Armenian News Network/Groong Week in Review - Feb 4, 2024
Episode 306 | Recorded: February 3, 2024
Since the 44-Day war, Iran has woken up to the new geopolitical realities, understanding that it can no longer leave the northern vector to a silent alliance with Russia. Iran has increased its diplomatic activity and military readiness, and on the economic front, as of January 1, Iran is a member of BRICS and has a sweeping free trade agreement with the EAEU. And its one border with the EAEU is with Armenia.
On January 24 Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi visited Ankara and held direct talks with Turkish president Erdogan. Press releases of Iran and Turkey emphasized that there were10 agreements which the two signed, primarily in the areas of railways, energy exchange, and establishment of joint commercial and communication zones. A key interest for the two countries is to increase bilateral trade to $30 billion, a 500% increase.
In addition to condemning Israeli violence in Gaza and making statements supporting the Palestinian cause, the sides discussed regional security including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the South Caucasus.
Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was in Ankara a week before Raisi, and met with both Turkish FM Mevlut Çavušoglu, as well as Erdogan. Abdollahian referred to the discussions about the South Caucasus as “important regional issues that ultimately correlate with the security of the region” and said “more movements in this area are an important necessity today.”
When Raisi returned home, we again heard strong statements that Iran will not accept any change to International borders, alluding to the so-called Zangezur corridor through Armenia that Turkey and Azerbaijan have their eyes on.
In December 2023, a month before his visit to Ankara, Raisi was in Moscow for extensive discussions with Putin, who had just returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Most of the publicized topics were around Gaza, Ukraine, and the increasing economic and defense ties which are building up towards a strategic partnership between the two countries.
Russian president Putin will visit Erdogan in Ankara On February 12. So we can see that the major powers surrounding the South Caucasus are very active diplomatically. Turkey, Iran and Russia are the 3 majors in the so-called 3+3 platform, where the 3 minors are Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
It seems like the 3 majors are very interested in the 3+3, while the 3 minors are at best lukewarm towards it.
Some of the agenda topics between Putin and Erdogan are:
2024 is only a month old and it feels like a year in Armenia given the amount of geopolitical intrigue and continued confirmations that Armenia appears to be controlled remotely from Baku.
The year began with Pashinyan getting a makeover in his looks, wearing a silly Lenin cap and going around the country checking the quality of bathrooms in public schools and dismissing governors he found responsible for shortcomings. To many analysts this looked a lot like electioneering, but Pashinyan laughed that off.
Then the clowning around in school bathrooms stopped and was dominated by news from Azerbaijan where at the highest levels, Aliyev rejected one myth after another that Pashinyan has been selling to the Armenian public.
So far, Aliyev has:
Pashinyan has stacked the constitutional court in his favor starting in early 2020, and since the 44-Day war, there have been constant rumors that Azerbaijan & Turkey are pressuring Pashinyan to remove references to the Genocide, Western Armenia and Artsakh from the Armenian constitution and Declaration of Independence. Those who publicly talked about this were called conspiracy theorists until this month when Pashinyan and many of his mouthpieces came clean about their plans to scrap the current constitution, and write an entirely new one. Because Aliyev said so.
Yesterday, in an interview to Armenian Public Radio, Pashinyan said that there will never be peace if Armenia’s policy is based on the declaration of independence.
In the same interview, Pashinyan referred to Armenia’s security architecture and that Armenian needs a new national security strategy and relations with Russia in the sphere of security. Specifically he said:
"Previously, 95%-97% of our defense sector relations were with Russia, now it cannot be so ... Now we have to understand what kind of relations we have, for example, with India in this concept.”
We know that the opposition has decried all of these ongoing developments vehemently. But the reality is that there has been no substantive echo from Armenian society in the republic. There is a huge disconnect between the republic and the diaspora, caused by this leadership.
We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions, you can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.
Prof. Varuzhan Geghamyan is assistant professor at Yerevan State University’s Department of Oriental Studies, teaching courses on Turkey’s modern history, History of Azerbaijan; Sociocultural anthropology of Azerbaijan; Political ideologies and parties in Modern Turkey & History of the Turkish Republic.
Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.
Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.