The West’s joint defense relies, however imperfectly, on certain stated and unstated assumptions. Collective action in the event of an attack is one of these; outposts in friendly countries or buffer areas are another. Azerbaijan acts as both of these for the West’s bumbling attempts to deal with the Iranian regime.
Iran recently announced its intent to annex Azerbaijan.
As Foreign Policy correctly notes, this is something of a recurring trope in Iranian-Azerbaijani relations. Threats to annex each other are part and parcel of the two countries’ interactions over time, and most observers of the area have yawned in response, assuming this is part of a long-term trend of loud rhetoric and no action.
Trends are remarkable for continuing until the moment at which they stop. Iranian rhetoric is or very soon will be backed with the threat of a nuclear exchange, and given the two countries’ relations, their shared commitment to Shi’i Islam is unlikely to deter more serious threats of force against Baku.
Realistically, Azerbaijan could not resist an outright invasion by Iran (though they could certainly make Iran bleed badly for their prize), and would have to turn to the United States and Europe for assistance. As of this moment, American foreign policy toward Tehran is confused, and European foreign policy toward everything is a chaotic mess.
An invasion of Azerbaijan is unlikely in the near future. Each day that Iranian rhetoric passes without a Western response, the likelihood grows.
Image Courtesy of Iran’s Propaganda Organ Press TV