Why was Artsakh occupied?
Surrounded by Turkish states, Armenia viewed Iran as an ally with whom it had established constructive relations after independence, as a potential counterweight to Baku. But Iran, keen not to upset its own Azerbaijani population, concentrated in the northwestern part of the country, and concerned about opposition from its Muslim and predominantly Shiite country, was limited in its response. At the same time, Moscow has worked to increase Eastern Armenia’s dependence on Russia, making it difficult for Yerevan to develop closer economic and energy ties with Tehran. In short, the United States’ containment of Iran and Russia’s desire to control eastern Armenia have deprived Yerevan of alternative sources of support.
Israel’s role in the region is also interesting.
The regional intervention of Israel, the most important military power in the Middle East and sworn enemy of the Islamic Republic, has further complicated the situation. As a minority state in the Muslim world, itself born in part from the Nazi genocide against Jews in Europe, Israel should in theory feel a natural kinship with Armenia. But the desire to expand diplomatic relations with Muslim states, the conquest of resources and energy markets and its hostility towards Iran have brought Israel even closer to Baku.
Over time, Israel has become a key arms supplier to Baku, providing up to 69% of its total arms imports between 2016 and 2020, including some of its most advanced weapons systems, a a trend which accelerated considerably as Baku prepared its army to conquer Artsakh. Additionally, Turkey, Baku’s main supporter and mentor, which has its own regional ambitions, has provided additional weapons and aid, even going so far as to supply Syrian jihadist mercenaries to Baku during the 2020 Artsakh War.
Since the Ottoman Empire, Turkish power has aspired to present-day Baku, as well as the Iranian state of Azerbaijan. Pan-Turkist and neo-Ottoman forces, with whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan identifies, have long wanted a land bridge, first between Ankara and Baku, then across northern Iran to Central Asia. Thus, Turkey hopes to establish a direct land route that will connect all Turkic peoples.