A Republic of Azerbaijan on Aras River – Both Banks?

The Aras River flows eastward, forming an approximately 275 mile (440 km) international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the north and Turkey and Iran on the south.

Nowadays, when Iran is creating tension with the Republic of Azerbaijan, in a letter to Mr. Eli Cohen, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Jewish community in Azerbaijan is requesting the help of the State of Israel. They want Israel’s international capabilities in front of the world’s powers, and dozens of members of the Knesset have joined this request.

During April 2023, I was in Baku, accompanying a group of journalists who have a plan to extensively write about Azerbaijan, on several topics. At the very same time Eli Cohen, Israel’s Foreign Minister, also spent a day in Baku, accompanied by a large and prominent Israeli delegation with the purpose to further solidify Azerbaijan and Israel relations.

The group of Journalists in Guba City Hall, Azerbaijan-2nd from left Nurit Greenger, President US-A Cultural Foundation & 4th from left, Eti El-kiss, CEO Cachet Worldwide Productions - photo Nurit Greenger
The group of Journalists in Guba City Hall, Azerbaijan-2nd from left Nurit Greenger, President US-A Cultural Foundation & 4th from left, Eti El-kiss, CEO Cachet Worldwide Productions – photo Nurit Greenger

There was a buzz of excitement in the South Caucasus country as the Israeli delegation made its official rounds in Baku.

As a result of Mr. Cohen’s official political visit to Baku, Members of Knesset, Israeli parliamentarians, from most factions of the Knesset – the coalition and the opposition – united and came out with a declaration: “The Jewish community of Azerbaijan must be supported.”

The Jewish Community in Azerbaijan Mobilizes in Defense of Their Country

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the Republic of Azerbaijan’s southern neighbor. The two states share about 618 kilometers of land borders as well as the two countries border each other in the Caspian Sea.

The fact is that due to the increasingly developing relations between Azerbaijan and Israel and the rapprochement between the two countries, Iran is currently threatening the Azerbaijanis. The rapprochement between Israel and Azerbaijan causes an escalation with Iran and due to the relationship with Israel, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are now officially threatening the president of Azerbaijan.

The Iranians, through the official Telegram channels of the Revolutionary Guards, sent a clear and explicit threatening message to the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. The Jewish community in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, rallied to calm the Azerbaijanis.

As usual, Iran stepped up its incitement and spread a new conspiracy, according to which Azerbaijan intends to take over a part of Armenia’s territory, with the aim of interrupting Iran’s geographic-continental continuity with Russia and Europe, thus causing it economic damage. Armenia, which since the 1st Karabakh War – from February 1988 to May 1994 – has tended to side with Iran, recently became a formal ally of Tehran and is used by Iran in the transfer of drones and missiles to Russia for use in its war with Ukraine.

The official statement issued by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps read: “In recent years, Baku has become Israel’s main Asian ally, effectively using the infrastructure in Azerbaijan against the Iranian people.”

And at the same time, the Iranian army announced the combat readiness of its Air Force and air defense at an increased level.

Yevgeny Brenneysen and wife Jamila with Nurith Greenger (center) President US-AZ Cultural Foundation (USAZCF) - photo Nurit Greenger
Yevgeny Brenneysen and wife Jamila with Nurith Greenger (center) President US-AZ Cultural Foundation (USAZCF) – photo Nurit Greenger

As mentioned, following the Iranian threats, the Jewish community in Azerbaijan issued a statement in support of the Israeli-Azerbaijan relationship, in which Yevgeny Brenneysen, the vice chairman of the ‘Netzah Israel Europe Community’, which is the community of European Jews in Baku, announced that “threats from Iran are increasing, but the army and the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan are ready for any development in an optimal and maximum way since the war in 2020. And here it should be mentioned that in that war Israel greatly helped Azerbaijan to liberate the territories that were occupied by the Armenians.”

Mr. Brenneysen also added: “In my opinion, the Iranian authorities are escalating the situation, and are blaming Israel and the ‘Zionists,’ this in order to neutralize the ongoing mass demonstrations inside Iran. After all, they say there is nothing better to divert attention than a war.”

In his words, Mr. Brenneysen reiterated that no one in Azerbaijan is affected by the anti-Semitic element of the Iranian threats, since, “Azerbaijan has always treated the Jews as brothers. But the concern is very great. In the past, the Iranian press has often depicted Mr. Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president in a proverbial anti-Semitic caricature, with a big nose and the skull cap that Jews often wear.”

It should be noted that for about 30 years Israel has been buying more than 40% of its energy resources from Azerbaijan, and has been selling Baku new civil and military technologies.

Mr. Mukhtar Mammadov, Republic of Azerbaijan Ambassador to the State of Israel with Nurit Greenger President of US-AZ Cultural Foundation and Eti El-Kiss, CEO Cachet Worldwide Productions - April 25, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel
Mr. Mukhtar Mammadov, Republic of Azerbaijan Ambassador to the State of Israel with Nurit Greenger President of US-AZ Cultural Foundation and Eti El-Kiss, CEO Cachet Worldwide Productions – April 25, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel

Azerbaijan Embassy vs Iran Embassy

The Embassy of Azerbaijan in Israel was opened in Tel Aviv on March 29, 2023. In Tehran the Embassy of Azerbaijan is closed due to the recent terrorist attack.

The Embassy of Azerbaijan in Tehran was attacked on January 27, 2023. The perpetrator passed by the guard post with a Kalashnikov rifle and opened fire inside the embassy, while its staff tried to neutralize him. The head of the embassy’s security service, Orkhan Asgarov, was killed in the attack, while two other guards were injured.

Both countries – Azerbaijan and Israel – are almost equally threatened by Iran.

Journalist delegation by the Khudafarin bridge in the background is Iran across the Aras River - photo Nurit Greenger
Journalists’ delegation by the Khudafarin bridge in the background is Iran across the Aras River – photo Nurit Greenger

Eli Cohen, Israel’s Foreign Minister in the capital of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people living in northwestern Iran

A few days after Minister Eli Cohen’s political visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, in their letter to his office, dozens of members of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, raised an understandable demand – to support the demand of the Jewish community in Baku, which calls on Israel to join the global struggle against Iran in order to protect the Azerbaijani people living in northwest of Iran.

The Northern part of Iran, that used to be called Azerbaijan, is inhabited by approximately 17 million Azeris. Some claim this number may be as high as 30-35 million.

Now, the Jewish community in Azerbaijan would like to receive the help of the State of Israel that can use its international capabilities, vis-a-vis the world powers, to pressure Iran to cease its acts of violence against the Azerbaijani minority, living in the northwest of Iran which is sometimes called South Azerbaijan.

With their voice, joining the Jewish community in Azerbaijan, more than 30 members of the Knesset stressed the great need for the State of Israel’s intervention upon the request of the Jewish communities in Azerbaijan.

In their letter, the members of the Knesset wrote to the Foreign Minister: “The Ayatollahs’ regime in Iran often attacks Israel on the Palestinian issue and even finances and motivates the murderous terrorist groups against us under the banner of the ‘Palestinian struggle’. This false propaganda stands out in its folly, especially in light of the predatory oppression of the Azerbaijani minority within Iran itself.”

According to the members of the Knesset, “it relates to the largest ethnic minority in Iran, numbering over twenty million people. The Iranian regime has been carrying out a policy of cultural genocide by restricting the rights of members of the Azerbaijani minority to study and spread their heritage, teach and speak their authentic language or even register their children with genuine Azerbaijan national names,” the MKs wrote in their letter to Minister Eli Cohen.

The Khudafarin Bridge crosses the Aras River; the flag of Azerbaijan on the Azerbaijan side of the bridge and the flag of Iran on the other side of the bridge - photo Nurit Greenger
The Khudafarin Bridge crosses the Aras River; the flag of Azerbaijan on the Azerbaijan side of the bridge and the flag of Iran on the other side of the bridge – photo Nurit Greenger
Khudafarin Bridge - the flag of Iran on the Iran side
Khudafarin Bridge – the flag of Iran on the Iran side
Khudafarin Bridge - landmine sign, landmines planted by Armenia - photo Nurit Greenger
Khudafarin Bridge – landmine sign, landmines planted by Armenia near the Aras River – photo Nurit Greenger

The letter from the members of the Knesset continued to detail that “despite the repressive efforts of the Iranian regime operating in Tabriz, the central city of ‘South Azerbaijan’, the members of the Azerbaijani minority, concentrated in the northwest of Iran, are extremely active in the recent protests against the Ayatollah’s regime and the number of those imprisoned there is particularly notable.”

The letter stated that a new protest movement in Iran has united eight different organizations of the Azerbaijani minority who use the popular Telegram channel Guney Azfront for their activities. The channel runs in the Azerbaijani language and through it the activists in Tabriz regularly organize protest actions that the Iranian regime cannot deal with.

The Israeli politicians, in the mission of the Jewish community in Baku, also wrote in their letter, “It should be mentioned that throughout history the Azerbaijani people in Iran were very friendly towards the Jews and the Jewish community of Azerbaijan is very worried about the persecution of their people in Iran.”

Today, Azerbaijan is one of Israel’s most important strategic allies in the region. Therefore, we appeal to you to act with the tools available to your office to raise, in any appropriate international forum, the issue of the oppression of the Azerbaijani minority in Iran. This is an important and required moral task. Obtaining international support as wide as possible for the national aspirations of the Azerbaijani people in Northern Iran (South Azerbaijan) will be a fatal blow to the Ayatollah regime and there is no doubt that if the [possible]sovereign state of South Azerbaijan is established, Israel will gain another ally in the region alongside the Republic of Azerbaijan.”

“Israel’s support for Azerbaijani residents of southern Azerbaijan-northern Iran will also be an appropriate response, in the political activism level, to the Ayatollah regime’s subversion activities against Israel, which, for about three decades, has been reflected in the financing and arming of Hezbollah and the Palestinian organizations’ hostile sabotage activity,” the Knesset members concluded in their letter.

It must be noted here that the United States Congress and the European Union (EU) Commission in Brussels should join with the writers of the Knesset letter.

Tension South of The Aras River

Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan are on the rise due to Azerbaijan’s developing relationship with Israel. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps issued threats towards the President of Azerbaijan, and Iran has spread conspiracy theories accusing Azerbaijan of territorial ambitions against Armenia.

In response to these threats, the Jewish community in Azerbaijan called upon Israel to use its international capabilities to pressure Iran to cease its acts of violence against the Azerbaijani minority in northwest Iran.

Dozens of members of the Knesset supported this request and appealed to the Israeli Foreign Minister to take action. The situation highlights the importance of international support for minority rights and the impact of geopolitical alliances on regional tensions, particularly south of the Aras River.

Nurit Greenger

During the 2006 second Lebanon War, Nurit Greenger, referenced then as the “Accidental Reporter” felt compelled to become an activist. Being an ‘out-of-the-box thinker, Nurit is a passionately committed advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States, and the Free World in general. From Southern California, Nurit serves as a “one-woman Hasbarah army” for Israel who believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.

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