OpinionIsrael News

The Armenian front in Iran’s war on Israel and the West

The Islamic Republic is using the Armenian Church and the Armenian lobby in the United States to further its regional ambitions.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani after a meeting in Tehran in 2019. Credi: Press Office of the Government of Armenia.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani after a meeting in Tehran in 2019. Credi: Press Office of the Government of Armenia.
Mordechai Kedar
Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.

A recent report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service stated: “The Islamic Republic of Iran seeks to be a major power in the Middle East, spreading its influence to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and beyond. Its regional ambitions have been advanced primarily through an alliance with Syria and the use of Iran-aligned militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.”

“Efforts to obstruct Iran’s ambitions by the United States, Israel and other regional states have led Iran to seek informal alliances with like-minded, anti-Western states like the Russian Federation. Iran has formed what it calls the ‘axis of resistance,’ a regional alliance of Iran, Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah, alongside other non-state proxy actors,” it continued.

“Iran also targets Israeli and Jewish interests as part of its ongoing shadow war with Israel,” the report noted. “Iran uses agents, proxies and sympathizers who may be witting or unwitting accomplices.”

One of those “accomplices” is little-known but powerful. Analyst Dr. Ehsan Movahedian, an international relations specialist at the Tehran International Studies & Research Institute, has stated that there are two powers that can help Iran fight off “Zionists” and NATO in the Caucasus: the Husseiniyyun movement and the Armenian Church.

The first is not surprising. Husseiniyyun is the “Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan.” Essentially a clone of Hezbollah, it is an Iranian proxy created by the former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s terror strategy. Soleimani even gave the movement its name. He intended to use it as a tool against Azerbaijan, Israel’s ally in the Caucasus.

Husseiniyyun recruits ethnic Azerbaijanis to conduct subversive actions against the legitimate government, including espionage and attempted terror attacks on the Israeli embassy in Baku. Husseiniyyun’s flag is essentially identical to that of other Iranian proxies: A green hand holding a rifle against a yellow background.

The latter accomplice is less well-known. The Armenian Church, a major opponent of a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, actively promotes Iranian interests in the region. Iran fears that a peaceful settlement of the almost 200-year-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan will deprive Iran of regional influence. In particular, Azerbaijan is pushing to create a Zangezur Transport corridor that will connect it with the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan, which Iran sees as a threat to its border with Armenia.

This is important to Iran because, for years, Armenia was its primary means to circumvent sanctions. But the current leadership of Armenia has decided to “go West” because of Russia’s waning influence in the region. A peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan looks increasingly imminent because discussion of permanent borders has begun. This could harm Armenia and Iran’s close relations. Ongoing massive Armenian protests against the border demarcations are led by Armenian clerics. As a result, Iran sees these clerics as important allies.

However, the Armenian Church is also active in Israel, and Iran knows it.

Movahedian himself said, “The discourse of the clergy of the Armenian Church, considering their historical enmity with Judaism and Zionism, is completely compatible and in line with the discourse of the Islamic Republic. In the last four months, there have been intense conflicts between the Armenians living in Jerusalem and the Zionists, which, unfortunately, have not been reflected in the Iranian media. This neglected capacity, if it gets Iran’s attention, will create unique security, economic and political opportunities for Iran in the Caucasus.”

Movahedian is a major supporter of dismantling the “Jewish-friendly” Azerbaijani state. As a result, he  closely monitors the situation in Jerusalem, where local Armenians are turning an insignificant real estate dispute into an “ethnic cleansing case,” blaming Jews and the Israeli government for supposedly preparing “another future genocide.”

The dispute is decidedly minor. Armenian clergy agreed to lease a parking lot to Jewish developers who wished to construct a hotel, which would improve the economic situation of the Armenian community. But the Palestinians and Jordanians called the plan “Judaization” and pressured the clergy to break the agreement and organize a massive anti-Israel campaign in Jerusalem.

The campaign mimics Hamas propaganda: exaggerations, blatant lies, constant predictions of violent attacks by settlers that never happen and pleas for funds “for the protection of a 1,600-year-old Armenian community.” There are also constant lamentations over the alleged “identical genocide of the brotherly Palestinians.”

The campaign’s fundraising is not done transparently, but this is not the most serious issue. The most serious issue is the Armenian lobby in the U.S., which is becoming increasingly anti-Israel and antisemitic. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), the biggest and the most influential Armenian body in the United States, is perhaps the worst offender, and experts believe its antisemitism may be driven by the alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan.

Recently, the level of hatred has become overwhelming. Armenians are endlessly repeating the Iranian media’s nonsense about a “genocide in Gaza.” Representatives of the ANCA and the Armenian Church have enlisted Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), long noted for her animosity towards Israel and Jews, in their campaign.

One of the leaders of the ANCA, Alex Galitsky, has been particularly violent in his rhetoric, saying, “As someone whose own people suffered a genocide just over 100 years ago, it is evident to me that the Israeli assault on Gaza is genocidal and should be recognized as such.” 

He referred to Israel’s dispute with the Armenian Church as “A disgusting attempt to sow division between Armenians & Arabs to deny Israel’s role in the ongoing assault on the Armenian Quarter” and denounced Israel’s alleged “destruction of a church during its criminal siege of Gaza.”

Even worse, Galitsky declared that “Israel celebrates Christmas by terrorizing Palestinians & destroying ancient Christian sites in Gaza, arming Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Artsakh’s indigenous Armenians, fueling extremist settler violence threatening to erase Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter.”

ANCA officials’ rhetoric is essentially identical to that of Iran. There should be an investigation into whether they are witting or unwitting accomplices.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates