Iran staged military exercises near the border with Azerbaijan Friday to apparently warn its neighbors not to play nice with Israel.
Although tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran have flared over a tax imposed on Iranian trucks hauling supplies to Azerbaijan’s enemy Armenia, comments from Iranian officials made it clear that Azerbaijan was getting a dose of intimidation due to its friendly ties with Israel, according to Reuters.
“Iranian state media said the exercises involved armoured and artillery units, as well as drones and helicopters,” the outlet reported. “They kicked off near the Poldasht and Jolfa border crossings with Azerbaijan.”
“Iran does not tolerate the Zionist regime’s activity against its national security and will take whatever action is necessary,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian reportedly said of an Israeli presence along Iran’s borders.
Iranian ground forces commander Brig. Gen. Kioumars Heidari said Iran will “respect good neighborly relations but we do not tolerate the presence of Zionist regime elements and Islamic State terrorists in the region,” according to The Times of Israel.
Iran and Azerbaijan share 430 miles of border.
On Tuesday, Mohammad Pakpour, commander of the land forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Iran does not want its neighbors “to be a breeding ground for the evil deeds of the Zionist regime,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
“The Islamic Republic expects our neighboring border areas and neighboring countries to be a safe and secure environment for countries and the region,” he said.
“Therefore, it is expected that while being doubly sensitive to this, they will not allow a foreign element such as the Zionist regime, whose conspiracies and malice with the Muslim nations are not hidden from anyone, to make the soil of our neighbors a bedrock to achieve its evil and criminal goals.”
Pakpour said Israel is trying to divide Muslim countries that should stand united against it.
“We cannot accept that some countries, under the influence of third countries, make unrealistic and provocative statements regarding the promotion of the readiness of the combat units of the Islamic Republic and undermine our actions,” Pakpour said.
“Neighboring governments know better than anyone else the reasons for holding Iranian exercises.”
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev this week said he was surprised by the Iranian saber-rattling.
“Every country can carry out any military drill on its own territory. It’s their sovereign right. But why now, and why on our border?” he said, according to The Times of Israel.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Tuesday Iran’s exercises “are a question of sovereignty.”
Aliyev also questioned why Iran needed to truck supplies to one of Azerbaijan’s enemies, using Azerbaijan’s territory to get there.
“Is this market really so important?” Aliyev said, according to the Post. “Is this trade really so important that you show such outright disrespect for a country you consider friendly and fraternal?”
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