Opinion: Reports by Iranian media are highlighting Israeli involvement in the military exercises with the use of antisemitic tropes

In early December, the Caucasus region bore witness to joint military exercises of Azerbaijan and Turkey on their respective borders with Iran.

These exercises, aimed at presenting a united front against Tehran’s previous show of force in mid-October, sent ripples through Iranian state-controlled media and the top brass of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). There are those who would admit that the Iranian regime is in a state of panic following the Azeri-Turkish drills, officially codenamed “Fraternal Fist.”

 man stands on the balcony of a hotel with its facade decorated with flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey in the Old Town of Baku, Azerbaijan
A man stands on the balcony of a hotel with its facade decorated with flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey in the Old Town of Baku, Azerbaijan (Photo: TOFIK BABAYEV / AFP)


This state of panic is further exacerbated by the constant re-iteration by Iranian media that Israel is, in fact, the one behind these joint military exercises and is pulling the strings, which gives way to Iranian media to employ more antisemitic rhetoric when referencing the drills. This wide media attention is nothing short of setting the ground for a potential escalation in the region.

Exercise “Fraternal Fist” took place on December 5-6 and had several goals. First and foremost, the drills allowed for improvements in command and control and, of course, coordination between the two militaries. Another major reason is to demonstrate the willingness and ability of Turkey and Azerbaijan to match Iranian warmongering on the border of Nakhchivan – Azerbaijan’s exclave on the Western border of Armenia, sharing a border with Turkey itself.

The IRGC had conducted military exercises on the border with Nakhchivan during mid-October, focusing on a show of force and practicing crossing the river Araz, which forms most of the border between Azerbaijan and Iran. The Iranian maneuvers clearly put Azerbaijan on high alert, but even more so, as declared by countless Iranian officials and high-ranking IRGC members, they were a direct response to the “Zionist influence” in Azerbaijan.

It was openly stated that the Revolutionary Guards demonstrate their capabilities for Israel to see, as it “controls the Azeri government.” The tactical objectives and achievements of the “Fraternal Fist” exercises were a direct mirroring of prior Iranian maneuvers: crossing of the bordering Araz river using pontoon bridges and taking control of key high ground.

מעבר טייסת 105 מטוס F-16 F 16
F-16 (Photo: Yoav Zitun)


The main differences – the Azeri usage of Israeli-produced and designed weaponry as well as Turkey reportedly deploying its Western F-16 Block 70 multirole jets, are some of the major reasons for Iranian state-controlled media to publish numerous reports and analytical pieces regarding these drills which can only be described as fearmongering and panic-inducing.

Reports by Iranian media are directed at highlighting Israeli involvement in the military exercises, and they do this using anti-Semitic tropes consistently. One prime example, a mocking caricature of Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, making him out to look like a stereotypical Jew, with a yarmulke, a very long nose and his name spelt “Rabbi Ilham Alef,” was posted by Iranian sources but originated from the page of Ehsan Mohavedian – an analyst of the Tehran International Studies and Research Institute and a collaborator with the Supreme National Defense University (a direct subordinate of the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces).

“The Zionist regime probably played a major role in organizing Turkish-Azerbaijani exercises,” said Afifeh Abedi – Iranian expert on international politics, in an interview with Mardom Salari website associated with the “progressive wing of the Iranian regime.”

ISNA state agency reported that Baku has “turned into an enemy of Tehran, due to being corrupted by influence from Israel, Turkey and NATO,” to the point where Azerbaijan is referred to as a puppet in the “Zionist sphere of influence.” In fact, they claim that it is NATO itself, which lobbies the creation of the “Turan” corridor, linking Ankara and Baku, and in turn other Central Asian Turkic states. Seeing as Azerbaijan has become an enemy of the Ayatollahs, “it was only natural to accept its regional adversary, Armenia, as a close ally of Iran.”

According to Iranian expert on the Southern Caucasus Salar Saif Ad-Din, with these exercises Azerbaijan demonstrates that its chief security concern and enemy in the region is Iran, and not Armenia. Coincidentally, joint American-Israeli air force exercises also took place in early December, only a few days prior to “Fraternal Fist,” and included some of the most advanced warplanes the West currently has at its disposal, and more importantly, fuel tankers for long-range operations.

This “coincidence,” as it is referred to in certain Iranian circles, further points towards the widespread efforts of the U.S. and Israel to threaten Iran from all sides – say Iranian sources as quoted by Turkish Anadolu news agency.

Tehran’s regime is attempting to prepare the populace for escalation on the northern frontier, effectively trying to distract the general public from the internal problems it faces. Iranian publications on the matter focus on conditioning the public opinion that the real enemy isn’t the regime, but Israel. However, Israel’s presence in the Caucasus is minor. Therefore, Azerbaijan, which they call a “Zionist proxy and puppet,” is the real target.

As reported by Ynetnews