“Iran will not permit the blockage of its connection route with Armenia, and in order to secure that objective the Islamic Republic of Iran also launched a war game in that region,” he said in televised remarks cited by the official IRNA news agency on Wednesday.
Amir-Abdollahian referred to the exercises which Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), began on Monday. They 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.
Iranian media published on Wednesday photographs of dozens of tanks, armored vehicles and helicopter gunships simulating military operations in the area in the presence of Brigadier-General Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the IRGC’s Ground Forces. The drills also involved kamikaze drones which the Mehr news agency said are “capable of destroying all kinds of enemy positions and fortifications.”
Pakpour said on Monday that his troops will practice building a bridge over the Arax and seizing strategic heights.
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 fighting at various sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. One of those sections is in Syunik, the sole 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.
Armenian officials say that Baku could try to forcibly open such an “extraterritorial corridor” through further military action against Armenia.
“We will not tolerate changes in the borders of the countries of the region,” the Iranian army chief of staff, General Mohammad Bagheri, said on September 22.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reportedly made this clear to his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev at a meeting in Kazakhstan last week.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, likewise warned against “the closing of the Iran-Armenia border” when he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July. Ankara has backed the Azerbaijani demands for the Syunik corridor.