Integration and ethno-cultural identity: the nature of the relationship

Gulnara Inandzh, Director of International online information-analytical center “Etnoglobus”, the editor of the Russian section of the US-Turkish resource tirkishnews.com, representative of “Gumilev” center in Azerbaijan, [email protected]


Collapse of the Soviet Union, then start of globalization has created a new environment for the realization Ethnopsychological self-identy.

 

Soviet policies aimed at developing the conscience of the Soviet man, erasing ethnicity and religion, suddenly painted in bright colors the most radical of these factors of identity.

 

During first years of the new independent states, in Azerbaijan, political nationalism ran in parallel with ethnic nationalism, including with numerous, mainly Turkic ethnic groups. With the strengthening of state nationalism of Azerbaijani Turks declined in parallel reducing ethnic nationalism which is not the major ethnic groups living in the country.

However, the ethnic self-identity of the Azerbaijani citizens calling themselves as “Azerbaijanis” and citizens calling themselves as “Turks”, ” Lezghian”, “Avars”, “Talish” runs parallel. But in the mass consciousness there is no aggression and absolutism in self-identity. But also an understanding of the definition of “Azeri” as a political nation or state is too weak.

For example, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to explain the Azerbaijani Turks, still retained the format of the Soviet definition of “Azeri” that Lezghians Talish and Jew living in Azerbaijan, are also “Azeri”. Also jealous Lezghians Talish and Avar does not want to plead Azerbaijani as again under Soviet format believes that this is definition element, diverting his identity by the wayside.

Such an approach to the title “Azerbaijani” takes place among ethnic groups that do not have their own state. Deep in the subconscious behind it there is self-preservation instinct on the background of globalization, when the process of integration and merger of cultural values.

The so-called “Arab Spring” again exposed ethnic and religious feelings. Studies, as well as own fieldwork shows that in this international call, in Azerbaijan religious expression and ethnic identity prevails over, sometimes mixing them.

But the rise of ethnic consciousness is based on mythologizing history, historical figures searches among their ethnic group. (1)

Azerbaijan, participating in transnational and regional projects, accelerates the process of engaging in the process of globalization and its reverse side – localization. Localization develops regional and local identity. As a result of globalization, localization also acts as a catalyst of ethnic mobilization. (2)

The above identification format proposes a new way of thinking and identification – Eurasianism. This kind of format is new thinking for the Azerbaijani society. Part of the country is included in the European and Asian geographical space. One of the two villages located nearby according to this section may be both in Europe and Asia. What do they think of it? What continent do the residents of these villages belong to? They are likely to be called the name of his village, then their ethnicity, depending on where it is rural or political nation – Azerbaijani, then religious affiliation – Muslims. But they don’t care whether they are European or Asian.

Outside the country Azerbaijanis are considered as the eastern people, Muslims. And by presenting to our public consciousness a new format of thinking, we need to define and explain what the purpose of it is. If there is still a debate about ethnicity and political nation, those who do not want to consider himself a nation, and remains in its ethnic house, suggest a Eurasian identity.

Gumilev’s Eurasian idea was transferred to the political arena and has become a leading link in Russia’s foreign policy thus becoming virtually a new format for the unification of the Eurasian geography. That is, this is the idea of ​​Eurasian identity manifested itself on the political plane. In such a case Eurasianism will be dictated from above, if the political authorities decide to join it. Dictated from above new factor of integration or association will not be framed as an ideological component, and would mean only to carry political- geographical name. It means that Azeri do not have to adapt to the new identity. In this case, the proposed policy of Eurasian idea does not compete or clash with ethnic and national identity, but it is the basis for cultural and economic integration.

With the growing economic and political status of Azerbaijan, national identity takes a new quality. Today being an Azerbaijani is prestigious, for example, equals with Europeanized Eastern man, a Muslim with a modern way of thinking. Azerbaijanis are now not only migrant workers but also employers. Azerbaijan already began to receive migrants from southern Russia, Asia and Iran. This is due to participation of Azerbaijan and the role of Azerbaijani business as an employer in the south of Russia.

Here it would be appropriate to consider the involvement of Azerbaijan in the economy of the south of Russia, which includes not only economic, but also cultural and social integration.

Economic and political development of Azerbaijan assigns it the role of the employer that changes the attitude towards the state and the people. Russia invited foreign private and public companies, including Azerbaijani investors to participate in the development of economy in southern Russia.

Southern borders of Russia, bordering with two regional states, Azerbaijan and Georgia, is a strategically important reference point of Russia. In order to establish peace in the south of the country, the federal center along with operational activities implement economic reforms, aimed at serving as establishment of new jobs, growth of social conditions of the population and reduction of migration.

But at the same time, given the desire of foreign powers to separate the south of the country, including the North Caucasus from Russia, the Kremlin approaches the foreign investors carefully, without allowing them into the regional economy.

In this case, absence of geopolitical ambitions in the North Caucasus and the reluctance to become an instrument of foreign games in the region, makes Azerbaijan successful and trusted source of investment in the economy of the south of Russia. Many factors contribute to this, including economic potential, similarity of mental traits, natural infrastructure, a large market, etc.

State border treaty, signed in 2010 between Baku and Moscow accompanied the opening of the North Caucasus economic fields for the Azerbaijani business.

In the summer of 2011 Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, the special representative of the President of Russia in the North Caucasus Federal District (North Caucasus Federal District ) Alexander Khloponin, with the delegation of heads of all the North Caucasian Republics came to Baku to discuss the subject. Immediately thereafter, the Minister of Economic Development of Azerbaijan Shahin Mustafayev visited seven republics of the North Caucasus and business forums and business meetings were held. (3)

Paying particular attention to economic cooperation with Azerbaijan, plenipotentiary representation of the Russian President in the North Caucasus Federal District creates a special council to supervise the execution of the decisions relating to the subjects of the federation in the region and also plans to open a representative office of North Caucasus Federal District in Azerbaijan.

According to the deputy envoy to North Caucasus Federal District Sergei Subbotin, “A task was put before North Caucasus Federal District leaders aiming at development of relations with Azerbaijan, and it is high time to control the effectiveness of these tasks. Effective solution of all tasks depends primarily on effective control. ” (4)

Participation of Azerbaijani business is particularly felt in Stavropol and Krasnodar regions of Russia. For example, in 2009, Azerbaijan won the 3rd place in terms of foreign trade with the Stavropol Territory – $ 123.3 million, which is 8.7 % of the total foreign trade turnover of the region, and trade with the Krasnodar Territory – $ 71.4 million.

In 2010 national company “Azersun Holding” put into operation a tea-packing factory in Belorechensk (Krasnodar region) with a total of more than $ 3 million. and started the construction of a cannery in the same amount. Totally the company has invested in the infrastructure of the Krasnodar Territory $ 22 million.

In September 2011 Azerbaijani company “Matanat – A” started construction of Materials Plant in Uspensky district of Krasnodar region ( project worth of 30 million euros).

In early June of this year in Volgograd during the fourth forum “Russia -Azerbaijan: interregional dialogue 2013” business exhibition was organized where the Russian regions and Azerbaijan demonstrated products of industrial and processing enterprises. The exhibition was attended by more than 40 producers in the region , including plants such as “Volgogradneftemash “, ” VZBT “, ” united Tsarician manufactory “, ” Volzhsky Abrasive Plant ,” ” Kamyshinsky textiles “, “Brewers”, “Config”, “Gardens Pridonya” , “King – product” and other productions.

According to the Minister of Economy, Foreign Economic Relations and Investment Elvira Lagutina, Azerbaijan today is one of the largest customers of the Volgograd region. Currently, the region has 10 enterprises with the participation of the Azerbaijani capital, trade is growing with the republic – by the end of 2012 it exceeded $ 140 million.

– Azerbaijan is interested in Volgograd APK, bus manufacturing, chemical products and other enterprises. Besides, there are also prospects in the implementation of joint investment projects, including the construction of hotels and the creation of platforms in the field of agricultural processing. Azerbaijan also purchased Drilling Equipment Plant in Volgograd. (5 )

Federal center is very interested in the development of the region and creates maximum conditions for investment.

“The district used the most advanced tools to stimulate investment and development – government guarantees and investment insurance that does not exist in any other region of Russia. North Caucasus Development Corporation was established” – said Russian presidential representative in the North Caucasus Federal District Alexander Khloponin, inviting Azerbaijani investors to the region. (6 )

We also should note the need to establish a free trade zone in the region, which should abolish movement between Azerbaijan and Russia, to promote mutually beneficial trade and rapprochement and closer ties of the two countries, to attract Azerbaijani investors. This should also be accompanied by the creation of conditions for labor migration between Azerbaijan and in southern regions of Russia.

Russian side is trying to bring economic relations between Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus Federal District from framework of trade relations into the direction of the development of modern industry and technology and innovation. It is noteworthy that as evidenced above examples, the participation of Azerbaijani business in southern Russia is seriously interested in Moscow.

 

(Speech at the conference titled “Alternatives for regional developmenThe Shabunin readings, 11-12 October 2013, Volgograd)

Cooperation between Iran and Azerbaijan in the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh and Palestinian Conflicts

Gulnara İnanch, director of «Etnoqlobus» (ethnoglobus.az ) International Online information analyses center, editor Russian sector turkishnews.com

 

Political processes occurring in the Middle East gave a new stimulus to geopolitical events. Arabic Spring, although contrasting, opened a new phase for the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. However, it began to require new game conditions.

 

There have really been geopolitical times when partial or phase-by-phase solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict seemed to be possible. For example, in 2009 official Baku almost was able to get consent of world’s leading powers regarding liberation of 5 regions around Nagorno-Karabakh being under Armenian occupation. Armenian government also agreed for it instead hoping for softening of blockade from Azerbaijan side.

 

At that time, with the pressure of White House and European Union, Armenia-Turkey negotiations were underway. West wishing to exert influence on Russia through Armenia was insisting on opening of borders between Turkey-Armenia.

 

For implementation of this plan, military operations were to commence and Armenian military forces were to be driven out from the occupied territories. These operations would calm down Armenian nationalists thus persuading Armenian society about necessity of returning 5 regions. In that case, Armenian site would not loose their image while signing of treaty regarding solution of first phase of the conflict.(1)

 

That phase, much to our regret, was not completed. As the gas projects of Caspian Sea had not been defined accurately at that time, West and Russia postponed to use the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a tool for pressure.

 

Now there is new a chance, as we have already mentioned above, for phase-by-phase solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This time, along with West, East players also join the game. Azerbaijan, thanks to regulated and future intended policy, has become a new political and economic center not only in the region, but also in all over the world, including in the Islamic world.

 

While investigating current phase of the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, we focus on two states having special relations with Azerbaijan – Iran and Palestine. In autumn 2012 UN General Assembly adopted a resolution regarding giving Palestine non-Member Observer State status as a result of which world community began to see Palestine as an independent state in the Middle East. It should be noted that the fact that Palestine, which  had to be established as a state in 1947 along with Israel upon the Decision of United Nations, already is being recognized as a state amid “Arabic Spring”.

 

It should be noted that it is not accidental that Azerbaijan also voted for giving Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations. Official Baku has always supported establishment of Palestinian state and division of Quds.

 

After the visit of Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov to Ramallah in the spring of 2013, bilateral relations began to develop fast. Palestinian Foreign Minister has noted high reputation of Azerbaijan in several respected organizations such as UN Security Council, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Non-Aligned Movement. (3) Thus, Ramallah has hinted its hopes for future support by Azerbaijan in the mentioned organizations.

 

Azerbaijan, for the purpose of helping Quds and Palestine, hosted the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Foreign Ministers‘ Conferences in June. In this conference Azerbaijan put forward initiative of providing aid in the amount of 5 million dollars to important facilities in Quds.

 

Relations between Azerbaijan and Palestine had never been so positive. Palestine-Azerbaijan relations give both sides mutual benefits from political, economic, trade and cultural point of view. Next year forum of Azerbaijani and Palestinian traders and businessmen will be held in Azerbaijan. (2)

 

Beginning from last year official Baku started to work for recognition and socialization of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the Islamic world aiming at recognition of status of Quds for Nagorno-Karabakh in the Islamic world. This issue was also on the agenda during Mammadyarov’s visit to Ramallah. In order to popularize this issue, Palestine may direct the attention of the Islamic world to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue thus achieving support of Islamic world in solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in favor of Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, by supporting Quds, it is possible to neutralize possible impact of world’s Armenian lobby living in Arabic countries on policy of these Arabian states.

 

Another factor in phase-by-phase solution of the conflict and achieving the status of the Islamic word’s problem for the Nagorno-Karabakh is Iran.  During the visit of Ramiz Mehdiyev, head of Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan and Sheikh-ul-Islam Haji Allahshukur Pashazadeh, chairman of Caucasian Muslim Board (CMB) to Iran in April, focusing on Quds and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts in the Islamic world and international community in parallel was discussed. Promises of Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mohsen Pak Ayin to protect any state supporting Palestinian people, on which both Iran and Azerbaijan have the same views, reconfirm the position of official Tehran on the conflict (4).

 

Iranian ambassador in his interview gave explanation on his view: «Iran wants to use its resources in the solution of the conflict. Official Tehran has prepared a plan for parties about solution of the conflict. In case of necessity, we will submit it.» (5)

 

As the geography of tension in the Middle East expands, Iran, for the purpose of establishment of stability and peace in the region, tries to achieve solution of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Tehran thinks that any kind of disorder of security in the region will have negative impact on Iran.

 

Both Baku and Tehran have the same views on OSCE Minsk Group’s insufficient activity in the solution of the conflict. Tehran also highlights that only regional states can be helpful in the solution of the conflict.

 

Statement by Supreme leader of Iran Ali Khamenei on the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is important from the point of Tehran: “Karabakh is the Islamic land … Karabakh and the issue of its belonging to Azerbaijan will be supported.

… No matter how times passes we will not forget the fact that Karabakh is the Islamic lands. Karabakh will be freed by the muslim Azerbaijani nation”.

 

Researches show that Iran is seeking the ways how to be involved in the solution of the conflict.

 

There are opportunities for Azerbaijan, Palestine and Iran to take advantage of the situations occurred in the world. Iran, in order to demonstrate that it is not going to be satisfied just with promises, holds events in Tabriz dedicated to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict thus aiming at popularizing the Karabakh problem among the Azerbaijanis living in Iran in the level of Quds problem.

 

Iran has a chance to be involved in the solution process of the problem since it is cooperating with both conflicting parties. However, Iran will have to demonstrate that it is not the country supporting Armenia as it is widely thought in Azerbaijan and prove that words of Iranian Supreme Leader “we have the same blood running in the veins” are not just the word.

 

According to Azeri experts, Azerbaijan will ask Iran to impose economic sanctions against Armenia and if Iran fulfils Azerbaijan’s wish, Iran will be considered as a friend country in the view of Azerbaijanis. (6)

In this regard, thoughts that R.Mehdiyev stated in Iran characterize the intention of official Baku: «Azerbaijan considers Iran its older friend. Azerbaijan attaches huge importance to Iran’s support. We consider that our countries should be next to and support each-other. We think that it is reasonable to have strong and stable Iran in the neighborhood ». (7)

 

With Iran’s newly elected president Hassan Rouhani there are hopes all over the world on elimination of long lasting tensions with official Tehran. Because all the regional countries, including Azerbaijan gets its share from the tensions around Iran. In bilateral relations of Azerbaijan Iran is considered as sensitive guest which prevents official Baku to play open game in its foreign policy as a result of which we occasionally witness tensions between our countries.

 

Latest meetings in Tehran and Baku between Iranian and Azerbaijani officials enable us to think that relations between these countries are in new flat. Establishment of mutual confidence between our countries may allow Iran and Azerbaijan to join efforts in the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh and Quds conflicts.

 

German chancellor Angela Merkel has cheered Iran’s proposal to be mediator in Syrian problem. France also would like to see Tehran among the mediators holding negotiations with Damascus. Telephone calls between the Iranian and US presidents after long year’s political stagnation, particularly, agreement achieved in Geneva on 23 November on Iran’s nuclear program allow us to believe in serious changes to occur in the region. In this case, in order to demonstrate that West is sincere to build amicable relations with Iran, it may involve Iran as a mediator in the solution of regional conflict, including in the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

 

 

 

1. http://www.1news.az/authors/84/20090725122015632.html

2. http://www.gumilev-center.az/r-smi-baki-t-l-vivi-f-l-stin-il-bagli-birt-r-fli-movqed-n-uzaqlasdira-bil-r/

3. http://www.faktxeber.com/A/nazir-elmar-mmmdyarov-flstinin-xarici-ilr-naziri-riad-al-maliki-il-grb_h423746.html

4.gumilev-center.az

5. http://interfax.az/view/581413

 

6. ethnoglobus.az

 

7. Azerbaijan in the world, ADA Biweekly Newsletter, vol 6,№ 14. jule 15, 2013

 

Iran must deal with the reality that Azerbaijan has become a strong country

Gulnara Inandzh

Director, Ethnoglobus

An International Online Information and Analysis Center, editor Russian section turkishnews.com,

email- [email protected]

Two recent visits by Baku officials to Tehran, Ramiz Mehdiyev, the head of the Presidential Administration, and Allahshukur Pashazade, sheikh-ul-Islam and head of the Administration of Muslims of the Caucasus, have attracted attention not only because they follow on the heels of Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov’s visit to Israel, but because they represent an effort to rebalance the relationship between Azerbaijan and Iran in both the political and religious spheres.

None of these visits was the result of a last minute decision: all are likely to have been planned for months; and consequently, it would be a mistake to call them a coincidence.  Indeed, four years ago, a similar “coincidence” occurred when then-Iranian President Ahmadinejad and then Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman visited Baku almost simultaneously.  This time around, Tehran assessed the visits of Mehdiyev and Pashazade as something extraordinary, given that they took place just before the Iranian presidential elections and thus helped to define the environment in which the new reformist Iranian leadership would be forced to operate.

Iran now must deal with the reality that Azerbaijan has become a politically and economically strong country not only in the region, but in the world, and thus it is not entirely surprising that official Baku and Tehran have been seeking rapprochement and the achievement of balanced relations, not simply at the level of diplomatic words but truly friendly and trusting ties.  That is certainly suggested by the comment of the Iranian ambassador in Baku about the need to demonstrate the high level of trust between the two governments.

Regarding the issue of mutual support, the Iranian foreign ministry noted that during Mehdiyev’s visit, the two sides discussed the Syrian crisis, something of enormous importance to Tehran and something on which, the ministry said, the two sides had succeeded in bringing their respective positions closer into line. [1] A second issue the two sides discussed was the creation of an independent Palestinian state.  Azerbaijan favors that and also supports the division of Jerusalem between Palestine and Israel.

The third issue the two sides discussed was the equation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Palestinian problem, again something on which the two sides agreed.  The fourth issue involved Iran’s commitment not to support the Talysh movement or any other separatist group in Azerbaijan, a commitment former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had made to the late Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev.  And the fifth concerned the conflict between Iran and Israel, a conflict that the Israelis would like Baku to help resolve and something, which explains the proximity of the visit by Azerbaijani officials to Tehran and Israeli officials to Baku. [2] Because of that possibility, of course, both Israel and the US support good relations between Tehran and Baku, and just as was the case four years ago, Azerbaijan is in a better position to serve as an intermediary than anyone else.

It is no accident that as these visits were taking place, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov spoke to the American Jewish Committee Global forum in Washington.  Jewish organizations made clear that they were interested in all possible contacts through intermediaries with Tehran, including those that Azerbaijan could offer, including the follow on visit by Pashazade to Tehran, a visit that the Iran side characterized as one that reaffirmed the shared Islamic heritage of the two neighboring states.

“In our veins,” Seid Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of Iran said, “flows one and the same blood,” words that reflect another slogan which has been used in Tehran about relations with Azerbaijan, “two states—one nation.”  Obviously, the Iranian religious leadership along with political ties wants to ensure close religious links as well.

As a religious state, all of Iran’s foreign policy is built on the basis of Islam and on the support of Islamist groups in various countries.  Pashazade in this context had as his task dissuading the Iranian clerics from providing moral and material support to Azerbaijani Islamists.  The two sides were able to agree on the need to block any mass penetration of radical Islam into either country.

Thanks to the efforts of the Iranian religious establishment, the spread of the radical wing of Salafism into the region has been limited.  The prolongation of the conflict in Syria, however, creates a favorable basis for the spread of terrorism in much the same way that the Russian-Chechen war did in the 1990s.  Consequently, Baku and Tehran have many reasons for cooperation.

With its new president, Iran will be moving toward a new political level both internally and externally.  It will certainly want to advance Iranian-Azerbaijani relations in ways that are consistent with the needs of both sides.  And as Alex Vatanka, an expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington, has pointed out on the pages of Azerbaijan in the World, Azerbaijan is precisely the country with which Tehran will be reviewing its entire range of policies in order to boost cooperation rather than incite a new round of competition.

 

Notes

[1] See http://m.amerikaninsesi.org/a/1660588.html (accessed 13 July 2013).

[2] See http://www.turkishnews.com/ru/content/2012/06/11/Азербайджан-может-стать-посредником/ (accessed 13 July 2013).

AZERBAIJAN IN THE WORLD

ADA Biweekly Newsletter

Vol. 6, No. 14

July 15, 2013

 

Create a situation which Tehran might find difficult to control

Gulnara Inandzh

Director, Ethnoglobus (ethnoglobus.az)

An International Online Information and Analysis Center , [email protected]

(Baku- Tehran-Baku)

 

The election of Hasan Rowhani as the new president of Iran is part of a much larger process: an effort by the political elite to recapture authority in the population by launching a top-down political transformation lest outside forces provoke one and create a situation which Tehran might find difficult to control.

That transformation, one not often remarked upon by outsiders, reflects the fact that Iranian nationalism is today a more important force than is Islam and the country’s imperial ambitions are more important than Muslim brotherhood, however defined.  Those close to the Iranian political elite understand that, and they recognize as well that slogans against Zionism and the United States are no longer enough to satisfy the increasingly poor population of what should be one of the wealthiest countries on earth.

The policies of incumbent Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which have simultaneously led to international sanctions and massive corruption, have left Iranians angry, because they are bearing the burdens of his policies without gaining any of the supposedly positive achievements he liked to point to.  Consequently, they voted for Rowhani, but despite what many observers have said, they did so with the full approval of many around the top leaders who recognize that Iran cannot and must not continue as it has.

One area where change is now likely is the relationship between the religious authorities and the state that was set up by Ayatollah Khomeini more than 30 years ago and has remained largely unchanged.  Iranians can be dissatisfied with the religious authorities, but all those with whom I have spoken willingly reassert their love for their government.  The national policy of the Iranian state thus rests on an imperial ideology as a necessary response to the ethno-psychology of the population.  And that state is prepared to make a correction on religion-state relations by taking that factor into account.

Iranians will not support any actions that they believe harm the interests of the state and thus oppose any moves from the outside to oppose it.  That is something the West does not understand, but there is something else the West has failed to notice: the authorities in Tehran have developed political strategies to make mid-course corrections and even fundamental reforms.  And right now, as the election shows, they are in the middle of something that we are justified in calling a top-down transformation, a change in the key arrangements of the state without violence.

The first step in this direction was paradoxically made by Ahmadinejad who deprived the Muslim leaders of their immunity.  The second was the victory of the United Front of Conservatives in the March 2012 elections, which led Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to reappoint a number of reformers from the administration of former president Ali Rafsanjani.  And the third step in this process was the explicit call by Hasan Rowhani for political and economic reform and direct contacts with the United States, two issues that had earlier been taboo.

Rowhani’s election and in the first round at that shows that Iranians are ready for reform, and the support he has received from Ayatollah Khamenei shows that the reformists are winning ever more positions in Tehran and Qum and that the governing structure of Iran that Khomeini put in place after the 1979 revolution is going to change, albeit slowly and carefully lest they trigger instability.  As these changes are put in place, the Muslim leadership and the secular politicians will work in parallel, dividing the social-political and economic spheres.  Polls of Iranians carried out in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran show that a majority of them want to live in a secular society, but not to break altogether with their Muslim roots. 

Anyone visiting Tehran can see evidence of that: The majority of women there wear not the chadra, but scarves and long dresses, but not those reaching the ground.  In some places, it is even possible to observe women who are not covering their heads, something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.  Such examples could be multiplied, and they suggest that Iran, all the rhetoric notwithstanding, is opening up to secular culture and lifestyle.

Over the course of the last 30 years, a new generation of religious scholars in contemporary European dress has appeared in Iran.  Its members speak foreign languages, are not trapped by Muslim dogma, are open to Western scholarship, and are quite tolerant.  They and the new generation of Iranians, religious and non-religious alike, are going to lead Iran into a new stage of its history.  In sum, Iranians are effecting domestic transformation lest someone from the outside attempt to start that process.

AZERBAIJAN IN THE WORLD

ADA Biweekly Newsletter

Vol. 6, No. 12

June 15, 2013

The Azerbaijan-Turkey-Israel triangle both in Tel Aviv and in the Muslim Middle East

Gulnara Inanc
Director, Ethnoglobus
An International Online Information and Analysis Center
The first ever visit by an Azerbaijani foreign minister to Israel and Palestine, a visit all sides called historic, underscored the growing strategic partnership between Baku and its two partners in the Middle East.  The first person Elmar Mammadyarov met in Israel was the chairman of the Knesset Commission on Foreign Affairs and Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, who had long lobbied for close cooperation and a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan.  In large measure as a result of his efforts, earlier attempts by the Armenian lobby to raise the so-called “Armenian genocide” in the Knesset were blocked.  Last year, in response to the latest such attempt, Israeli President Shimon Peres and A. Lieberman, who was then Israeli foreign minister, openly declared that because of the country’s strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, the issue of the “Armenian genocide” would not be discussed in the Knesset.
Mammadyarov arrived in Tel Aviv on March 24th, the very day Armenians have declared a memorial day for the “genocide.”  Armenian media on that occasion put out information about a Knesset discussion of the “genocide,” but that did not happen.  Undoubtedly, it was very important for Azerbaijan to receive reassurance that the recognition of the so-called “Armenian genocide” would not be considered in the Knesset.
Among the notable outcomes of the Azerbaijani foreign minister’s visit to Israel was Baku’s declaration on his return that Azerbaijan is ready to sign a broad agreement concerning the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. [1] Israel beyond any doubt is not in a position to promise something regarding that conflict or to resolve it in some way.  But Tel Aviv is in a position to seek the broader support of Jewish groups around the world regarding the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict.  And consequently, the growing ties between Azerbaijan and Israel open the way for progress in the talks just as was the case some five years ago.
Earlier this year, the Jewish community of the United States held a conference on “Israeli Relations with the States of the South Caucasus.”  Avigdor Lieberman, with whom Foreign Minister Mammadyarov met in Israel, and President Shimon Peres have been devoting particular attention to the development of relations with the South Caucasus countries in general and Azerbaijan in particular. [2] Following his meeting with Lieberman, Mammadyarov went to Ramallah where the Palestinian authority declared its support for Baku’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and on the issue of the so-called “Armenian genocide.”
Azerbaijan supports the independence of Palestine and the division of Jerusalem, and in response to this support, it is seeking Palestinian backing on the two issues of greatest importance to itself.  A conference in Baku scheduled to be held later this summer can be considered part of the result of the Ramallah talks.
Palestine enjoys authority and is at the center of attention of the Islamic world.  Azerbaijan, in turn, has grown into an economically and politically powerful country not only in the South Caucasus, but more broadly as well.  Rid al Maliki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Autonomy, stressed this in his meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan enjoys authority in the leading international organizations. [3] Therefore, the support of Ramallah is significant, because it brings with it the attention of the Islamic and international community.  Thus, Azerbaijan was able to achieve its goal of gaining Palestine’s support for its positions.  In view of this, it is worth recalling the declaration made by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Haled ben Saud ben Haled, that the international community must mount pressure on Armenia to secure a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict [4] and a second declaration by Iranian leader Ali Khamenei that “Karabakh is a Muslim land … something that is supported at the highest levels.”
Both of these declarations can be seen as the result of Baku’s careful and balanced foreign policy.  Of course, one should focus attention on the fact that this historic visit to Israel took place after the Turkish-Israel rapprochement.  Interestingly, one of the clearest opponents of that rapprochement, A. Lieberman, nonetheless agreed with it.  The Israeli media suggested that he had not been informed about the plans for this new coming together.  Lieberman thus had to “close his eyes” and put out the red carpet for Mammadyarov.  Having lost its Arab partners after the Arab spring, Israel had no choice but to return to strategic relations with Turkey.  That, in turn, has increased the importance of the Azerbaijan-Turkey-Israel triangle both in Tel Aviv and in the Muslim Middle East.
Azerbaijan’s geographic location next to Iran also increases its strategic significance, something that Israeli President Peres went out of his way to stress.  This does not mean that Baku offered or is planning to offer its territory as a place des armesfor a military operation against Iran.  Baku has repeatedly indicated that cooperation with Israel does not include that and is generally not aimed against Iran, even though many observers tend to see Baku’s cooperation with Israel as the former’s way of restraining Iran.
Notes
[1] See http://m.amerikaninsesi.org/a/1649480.html (accessed 28 April 2013).
[2] See http://izrus.co.il/dvuhstoronka/article/2012-02-28/17144.html#ixzz2QngVkiJZ (accessed 28 April 2013).
[3] See http://www.vesti.az (accessed 28 April 2013).
[4] See http://www.rosbalt.ru/exussr/2012/06/15/993121.html (accessed 28 April 2013).
AZERBAIJAN IN THE WORLD
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