Iran Holds Army Ground Force Drill in Border Area as Azerbaijani-Armenian Karabakh Conflict Persists

Earlier this week, Tehran conducted air defence war games after stray missiles and shells made their way into Iranian territory amid ongoing hostilities between neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Iranian Army’s Ground Forces carried out a military exercise in the country’s north-western border areas on Sunday, a drill that involved infantry, artillery, and armoured units, as well as drone squads.

The Tasnim news agency cited Ground Forces Commander Brigadier General Kiomars Heidari as saying after the exercises that the force had “undergone major changes and turned into an agile offence force with rapid reaction capabilities”.

Heidari touted the simulated military operations conducted during the war games to drill new combat tactics, warning that the Ground Forces would immediately react to any possible act of aggression against the Islamic Republic.

He spoke a few days after Iran staged air defence drills codenamed the Guardians of the Sky Velayat-99, which involved units of both Iran’s conventional military and the country’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Iranian military spokesman Abbas Farajpour said that the war games’ goal was to “prevent any encroachment, aggression or encroachment on the country’s air borders”.

In a separate development this week, Mohammad Pakpoor, an IRGC brigadier general, said that security is in place in Iran amid the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which involves Tehran’s immediate neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“Although a number of shells fired in the Karabakh dispute have hit the Iranian soil, security prevails along the borders and there is no threat to the country”, the general pointed out.

The statement was preceded by Iranian military spokesman Abolfazl Shekarchi pledging that “Iran will give a tough response to any form of threat and violation”, and urging Baku and Yerevan to resolve their dispute peacefully and through dialogue.

Earlier this month, the Islamic Republic News Agency cited Behrouz Nedaei, deputy governor of the Iranian province of Ardabil near the border with Azerbaijan, as saying that an unidentified drone had crashed on the province’s territory.

This followed Tehran sending on 7 October formal diplomatic notes of protest to both Armenia and Azerbaijan about stray missiles and shells making their way into Iranian territory. The Islamic Republic warned that Iran would resort to “measures stronger than warnings” if the stray fire didn’t stop.

The decades-old conflict escalated into large-scale fighting on 27 September, when Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of launching artillery, missile, and air strikes in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-majority region, where tensions had been in place since 1988 and finally resulted in the region declaring independence amid the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Between 1992 and 1994, Yerevan and Baku fought a brutal war for the territory that claimed the lives of over 30,000 people, also displacing at least 1.1 million others. Thousands more have been killed in the conflict’s frequent flare-ups since then.

The conflict is still underway despite two ceasefire deals between Baku and Yerevan that was mediated by Russia earlier in October.

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