The Anti-Iran Axis: The enemy of my enemy is my friend

Summary:

Baku and Tel Aviv have had relations that were established decades ago. Their relations were formed on the basis of mutually-constitutive gains, where one would benefit from the others resources and vice versa. During times in which Azerbaijan found itself amidst a regional conflict, Israel had offered support through providing arms and intelligence. In turn, Baku has been a consistent supplier of oil to Israel, contributing up to 40% of all the oil that Israel imports (source). Therefore, it is understandable how these two have maintained beneficial relations. Yet, the coordinated efforts between Turkey and Israel within the anti-Iran axis, was not something many could have predicted. Their diplomatic rapprochement serves as an indicator of how significant of a security issue Iran has become to the region. 

Key judgment 1:

It is highly likely that the alliance was formed in response to Iran’s growing influence around the region.

One of two series of images which demonstrate Iran's sponsorship of proxy conflicts across the region.
Figure 1: Seizure of IRGC property: 171 surface-to-air missiles, eight anti-tank missiles and approximately 1.1 million barrels of petroleum products destined for Houthi militants in Yemen. (Credit: The Justice Department)
  • Proxy conflicts sponsored by the Iranian regime has extended Iran’s reach across the region. Which has enabled Tehran to pursuit its interest through attacking its rivals by deploying asymmetrical methods of warfare. (refer to figure 1)

  • Turkey was pinned against Iran, as they both supported opposing geopolitical axis in the Syrian conflict. This had created a platform of commonality in which cooperation was pragmatic between the three states in the anti-Iran axis. (source)

  • Through Azerbaijan acting as a diplomatic mediator between the two former foes, unilateral efforts between the three states are made possible. 

  •  The aim of containing Iran and its participation in proxy conflicts in the region, has served as the incentive for all three states to exchange Intelligence and military resources and create an anti-Iran axis. (Murinson, 2014)

Key judgement 2: 

It is likely that uniting against Iran, is a precursor to future normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel. 

  • The mutual effort between the two states seen in the regional alliance could cause for more concurrent instances for collaborations in the future. This is supported by the associated trends of the revival of diplomatic relations with surrounding nations.

  •  This is reinforced by Turkey’s decision to appointment an ambassador to Tel Aviv, as the diplomatic post had been vacant since May 2018. (Source)

  • Additionally, both states are likely to benefit if relations are to become normalised as they once were. Turkey will benefit from the opportunity of having improved economic relations, that can bolster its shrinking economy.

  • Whilst Israel would benefit from de-escalation of tensions, which in the long-term would improve its security against regional actors. 

Key judgement 3:

It is highly unlikely that Iran would engage in conventional warfare, as a result of the coordinated efforts by the anti-Iran axis.

  • Iran’s economy is currently facing heavy inflation which impedes the possibility of any large-scale effort of military mobilization. (source

  • This means engagement in asymmetric warfare has been a cost-effective approach, that has enabled Iran to distribute resources across multiple proxy conflicts and still be capable of creating severe turbulence in region. 

  • As such, it is highly unlikely that Iran would alter its method of engagement and participate in a direct confrontation against the axis. (refer to figure 2)

  • This would indicate that the recent military exercises along the Azerbaijani border, are likely a deceptive bluff than an actionable strategy. (refer to figure 3)

  • So, by creating instability using asymmetrical means, Iran has been able to redirect efforts elsewhere. The aim in making its IR-9 centrifuge operational, would be of greater impact than engaging directly with adversaries.
  • This means that Iran’s most optimum strategy given its internal challenges such as the economy and social grievances.
Figure 2: Iranian military buildup along the north-western Iran-Azerbaijan border
This image illustrates the multitude of countries that have had cases of 'exported' terrorism or proxy conflicts that Iran had funded across the region. Making the creation of the anti-Iran axis a crucial step in reinforcing regional stability.
Figure 3: ‘Exported’ terrorism conducted by the IRGC across the region. Countries include: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Credit: Naif Alshaikh/ Grey Dynamics
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