Music puts Iran and Azerbaijan at loggerheads

Iran's ambassador to Azerbaijan, revoked home in connection with a scandal, is returning to the country. The reason the two countries have recently been at odds is pretty surprising - the "Eurovision" musical contest held in Baku. In any case, Muhammadbaghir Bahrami will continue his work as the Islamic Republic needs to become more active in the Caucasus.

How it all began? Last year, the Azerbaijani won "Eurovision" in Germany, and under the rules of the competition, Azerbaijan became the next host. But Islamic fundamentalists did not like the fact that song and dance competition will take place in an Islamic country, even if it presents itself as a secular state, and went as far as to compare it with gay parades. The Azeris responded by a picket outside the Iranian diplomatic mission. The humiliated Tehran then immediately recalled its ambassador home, allegedly for "further consultations".

According to the CIA, 16 percent of the total population of Azerbaijanis who consider themselves a single nation with the Turks resides in Iran, and live mainly in the north-west of the state. Turkey is actively pulling Azerbaijan into NATO and is preparing to host U.S. missile defense elements. This does not please Russia, whose "southern underbelly" has such a problem as the Caucasus. If Baku falters, deceived by sweet speeches of Ankara, the situation will deteriorate. Russia will be surrounded by enemy radars, supposedly aimed at Teheran, but in fact, directly threatening Moscow.

After all, the borders in the Caucasus, despite being traced by regional states, do not actually exist. The situation resembles a third-rate TV-series: Azerbaijan is friendly with Turkey, while Turkey, desperately trying to become a leader in the region, is trying to be friends with everyone, except Armenia. Poor Yerevan, locked between the two countries and Georgia, is hoping for the help of Moscow that sees Armenia as a full member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and its only outpost in the Caucasus.

And where, one wonders, is the place of Iran, criticized by the international community over its nuclear program? Of course, near Moscow. The Iranian ambassador Muhammadbaghir Bahrami had to return to Baku. Aggravation of diplomatic relations in a complex region is fraught not only with musical scandals. Everyone remembers August of 2008, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia, provoking a serious conflict. Does Iran, in addition to the threats of war with the United States, need small "affairs" with the neighbors? Moreover, Armenia, seeing the flame, immediately offered to cancel the visa regime with Iran. This is a serious slap in the face of Azerbaijan.

But Russia that has long been mediating between Baku and Yerevan, restraining the passions, is not the only one who can reconcile Iran and Azerbaijan. Tehran has one trump card that allows it to keep the wrath of the Azerbaijani and Turkish politicians - the economy. Regardless of Ankara's behavior on the geopolitical stage, the economic component is very important to it. Turkey's trade with Georgia amounts to only $500 million dollars, and with Azerbaijan - $3.5 billion.

Turkey is ready to invest in banking, energy and other sectors of the economy. Now Ankara has about $2 billion dollars of "free money" that is just waiting to be invested. If Tbilisi does not want to be on the margins of the region, it is necessary for it not only to maintain trade relations with Turkey, but also to develop them with Iran, whose exports to the country amount to only 1 percent.

For example, trade with Yerevan in the Islamic Republic reaches one billion dollars. On August 22, the ceremony of laying of the foundation of HPP "Meghri" will take place in the southern city of Armenia, and Tehran will become the importer for 15 years after the launch of the station, which will more than pay for its current investment in the "occupied" Armenia.

Of course, Mikhail Saakashvili has repeatedly called on Tehran to abolish the visa regime, and in 2010 an agreement was finally signed, but it did not increase the flow of Iranian tourists in Sakartvelo. He even advised to invest in the energy sector of Georgia, but to no avail. Iran is cautious towards such a partner as Tbilisi. In addition, Georgia is not a Caspian state, and hence, it does not have a serious unified interest with Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Thus, Iran, rejecting the momentary emotion, will substantially strengthen its position in the region. Moreover, it is in the most winning situation because it made friends with Russia that still holds has the entire Caucasus in check.

Daria Deryabina


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov