Author: Vasil Ghlonti, international security expert, intelligence analyst



In the last ten years, the Iranian special services have become very active in the territory of Azerbaijan. They often take advantage of both the Azerbaijani and foreign citizens they recruit, and use them to realize their own goals. Israeli citizens have been a particular target of Iran’s special services in recent years, as evidenced by the frequent attacks on the Israeli Embassy. As a result of the successful countermeasures of the special services of Azerbaijan and Israel, attempts to carry out terrorist attacks by the citizens of Iran and Afghanistan acting under the supervision of the Iranian special services have been prevented. The purpose of our work is to discuss and analyze what caused the recent activities of Iran’s special services in Azerbaijan, and why they are so persistently trying to carry out terrorist acts against Israel.


Activities, goals and plans of Iran’s special services in Azerbaijan in the context of the confrontation with Israel.

According to our assessment, the frequent attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, throughout 2023, at first glance fit almost completely into the bigger picture of the Iran-Israel global conflict. As, in recent years, Iran’s special services have been trying to carry out terrorist acts against Israeli diplomatic missions, religious institutions, Jewish cultural centers,and against Israeli citizens in general, the incidents in Azerbaijan should not be considered an exception to the rule; however, in this case we are dealing with a completely unique circumstance.

Azerbaijan directly borders Iran, sharing land and sea borders with it. Due to the fact that the export of the ideas of the Islamic Revolution plays a big role in the foreign doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its ruling regime considers the Muslim population of Azerbaijan as one of its main destinations. This, of course, represents a serious threat and challenge for our neighboring South Caucasian state, as Iran, which has a population of millions, has ideologically prepared numerous well-armed/equipped military structures and boasts a strong special services. Even more so, when the majority of the population of Azerbaijan, like the Iranians, are followers of Shiite Islam, and the Iranian government has the base necessary for the spreading of its religious ideology.

Our opinion is also confirmed by the incident that happened on November 26, 2015, in the village of Nardaran, Azerbaijan, when several people, including policemen, died during a clash between the police and members of the “Muslim Unity” organization,which is under the control of the Iranian special services. Our attention is additionally drawn to the fact that Nardaran is inhabited by Tats, who are ethnically close to Persians, pro-Iranian, and religious Shiite people. This played a big role in the fact that this village, located 25-30 km from Baku, considered to be a suburb of the capital, has become a kind of citadel and a platform for the Iranian regime on the territory of Azerbaijan. Such proximity to the capital makes it even more important, because Iran’s special services can carry out any resounding provocation even in Baku. This undoubtedly leads to certain risks.

Indeed, this very village is considered the birthplace of the terrorist organization “Husayniyun” or “Husseinites” founded by the former head of the special unit of Iran’s Guards Corps, the Al-Quds”, General Qassem Soleimani, and the Azerbaijani graduates of religious schools in the Iranian city of Qom, whose member is accused of attacking the Israeli Embassy. Given that its leaders Tohid Ibrahimbeil, Orkhan Mammadov, Rovshan Asadov, and others are distinguished by anti-Western rhetoric and sentiments, Iran is likely to use them against the US, Israel, and Europe. However, its main target is, of course, the Government of Azerbaijan. Due to the fact that the flag of this organization is very similar to that of the pro-Iranian proxy groups operating against the USA and Israel in the Middle East, it has a desire to become a constituent part of the so-called axis of Shiite resistance formed by Iran.

Against this background, it is interesting that, according to the available information, the Iranian special services move the members of the pro-Iranian Azerbaijani organizations, “Muslim Unity” and “Husayniyun” first to Tehran, and then to the Syrian capital, Damascus, where they are taught military and terrorist activities. As a result of the joint special operation of the Israeli and Cypriot special services, the arrest of a Russian citizen, ethnic Azerbaijani Orkhan Asadov, on charges of attempting to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens, shows that Iran’s “Guard Corps” is trying to use the “Hussainites” against Israel. According to information available in the mass media, about 15,000 fighters are among the ranks of “Husayniyun“, although their number is probably overestimated. At the same time, it should also be taken into account that Iran’s special services are increasingly strengthening the process of recruiting Azerbaijani citizens, which portends serious problems for the state of Azerbaijan in the future. Against this background, it is interesting that the leaders of the Hussainites, Tohid Ibrahimbeyli and Orkhan Mammadov, were arrested in April of this year on the territory of Iran, because some branches of the Iranian government have a negative attitude towards the activities of this organization. However, they were released quite soon after. The fact that the deputy commander of Iran’s Guards Corps, the head of the Basiji organization, Qolamreza Soleimani, awarded Ibrahimbeyli with a medal on November 30 raises some doubts. It is possible that the Iranian special services are preparing the leader of the Azerbaijani Hussainites for provocative actions.

In all likelihood, the “Islamic Party of Azerbaijan”, which is also based in Nardaran, had a serious ideological influence on the organizations of “Husayniyun” and “Muslim Unity”. The fact that its leader, Movsum Samedov, who was educated in Iran and was accused of terrorism, was released from prison in 2023, poses certain risks for the security and stability of Azerbaijan. It is conceivable that the authorities are well aware of this and may send Samedov back to Gobustan prison.

The information that Imam Khamenei’s representative in Azerbaijan, ethnic Azerbaijani Ali Akbar Ojaghnezhad, has also been noticed in connection with Hussainites and other pro-Iranian organizations, indicates the Iranian government’s high level of interest in the Azerbaijani issue. Ojaghnezhad is the head of the Iranian Cultural Center in Baku and the Azerbaijani branch of the Imam Khomeini Support Committee, which is actively involved in the process of Iran’s recruiting Azerbaijanis from a religious-ideological angle. Our attention is drawn to the fact that the Iranian Cultural Center was noticed to have close connection with pro-Iranian radical groups back in 2011. Azerbaijani law enforcement officers then arrested Abgiul Suleimanov, the leader of the radical Shiite organization “Jafar,” created and financed by this center, and his associates.

If we look back to the incident of Nardaran, the coincidence that the provocation arranged by the Iranian special services took placeshortly before the historic visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Azerbaijan on December 13, 2016, is striking. It is likely that the goal of Iran’s “Guard Corps” was to create an unstable political background in Azerbaijan and to force the plans of the Israeli leadership to change just before the visit, although they did not actually achieve said result, and Benjamin Netanyahu still paid his planned visit to Baku.

In the course of this visit, the information announced by the Prime Minister of Israel on the sale of 4.8 billion US dollars’ worth of arms to Azerbaijan indicates the magnitude of the relations between the two countries in the military field. In addition, according to reports in the Israeli mass media, in 2016-2021, 92 flights were made to Azerbaijan from the Ovda Air Force Base, located north of the Israeli city of Eilat, transporting a large amount of weaponry. The fact that Israel helped Azerbaijan a lotwith arms and military instructors in the Karabakh War greatly strengthened its position in this country, which in itself irritatedand concerned Iran. More so when, with the help of Israel,Azerbaijan defeated Iran’s ally Armenia, a move that went against Iran’s strategic interests.

It is a fact that strategic cooperation with Azerbaijan, which is rich in energy resources and has a convenient geopolitical location, is of great importance for Israel. Most likely, the fact that the northern part of Iran is inhabited by ethnic Azerbaijanis, some of whom have separatist tendencies, is of special interest to Israel. It is conceivable that Israel considers this region of the Islamic Republic as Iran’s Achilles heel, a fact that causes serious concern to the Iranian regime. This matter may well be connected to the attack on the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Tehran on January 27, 2023, most likely perpetrated by Iranian special services. Theterrorist attack was preceded by a special operation carried out by the Iranian special services in the regions inhabited by ethnic Azerbaijanis, after which the Iranians announced the destruction of a “12-person Israeli spy network”. In addition, Iranians suspect that Israel is actively using Azerbaijan and its military bases in intelligence activities against Iran, which was also reported by the Western media.

Against this background, the purpose of the official visit of the President of Israel Isaac Herzog to Azerbaijan on May 30-31, 2023, was probably to deepen the strategic partnership with Iran’s neighboring Azerbaijan. The fact that Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Galanti then visited Azerbaijan in July this year suggests the issue of Iran is high on the agenda in the relations between the two countries. It is obvious that both Israel and Azerbaijan consider Iran as one of their main priorities.



Based on our assessment, the recent destructive actions of the Iranian special services against the Israeli Embassy, and attempts to carry out terrorist attacks, were triggered by the strengthening of Israel’s positions in Azerbaijan over the last decade. Due to the fact that, for Iran, the South Caucasus is located on the main transit route connecting the Black Sea coast, Europe, and Russia, a sharp increase in the influence of a strategic opponent in such an important region runs against its state interests.

The Islamic Republic undoubtedly thinks that cooperation in the field of security and defense of the Azerbaijan-Israeli political tandem is a serious threat. Considering that one of the main goals of the Iranian regime is to bring to power pro-Iranian Shiite radicals in Azerbaijan, it certainly does not like Israel’s support and strengthening of the security forces, army, and special services of Azerbaijan. More so when Israel’s support played a big role in the return of Karabakh to Azerbaijan. This precedent created a lot of headaches for the Iranian leadership, as its strategic partner Armenia was defeated in this conflict. In some ways, this also signifies a strategic failure of the Iranian side, since, after the settlement of the Karabakh problem, the issue of the so-called Zangezur Corridor rose in the regional agenda. Iran has many question marks over this agenda.

Against this background, the recruitment of Azerbaijani citizens by the Iranian special services, their military training, training in terrorist methods, and subsequent attempts to use them against Israel, show us that a new stage of the secret war between the Iranian, Azerbaijani, and Israeli special services has begun in the South Caucasus.