The Shia Crescent is a term which enriched researchers and journalists’ vocabulary, thanks to the King of Jordan Abdullah II.
The Shia Crescent refers to countries and territories populated by Shiites or which have significant Shiite communities.
It is no secret that in its global strategy of a hybrid war, the Iranian regime, in most cases, relies on the Shiite population and Shiite communities from the Middle East to Africa and South America.
There are three countries populated predominantly by Muslim-Shiites – Iran, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan. The Iranian regime, which recruits Pakistani and Afghan Shiites for the war in Syria and uses Shiite communities in South America to organize drug trafficking could not ignore the neighboring countries with predominantly Shiite population. One of such countries is Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan shares borders with Iran on the North side. Azerbaijan is the former Soviet Republic which regained its independence in 1991. Although more than 90% of Azerbaijan’s population is Muslims, predominantly Shiites, Azerbaijan is a secular country and a member of the Council of Europe and OSCE.
Azerbaijan became the first democratic republic in the Muslim world in 1918, and at the same time, women gained the right to vote. For example, in Turkey women gained the right to vote in 1926, in 1945 in France and 1971 in Switzerland at the federal level.
All these facts, of course, annoy the Iranian clerical regime. Mullocracy and the Iranian elite have plans for Azerbaijan, in a bad way. From one side, Azerbaijan is a small country, rich in oil and gas, with a predominantly Shiite population. From another side, there are more Azerbaijanis in Iran, on the territory often called South Azerbaijan, than in independent Azerbaijan. Between 25 and 30 million people, by various estimations. Independent Azerbaijan at the border and systematic repressions and offense by the Iranian regime against Azerbaijanis living in Iran, deprivation of fundamental rights, obviously, led to separatist considerations. That is why the weakening of Azerbaijan, its isolation and destabilization is one of the main objectives of the Iranian mullocracy. Since 1991, the Iranian authorities have been trying to get their agents of influence inside the country, stir up sectarian hatred among citizens, establish groups in the Azerbaijani society, loyal to Iran and its regime.
Despite this, Azerbaijan remains the land of tolerance and, in a way, multiculturalism.
Azerbaijan is situated in a very sensitive region, where the interests of many world and region geopolitical players intertwine. Two of the five neighbors of Azerbaijan are under the international sanctions due to their aggressive policy and support of terrorism (Russia and Iran). Since 1991, Azerbaijan has been at war with another neighbor (Armenia).
Iranian-controlled Hezbollah was even trying to organize terrorist attacks in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.
However, the consequent and pre-emptive activity of the Azerbaijani authorities, in particular, intelligence services, could prevent the activities of the Iranian networks. The efforts of the Iranian propaganda machine were significantly limited and pro-Iranian groups, which emerged in the country in the 1990s, were marginalized.
In large parts of the Azerbaijani society, including intellectuals, there is deep aversion and mistrust towards the Iranian mullahs. It is the result of historical processes, as well as the secular nature of the Azerbaijani society. That is why it is harder for Iran to do what they do in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. As some Arab authors write, Iran failed with Azerbaijani Shiites. Unlike certain Arab countries, in which Iran could achieve success, Azerbaijan has a stable Government, and the national identity of many citizens is at a high level. This factor, of course, played a significant role.
However, that does not mean that Iran has given up its plan “to turn Azerbaijan into Iraq.” Iran continues its subversive activities, but in a more concealed form, having changed its tactics and expectations.