12.07.2006
Azerbaijan – Between America and Iran
№3 2006 July/September

The crisis situation over Iran’s nuclear program has drawn
international attention to its immediate neighbor, Azerbaijan. Iran
is connected to this country through the many ethnic Azerbaijanis
living on its territory, as well as through a history of difficult
relations.

In the past, Azerbaijan and Iran were one state, and for
centuries Teheran regarded Azerbaijani land as its own. However,
the 1828 Turkmenchay peace treaty between Russia and Persia placed
North Azerbaijan (about one-third of all Azerbaijani territory)
under the jurisdiction of St. Petersburg.

From then on, the history of the divided people developed along
two lines. South Azerbaijanis remained within the Islamic and
broader Eastern civilization, while North Azerbaijanis began to
join Russian, and through it, European culture. It was in the north
that the national consciousness of the Azerbaijani ethnos awoke
with the eventual emergence of political parties.

After the disintegration of the Russian Empire in 1918, the
local elite declared the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic
Republic – the first republic in the Moslem East. Iran refused to
recognize the independent state, and in the spring of 1920 Russia,
now ruled by a Soviet government, regained control of the region,
using a bloody conflict between Baku and Yerevan over the
Nagorno-Karabakh territory as a pretext. Yet the 23 months of
independent existence have left a trace in the nation’s memory – as
has the negative role that Russia, Armenia and Iran played in the
destiny of the young democratic republic.

After Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Soviet
troops invaded Iran and throughout the war controlled South
Azerbaijan. Moscow planned to annex the occupied territory and in
December 1945 played a role in establishing a republic there under
the leadership of Seyyed Jafar Pisheveri. His government included
many people from Soviet Azerbaijan. Actually, the Soviet Union
planned to unite both parts of Azerbaijan under its control.
However, after the Soviet army left Iran, its authorities brought
down the republic. Thus was missed the chance to restore the
integrity of the Azerbaijani people.

Decades later, beginning in the late 1980s, more and more people
in North Azerbaijan began to call for the reunification of the
Azerbaijani lands. On December 31, 1989, thousands of Azerbaijanis,
inspirited by the first possibility in many decades of uniting with
fellow Azerbaijanis in Iran, crossed the Aras River, bypassing
barriers on the Soviet-Iranian border. Today, this date is
officially celebrated as the Day of Solidarity of Azerbaijanis in
the whole world.

TEHERAN, BAKU – STRAINED RELATIONS

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence in 1991 of
the sovereign Republic of Azerbaijan populated by eight million
people brought back a situation in the region similar to that of
1918-1920. Once again a conflict broke out between Azerbaijan and
Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, while relations between Baku and
Moscow seriously worsened. After Azerbaijan gained independence,
its foreign policy acquired a strongly pronounced pro-Western –
primarily pro-American – nature. (This policy line, pursued by the
Popular Front government led by President Abulfez Elchibey,
continued after Heidar Aliyev came to power.)

The changes in the country could not but tell on its relations
with Teheran, particularly in view of the fact that the number of
ethnic Azerbaijanis who lived in the north of Iran, according to a
1986 census, stood at 11.5 million – more than 25 percent of the
entire population of Iran. (In 2006, Iran’s Ambassador to
Azerbaijan, Afshar Soleymani, said the number of ethnic
Azerbaijanis in Iran now exceeds 35 million.) Ethnic Azerbaijanis
in Iran played a particularly notable role in the Army and
government bodies.

Iran tried to channel these developments to its advantage
assisting in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At
Iran’s proposal, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in May
1992 in Teheran. However, this first and only attempt of mediation
ended in a disaster for Iranian-Azerbaijani relations. Official
Baku received assurances from Teheran that Armenia would not start
any military operations. However, even before the negotiations were
over, Armenians stormed and invaded Shusha, the main stronghold of
Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh. This event in many respects
became a turning point in the war, and Iran bears full moral
responsibility for it.

In 1994, under Washington’s pressure, Baku refused to include
Teheran among members of an international consortium for the
development of oil and gas fields in the Caspian region. Two years
later, almost all Iranian religious, humanitarian and public
organizations were banned in the country, while the leaders of the
pro-Iranian Islamic Party of Azerbaijan were arrested and convicted
of espionage on behalf of Iran. The Azerbaijani diaspora in Iran
joined in anti-Iranian activities, raising the issue of ethnic
Azerbaijanis in Iran at all international Azerbaijani congresses
held regularly since 1997.

The official status of the Caspian Sea and its energy resources
represents yet another stumbling block in relations between
Azerbaijan and Iran. In July 2001, the two countries were on the
verge of war after Iranian fighter aircraft and ships interfered
with the development of oil fields near the Iranian border. In
August 2003, Iran accused Baku of militarizing the Caspian Sea. The
accusation was provoked by an Azerbaijani-American naval exercise
in the Caspian Sea, in which 18 U.S. servicemen and the crews of
two Azerbaijani combat helicopters and two patrol boats practiced
how to defend oil-and-gas sea platforms from terrorists.

Following the presidential elections of 2003, government power
in Azerbaijan was handed over from the ailing President Heidar
Aliyev to his son Ilham. The presidential administration of George
W. Bush chose to ignore numerous cases of blatant election rigging
and reprisals, which accompanied the election campaign, and
recognized the official election results. Washington’s stance
angered even those forces in Azerbaijan that were particularly
pro-Western. Oppositional media outlets carried screaming
headlines, such as Oil for Democracy; Farewell, the West! and
Short-Sighted Policy of Washington. One of the most radical
pro-Western newspapers, Yeni Musavat, published an article
headlined If an Election Like That Suits America, Then Long Live
Bin Laden?

Amidst the hypocritical position of the West, the Azerbaijani
population began to learn news about the situation in their own
country from Iranian radio and four Iranian television channels,
above all the private TV channel Sahar-2. As a result, pro-Islamic
sentiments began to grow fast in the country.

THE AMERICAN FACTOR

After American troops invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, Azerbaijan
decided its time had come in the confrontation with Iran,
especially after the United States declared Teheran as one of the
main threats to international peace. Thus, Americans began to pay
more attention to ethnic minorities in Iran, especially to
Azerbaijanis.

In 2002, high-ranking American officials received the leader of
the South Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement, Mahmudali
Chohraganli, a professor of Tabriz University who had been expelled
from Iran. After the meeting, the politician said in an official
statement to the mass media: “The goal of our organization is the
creation of a democratic secular state with a federative system in
Iran, and South Azerbaijan will receive the highest status of
autonomy in it.” After that, Chohraganli said later, negotiations
began in the U.S. for the unification of all opposition forces in
Iran. The Americans insisted on preserving the territorial
integrity of Iran as a secular and democratic state, in which the
Azerbaijanis could hope for the creation of an autonomous republic
with the capital in Tabriz. On July 2, 2003, Chohraganli told a
press conference in Baku that the struggle for “a new life for
South Azerbaijanis” had begun and that 18 months later Iran would
become a federation.

Washington did not expect any problems in its relations with
Baku. However, the situation made it impossible to achieve an
unequivocal choice in anyone’s favor. Ilham Aliyev, who took over
the country’s helm at the height of the American struggle against
terrorism, had to maneuver between Washington, Teheran and Moscow.
Additionally, Azerbaijani society, stung by Washington’s reaction
to the results of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, was no
longer unanimous toward the deployment of American military bases
in the country. Sensing the change in public sentiment, Aliyev said
in the spring of 2004 that Azerbaijan should not rush in its
decision to join NATO.

High-ranking officials from the Pentagon and the Department of
State made visits to Baku. In March 2004, Azerbaijan’s Defense
Minister Safar Abiyev paid a visit to Washington at the personal
invitation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The
parties discussed the deployment of American troops in Azerbaijan
and other military-technical issues related to the reconstruction
and modernization of military airfields.

In the autumn of the same year, there surfaced reports about a
possible U.S. attack against Iran, which sparked heated debates in
Azerbaijan. Pro-Western politicians in the country pinned much hope
on that hypothetical attack since they believed it could help
reunite North and South Azerbaijan. However, a majority of local
analysts warned that a deterioration in U.S.-Iranian relations
might have very negative consequences for Azerbaijan. Teheran added
fuel to the tensions by declaring it might deliver a preventive
strike against Azerbaijan if the latter was used by American troops
as a bridgehead into Iran.

In November 2004, Azerbaijani mass media reported that over 50
U.S. servicemen had arrived as “advisers” to an airforce base near
the Chukhanly village in the Salyan Region, not far from the
Iranian border. Then followed reports that airfields in Nakhichevan
and near the villages of Chukhanly and Nasosny (north of Baku), as
well as a military proving ground at Garaeibat, had been completely
modernized and met NATO standards. At least seven airfields were
practically ready for delivering air strikes against Iran. Analysts
pointed out that the military base at Chukhanly had an outlet to
the Caspian Sea, and that Americans had begun the modernization of
Azerbaijan’s Navy. The threat of a U.S. attack against Iran was
beginning to look serious, especially after President George Bush
hinted at such a possibility on the eve of his second
inauguration.

These developments drastically changed Iran’s policy. In
November 2004, after a decade of vain efforts by Baku, Iran gave
the green light to the opening of a general consulate of Azerbaijan
in Tabriz. In December, a special envoy of the Iranian president
for Caspian Sea issues, Mehdi Safari, Health Minister Masoud
Pezeshkian, Security Minister Ali Yunesi, and Defense Minister Ali
Shamkhani visited Baku. In order not to give cause to Azerbaijan
for turning into a bridgehead for American intervention, Iran
sought to solve all outstanding problems between the two
parties.

The “Iranian season” was crowned by an official visit to Teheran
by President Ilham Aliyev on January 24-26, 2005. The parties
signed nine documents on cooperation in various social and economic
spheres, simplified procedures for crossing their mutual border by
citizens of the two countries, and declared plans to open a
Baku-Tabriz air route in the near future. Also, Iran said it would
give Azerbaijan $1 million in aid for the development of the
Azerbaijani economy. Yet the main result of the negotiations was
that Iran publicly declared its support for Baku’s position in the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, condemned aggression on the part of
Armenia and spoke in favor of the territorial integrity and
sovereignty of Azerbaijan. Another important result was the serious
concessions that then President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami made on the
Caspian Sea status issue with Baku.

In exchange, Teheran asked for guarantees that Azerbaijan would
not allow its territory to be used by the United States for
preparing and launching military operations against Iran. It also
requested that Baku serve as an intermediary in settling its
disagreements with the U.S. Aliyev avoided giving a direct answer
but emphasized that his country advocated a peaceful solution to
all regional conflicts and would not allow the deployment of
foreign troops on its territory.

PROBLEM SOLVED?

Aliyev’s visit to Teheran and the noticeable warming in
Iranian-Azerbaijani relations caused irritation in the U.S. After
the spring of 2005, Americans sharply stepped up contacts with the
Azerbaijani opposition, and a sense of an “orange” revolution was
in the air, especially considering parliamentary elections
scheduled for the autumn of the same year. In early April, Pentagon
chief Donald Rumsfeld made a sudden visit to Baku where he planned
to meet with President Aliyev. What happened next was like
developments in a cheap detective story: hours before Rumsfeld
arrived in Baku, Aliyev made an “urgent” departure for Pakistan.
Rumsfeld learned about this at the Baku airport and immediately
left for Pakistan as well. Despite the absence of official
information about their meeting, sources close to the government
said that the parties did speak about American military
presence.

Immediately after that, the Azerbaijani political circles began
to discuss the imminent appearance of NATO bases in the country.
Moreover, according to reports from abroad, some high-ranking
officials in Washington, including NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander
in Europe, General James Jones, spoke about the emergence of a
full-scale NATO base on Azerbaijani territory as a decided
issue.

Starting from the middle of 2005, in view of the approaching
elections, the issue of military bases fell into the background,
although, according to some sources, secret negotiations between
Baku and Washington continued. Since the Azerbaijani president did
not enjoy unconditional public support, nor in his own
administration – especially among members of his father’s former
team – the Americans’ tone gradually changed to harsher criticism.
Angered by Washington’s reluctance to invite him for a personal
meeting with President George Bush, Ilham Aliyev delayed a decision
on the issue of an American military presence.

Suddenly, new developments in Uzbekistan, which were followed by
the strict demand by Uzbek President Islam Karimov that the U.S.
withdraw its troops from the country, made Washington change its
plans. The deployment of American bases in Azerbaijan would be the
most obvious solution to this problem. However, Baku continued to
evade a final answer.

In early August 2005, the U.S. invited Azerbaijan’s Foreign
Minister, Elmar Mamedyarov, for a visit. According to information
from opposition circles, during that meeting the American side – in
the form of an ultimatum – raised the issue of deploying its
military bases and asked the Azerbaijani side to inform it of its
decision before August 20 – the date of a planned visit to Baku by
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The meeting would take place
only if Washington received a positive answer.

Contrary to expectations, Rumsfeld never arrived in Baku. On
August 24, Aliyev told journalists that Azerbaijan was not
conducting any negotiations for the deployment of American bases in
the country. The U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Reno Harnish,
reacted by warning that in case the results of the parliamentary
elections were rigged, the United States and the West as a whole
would take a much tougher position. Baku regarded this statement as
an undisguised threat.

In reply, Aliyev made a series of friendly gestures toward
Russia. The Lider TV channel, which belongs to the Azerbaijani
president, lashed out at “the U.S. policy of neo-colonialism in the
region.” There appeared publications in the mass media close to the
government, calling into question the prospects for the deployment
of U.S. and NATO bases in Azerbaijan. In late August, the Ray
(Opinion) sociological center conducted a poll in 33 towns across
the country, which revealed that 54 percent of the respondents were
opposed to U.S. bases, while only about 21 percent did not object
to their deployment. Asked how they would react to Azerbaijan’s
participation in a conflict between the United States and Iran, a
majority of the respondents (58 percent) said they would not
support it, and only 11 percent gave a positive answer.

In September 2005, the U.S. embassy softened the tone of its
statements that urged Azerbaijan to carry out democratic reforms.
On September 20, the Defense Minister of Azerbaijan, Safar Abiyev,
made an urgent visit to Stuttgart, Germany at the invitation of
General Charles Wald, Deputy Commander at the Headquarters of U.S.
European Command. The negotiations in Germany focused on two
issues: the deployment of American troops and the constructions of
several defense facilities in Azerbaijan. In order to avoid
accusations from Russia and anti-American forces in Azerbaijan,
U.S. military bases were defined as temporarily deployed mobile
forces, whose presence, however, would be long-term and would
become a factor in strengthening U.S. military control over energy
resources of the Caspian Sea.

Official Baku denied all reports about the negotiations. But
suddenly, a “bomb” exploded: on September 21, Reno Harnish told
journalists about the construction of two radar stations – one at
Astara near the border with Iran, and the other near the border
with Russia, in the Caucasian Mountains, not far from the town of
Hyzy. The ambassador said the construction was part of the
Pentagon’s plan for defending the Caspian Sea resources.

The ambassador’s statement shocked the press service of
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense. At first, it declined to comment
on the news, but later the press service chief declared: “The
Ministry of Defense has no information about the construction of
two radar stations with the assistance of the U.S.” The Foreign
Ministry hurried to deny the reports as well.

Naturally, no one believed those statements. Moreover, whereas
the country did gain from the modernization of seven airfields, the
construction of two radar stations at once seemed pointless to many
– all the more so considering Russia’s Daryal radar station in
Gabala. Thus, Azerbaijan would have three such facilities, owned by
two foreign states. Of the two U.S. radar stations, one would be
directed against Russia, the other against Iran.

The United States realized that it would not achieve its goals
in Azerbaijan until the Nagorno-Karabakh problem was solved.
Therefore, in early 2006, American diplomacy stepped up its efforts
in this field and offered Baku a new plan: Armenians must withdraw
from six regions (according to a 5+1 formula) on condition that
Azerbaijan agreed to hold a referendum on the status of
Nagorno-Karabakh in 10 to 15 years.

The Azerbaijani public interpreted this proposal as an intention
to annex part of the country’s territory for the sake of U.S.
strategic interests, as the plan was actually based on the
principle “occupied lands in exchange for Nagorno-Karabakh’s
independence.” Aliyev understood perfectly well that any
concessions on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue might backfire on him. It
is little wonder, then, that the February 2006 meeting between the
presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Rambouillet Castle near
Paris ended in complete failure.

Having recovered from the shock, the U.S. returned to this
issue, doing its best to have Aliyev agree to the proposed plan for
settling the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Additionally,
Washington demanded that Baku join a planned anti-Iranian
coalition. The Americans hinted that otherwise they would use
various kinds of levers to exert pressure on Azerbaijan: for
example, they would raise the issue of human rights and democracy
in the country. The authorities of Azerbaijan found themselves in a
very difficult position. Aliyev partly admitted as much when he
said in public: “We must be able to withstand pressure on our
country on all sides.”

However, the crisis over Iran grew increasingly acute – and,
accordingly, so did the importance of Azerbaijan. A failure to
settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could thwart U.S. plans with
regard to Iran. So in late April, the American administration,
quite unexpectedly, invited Aliyev to visit the U.S. – something
that Aliyev had been unsuccessfully striving for since his first
days in power. This news alarmed the authorities of Iran, and on
the eve of Aliyev’s departure, Iran’s Defense Minister Mostafa
Mohammad Najjar paid an urgent visit to Baku. Then, several days
after Aliyev’s return to Baku, he met with Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During those meetings, the Iranian party
unequivocally warned the president of Azerbaijan about the actions
that would be taken against his country if Americans were allowed
to use Azerbaijani territory.

The president of Azerbaijan found himself between a rock and a
hard place. He himself admitted that, and after the negotiations
with George Bush he said that Baku continued to advocate a peaceful
solution to the Iranian crisis. He repeated this during his
negotiations and meetings with the Iranian officials. Nevertheless,
many analysts in Azerbaijan believed that, most likely, Aliyev had
given his consent to the unofficial use of Azerbaijani territory by
the Americans.

MAY PROTESTS IN SOUTH AZERBAIJAN

The situation in the region grew even more complicated after
ethnic Azerbaijanis held protests in Iran in May. The
demonstrations showed the strength and growth of separatist
sentiments among local Azerbaijanis, as well as the presence of
really serious problems among them. The protests were provoked by
the publication of cartoons in the government-controlled newspaper
Iran on May 12, which were offensive to Azerbaijanis. A few days
later, almost the whole of North Iran was swept by protests of
indignant Azerbaijanis. The protests were particularly large in the
unofficial capital of South Azerbaijan, Tabriz. The wave of popular
indignation was so strong that the majority of Persians that lived
in Azerbaijani-speaking areas of North Iran, especially civil
servants, chose to immediately leave the region, which paralyzed
for some time many institutions.

The authorities of Iran quickly realized the danger stemming
from this situation and apologized to the Azerbaijanis,
simultaneously arresting the newspaper’s editor and the author of
the cartoons. At the same time, President Ahmadinejad announced
that “foreign, above all American and Israeli, special services
were behind the disorders in South Azerbaijan.” Turkey, too,
aroused Iran’s suspicions. Simultaneously, Iranian authorities
declared that the instigators of the protests included the leader
of the South Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement, Mahmudali
Chohraganli. During the protests in Tabriz and other cities in the
north of Iran many demonstrators chanted his name.

However, moves by Teheran failed to stop the protests, which in
some areas outgrew into inter-ethnic confrontation. In late May,
South Azerbaijanis began to wave flags of independent North
Azerbaijan. These events did not leave indifferent the population
of North Azerbaijan. Rallies of protest were held one after another
outside the Iranian embassy in Baku. Realizing that the situation
was getting out of control, the Iranian authorities ordered the
Army and other security agencies to suppress the protests. In late
May, almost 50 protesters were reported killed and more than 1,000
injured. The number of arrested people reached 11,000.

Characteristically, the authorities of Azerbaijan kept
pretending that the developments in Iran were not their concern and
were solely an internal affair of that state. Moreover, when
reports about the brutal massacre of Azerbaijanis in Iran appeared
in Baku, President Ilham Aliyev declared again, “Azerbaijan will
not support a military action against Iran.” Simultaneously, the
U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan denied American involvement in those
events. Azerbaijanis did not overlook the fact that the protests in
Iran were not covered by the mass media in many countries in the
West, as well as in Russia. The contrast was especially striking
against the coverage of recent events in France, when people of
non-French origin demanded respect for their civil rights.

Occasional reports in the Western press about the developments
in Iran were brief and presented those events only as a reaction to
the cartoon scandal.
In early June, it became clear that the Iranian authorities
succeeded in suppressing the protests by the ethnic Azerbaijanis.
Then came a detective story involving Mahmudali Chohraganli, which
added to the pessimism among the leaders of South Azerbaijanis, as
well as in the North: on June 5, Chohraganli left the United
States, where he had lived for several years, for Turkey in order
to be closer to the protesters in Iran. However, on June 9, the
Turkish authorities unexpectedly arrested him – only to deport him
to Azerbaijan. The authorities explained their actions by the
threat of a terrorist act that Iranian extremists allegedly planned
to commit against Chohraganli. On arriving in Baku, Chohraganli had
another unpleasant surprise in store for him: he was detained again
by law enforcement bodies, which, without taking the trouble of
giving any explanations, simply put the visitor on a plane leaving
for Dubai, from where he was sent to the U.S. These events caused
heated debates in Turkish and, especially, Azerbaijani societies,
and stirred accusations against the local authorities that chose
not to have problems with Iran.

ALARMING PROSPECTS

The last few years have seen a sharp increase in the number of
Iranian citizens buying real estate in Baku. This tendency resulted
in an almost 30-percent rise in the prices of apartments and other
real estate in the spring of 2006, as well as the higher cost of
building materials. In February 2006, Iran’s Ambassador to
Azerbaijan, Afshar Soleymani, said with irritation: “We will
repulse aggressors, while the movement of 40,000 to 50,000 of our
citizens to Azerbaijan will not change anything.” But the
Azerbaijanis realize perfectly well that what is happening is
actually migration, and the urgent purchasing of real estate in
Azerbaijan is obviously connected with an impending war –
especially as most of the “newcomers” are not Azerbaijanis but
Iranians, including relatives of the ruling circles of Iran.

The Iranian issue has divided Azerbaijani society, as shown by
frequent public opinion polls. For example, the Center for Economic
and Political Studies (FAR CENTRE), with the help of the American
National Endowment for Democracy, conducted a poll in April and May
in 11 cities in Azerbaijan to find out what people thought of the
crisis over Iran. The poll showed that 34 percent of the
respondents supported Iran in the international conflict over its
nuclear program, while only 20 percent supported the United States
and the West as a whole. Only 9 percent said they expected benefits
for Azerbaijan in case of a military operation against Iran, while
7 percent expressed the hope that South and North Azerbaijan would
unite. Simultaneously, the poll showed a fall in the popularity of
the United States: only 11 percent placed the U.S. among countries
that are the most friendly toward Azerbaijan (compared with 30
percent in 1999).

Nationalist movements, which have become more active of late, do
not hide their satisfaction with the approaching war. They hope
that in case of Iran’s breakup, the United States will support the
independence of South Azerbaijan, as Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice has allegedly promised. The Popular Front and other
pro-Western organizations held a round-table meeting in March in
Baku to discuss the situation concerning Iran. All the speakers at
the meeting emphasized that a war against Iran was inevitable and
that Azerbaijanis must be ready to use the chance of re-uniting
into a single state.

However, the majority of the population and experts have a
different opinion. Many fear that, once combat actions begin,
hundreds of thousands of Iranian refugees will flood Azerbaijan,
and this will provoke further growth in the price of real estate,
foodstuffs and other consumer goods. At the same time, there will
be a growth of social tensions and crime. Simultaneously, the
influence of Islam will increase as well, considering the high
number of the faithful throughout the Iranian population.

The opponents of war warn that it would bring about an
ecological disaster in Azerbaijan as extensive spills of oil and
oil products caused by bombings would pollute water supply sources
and bio-resources of the Caspian Sea. Furthermore, the use of
modern weapons would sharply aggravate the seismic situation,
especially around the capital. Supporters of Azerbaijan’s
integration into Western structures fear that, if Iran fulfills its
promise and starts bombing residential quarters in Baku, there
would be numerous victims among the civilian population, and
anti-American sentiments in society would grow.

Finally, a protracted war would further destabilize the
situation in the region, while the United States would hardly allow
the creation of a unified Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, strong
disillusionment with Washington’s policy could facilitate the
propagation of pro-Islamic sentiments and bring radical forces to
power in Azerbaijan.

Aware of the grave consequences that an American attack against
Iran may have, especially considering the use of Azerbaijani
territory by the U.S., an overwhelming majority of Azerbaijan’s
population realizes the bitter truth that their country will hardly
avoid involvement of some kind in an American-Iranian crisis.