Iran has sent new equipment and forces to its northwestern frontiers following its recent military drills near border areas amid tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan.
“We do not have any security problems and our border guards are protecting the country’s borders, and we have sent new equipment and forces to the borders,” Iran’s Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari said on October 9, referring to the recent developments in the country’s northwestern borders.
Tensions between the two neighboring Caspian littoral states have risen in the past several weeks over Iran’s military drills in border areas with Azerbaijan. On October 1, Iran started large-scale military drills close to its border with Azerbaijan. The drills were named Conquerors of Khaybar, in an apparent reference to the Battle of Khaybar in 628CE in which Muslims fought against Jews.
In addition, Tehran also accused Baku of accommodating Israeli “presence” near Iran’s borders. However, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev described the allegations about the presence of the Israeli forces in the country’s territories as “baseless.”
On October 5, the Iranian authorities have reportedly informed their Azerbaijani counterparts about the closure of the country’s airspace for the transit of military cargo to Nakhchivan, an Azerbaijani exclave between Armenia, Iran, and Turkey.
Iran’s military maneuvres and allegations come after measures taken by Baku to stop illegal trips of Iranian lorries to certain parts of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region, where the Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily deployed.
On August 11, Iran’s ambassador to Azerbaijan received a Note Verbal from the foreign ministry in addition to an earlier verbal notification about Baku’s dissatisfaction with the illegal transit of goods to the Karabakh region.
However, the verbal notification and Note Verbal were ineffective in settling the controversy. Around 60 Iranian trucks illegally traveled to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan from August 11 to September 11. The trucks moved from Iran to Armenia, then to the Karabakh region via the Lachin corridor.
Later, some media reported that Azerbaijan’s customs officials began imposing road tax on Iranian truck drivers on the Azerbaijani part of the interstate Gorus-Gafan highway. On September 13, Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee said in a statement that vehicles of foreign countries are subjected to road tax when entering and leaving the country under the legislation. On September 15, Azerbaijan detained two Iranian truck drivers for illegally crossing into the territory of Azerbaijan.