a change in these dynamics, relations could further deteriorate, with tensions boiling over. Continue reading →
The ongoing mass protests in Iran, which have steadily grown more violent over the past two months, risk escalating regional tensions with neighboring states. Although all major Iranian cities have experienced clashes between demonstrators and security forces, the level of violence demonstrated by the Iranian security forces in Baluchestan, Khuzestan, and Kurdistan provinces appeared to be more significant than in other cities without large ethnic minority groups. The Iranian regime’s harsh stance toward Baluchis, Kurds, Arabs, and Azerbaijanis comes as part of a broader conflict between the Iranian government and ethnic minorities seeking better treatment or greater autonomy; Tehran has attempted to subdue its restive Kurdistan region in particular, both through direct military action and by attacking the neighboring Kurdistan region of Iraq. Continue reading →
The global energy crisis that is so apparent in the West is now becoming that much more visible in the East. Kazakhstan, one of the leading crude oil and gas suppliers in Asia, has announced that it intends to gradually decrease its natural gas flows to China, citing domestic consumption rising at what could become a crisis-inducing rate.
In June, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered the government to cut gas exports and ensure that an additional 2bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas were available to consumers inside Kazakhstan. Tokayev said meeting domestic demand for gas must be held as an absolute priority over exports, with the gas to be sourced from the Tengiz field developed by a consortium led by US energy giant Chevron. Continue reading →
As Russia’s military invasion in Ukraine enters its eighth month, Moscow is steadily losing strategic superiority as Ukraine retakes lost territory through its tremendously successful counterattacks. Russia’s defeat along the Kharkiv-Lyman front and its retreat in Kherson, compounded by the difficulties of implementing its partial mobilization order, have diminished Moscow’s optimism regarding the war’s outcome. To rectify Russia’s increasingly weak strategic position and depleted weapons stockpiles, Moscow has turned to its long-term partners—namely China, Iran, and North Korea—to meet its needs for combat drones, modern artillery pieces, and ammunition.
In July, the White House claimed that Iran was preparing to supply Russia with hundreds of weapons-capable drones for use in Ukraine. According to U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, “information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs, with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early July.” These allegations caused an uproar in Ukraine and the West, though Tehran categorically denied the charge. American reports were confirmed in late-September, when Ukrainian forces shot down Iranian combat drones in the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, the southern city of Odesa, and the nearby Pivdennyi port. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry identified the downed aerial vehicles as Shahid-136 unmanned kamikaze drones and Mohajer-6 drones, which can carry missiles or perform reconnaissance missions. Continue reading →
With the deepening energy crisis in the West triggered by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, more European countries, mainly Eastern European and Balkan countries, including Bulgaria and Serbia, are eyeing alternative suppliers for additional natural gas volumes. The security cataclysms in Europe in the light of the war have pushed European countries to seek partners such as Azerbaijan.
Since 2022, Azerbaijan has held several high-level meetings with EU officials regarding exporting additional gas volumes to Europe. It is noteworthy that non-EU countries like Serbia are also keen on deepening energy partnerships with Azerbaijan. Serbia’s willingness to acquire more Azeri gas depends on the construction progress of the EU-supported Serbia-Bulgaria gas interconnector – a 171 km natural gas interconnector that will connect Nis (Serbia) and Sofia (Bulgaria), thus supporting regional energy security. According to reports, the interconnector may become operational in early 2023, giving Serbia and Bulgaria a non-Russian gas supply option. Obviously, Serbia is heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas, which have been disrupted following the Ukraine war and the imposition of sanctions on Moscow by the European Union, which Serbia is seeking to join. Continue reading →
On October 5, 2020, when the full-scale war between Azerbaijani and Armenian armed forces had just started in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, President Ilham Aliyev was already talking about military reform. In an interview with Turkish state-run broadcaster TRT, Aliyev said that his intention was to remake the Azerbaijani military “based on the Turkish model but on a smaller scale.”
That reform had been underway for several years as Azerbaijan sought to move away from a Soviet model of the armed forces – featuring a heavy use of conscripts and large quantities of infantry and armor units – toward a more NATO-style professional, mobile, high-tech force. As Turkey was Azerbaijan’s closest ally, it was naturally the NATO military Baku sought to emulate.
Turkey’s heavy military support to Azerbaijan in the war against Armenia solidified that orientation. As Aliyev put it in the interview: “Turkey’s moral support and the Turkish defense industry products at our disposal strengthen us, and the whole world can see that. The Turkish Army is the second strongest army in NATO today, and no one can confront it.” Continue reading →
In 2020, Iran’s counter-intelligence agencies were challenged by the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the country’s top physicist and the leader of its nuclear program. Iranian officials have described the assassination as an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear energy ambitions. It was initially thought that Fakhrizadeh had been killed in an assault on his car by gunmen using automatic firearms and explosives, but it later emerged that the Iranian scientist had been assassinated by means of a remote-controlled machine gun. Iranian authorities have traditionally blamed similar assassinations on the Forqa Group and the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the two major anti-regime armed groups; instead, Tehran implicated Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, in Fakhrizadeh’s killing, publicly admitting to Israel’s ability to strike deep within Iran for perhaps the first time. Continue reading →
For both Uzbekistan and Turkey, progress in developing a strategic relationship with elements of trade, investment, and defence cooperation comes at an opportune time. Amid the ongoing momentous geopolitical developments, Tashkent needs to diversify its political outreach to maintain a multivector foreign policy in order to avoid falling under the sway of a particular regional actor. Ankara, meanwhile, wants relationships that revitalize its pan-Turkic agenda across Eurasia.
On March 29, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to Uzbekistan at the invitation of his counterpart President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The strategic partnership was top of the agenda. Although relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan remained stalled during the rule of late Uzbek leader Islam Karimov until 2016, his successor Mirziyoyev has very much brought Turkey into the picture under the multivector approach. For Turkey, the development of ties with Uzbekistan somewhat uneasily took some steps forward just as Ankara was attempting to moderate peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Continue reading →
The further development of Iran’s drone program in recent years allowed it to produce a number of new classes of drones, such as the Shahid, Qasef, Mohajer, Samad, Ababeel, and, most recently, the Kaman, which is modeled on the U.S.-made MQ-1 Predator and advanced MQ-9 Reaper.
Amid mounting domestic unrest and ongoing diplomatic standoffs with regional states, Iran has devoted a significant and increasing amount of national resources toward upgrading its national drone program. On May 17, the Iranian government officially inaugurated its first overseas drone factory in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; the facility manufactures the indigenous Ababil-2, a multipurpose drone model with reconnaissance, combat, and suicide capabilities. The Ababil-2 boasts a maximum range of 200 kilometers and can sustain roughly 90 minutes of flight time. The new drone factory will help Iran to improve relations with Tajikistan after a period of lingering diplomatic tension, and General Mohammad Bagheri described its inauguration as a turning point in bilateral military cooperation between the two countries. Continue reading →