The war between Hamas and Israel war has triggered strong anti-Israel sentiments in the region and heightened fears of a broader conflict engulfing actors such as Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Worried that the conflict in Gaza could escalate into a regional confrontation, the US has dispatched two aircraft carrier strike groups within range, including additional troops and military advisors.
But alongside tough rhetoric, the violence in Gaza has renewed apparent pragmatism by important regional states such as Iran and Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly slammed Israel’s bombings of the Palestinian coastal enclave. On the other hand, Ankara has avoided issuing direct threats against Tel Aviv and, in an apparent unusual move, allegedly distanced itself from Hamas in the aftermath of the Palestinian movement’s surprise attack on Israel last month. Continue reading
Amid the escalating Gaza war, a striking absence marks the regional conflict landscape: the non-involvement of the ‘Axis of Resistance,’ including Iran and its proxies. Nearly six weeks into the war, these forces have consistently communicated their decision to remain on the sidelines. This inaction comes into sharp focus against the backdrop of Iran’s strategy to leverage non-state actors like Hezbollah and Hamas in its proxy warfare. While Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, clarified their stance in a much-anticipated speech a month into the conflict, the impact of this abstention is profound. Israel, grappling with internal divisions and security vulnerabilities heightened by Hamas’s attacks, finds itself in a precarious position not seen in decades. This situation stems from both the far-right Israeli policies and Iran’s concerted efforts to fortify groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, aiming to undermine its adversaries. Despite Hamas’s inability to secure territory in southern Israel, their assaults have instilled widespread panic, exposing deep fissures in the Israeli society and igniting debates over the nation’s security resilience. Continue reading
Azerbaijan and Iran laid the foundation on October 6 for a transit route connecting western Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan through Iran. The road bridge is being built in line with the memorandum of mutual understanding between the governments of Azerbaijan and Iran on developing new transport links. According to the Azerbaijani media, the bridge will span the Araz River to connect to the Iranian province of Eastern Azerbaijan.
The new transit project announcement came amid the ongoing normalisation of ties between Azerbaijan and Iran after months of harsh diplomatic confrontation. From the Iranian perspective, there are several reasons behind the shift in diplomatic relations, but the most important is the changed regional balance of power in the South Caucasus following the war in 2020 between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Among the broader impacts of the war were the declining influence of Iran and the strengthening axis of Baku-Ankara and Baku-Tel Aviv in the region. Continue reading
In a region of the world marked by dramatic, high-profile rivalries and conflicts—Israel and Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and the struggles for power within Syria and Yemen—the age-old rivalry between Iran and Turkey has largely gone unnoticed, even as it has sharply escalated in recent months. While the precise nature of the rivalry has changed as the two nations’ regimes have experienced some changes, and the degree to which Tehran and Ankara opposed one another in regional matters has waxed and waned, the two countries’ policies toward each other have displayed a remarkable degree of consistency—making the oldest rivalry in the Middle East one of the most relevant in the current era. Continue reading
After years of rising tensions, the July visit to Baku by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has signaled increased diplomacy between Azerbaijan and Iran. The apparent new détente brings positives for both sides.
For Iran, reconciliation with its northwestern neighbor will allow it to play a bigger role in the South Caucasus. Meanwhile, with improved relations with Tehran, Baku can focus its resources and attention elsewhere. Such efforts have also reduced the chances of a regional crisis breaking out, even as the flareup of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh may add complexities. Continue reading
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 had unpredictable repercussions in the global energy market. Although EU countries significantly decreased reliance on Russian oil and, to some extent, Russian gas, the Kremlin still maintains limited influence in some EU countries, including Bulgaria. Since the EU imposed an energy sanctions package on Russia, Bulgaria was granted a two-year exemption from Europe’s embargo on Russian oil until December 2024. Continue reading
On July 9, Turkey freed the commanders of the well-known Ukrainian Azov regiment after months of hosting them as a part of a deal with Russia (Ukrinform, July 31). The fighters surrendered to Russian forces after weeks of brutal siege and resistance at the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, even after the rest of the city had fallen following Russia’s devastating and relentless assaults (Kyivpost, May 17). Ankara’s surprise move came during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s first official visit to Turkey since the Russian invasion in February 2022 to meet his counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and discuss the possibilities of deepening their strategic partnership. Amid rhetoric on expanding the two countries’ cooperation in defense and security, Erdogan also declared, “Ukraine deserves to be a NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] member” (Al-Monitor, July 7). Continue reading
Private military contractors (PMCs) re-emerged as a popular phenomenon in the post-Cold War era, particularly in the early 2000s, when the exodus of war veterans from Western militaries expanded the pool of PMCs. As of today, PMCs operate in most (about 110) countries. Among the top 30 PMCs in terms of financial resources and recruited mercenaries, most were established or have their headquarters in the US (13) or the UK (6).[i] Traditionally, PMCs operate mainly in active armed conflict zones or areas where the political and social situations are unstable. In this vein, their activities are usually coordinated with the foreign policy aims of the countries where they are headquartered.
Unlike the Western countries possessing solid experience in establishing and managing PMCs, this phenomenon has long been a tabu in the post-Soviet region due to those countries’ fragile political situations and the nature of their internal power dynamics. However, the situation changed when the Russian government gave the green light to establish its first PMC – Wagner – in 2011, which would be headed by the Kremlin-linked businessman and former criminal convict Yevgeni Prigozhin. In the beginning, Wagner’s main activities were limited to Syria, the Central African Republic, Mali, Libya, Mozambique, and Sudan, with the aim of providing “security and paramilitary services” to local governments struggling with armed rebellion and frequent terrorist attacks in exchange for resource concessions and diplomatic support.[ii] Hence, Wagner’s services vary based on the needs of client countries. Continue reading
In this podcast series, we will talk to academics who will share their insights on pressing events concerning European politics. In this podcast, we will discuss the recent Iran-Azerbaijan diplomatic tensions with our guest Fuad Shahbazov. Continue reading