ArmInfo.Neither Iran nor Russia is interested in turning Armenia into a Western foothold
Some Armenian media outlets reacted almost enthusiastically to the reports of the Turkish media about the possible deployment of large military forces in Artsakh by Iran. However, a comprehensive analysis of the regional situation suggests that such an interpretation is intended for the preference of the Turkish audience. In fact, the main common interest of Tehran and Moscow is to prevent the transformation of Armenia and Georgia into a "foothold of the West" in the Caucasus.
From March 8 to March 16, the major Turkish pro-government Turkiye Gazetesi and Daily Sabah publications reported that Iran was preparing or had already sent military forces of 4,000 people to Armenia or Artsakh. Allegedly, these forces consist of members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), militants of the pro-Iranian paramilitary organization of Iraqi Shiites Al- Hashd ash-Sha?bi and the Kurdish PKK, as well as Iraqi Yezidis and Lebanese Armenians.
This information was spread by some Armenian media, jubilant over the sudden appearance of such an impressive army, which will "definitely" play a significant role in the inevitable liberation of Artsakh."
And although the deployment of such a large foreign military force to Armenia raises strong doubts, as the old saying goes, "there is no smoke without fire." Moreover, certain developments taking place in the region testify to the possibility of implementation of such an initiative by Tehran.
On March 8, the American think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the pan- Arab The New Arab news website reported a massive deployment of Al-Hashd ash- Sha?bi militants to the Aleppo region, a city in northwestern Syria. And on March 19, the Middle East Monitor published information about the opening of an office in the Syria's north-eastern Hasakah province by Iranians to recruit new militants.It is possible that these forces are designed to unleash at least part of the IRGC contingent stationed in Syria.
This can be facilitated by Moscow's initiative, actively promoted since the beginning of the year with the support of Tehran, to normalize relations between Damascus and Ankara. On March 8, the American Al-Monitor analytical website quoted the Iranian Foreign Minister as saying that he was ready to contribute to resolving discrepancies between Turkey and Syria. On the same day, a meeting was held between the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey, and the next day, the head of the Iranian foreign ministry was received by the Syrian president.
If successful, this initiative will neutralize one of the main factors of tension in Syria. In such a scenario, the Iranian military in this country could be replaced by armed formations of pro-Iranian groups, as happened last year when part of the Russian military contingent was withdrawn from Syrian Latakia for deployment to Ukraine.
On March 10, a trilateral statement was announced by Iran, Saudi Arabia and China on the resumption of diplomatic relations between Tehran and Riyadh. And already on March 13, the IRNA news agency quoted the Iranian Foreign Minister as supporting "any dialogue conducive to ensuring peace" in Yemen. On March 16, the American The Wall Street Journal reported: " Iran has agreed to halt covert weapons shipments to its Houthi allies in Yemen." The next day, the Iranian Tasnim news agency quoted the UN special envoy for Yemen as saying that diplomatic efforts were being stepped up to end the years-long war in that country.
It should be noted that since at least 2017, Iran has supported the Houthis not only with the supply of weapons, but also with military specialists from the IRGC, as well as the pro-Iranian Lebanese organization Hezbollah (recognized as a terrorist organization in a number of countries). Now, if the Yemeni conflict is resolved, these forces can be relocated to one of the other zones of Tehran's strategic interests.
It is noteworthy that all these reports, indicating the likely withdrawal of the IRGC contingents from Yemen and Syria, appeared on March 8-16, in the same time interval in which the Turkish media disseminated information about Iran's possible transfer of a large military contingent to Armenia or Artsakh. At the same time, the Turks claimed that it was Artsakh that was the goal of this plan. However, a comprehensive analysis of the regional developments of the past 2.5 months casts doubt on the viability of such an interpretation, which is clearly intended for the Turkish audience.
On March 15, in connection with the Iranian-Saudi normalization Bloomberg noted: " The diplomatic push, opposed by the US, is part of broader efforts by Moscow and Beijing to challenge Washington in the Middle East." And the very next day, the American think tank Middle East Forum emphasized: "If the Syrian civil war led to the consolidation of Russian-Iranian strategic ties despite occasional tactical disagreements and coordination challenges, the Ukraine..(special military operation, ed. note) has taken this relationship to a wholly new level..<:> The Kremlin has been prepared to offer the Islamist regime, according to National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby, "an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship into a full-fledged defense partnership.
However, Moscow and Tehran have actually put up with the occupation of a large part of the territory of Artsakh more than two years ago. And even if they had changed their stance now, they would inevitably have to enter into a direct confrontation with Turkey. It is obvious that neither Tehran, nor, even more so, Moscow is interested in this against the background of the special military operation. Instead, it is obvious that Iran and the Russian Federation have absolutely no intention of putting up with the emergence of another Western foothold on their own borders, which this time includes the territories of Armenia and Georgia.
Meanwhile, in the first 2.5 months of 2023, Nikol Pashinyan's government noticeably stepped up efforts to reorientate foreign policy towards the West. In January, Yerevan agreed to an institutionalized format of partnership with the EU in the field of security - the first relevant meeting of the "Armenia-EU Dialogue" was held. It was on January 10 that Pashinyan announced: "There will be no CSTO military exercises in Armenia this year, since conducting exercises in Armenia in the current situation would be inappropriate..." On January 24, Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said: "The EU remains Armenia's main partner in promoting institution building and supporting our reform agenda. On February 27, Speaker of the National Assembly Alen Simonyan noted: "The United States occupies a key place in the political and economic life of Armenia, and the Armenian-American dialogue is of a strategic nature."
On March 2, while in Germany, Pashinyan stressed: "The EU is one of our main partners on our path to democratic reforms." On March 10, Armenia relinquished its quota of the Deputy Secretary General of the CSTO. And on March 16, Member of the National Assembly from the ruling faction Armen Khachatryan, in an interview with Factor TV, said: "We see that the Russian Federation is not able to fulfill its obligations to ensure the security of Artsakh."
During the same period, members of the RA government held 13 meetings abroad with high- ranking officials of various EU institutions and states, and they, in turn, visited Armenia 8 times. In addition, in January, Mirzoyan held talks with the NATO Secretary General in Brussels, and Yerevan was visited by the latter's special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia.
On March 6-9, mass demonstrations and clashes took place between law enforcement forces and supporters of the pro-Western line in Tbilisi. The Prime Minister of Georgia publicly accused the leadership of Ukraine of being involved in organizing these demonstrations in order to open a "second front" against the Russian Federation.
Of course, against the backdrop of the special military operation in Ukraine, neither Iran nor Russia is interested in turning Armenia and Georgia into a Western bridgehead. And if until now the pro-Russian forces led by Robert Kocharyan have repeatedly failed to overthrow Pashinyan, and in February the protege of the Kremlin Ruben Vardanyan was removed from the post of State Minister of Artsakh, currently the allies of Russia (and, accordingly, of Iran) may have a powerful military support in Yerevan. All the more, since 2015, the IRGC and Russian troops have established close operational cooperation in Syria, and now they maintain close operational cooperation in Crimea.
Thus, in the event of Pashinyan's final reorientation to the West or the overthrow of the current government of Georgia, the Iranian and Russian troops deployed on the Armenian land will definitely be able to jointly correct the situation.
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