By: Alia Karim
Against the background of military exercises on both sides of the Iranian-Azerbaijani border, the war of words between the two countries is gaining momentum.
As the crisis escalated, Azerbaijanis did not hesitate to face the aggressive rhetoric emanating from Tehran, refuting Iranian statements about an Israeli presence in Azerbaijan.
On October 5, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev threatened the Iranians: “I am saying this here, in Jabrayil, on the banks of the Araz River [which serves as a natural border with Iran], to the Azerbaijani people and the whole world – unfounded accusations against us will not go unanswered.”
A new round of tension between the two countries began in September when Azerbaijani police arrested several Iranian truck drivers delivering goods to Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then, tensions have only intensified: on October 1, Iran launched an unprecedented military exercise on the border with Azerbaijan, and Iranian officials erupted in harsh statements against Azerbaijan.
The accusations from Iran mostly relate to Azerbaijan’s close ties with Israel.
Addressing a speech to recent military academy graduates, the statements from which were later published on Twitter in Azerbaijani, Khamenei voiced a barely veiled threat to Azerbaijan: “Those who dig a hole for their brothers will end up in it themselves.”
Amid tensions, many Azerbaijanis, including representatives of the political opposition, united against Iran and spoke out in support of relations with Israel.
Building good relations with Israel is “one of the few good things that happened in Azerbaijan,” wrote historian and intellectual Altai Goyushov.
Esmira Jafarova, an analyst at the state-run Center for Analysis of International Relations, told the Turkish TV channel A News that “Azerbaijan is an independent state, and if any country demonstrates force or tries to interfere in our internal affairs, it is obvious that Azerbaijan reserves the right to respond proportionately. But I believe that soon pragmatism and common sense will prevail, and the situation will be resolved.”
While denying the presence of Israelis in Azerbaijan, Aliyev drew attention to one undeniable factor of Israel’s influence in Azerbaijan: the large stocks of modern weapons that Azerbaijan has been purchasing from Israel for many years. While in Jebrail, he solemnly opened the border post, where he posed for the photographer, including with a wide smile in front of the Israeli-made Harop drone. 
Iranian authorities suspect that Azerbaijan is conducting close military cooperation with Tehran’s regional opponent, Israel. The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Colonel Hossein Puresmayil, stated that “such cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel is not in the interests of Baku and threatens its existence.” 
Apparently, Iran hints at close military-technical cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel during last year’s war – particularly on drones. Although in Tel Aviv, it was repeatedly emphasized that this interaction did not at all mean acceptance of one or another side of the conflict but was explained only by commercial interests.
“Now Iranian propaganda is actively using the Israeli map for an internal audience, talks about the presence of the Israeli military in Azerbaijan and symbolically calls its “teachings Conquerors of Khaibar” in honor of the Battle of Khaibar in 629, where the troops of the Prophet Muhammad defeated the Jews. However, in reality, the Iranians are not worried about Tel Aviv, but Ankara”.
Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey announced their intention to conduct joint maneuvers as part of the next stage of “Indestructible Brotherhood-2021” on October 5-8 on the border with Armenia and Iran Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. 
Alia Karim is a research and development intern at the Alma center. She is an IDC graduate in government & diplomacy.