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November 30, 2006


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Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Doug. Heating oil and gas make for strange bedfellows, indeed. How do the Armenian *people* feel about Americans in general, i.e., not the administration?

Bernard Guerrero

The Iranian attitude towards Azerbaijan has always perplexed me. From the outside, I'd expect the ethnic and historical ties (up to and including pre-Revolutionary Iran's Cold War confrontation with the USSR over their own Azerbaijan territory) would have produced warmer feelings. They just trying to keep the Russkies sweet by not messing with ex-Soviet territory, or is there something else?

Doug M.

Bernard: Yep, there's something else.

The missing piece? The large Azeri minority in Iran. Northwest Iran is largely Azeri. If the borders were drawn along ethnic lines, about 15-20% of Iran would be part of Azerbaijan.

It's a lot like the Turk/Kurd thing, though not quite so vicious -- because the Azeris don't have as much of a national consciousness as the Kurds. But they do have some grudges against Iranian dominance. (And, from Teheran's POV, the Iranian Azeris were a little too comfortable with Soviet occupation 1941-6.)

Ergo, Iran views Azerbaijan askance -- rather as Turkey might view an independent Kurdistan.

Now, as long as Azerbaijan is weak, corrupt, autocratic, and distracted by the Karabakh conflict, it won't be attractive to Iranian Azeris. So Teheran has a vested interest in seeing that Azerbaijan remains weak, corrupt, etc.

This has manifested as direct interference at least once -- in 1993, when Iran quietly supported a separatist movement in southern Azerbaijan. The movement was not successful, but it came at a particularly difficult time (in the middle of the Karabakh war) and the Azeris haven't forgotten.

Also, as a secondary matter, the two countries are rivals in the energy field. The new pipeline from Baku to the Mediterranean is a cut direct; Iran has been wanting such a pipeline since the 1950s.

So, relations between them range from "icy cold, openly hostile" to "coolly correct". They're never what you'd call warm, and won't be for a long time.

(Although, oddly enough, Azerbaijan joined Armenia in voting against the resolution condemning Iran. But that's because Azerbaijan's human rights record is very similar to Iran's.)

Doug M.

Joseph Eros

Have you met many (or any) Iranians in Armenia yourself? When I took a minibus from Tbilisi to Yerevan, one of the passengers was an Iranian who spoke good English. He said he was going to be selling nuts--pecans, if memory serves.

Are there any plans in progress to improve the general transportation links between Armenia and Iran? From the maps I've seen, it looks like it would be really hard to get much cargo from Iran to the parts of Armenia where just about everybody lives.

Fascinating stuff on the Armenians in Iran.


Are the Armenian minority in Iran better-treated than the Kurdish and Azeri minorities? (I'd take for granted that they are better treated than the Arab and Jewish ones)

Vis-a-vis religious rights, any exemption to harsh Islamic law would be a positive (the other minorities, being Muslim, won't benefit, and I suppose the Jewish minority did not get the same exemptions), but as regards to political representation, how does the representation of Azeris compare to Armenians, vis-a-vis their relative share of the population?

Randy McDonald

From what I know, the Azeris are individually integrated into the Iranian power structure but aren't recognized as a group by the Iranian state. "Everything to the Azeris as individuals; nothing to Azeris as a group."

John Montague

More, please on this fascinating Azeris in Iran thing. How has Iran's policy on Nagorno-Karabagh evolved beyond their declared 'neutrality' ? I wonder how they've reacted to the recent constitutional referendum there.

There's a good article by Olivier Roy here: http://www.eurasianet.org/resource/regional/royoniran.html but it's out of date.

I'd have thought Turkey and Iran would be cosying up together in eagerness to limit the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan. Any sign of the effects of such a rapprochement on Armenia ?

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