Armenia and Iran Amplify Diplomatic and Military Relations Against Common Threats

On October 21, the Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan welcomed his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the Foreign Ministry and was apparently pleased with the Iranian Foreign Minister’s acknowledgment of Armenia’s security interests at the same level as Iran’s own and his clear assertion that Iran would not tolerate any tampering with the current Armenia-Iran border.

Not only that, on the same day he inaugurated a new Iranian consulate in Kapan, which lies in the Syunik province lying along the Armenia-Iran border and which links Azerbaijan with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

Both Azerbaijan and Turkey have been pressing Armenia to allow them land transit access along Syunik, which Armenia has not accepted. Within this context, the Iranian Foreign Minister’s statement was heard clearly across Armenia’s borders in Baku, Ankara, and Moscow, as was intended.

Decoding the Armenia-Iran-Azerbaijan Triangle

Despite being an Islamic republic, having strong ethnic Armenian and Azeri communities within Iran, and having borders with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, Iran has traditionally enjoyed warmer relations with Armenia, for a variety of reasons. It alleges that Azerbaijan has irredentist aspirations towards Iran’s Azeri provinces, supports secessionist forces, and refers to the provinces as Southern Azerbaijan in the local media. Azerbaijan’s close relations with Israel and Turkey also make Iran anxious about its intentions in the region.

Azerbaijan harbors similar suspicions and complaints against Iran for running anti-Azerbaijani propaganda, sponsoring Hezbollah activities in Azerbaijan, and conducting covert operations to weaken the Azerbaijani state.

Iran has always viewed Armenia as a more reliable partner in the Caucuses and it is its only gateway into the region. Due to this, Iran is against any moves by Azerbaijan and Turkey to acquire a land corridor through Armenia that would disconnect the two allies. While it accepted Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, it is wary of Azerbaijan’s expansionist plans.

Armenia Seeks Iranian Drones to Maintain Military Parity with Azerbaijan

According to some media reports, a senior Iranian military official, Major General Yahia Rahim Safavi, has revealed that Armenia is interested in purchasing Iran’s military drones to bridge the military imbalance with Azerbaijan. Naturally, Iran would be glad to help its ally boost up its defense capabilities against an unfriendly neighbor.

Iran has supplied Russia with at least three types of drones—the Mohajer-6 which has a 200-km range, the Shahed-129 which travels up to 450 km, and the Shahed-191, which goes up to 2000 km. Despite no official word from the two countries, Ukraine claims to have shot down and captured several Mohajer-6 drones coming in from Russia to drop payloads over Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

Can Iranian Drones Match Up to Azerbaijan’s Turkish Drones?

Both Ukraine and Azerbaijan are among the biggest buyers of Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 military drones. These drones have been credited for playing an instrumental role in Azerbaijan’s decisive victory over Armenia in the 2020 conflict and helping Ukraine resist the Russian invasion in 2022. In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan’s fleet of TB2 drones was responsible for destroying nearly 40 percent of Armenia’s inventory of military equipment. The Ukrainian Air Force has officially confirmed only two successful attacks on Russian targets using the TB2 drones.

Given these facts, it is unlikely that the addition of Iranian drones to Armenia’s arsenal will put Azerbaijan on the back foot.

Russia will also be watching the developments closely as they affect key allies Iran and Armenia and involve Turkey—its key rival in the Black Sea—as well. Moscow is the primary guarantor of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and has become alerted to European efforts to increase diplomatic influence in the Caucuses and tap into its vast gas reserves.