Iran’s defense minister on Friday warned Tehran’s “enemies” against uncalculated actions amid tensions with neighboring Azerbaijan, saying the Islamic Republic would give a “shattering” response to such actions.
“Iran’s enemies will certainly receive a crushing reaction if they take irrational and ignorant action, and they will come at great cost,” Brig. Gene. Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani said in a tweet shared by Iran’s state broadcaster.
Iran’s army ground forces began military exercises near the border with Azerbaijan on Friday, despite criticism from Baku over the exercises.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev earlier this week criticized Iran for conducting military exercises near his country’s borders.
“Each country can conduct any military exercise on its own territory. It is their sovereign right. But why now, and why at our border?” Aliyev said in an interview published Monday with the Turkish state news agency Anadolu.
In response, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that the exercises near the Azerbaijan border were a “matter of sovereignty” and added that Tehran will not tolerate “the presence of the Zionist regime” near its borders — a reference to Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel.
Iran and Azerbaijan share a border of about 700 kilometers (430 miles).
Iran is wary of Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel, a major arms supplier to Baku. Tehran is also wary of nationalists in Turkey and Azerbaijan who are fueling separatist tendencies among the sizable ethnic Azeri population.
Iranian Azerbaijanis, the majority of whom live in northwestern regions, took to the streets in several cities last year to support Azerbaijan during the 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory.