YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Iran’s Revolutionary Guards began on Monday, October, 17, major military exercises along the country’s borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan amid lingering fears of renewed fighting between the two South Caucasus states.
The war games, described by Iranian news agencies as “massive,” are taking place near a stretch of the Arax river that separates northwestern Iran from Armenia’s Syunik province as well as Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave and districts south of Nagorno-Karabakh recaptured by the Azerbaijani army. during the 2020 war.
News reports quoted Brigadier-General Mohammad Pakpour of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as saying that his elite troops will practice building a bridge over the river and seizing strategically important hills.
The exercises are meant to send a message of “peace and friendship” to Iran’s neighbors, Pakpour said, according to the Mehr news agency. The Islamic Republic also wants to show its enemies that it is ready to “respond decisively to any threat,” added the commander of the IRGC’s Ground Forces.
Over the past year, Iranian leaders have repeatedly warned against attempts to change their country’s “historical” border with Armenia. They stepped up those warnings following the September 13-14 large-scale fighting at various sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. One of those sections is in Syunik, the only Armenian province bordering Iran.
Baku has been pressuring Yerevan to open a special land corridor connecting Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan through Syunik. The Armenian government rejects these demands while expressing readiness to restore conventional transport links between the two South Caucasus states.