Over the last few months, Armenia is turning into a major pivot on the axis of Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. It is a facilitator to much greater interests, most probably based on Armenia’s need for support in its constant struggle against Azerbaijan. This could not be kept hidden and there will be a price to pay.
In this respect Armenia is a transfer point between Iran and Russia for UAVs and other military equipment that goes directly to the Russian front line against Ukraine, while receiving Iranian UAVs and weapons to fight the Azeris. Armenia hosts Middle Eastern mercenaries on their way to fight alongside the Russians against Ukraine. These mercenaries receive training from Hezbollah operatives and terrorists from Syrian militias. Armenia also has co-projects with the IRGC army and its entities.
Already on July 15 th , 2022, CIA Director William Burns arrived in Yerevan to meet with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, and with the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigorian.
According to official sources in Armenia, the reason for this unusual visit of the CIA director was to discuss with Pashinian and Grigorian the security situation in the South Caucasus region, including fighting terrorism, and more specifically, to reach a peaceful resolution for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Is that so?
Although the US has security interests in the region, there needs to be a strong enough reason to justify a visit of the CIA director himself. And there was.
It seems that the true purpose of the visit that was hidden from the public was to warn Pashinian and the Armenian government about the tightening relations and cooperation with Iran. The CIA director warned the Armenian officials by letting them know that the US is aware of the deals going on between Armenia, Iran and Russia, behind the scenes of the wars in Ukraine and Nagorno Karabakh. He stressed that the US pays very careful attention to all of them. If this situation does not change, it will cause severe consequences for Armenia.
Armenia, being an ex-Soviet Union country, was always close to the Russian agenda and it is not surprising, that Armenia became in fact a hub that is being used as a layover for mercenaries or Iranian UAVs on their way to Russia. These are used in the war against Ukraine, a concerning fact for western countries on the other side of the equation.
Armenia has taken side with Russia and Iran, but their support will be lost soon after Armenia will lose relevancy, either after the Russian-Ukraine dispute will be settled, or when Armenia will compute that it’s being used. Soon after Armenia is not useful anymore, it will turn into the scapegoat and lose any edge it has sought for.
Over the last year, there were several important events in the growing and tightening relations between Armenia and Iran, mainly on the sidelines of the tightening relations between Iran and Russia.
1. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is possible to see a growing number of flights between Iran – Armenia, Syria – Armenia, and even Lebanon – Armenia.
During the following year, mercenaries from the middle eastern countries, especially from groups that are fighting in Syria, reportedly responded to the Russian suggestion to come and fight alongside them against Ukraine. Many of them came first to Armenia, and from there continued to Russia to a military base of the Russian air force in the Southwest of the country called Mazdok.
Two months after the Russian invasion, the Lebanese minister of transportation Ali Hamiyah, signed an agreement with the Armenian ambassador to the country, Vahakin Atapekian, to increase the number of weekly flights between the two countries.
Months later it was Hezbollah operatives reportedly were training mercenaries on the Russian side on their way to fight on the front line.
Minister Hamiyah is a representative of Hezbollah in the Lebanese parliament.
The number of flights between Aleppo, Syria to Armenia has increasing over the past year. Although there is a Syrian Armenian community living in Aleppo, for the past few years the city is better known for being one of the biggest and most important IRGC HQs in Syria.
Weapons of all kinds, including UAVs and rocket parts, were transferred from Iran to Russia. Even the S400 missile system that Russia not long ago gave Iran was given back to them to assist in battle. Some of the weapons were shipped via Armenia on regular flights to lessen the suspicions in the West and prevent Western intelligence agencies from using drastic means to prevent them.
Moreover, Armenia has provided generous help after an earthquake hit the area of Aleppo several months ago. Assad was not allowing Western countries to send help, only transferring equipment to NGOs that were allowed over there. Armenia was one of the only non-Muslim countries that could be there with boots on the ground, while at the same time and place, other allies of Assad (Iran and Hezbollah) used it as a pretense to bring in other items besides humanitarian supply.
Beginning of May 2023, a flight of the Armenian airline “FlyOne” departed from the capital Yerevan to Dubai, and was suddenly redirected to Shiraz airport in Iran, without explaining anything to the passengers on board. After six hours of waiting without any explanation, the plane was ready to take off again, this time to its original destination. ‘Till this moment, it is not clear why that stop was necessary. Usually, the flight captain is letting his passengers know about any unusual scenario going on board, which is why some rumors have spread about special luggage that was taken off from the plane in Shiraz airport, under the cover of an emergency landing due to technical issues.
2. Armenia is drawing from both the Iranian and Russian sides “weapon tax” which is a concerning fact to their biggest rival, Azerbaijan.
Armenia received ammunition, rifles, rocket parts, and even UAVs. Only a few weeks ago (April 2023), was the first time Armenia attacked Azerbaijan with an Iranian UAV.
Also, by strengthening Armenia, Iran is increasing the pressure on their mutual enemy, Azerbaijan. Baku is now a big energy supplier due to the sanctions of the West on Russia, and therefore, adding capabilities to Armenia benefits Iran in destabilizing the situation in the area, which will harm the increase of Azeri income.
3. Due to the importance of Syria in the Iranian strategy of conquering the Middle East, the Iranian ambassadors to Syria are considered the elite of foreign diplomacy they got, and they are deeply involved in the IRGC plots there.
Last April (2023), the Iranian ambassador to Syria, Mehdi Sobhani, finished his official role in Syria after less than two years and was transferred directly to be the new Iranian ambassador in Armenia.
Sobhani was supposed to remain the representative in Syria longer than he did de facto, but it seems he received another important mission from his supervisors in Tehran.
This kind of act is showing the new importance of Armenia to Iran and what it is willing to do to show it.
During the last months there were several high-level meetings between representatives from the two countries:
Left: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi hold a press conference in Tehran, (November 1 st , 2022).
Right: Former Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani and his Armenian counterpart, Armen Grigoryan, (Tehran, April 9 th , 2023).
IRGC’s Ground Force commander Mohammad Pakpour (center) visits troops on the border with Azerbaijan and Armenia, (March 24 th , 2023).
4. Iran and Armenia have opened new consulates in the sensitive area of the border to increase cooperation and show their enemies how strong and important this alliance really is.
22 nd of October 2022, Iran opened a consulate in the city of Kapan in Syunik Province, South Armenia. At the ceremony took part the Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, which shows the importance of that event to Iran (usually foreign ministers do not attend ceremonies for consulates, more commonly for new embassies).
The Armenian foreign minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, declared that Armenia will open a consulate until the end of 2023 in the Iranian northwest city of Tabriz. It is the biggest city close to the border, but also the capital of the East Azerbaijan province, which is like sticking a finger in the eye to the Azeries in Baku.
Several days before the ceremony of the new Iranian consulate in Kapan, the IRGC performed a large military drill of crossing the Aras River with pontoons, special forces, and helicopters. Officially, IRGC commander, Hossein Salami orchestrated the drill with his presence. He declared that Iran holds interests in the region and will not let anyone change that equation. He said that his forces will not sit quiet if the situation at the border will look like Azeri aggression to redraw the borderline.
is taking more actions to strengthen the border besides opening the consulate and military drills. Armenia and Iran are renovating the border terminals checkpoints in Norduz (Iran) and Meghri (Armenia) and build a new road to pass the restricted Azeri area after the Azeries took 20km from the old road to Kapan.
The Iranian company Tana Energy Management Co. won the tender for renovating the Meghri checkpoint (Armenia). It is a daughter company of Tana Energy Group, that its chairman is Mousa Refan, who was manager and director of management committee of MAPNA group for 17 years from its establishment to 2009. He was an IRGC officer who founded the IRGC air force.
Furthermore, a new telecommunication system will be set in the border between Iran and Armenia in these two checkpoints in order to make it easier to solve variety of situations.
Syunik airport, a small airport near Kapan that was reopened just a few weeks ago, after more than thirty years not in use. Although it will supposedly be used for flights to Yerevan only, and in spite of the danger from the Azeri troops next to it at the border, it is probably only a matter of time that small airplanes will start to fly from Kapan to Tabriz. There are already hints for that from people involved in the aviation area in the country.
In the Kapan area there are some of the most important mines in Armenia that are mining materials such as: Gold, Silver, Copper, Molybdenum, and Uranium.
Those materials are also interesting for the Iranians.
What Iran benefits from Armenia:
– An ally in the battle against their mutual enemy of Azerbaijan (which is also represents the west).
– Assistance with the Iranian weapon supply chain to Russia and the strengthening of the relations.
– Help and coverup for Iran’s logistics in the Middle East.
– Strengthen the “Eastern bloc” economy that will try to create an alternative to the US and EU.
– A backyard to test new weapons such UAVs before giving them to Russia or to Hezbollah.
To summaries, although prime minister Pashinian was receiving a ladder to climb down the tree, he and his government did exactly to the contrary.
Almost a year later, Armenia and Iran progressed to be close allies than before, and they maintain bigger cooperations in sensitive fields.
Armenia, which many times along the history received only apathy instead of empathy from the west, had to choose for itself. As a poor country that believes in the former Soviet Union and hates the Azeries, the temptation was easy, but it will not go without a certain price.