I was reading Steve’s blog, and he posted an email from a reader who “asserts” a lot of things. This caught my eye:
While the Azeris want to torment the Armenians and vice versa, the Azeris are far more interested in getting their co-ethnics out of Iran and the Armenians are trying to set up alliances to keep from being invaded on a regular basis. Good.
Caveat, I don’t know much about foreign policy. Back a few years ago I watched the whole “warblogger” phenomenon. I don’t know if I considered myself one…I was never that interested in foreign policy and didn’t have strong political preferences. If you look through the archives you will see that I said things like “I am 55% in support of the war,” etc. I was just going along, and occasionally I would repeat talking points I’d seen around the web to anti-warish friends. I figured that other people knew more than I did, since of course they read the news and kept up, you know, the AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times. Read those and you can comment intelligently, right? No. People didn’t know jack shit. This doesn’t speak to the details of the foreign policy…a lot of that depends on what your a priori values are. But, I will assert that people didn’t know jack shit, because I don’t think they knew non-trivially more than I did, and I didn’t know jack shit. Today, I still don’t. And I don’t plan on knowing much more, my puny brain is focused on science, history and other things that might interest me.
Then, a few weeks ago I saw a post on ParaPundit about plans to do a divide & conquer on Iran by encouraging the Azeris to rebel against their Iranian overlords. At this point, I did a Cochran and exploded with rage, because I do know a tiny bit about the history of Iran (I’m not saying tiny ironically, I don’t know that much, I’m very much a dabbler) and the Azeris’ Iranian overlords are…Azeris!!!!
There is a reason that Azeris, a Turkic speaking people who inhabit the northwest of the modern Iranian state, won’t rebel against the Iranian state, and that’s because they created Iran!!! Yeah, you read that right, they created Iran! And to some extent, they still run Iran. In The Sons of the Conquerors Hugh Pope notes that
a) The Iranian military is disproportionately Azeri
b) The current Grand Ayatollah of Iran, Ali Khamenei, is from an Azeri family in eastern Iran (people move you know, even in non-Western countries)
Some history. In the early 16th century Shah Ismail conquered Iran. He instigated the process of converting Iran to a Twelver Shia state, eradicating Sunnism from most of his domains (in modern Iran Kurds and Balouch are the main Sunni groups, Farsi speakers, Arabs, the Azeris and other Turkic groups are Shia). He was a Turk, what might be called an Azeri Turk. Until the ascendency of Reza Pahlavi in the early 20th century Iran had not had an ethnically Persian dynasty for nearly 1,000 years. Iran’s ruling caste was Turkic. Now, we shouldn’t perceive ethnicity as we do in the post-French Revolutionary sense. The boundaries between Turk and Persian was likely fluid, and Farsi was the language of culture. Though self-conscious Persians did not rule the historic Persia for a thousand years, Persian culture flowered. In fact, many of the early Ottoman Sultans preferred Persian to Turkish, just as Frederick the Great preferred French to German.
Here’s some other facts. Around 1/4 of the Iranian population is Azeri. 1/4 X 70 million ~ 17.5 million Azeris in Iran. There are about 9 million people in Azerbaijan. The leaders of Azerbaijan would be entering into political suicide if they were playing a game of Greater Azerbaijan, the secular Russian-influenced Azeris of Azerbaijan would be heavily outnumbered by religious Azeris of Iran. Today Azerbaijan might look to Turkey as its “natural” ally because of shared Turkic heritage (the division of various Turkish languages is somewhat artificial from what I gather), but traditionally the great wars between Iran and the Ottoman Empire were wars between Turks, Shia and Sunni, not Persians and Turks.
Anyway, enough from me. I doubt I’ll be making many political posts in the near future…but anyone saying stupid shit about stuff like “let’s foment Azeri separatism in Iran” will be met with an immediate ban. This isn’t quantum mechanics, all you need to do is go to Wiki or read a book. Pretend I’m Jaakkeli and Iran is Finland, and you’ll get the idea of how I feel about people saying grossly and unself-consciously stupid shit.
Updated: OK, Greg emailed Steve and pointed out some of the same points as above. I don’t know much about foreign policy, but talking about Azeris rebelling against the Iranian state because they are resentful about Persian domination is so wrong that it makes you skeptical about either the real knowledge background that someone brings to the table or their good faith.
Addendum: Anyone can feel free to correct me if they know from personal experience that Azeris resent their prominent role as soldiers and leaders in the Iranian republic and would prefer to be even bigger fish in a smaller pond.