Iranian Media Berate Erdogan As ‘Sultan Of Illusion’ Over Azerbaijan
Nearly every Iranian newspaper front page on Saturday splashed a furious headline attacking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for reciting a poem in a ceremony in Baku on Thursday that many Iranians saw as expressing designs on Iranian territory.
During a celebration of the recent ‘victory’ of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Erdogan recited a folk poem, popular both in Azerbaijan and adjoining Iranian provinces, that laments the division of ‘Azeri’ or ‘Azari’ speakers by the River Aras, which separates Azerbaijan and Armenia from Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif quickly criticized Erdogan in strongly worded tweets in English and Persian. In the Persian version intended for the domestic audience, he referred to Erdogan without his title of ‘president.’
Newspapers headlines on Saturday ranged from ‘Erdogan Stepping Over Red Lines’ in the reformist Etemad newspaper to ‘Sultan of Illusion’ in the Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Javan. ‘Erdogan’s Geopolitical Delusions’ spread across the frontpage of Donya-ye Eghtesad, a business newspaper.
In a commentary headlined ‘Mr Erdogan, Are You Ignorant of History Or Trying To Please Israel?’ the hardline Kayhan newspaper charged the Turkish president with “dreaming about the [revival] of the Ottoman Empire” and encouraging separatism in Iran. Kayhan also detected Erdogan’s “cohesion with Zionists and the enemies of the Islamic Republic.”
The Republic of Azerbaijan has close relations with Iran’s arch enemy Israel and has allegedly granted Israel access to its airbases in recent years.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Iran’s northwestern neighbors, Armenia and Azerbaijan, gave rise to various sentiments in Iran, ranging from separatist to religious.
On the one hand, pan-Turkic separatists took the side of Azerbaijan against Armenians and some staged protest rallies in the northwestern city of Tabriz and other Azari (Turki)-speaking areas. At the same time, much of the Shiite religious establishment expressed support for Azerbaijan as a majority Shiite country confronting Christian Armenia.
Arman-e Melli, a reformist newspaper, criticized alleged passivity in Iran’s foreign policy apparatus, which it said had allowed some officials to openly support the Republic of Azerbaijan against Armenia during the conflict. A commentary in Arman-e Melli pointed out that representatives of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in northwestern provinces had openly taken Azerbaijan’s side, as had former foreign minister and current Khamenei foreign-policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati.
In a statement on Saturday reacting to Erdogan’s remarks in Baku, the same provincial representatives of Khamenei condemned “causing any tension, difference, suspicion, breach and opposition among Islamic countries and nations” as an “unforgivable sin.”
The timing of the victory parade in Baku where Erdogan recited the controversial poem was also seen as doubly provocative by many Iranians in that it coincided with the anniversary of the fall of the Soviet-backed secessionist Azarbaijan People’s Government in Iran’s Azarbaijan in 1946 after the withdrawal of Soviet forces.
The Kayhan of London, a pro-Shah newspaper published in Britain, charged that Erdogan’s apparent encouragement of Azari separatism in Iran revealed “the want of a [mighty] sovereign state” in Iran. The anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet-backed autonomous government, portrayed at the time as a victory for the young Shah of Iran, was officially celebrated before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.