Survey by Tehran International Studies and Research Institute

The elites warn of security and geopolitical risks in new developments in the Caucasus

The developments and disputes over the past two years in the Caucasus culminated in the return of territories claimed by the Republic of Azerbaijan to this country from Armenia. But it seems that the recent activities in 2022 by Azerbaijan in Syunik Province have new objectives entailing new geopolitical developments.


The IR of Iran is an active regional actor which is also affected by any developments in the area and pursues its particular policies and approaches based on the Supreme Leader's position on the northwestern borders of the Caucasus not changing.


The policies of the IR of Iran on developments in the Caucasus have drawn a range of criticisms and reactions from the people, media, and elite communities. To this end, a survey was conducted among 384 academic elites in universities (Tehran, Allameh Tabataba’i, Tabriz, Guilan, Shiraz, and Razi of Kermanshah), and among the researchers and political analysts of the Caucasus region, the results of which are as follows.


Moves by Regional Actors Are Key in Developments


In response to the escalation of the new round of tensions in the Caucasus, 52% of respondents cited moves by regional actors as the reason behind the new escalations. Another 31% also cited the Russia-Ukraine conflict as the reason for the reduced balancing act of Russia, leading to escalating tensions in the Caucasus. The remaining respondents cited the failure of one or both parties to adhere to agreements and interventions by major powers as reasons for the new round of intensifying tensions.


Turkiye and the Zionist Regime as Main Actors in New Developments


Of the respondents, 41% considered the new regional developments to favor Turkiye. Also, 34% said that these developments favored the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the remaining respondents see this as benefitting other actors. Another noteworthy point is that 57% of respondents said that Turkiye had the most effect on the policies of the government in Azerbaijan, while 24% believed that the Zionist regime had the most effect on the government in Azerbaijan. The remaining respondents cited other actors involved in the situation.


Geopolitics and Civilization as Iranian Priorities


In response to the question of where the priority and position of the Caucasus region lies in the foreign policy of the IR of Iran, 43% of respondents stressed on geopolitical and geostrategic priorities and 26% stressed on the cultural and civilizational importance of the region as being the priority in the foreign policy of the IR of Iran. Another 18% stressed on trade and economy, and 13% stressed on the political and security landscape as the priority in the foreign policy of the IR of Iran.

Iranian Security Considerations Are to Stabilize Regional Geopolitical Borders


53% of the respondents cited Iranian opposition to changes in borders and regional geopolitics in South Caucasus as an important part of its security and strategic considerations in the new regional developments. As an important part of the security and strategic considerations of Iran in the new developments, 18% of the respondents cited preventing the presence of threat-oriented transregional government actors, 15% cited Iran’s geo-economic interests, and 14% cited ethnocentric and separatist movements.


Political Diplomacy as a Priority for Active Change in Iran's Foreign Policy


Another significant point in the survey was that 57% of respondents emphasized on political diplomacy by Iranian foreign policy institutions in response to the question of the orientation adopted by its diplomacy apparatus for strategic considerations in the Caucasus. Another 21% stressed on economic diplomacy, and 17% stressed on cultural diplomacy.


On the other hand, 43 % of the respondents said that the IR of Iran must formulate a policy of passive neutrality towards the recent developments in the Caucasus, while 31% considered taking measures in terms of multilateral diplomacy. The remaining respondents believe that Iran must pursue a secret diplomacy and the policy of active neutrality towards the recent developments in the Caucasus.


On the impact of measures already taken by the country's diplomatic apparatus in the Caucasus developments, 39% stated that this has led to passivity by Iran among other actors. 36% stressed that measures taken by the diplomatic apparatus of Iran in the process of developments in the Caucasus has been ineffective, while 19% believe that the IR of Iran must help manage the tensions.


46% of the respondents attributed the ineffectiveness of foreign policy institutions in the IR of Iran as the reason for the country's current state of activities in this region; 33% have emphasized the superiority of regional competitors as a factor aggravating the current situation; 11% see the role of sanctions and 10% see the fear of ethnic tensions as reasons for the country's current nature of activism in the Caucasus.


Preventive Security-Military Measures Recommended by Iranian Elites


The significant point in the survey was the emphasis of 43% of respondents on preventative security and military measures by the IR of Iran as a priority to counter geopolitical changes in the Caucasus. 28% of respondents also emphasized on trilateral cooperation between the IR of Iran, Russia, and Armenia as a priority for Iran to counter geopolitical changes. The remaining respondents also consider political diplomacy with Azerbaijan as a priority for Iran to counter geopolitical changes in the Caucasus.


The above survey was conducted by the Tehran International Studies and Research Institute (TISRI) in October 2022 as its research and study priorities in international security and the foreign policy of IR of Iran.