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Iranian military has warned its wary neighbors it is set to conduct a large-scale military exercise near its northwest border amid long-simmering tensions with Azerbaijan

TEHRAN, Iran – The Iranian military on Thursday warned its wary neighbors that it was set to conduct a large-scale military exercise near its northwest border amid long-simmering tensions with Azerbaijan.

Iranian Army Ground Forces Commander Gen. Kioumars Heidari said the exercise would test weapons, assess the combat readiness of troops and demonstrate the country’s military capabilities. This would involve drones, attack helicopters, tanks, and artillery.

The report from the new state agency IRNA did not specify the exact area the exercise would cover. But the exercise, which begins on Friday, is sure to place Iranian troops and weapons close to the tense border with Azerbaijan – a prospect that has already raised alarm bells in the former Soviet sea country. Caspian.

Earlier this week, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said he was stunned by the planned exercise in an interview with Turkish state agency Anadolu.

“Each country can carry out any military exercise on its own territory. It is their sovereign right. But why now, and why at our border? he said, noting that this was the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union that Iran had intended to stage such a show of force so close to its border.

Iran has long been skeptical of Azerbaijan over its ties to the West and its deep military cooperation with the Islamic Republic’s great rival, Israel.

Azerbaijan and Israel have strengthened their military alliance in recent months, with high-tech drones provided by Israel helping to tip the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in favor of Baku year last.

Iran’s foreign ministry made a direct link between the country’s military exercises and Azerbaijan’s ties to Israel in remarks earlier this week.

“It is clear that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not tolerate the presence of the Zionist regime, even in a demonstrative manner, near its borders and in this regard, it will take whatever measures it deems necessary for its national security,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said. as the semi-official Iranian news agency ISNA put it.

Tensions with Azerbaijan have also complicated a vital border crossing that trucks use to transport fuel and other goods from Iran to Armenia. Azerbaijani authorities have arrested two Iranian truck drivers in recent weeks for attempting to use the road, angering Iran.

The exercise comes as the region remains on the alert for an escalating Iranian nuclear program. Talks in Vienna to revive the now-tattered 2015 Tehran deal with world powers have stalled since June, with no date set for their resumption.

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ABC News

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