By Iran News Update Staff
The Iranian state news agency Tasnim published an article on its website on Friday claiming that an Iranian trade delegation headed by Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi would visit the Azerbaijani capital of Baku next week to “discuss ways for enhancing trade ties with the northern neighbor.”
Tasnim frequently reports on similar such visits and communications between Iranian officials and ostensible regional partners. The brief articles often lack broader context, serving government interests by emphasizing Tehran’s regional strength and influence, while avoiding reference to complicating factors in its relationships with other nations.
The report on this anticipated delegation to Baku emphasizes that the visit will be aimed at establishing the first joint chamber of commerce between the two countries and encouraging more mutual investments. It also placed the forthcoming visit on a timeline of other such visits, including one by the Azerbaijani president last April, which was reportedly focused on a range of regional issues and the “expansion of mutual relations.”
However, there is reason to suppose that this back-and-forth transit between Iranian and Azerbaijani officials may be a cause for concern for the latter country’s government. Other news outlets reported, also on Friday, that two Azerbaijani men had been sentenced to life imprisonment in a Baku court for the crime of spying for Iran.
These latest sentences are only two of several recent instances of Azerbaijanis being successfully prosecuted for conducting espionage on behalf of the Iranian Republic. The problem has been particularly visible since 2012, when several individuals with ties to Iran were arrested in connection with a plot to carry out terrorist attacks within Azerbaijan.
This situation paints a very different picture from that being offered by Tasnim News and other Iranian state media. While there are certainly mutual economic interests for the two countries, the relationship between them is marked by far more tension than Iranian officials seem willing to admit. It is very likely that the previous visit of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev to Tehran included on its agenda a discussion of apparent Iranian threats to Azerbaijani security.
Conversely, the delegation headed for Azerbaijan next week may not strictly be concerned with trade interests – a possibility that is certainly supported by the fact that it is headed by the Iranian communications minister, rather than the trade minister. More objective coverage of the visit may uncover any ulterior motives related, for instance, to exerting pressure on Azerbaijan for support of Iranian activities across the region.