Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpoor said on Wednesday that Tehran will not tolerate any threat to the security of Iran’s border areas from ongoing clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pakpoor reportedly visited Iran’s northwestern province of Ardabil, which borders Azerbaijan, on Wednesday. During his visit, “Pakpoor underlined that Iran would not tolerate any threat to the security of border areas or any harm to the mental calm of Iranian residents,” according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, which described the border clashes spilling over into Iran as “totally unacceptable” to Tehran.
“Iran would not hesitate to act when it comes to the security of people,” the brigadier general added.
Pakpoor described any attempts to effect geopolitical change at the boundaries as a “red line” for Iran. He insisted that the Islamic Republic would never accept any efforts by foreign parties to change the status quo along its borders.
The commander said the IRGC may deploy more troops to Iran’s northwestern border areas to bolster Iran’s land boundaries with Azerbaijan and Armenia as the two countries continue to fight over the breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pakpoor revealed on Sunday that the IRGC has already sent an unknown number of soldiers to Iran’s border with Armenia and Azerbaijan following recent reports that mortar fire from the clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh has repeatedly struck border villages in Iran.
“Units of (the Guards) ground forces have been dispatched to and stationed in the region,” Pakpoor said 0n October 25, Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. The forces were deployed “to protect national interests and maintain peace and security” at the border, the commander added.
Pakpoor made the revelation one day after visiting the northwest county of Khoda Afarin, which is located in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and borders Azeri territory near Nagorno-Karabakh. Khoda Afarin is situated roughly 100 miles northwest of Ardabil.
“Khoda Afrin and nearby villages have … been hit by stray cross-border mortar fire” in recent weeks, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on October 25.
“If there is any repetition of such fire, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not remain indifferent,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh vowed on October 16.
Clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh began on September 27, with reports of stray mortar fire hitting Iranian border villages surfacing within the conflict’s first week.
“In the first week of fighting, mortar rounds repeatedly strayed across the [Iranian] border, with one wounding a six-year-old child,” according to AFP.
“Tens of mortar shells fired by the warring sides in the latest round of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan have hit border rural areas of Iran in recent weeks,” Tasnim reported on Wednesday.
The two sides recently reignited their decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway territory that legally belongs to Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists since they seized the region during a post-Soviet uprising in 1991. A three-year war followed the seizure, resulting in nearly 30,000 casualties. Armenian separatists ruling Nagorno-Karabakh call the territory the Republic of Artsakh; however, Artsakh’s sovereignty remains unrecognized by the international community, including Armenia.