Taras Kuzio

Peace in the South Caucasus is Good for Israel and the West and Bad for Iran

After over three decades of conflict, a joint communique on December 7 between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated they were close to signing a peace treaty. The peace treaty would recognise the territorial integrity of both countries and open regional communication routes hitherto blocked.

A peace treaty is good news for both countries, especially smaller and less economically developed Armenia, but also good news for Israel which has been a long-time strategic ally of Azerbaijan that goes back to the 2000s, in part because they view Iran as a common security threat. Israel began their security and military partnership a decade before Turkey began to develop military relations with Azerbaijan. A peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan will open the door for the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Turkey whose border has been closed since 1993.

A peace treaty is bad news for Iran, Israel’s long-time threat. Iran has long interfered in the South Caucasus through covert military supplies to Armenia and by supporting instability, separatism, and Islamic fundamentalism. Persian nationalists claim Azerbaijani’s are not a separate people and view Azerbaijan as a breakaway region that should return to Iranian historic overlordship.

Outside powers had little to do with Armenia and Azerbaijan being close to concluding a peace treaty. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Group failed to achieve any success whatsoever since it was founded over three decades ago in 1992. The OSCE’s failure in the South Caucasus added to its long record of failures elsewhere, such as in eastern Ukraine from 2014-2021.

OSCE Minsk Group members were never fully committed to resolving the conflict.  France and Russia were biased and supported Armenia. Meanwhile, Washington did not view the South Caucasus as an area of strategic importance to US national security interests – despite Azerbaijan’s close security relationship with Israel. From 2010, the US and France became passive allowing Russia to fill the vacuum in claiming for itself the primary place for pursuing peace talks. The EU only became interested in the South Caucasus 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when it sought to broker a peace treaty, but ultimately failing because of Azerbaijan’s long held distrust of pro-Armenian France.

Azerbaijan’s retaking of Karabakh closed the separatist regime and disbanded its self-defence forces, which had been supplied by Armenia and Iran, which were illegal under the terms of the November 2020 ceasefire agreement. Some Armenian leaders have been detained and put on trial for crimes against humanity committed against Azerbaijani civilians and soldiers in the First Karabakh War from 1988-1992.

Russia has a poor record of resolving conflicts on the territory of the former USSR. After manufacturing ethnic conflicts directly in Moldova and Georgia and indirectly (through Armenia) in Azerbaijan, the Kremlin preferred to freeze conflicts rather than seek to bring about a negotiated settlement. Russian security interests, whether under President Borys Yeltsyn, or imperial nationalist Vladimir Putin, remained to use frozen conflicts to establish military bases as spheres of influence over Eurasia. Russia, Iran, and Armenia worked closely in the South Caucasus for nearly three decades until the Second Karabakh War in 2020.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has been critical of Russian policies since his country was defeated in the Second Karabakh War. Pashinyan accused the Kremlin of attempting to stage a coup against him. Russian and Iranian leaders’ distrust Pashinyan because they believe colour revolutions are manufactured coups organised by Western intelligence agencies. Pashinyan came to power in 2018 in a popular uprising against the corrupt pro-Russian ‘Karabakh clan’ (led by former Presidents and Prime Ministers Serzh A. Sargsyan and Robert S. Kocharyan) who had led Armenia since it became an independent country in 1991. The ‘Karabakh clan’ had cemented a close security, economic, and trade relationship with Iran.

Following two relatively short wars in 2020 and 2023, the ground is set for the normalisation of relations by Armenia with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Azerbaijan’s insistence that the treaty recognise the former Soviet republican boundary as their international border is in keeping with the December 1991 Alma-Ata Declaration signed by former Soviet republics. A peace treaty will be beneficial for Israel’s security interests by providing greater stability to the South Caucasus and reducing Iran’s ability to interfere and spread instability.

The normalisation of relations between three South Caucasian countries will reduce Russian-Iranian influence while enhancing the geopolitical influence of the West and Israel. This comes at a strategically important time when the anti-Western axis of evil has declared war on the West with Israel and Ukraine as their battlegrounds.

About the Author
Professor in the Department of Political Science, National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Associate Research at the Henry Jackson Society think tank in London, UK. Author and editor of 23 books, including Fascism and Genocide. Russia’s War Against Ukrainians (2023) and Russian Nationalism and the Russian-Ukrainian War (2022), and book chapters, scholarly and media articles on Russian, Ukrainian, South Caucasian, and Greater Middle East geopolitics.
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