Iranian Approaches to the Nagorno Karabakh Problem

This international political research aims at an outlook to changeable regional conditions in South Caucasus by Iran. Today there are too many regional and ethnic conflicts in the world. One of the well known conflict is the Nagorno Karabakh problem in Caucasus region. It was born as territorial problem between Armenian and Azerbaijani people at the last time of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) period. Sometimes it can be transformed or spoken as ethnic or religious style by states. Regional and super powers approached to this conflict for their balance of state interests. This conflict wheel has a main cog as variables of Iranian perspective which is created for Iranian self interest in Caucasus region because there are too many questions in international platforms about Iranian outlook about clashes of Muslim Azerbaijan and Christian Armenia. According to some formulated international system theories Iran has some different and changeable politics about this conflict. It is changing from time to time but there is a reality that Iran is keeping its self interest at this region with these paradoxes.

We want to share how this conflict is understood by Iran which is a special efficient country in the region. Because Nagorno Karabakh conflict is important for all regional powers, not only for Azerbaijan and Armenia. Also it creates some state blocks which provides polarization in international relations system. We have some historical roots which are about Iranian role in Caucasus and contemporary analyses how Iran understands this problem and how it focuses by its self interest. Later we will see its last role which compacts foreign affairs of other important countries. There are some empirical methods to explain and share this subject as firstly non-normative knowledges. This tool is feeded by historical and contemporary informations of Iranian paradigm. Iranian cultural, geographical and political situation will be explained as scientific expressions. Of course we can use transmissible informations while we define these facts because we need to some sources and observations which are important for this research. On our way formulated hypothesis will introduce while we see some variables. Finally induction method is important at this research. Because we can create a common judge via this method. We will clearly understand this event after all of useable approaches that have scientific and political concrete examples and realities.

Approaches of Iran to Nagorno Karabakh Conflict After Collapse of USSR

After the collapse of USSR, regional and super powers created new relations with Caucasian countries. There was a necessity to create a new political ground because of important geopolitical and ethnical body in the region. We can see some variables at the peace period of states which have conflict issues like Nagorno Karabakh by regional effective countries. Also these variables effected peace period in international system.

Iran which is an important and effective country in the region created a new perspective of foreign affairs after the 1979 Islamic revaluation. As a sensitivity of foreign affairs, Iran used a concept as export revaluation to neighbor countries. It means that Iran wants to effect governance systems of other neighbor countries as fundamentalist Islamic system. It was a defensive motion of  national interests against to ideological threats for Iran. Also new special circumstances borned after the collapse of USSR which means that communism danger died and new ideological and political threats can be formed. At this point we have a “sine qua non”[1] condition as a national defense problem of Iran. Namely Iran has too many ethnic groups on its territory which are settled throughout state borders from east to west. On the north-western part of Iran which is called as South Azerbaijan which has 30 millions Azerbaijani Turks population. At the new conditions Iran encountered with nationalism threat which borned from North Caucasus like historical realities.[2] So Iran has a near position to Armenia at this conflict because of Turkish nationalism threat, already geographical and historical realities don’t give any chance to select another point for Iran.

If we look at the geographical situation of Armenia we can see a cooperation at transportation supporting matter of Iran because of Turkish and Azerbaijani closed borders. New concept effects Iranian approaches to Nagorno Karabakh conflict. But also Iran could change its position in accordance with situations of big powers because it has too many dimensions as politically about reflections of Russia and Western countries to this region. So Iran has got a mediator role durign peace period between Azerbaijan and Armenia.[3] Firstly Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Baku and declared their mediator position in 1992 which a year problems started. Another important point is that vice minister Mahmoud Vaezi visited Yerevan and Baku to declare obligation of cease fire for all parts. But Armenian side rejected it.[4]

Iran is believing to effects of Russian hegemony in the regional activities for Caucasus region and it followed a pro-Russian way on some issues of foreign affairs, particularly opposite forms to the USA. So it affiliated to Armenian side in all relations. Additionally a hypothesis which is Azerbaijani position is near to Ankara and Tel Aviv strategic relations effected Iranian position on Moscow-Yerevan relations. But this hypothesis ended after 11 September event. After that time Iran created new relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey over Nagorno Karabakh problem to protect its regional interests.

Iran is not sharing a religious and sectarian statements on Nagorno Karabakh conflict. But it has a paradox its other foreign affairs activitations as political Islam. We can arrange Iranian position on this conflict as main reasons and facts :

- There is a possibility as Southern Azerbaijani people may be attached to Republic of Azerbaijan which settles on north part. This is first anxiety of national defense politics of Iran.

- Armenia should be supported by Iran against to Western domination on the region under the subject of regional balance.

- Iran can decrease Turkish effect on Caucasus via using this conflict tool which provides problems between Armenia and Turkey.

- Iran can use Armenian diaspora that is settled all around the world to reconstruction its image.[5]

Azerbaijani government is suspecting because of variable approaches of Iran at this conflict event. As we said Iran has some anxieties about territorial integrity which is under the danger of South Azerbaijani population. Iranian approach to Nagorno Karabakh conflict is influenced by this phenomena. Other phenomena is that ideological movements from Turkish groups at this geography. Primarily we can explain differentations of Iranian politics with these doubtfulnesses. Iran developed a new concept to prevent ideological threats as to use sectarian unification with South Azerbaijani people. Historically Iran has a common sectarian and cultural relations with Azerbaijani people. So it is a good tool to use this idea to prevent destructive activitations. Also another point is important to understand Iranian approach. Iran doesn’t use ethnical terms to define Nagorno Karabakh conflict because of it fears if these clashes influence its state border areas. So this problem is a political issue between governments according to Iran.

As internationally Iran wants to be a part of regional balance system. So it has a pro-Russian position here to be against to western dominances. We know that some problems of Iran with Western world as its nuclear weapon and Islamic fundamentalism issues. At this concept Turkey is a Western state and it should prevent Turkish effects to finish western influences with being a key actor in solution period of Nagorno Karabakh problem. We can see that Iran shares that Nagorno Karabakh conflict is an effective tool to Iranian existence in Caucasus region.[6] Also Iran can reorganize its image via strong Armenian diaspora all around the world. It is another point of Iranian politics.

All of these main policies and circumstances are sharing us Iranian approaches to this conflict. After all Iran has an important position to solve this problem as a regional state. If it change its selfish policies about this problem, there can be some different unexpected progresses. Also we have some questions like Iran had been successful or not. Another independent variant is about nuclear cooperation with Russia. Russia is leaving alone Iran in international platforms about nuclear issues. This is very important tool of Iranian foreign policy against to Western world. The question is arising on this subject. We can expect new developments about solving process of Nagorno Karabakh conflict with Iranian mediator and soft roles like early times of 1990s and 2000s. Additionally regional countries has a different position excluding from international groups and intervenes.

Our observations about this fact

- On new political arena Iran created variable perspectives about Nagorno Karabakh conflict after the Soviet time.

- Concept of export revaluation created a sensitivity to all ideological and political threats on the region.

- Minority groups subject is another sensitivity for Iran to protect its internal security from external threats like 30 millions South Azerbaijani people. So Iranian approach focused nearly to Armenia.

- Special concrete circumtance is that Armenia has no any way for transportation without Iran. It effects Iranian foreign policies.

- Iran wanted to be a member of balance system in region as depend on Russian policies against to Western actions. Also Iran had been a mediator for peace process for sometimes as an actor.

- Turkish effect is not claimed by Iran at this region because of some ideological and political issues, so approaches of Iran have another variable.

- If Iran supports Armenia, diaspora can help them to reorganize its image all around the world. This mind is also effecting approaches.

In conclusion all of these points are presenting us an Iranian policy to this regional conflict. As generally we can create a judge as Iran has a near policy to Armenia because of some concrete circumstances. We used informations of some scholars and news to create this judgement as inductional system which is near politics of Iran to Armenia. They can be basic concepts to know this issue.

Mehmet Fatih ÖZTARSU – Expert of Caucasus


[1] It was originally a Latin legal term for “(a condition) without which it could not be” or “but for…” or “without which (there is) nothing.” It refers to an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient.



[2] We took a note on a seminar of Iranian expert Arif Keskin that all ideological movements which had influenced Iranian internal body came to Iran via Caucasus region. So Iran created a concept of export revaluation to prevent communism effects during USSR time. Now Iran has a new threat as Turkish nationalism.

[3] Celil Yakupzade, “İran’ın Karabağ Sorununa ve Güney Kafkasya’da Kolektif Güvenlik Girişimlerine Yönelik Politikası”, Azerbaycan Milli Kütüphanesi,

[4] Yakupzade, İran’ın Karabağ Sorununa…

[5] Arif Keskin, “İran ve Karabağ Sorunu”, Günaskam,

[6] Mehrnews, 14.04.2009,

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