The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is increasingly becoming tense as reports of ethnic cleansing occur, has far-reaching repercussions in the South Caucasus. Tensions remain against the backdrop of Azerbaijan‘s military campaigns to retake the historical Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan is bolstered with military backing from Turkey, Israel, and Pakistan while using gas sales as a soft power to conduct further ambitions. At the same time, Armenia has seemingly become abandoned by the international community, as their only faithful “ally” in Russia has acted as anything but a friendly nation.

Threats of an Attack on Syunik Province

The Karabakh region is not the only target on the radar of Baku, but a complete connection with Nakhichevan, another province of Azerbaijan. According to representatives from both Baku and Moscow, Armenia agreed to a “Zangezur corridor” through Syunik province, while Yerevan disputes the agreement.

Feeling impatient and overly aggressive, Azerbaijan has built up military forces near the Armenian border, with Turkish ministers making statements supporting Baku. An attack on Syunik would be valuable for Azerbaijan, as Armenian-Russian relations are at an all-time low—especially as Putin has looked to Aliyev and Erdogan to help evade sanctions.

Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijan’s longtime autocrat Ilham Aliyev via Reuters

How a Potential Invasion of Syunik Could Become Regional

Compared to Azerbaijan’s multiple military campaigns in Karabakh, a potential attack on Armenia has regional repercussions outside the South Caucasus. Though an attack on Armenia proper would constitute a response from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the defensive alliance already showed how toothless it was during Azerbaijan’s attacks on Armenia in 2022–a ceasefire that the United States had to mend.

Despite Armenia’s fading relations with Russia, in which the latter also finds itself in a growingly unsuccessful war, Iran, which neighbors Armenia, could potentially hold the cards if a new war breaks out.

Iran has a historical trade route through Southern Armenia that has spanned thousands of years. Through various Armenian and Persian empires and dynasties, their direct trade route remained unaffected until direct threats from both Azerbaijan and Turkey.