Political False Start Of Azerbaijan And Azeri Nationalists Of Iran

by Sergey Shakaryants

Regnum, Russia
June 1 2006

For over ten days already there has been serious destabilization in
the Azeri-populated areas of Northern Iran. The first thing that may
occur to one who tries to compare what is happening in Northern Iran
now with what happened in the world after the appearance of Mohammed
cartoons in a Danish newspaper is that the appearance of an insulting
cartoon about the “Azeri ethnicity” in one of the leading Iranian
dailies might have well been a provocation. It may as well occur to him
that both cartoons were “orchestrated” (as a political provocation) by
either one hand or two different hands moved by one and the same brain.

In this particular case, everything is seemingly harder. In order
to grasp the logic of the whole chain of events, one will have
just to remember what preceded the cartoon by the “Iran” daily and
the following mass protests by Iranian Azeri-Turks and to compare
this with the slogans they are pushing now – now, they are already
protesting against Iran’s foreign policy rather than against those
who mocked their sacred Azeri language – as they explained at first.

In fact, they have no more reason for protesting – it has already
been a week since the Iranian authorities arrested the author of the
cartoon and the chief editor of the daily and closed the daily itself
for an indefinite time.

To a certain extent, we can already see the true motives of the Iranian
Azeris. Both the Iranian authorities and the spiritual leader of Iran,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Azeri by nationality) have openly and harshly
said what the protesters are actually after and who is behind them. Now
that American and British media have begun to actively speculate on
how the US might “shake the boat” of internal political stability in
Iran before its possible aggression against that country – and quite
unambiguously hinting that the Iranian Azeris might well be the key
“shaker” – and that the US parliamentarians have already decided
to allocate $75 mln for “the fight for democracy in Iran,” there is
hardly anybody in Tehran who still believes that the Azeris scanning
in the streets actually want their mother tongue to become the second
state language in Iran – in fact, everybody understands that pushing
them into the streets are US dollars.

We still remember the anti-Iranian calls and slogans made during
the 2nd World Azeri Congress and the following conflict between the
Azeri and Iranian authorities. Then, Tehran demanded apology and
account for the open “Southern Azerbaijan’s independence” calls by
some of the participant Azeris. We can also remember the April 25
press-conference by Jahandar Bayogly, the chairman of the Committee
for the Protection of the National Liberation Movement of “Southern
Azerbaijan,” presently residing in Baku, when he urged the US to start
a war against Iran and noted that “only Southern Azeris can curb
terrorism in Iran.” He, in fact, admitted that they in Washington
are planning to use the anti-Persian circles of the Iranian-Azeri
community for destabilizing the internal situation in Iran.

At the same time, Bayogly tried to mislead the journalists by saying
that “many European countries are beginning to despise Iran” i.e. he
made a primitive attempt to convince them that some “anti-Iranian
international force” is taking shape in the world, who is ready
to use “the Southern Azeris” in its war against Iran and that the
US is not alone in its desire to start a war against Iran. “The
West-Iran relations must be viewed as relations between the West and
Azerbaijan. Nobody, including the US, will succeed in the anti-Iranian
campaign if he ignores the role and importance of millions of Azeris
living in Iran. The only force that can curb terrorism in Iran is
Southern Azeris,” Bayogly said. He also pointed to the “fragments”
of Turkey’s interest in both the activities of his committee –
especially its relations with US official and “unofficial” circles –
and the start of the war against Iran: “The West should regard Turkey
and Azerbaijan as guarantors of stability in the region and if they
start to strike Iran without understanding the attitude of Turkey
and Azerbaijan towards the problem, they will face destabilization
in a fuel-rich region.” In order to make himself convincing, Bayogly
tried to blackmail his audience a bit: “If the West interferes in
Iran against the will of Azerbaijan and Turkey, it may face their
confrontation. The negligence of the interests of the Turkish and
Azeri peoples, including the Iranian Azeris, will lead to even more
deplorable results than in Iraq.”

Quite a strange coincidence – appearing in Baku, exactly before
“the second phase” of the Azeri protest wave in Iran, was Mahmudali
Chehraganly, one of “the key fighters for Southern Azerbaijan’s
independence,” the leader of the Movement of the National Awakening of
Southern Azerbaijan – a person who was long “removed” from Azerbaijan
by the Alievs clan and has lived for a long time in nowhere but London
and Washington. Today Bayogly and Chehraganly are the key mouthpieces
for those in the Azeri community of Iran and the Azeri Republic who are
constantly speaking about growing anti-Azeri repressions in Northern
Iran. Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Afshar Suleymani
(Azeri by origin) has officially said that nobody was killed during
the first protest action in Tabriz (an action that caused the present
instability in Northern Iran).

The world community is already saying that the Iranian authorities
shoot at “peaceful demonstrators fighting for their civil rights,”
that they recruit some “Kurdish armed groups” against Azeris and so
on. The Kurdish factor mentioned by Bayogly and Chehraganly is not
just a tribute to fashion. It is also an own political “serve” to
the US and Turkey for them to later ask what “Kurdish armed groups”
the Iranian authorities exactly use against the anti-Persian Iranian
Azeris. And we are almost sure that the US and Turkey may even accuse
Iran of playing up with PKK fighters – the selfsame fighters Ankara
recently attacked in Iraqi Kurdistan (with the US’ permission). It
should be noted that involved in that punitive action were special
purpose troops of two countries – Turkey and Iran – who moved
towards each other via the territory of Northern Iraq. And now this
“mysterious” Turkish-Iranian operation is followed by a “sudden”
conflict in Northern Iran – one more strange coincidence.

What is this the Iranian authorities and the international community
are actually dealing with? In the last 5-6 days the Azeri protest
actions in Iran have turned into thoroughly planned propaganda
against Iran’s policy in the world and in the South Caucasus, in
particular. Things are beginning to clear up. Even if some cartoon
against Iranian Armenians or Arabs might cause some outburst of
displeasure, we dare say that neither Armenians nor Arabs nor even
the more “disobedient” Turkmens or Belujis would risk doing the same
the Iranian Azeris are doing – as they would know that nobody outside
Iran would support them.

Meanwhile, those “protesting” in Tabriz went to loot government
offices with the flag of a foreign state – neighboring Azeri Republic
– and scanned not only “Long Live Azerbaijan!” but also “Down with
Armenia!”, “Karabakh Is Ours!” and so on. And what they in Tabriz
burned down on May 27 was not Iranian but Armenian flag. Let’s admit
that the anti-Armenian “fragments” of the Azeri protests are already a
direct sign that they on top in the US, Israel, Turkey and Azerbaijan
are getting increasingly annoyed not only with Iran’s international
policies but also with its political line in the South Caucasus –
with Azerbaijan and Turkey frequently appearing with open charges
that Iran “supports” Armenia in the Karabakh and other issues. The
decisions of the 2nd World Azeri Congress made just a month ago are
also part of this chain.

Now let’s add all this to the open efforts Washington has been making
in the last two-three months to get rid of “the Karabakh headache”
and to as much open displeasure of the Americans with Armenia’s
efforts to diversify its energy sources with the help of Iran and
its reluctance to “get connected” to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and
Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipes. And then we will find a clue to the hidden
motives of the allegedly purely anti-Persian actions in Northern Iran,
which are nothing but just new ways to keep tensions high there.

Meanwhile, the Azeri authorities are trying hard to pretend they
have nothing to do with what is going on. “The attitude of Azeri
Embassy towards the disorders in Tabriz and other Iranian cities
may be exaggerated,” Azeri Ambassador to Iran Abbasali Gasanov said
to Azeri-Press on May 25. “The statements of the Azeri ambassador
about the events may cause problems. That’s why, Azerbaijan prefers
to regard the events as Iran’s internal affair. Azerbaijan will not
comment on the clashes between Azeris and the police. Azerbaijan does
not interfere in Iran’s domestic affairs and there are no problems
between the two countries,” Gasanov said. The American friends and
lobbyists of Azerbaijan and anti-Persian Iranian Azeris are much more
sincere. On May 26 the American-Azeri Society urged the UN to take
measures against the murders and arrests committed by the Iranian
authorities in Southern Azerbaijan. The Society informed the UN that
Iranian special service agents opened fire at peaceful ralliers and
killed many people: “In Iran peaceful Azeri ralliers are attacked by
police, those trying to protect themselves are annihilated.” In Iran
Azeris have no rights and freedoms and can’t get education in their
native language: “Those who try to protect the rights of Azeris are
arrested on charge of Pan-Turkism and anti-national activity. The
present Iranian authorities are a devilish regime, who can kill its
citizens every minute. The UN Security Council must condemn these
actions and pass a severe verdict against the devilish regime in Iran.”

That is, in principle, those people still hope that international
forces will interfere in the internal affairs of Iran – at least,
like they did in Iraq. In other words, they still believe in “a united
anti-Iranian coalition.”

The problem is that the Iranian authorities have already suppressed
the protests in the northern provinces and have arrested everybody who
“at some American X hour” was supposed to be ready for mass actions
of active protest or civil disobedience – for something that could
actually blow up the internal political stability in Tehran or even
in the whole Iran. Meanwhile, 10 days have already passed but neither
the US nor Turkey have done anything to “help out” their fifth pillar
in Iran.

It turns out that the Iranian authorities may have been timely warned
that there might be some mass anti-national actions by specially
trained “pan-Turkic” activists and, well aware that they might have
no other chance to show them up, cold-bloodedly allowed the Iranian
Azeris to “show themselves off” from May 17 to May 28. In this light,
one can’t but agree with the view of the representatives of the
Movement of Southern Azerbaijan – Bayogly and Chehraganly – who say
that the Iranian authorities are far from panic or confusion. One
proof is the warning by the command of the Islamic Revolution Guards
that all of their 5 million guards are on high alert, which means that
the anti-Persian circles of the Iranian Azeris (and in fact the Azeri
Republic itself – if it is privy to the events in any slightest way)
have run across the powerful wall of Iran’s “internal defense.”

In fact, those who spurred the Iranian Azeris into a fight with the
present Iranian authorities have made a gross false start.

Sergey Shakaryants – expert of Caucasus analytical center

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