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September 19 2022 Renewal of the Nagorno-Karabakh Theatre of World War Three

Among the many horrors of the multifront Third World War now being waged by Russia against democracy in the mad imperial conquest and dominion of Putin’s regime of war criminals and plutocrats, the renewal of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict along with the destabilization operations of the Russian puppet tyranny of Serbia against Bosnia and Kosovo together signal an active threat to Europe and the world.

     As Putin’s conquest of Ukraine collapses in failure and ruin, with Russian soldiers running from the battlefields in total panic, rout, and mass desertions before the victorious army of Ukraine, and his plans of glorifying the power of his regime ending in self-demonization and delegitimation, Putin now seeks to generalize the conflict. Russian tanks are not yet massing along the border of Poland, nor ships positioning for the capture of the Romanian port of Constantia and the invasion of the Danube, nor nuclear missiles hurtling through the skies to bring the extinction of humankind, but all of these possibilities are now far more likely. A predator is most dangerous when cornered.

    Some voices yet speak of peace as something which may be clung to in the face of an enemy which does not recognize our humanity nor respect any laws or limits regarding our universal human rights, or seek mercy through danegeld and becoming de facto vassal states of an imperial master, though this has never worked and we should have learned this from the failure of Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” speech of 1938 to save Europe from Hitler.

     To this I say; the best time to stop a war, a genocide, acts of terror and tyranny, and crimes against humanity, is before it happens.

     Those who respect no laws and no limits may hide behind none.

     We may disambiguate robber-baron Russia in this moment from the fallen Soviet Union it replaced by one simple fact, of enormous implications; Russia now funds, trains, arms, and directs fascist and nationalist alt-right political parties globally where it once did the same for communist revolutionaries.

     We all of us who love Liberty, including those who now challenge the Russian imperial dominion and hegemony in the many theatres of this the Third World War, in Russia and America, Ukraine and Syria, Libya, Belarus, Kazakhstan, West Africa, the Sahel, and Lake Chad, Nagorno-Karabakh, and now the Gordian Knot of Serbia and Bosnia as Putin launches his campaign for the conquest of Europe, and as skirmishes signal an emerging Tajik-Uzbek conflict which will bring Afghanistan and Pakistan into an unhappy alliance with Turkey and rekindle the dream of a united Sunni Mughal-Ottoman alliance against Shia Persia, now Iran and Russia’s ally in Syria, in this moment as the world burns and civilization begins to collapse utterly it seems to me that we must face a great truth; it doesn’t matter who we are or what we call ourselves, only what we do.

      This is the principle of impartial justice and equality before the law on which democracy is founded, and it has consequences for our duty of care for others; all that matters in the end is what we do with our fear, and how we use our power.

     How can we understand and process Russia’s historical volte-face from liberator to conqueror and betrayal of our solidarity as human beings?

      In the second episode of the series premier of the beloved and iconic epic and allegory of antifascist Resistance, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Harvest, we have a gruesomely parallel situation. Our heroes have learned that the enforcers of The Master are about to deliver the world in his dominion and need sacrifices which they will find at the local nightclub, and are ambushing the malefactors in a spoiling raid. Xander is focused on rescue of his friend Jesse who has been taken by the vampires, and says: “We’ve gotta get in there before Jesse does something stupider than usual.” I say to you now as Giles says to Xander; “Listen to me… Jesse is dead. You have to remember that when you see him, you’re not looking at your friend. You’re looking at the thing that killed him.”

     I say again and directly to fellow Democratic Socialists, Progressives, Anarchists, and Left intellectuals of all kinds; Putin’s Russia is a criminal syndicate which embodies the final form of capitalism as totalitarian kleptocracy and the elite hegemonies of wealth, power, and privilege and fascisms of blood, faith, and soil which she once so heroically fought against. In this I speak as a witness of history who fought alongside Russian soldiers in the liberation of South Africa from Apartheid and in other causes, and in Mariupol fought against them in the reformed Abraham Lincoln Brigade which we modeled on that of the Spanish Civil War.

    The origins of evil lie not in an evil impulse as an inherent flaw of human design, but in the operations of systemic power and weaponized inequalities and wealth disparity.

     And this we must resist, always and in whatever form it arises through all of history and the world.

     As written by Isabelle Khurshudyan, Erin Cunningham and Miriam Berger in Huffpost; “The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region has simmered for decades. In 2020, the two sides fought a bloody war for territory — one that ended with a fragile Russian-brokered truce.

     But on Monday night, fierce clashes erupted again near the disputed region, which is inside Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists.

      Armenian officials said at least 49 people were killed in attacks by Azerbaijan’s military. Azerbaijan acknowledged launching the strikes — but said it was responding to Armenian provocations.

     The renewed fighting prompted the State Department to call for an immediate end to the hostilities. Reuters reported Tuesday morning that Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke overnight with both the Armenian prime minister and president of Azerbaijan.

     Russia is a key ally of Armenia, and some observers speculated that Azerbaijan may have sought to attack while Moscow is bogged down by a tough fight in Ukraine.

     Here’s what you need to know about the fight over Nagorno-Karabakh, the longest-running conflict in the post-Soviet sphere.

     What are the roots of the conflict? Why did Azerbaijan attack Armenia on Sept. 12?

     Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Azerbaijan attacked the areas of Goris, Sotk and Jermuk in Nagorno-Karabakh using drones and large-caliber weapons. Azerbaijan’s military admitted to the attacks but accused Armenian forces of planting mines along the border to disrupt supply routes. Yerevan denied the accusations.

     At least 49 people were killed in the strikes, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Tuesday, adding, “Unfortunately, it’s not the final figure.” Azerbaijan also said it suffered losses but did not provide a casualty count.

     Regional analysts said Azerbaijan could have tried to capitalize on recent Russian setbacks in Ukraine.

     “This escalation takes place when (1) Russia is distracted as never before after the collapse of the Kharkiv front; and (2) offensive action against Armenia can surf the global wave of revulsion for Russia since Armenia is formally Russia’s ally,” Laurence Broers, an associate fellow of Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia program, said on Twitter.

     Baku has “unprecedented leverage in every direction,” Broers added, as an increasingly isolated Moscow is now also reliant on land routes through Azerbaijan for trade with Asia and Iran.

     In July, the European Commission and Azerbaijan reached a deal to double gas exports to the E.U. within the next two years as the continent seeks out alternatives to Russian energy.

     The E.U. is pushing to “diversify away from Russia and to turn toward more reliable, trustworthy partners. And I am glad to count Azerbaijan among them,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the time.

     Armenia on Tuesday appealed to Russia, the United States and France for help in ending the hostilities. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it helped broker a truce for Tuesday morning.

     “As we have long made clear, there can be no military solution to the conflict,” Blinken said Monday in a statement. “We urge an end to any military hostilities immediately.”

     What are the roots of the conflict?

     As part of a divide-and-rule tactic, the Soviet government first established the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where at least 95 percent of the population is ethnically Armenian, in Azerbaijan in the 1920s.

     But it wasn’t until 1988, as Moscow’s grip began to weaken, that the enclave became a flash point within the Soviet Union. Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh sought to unite with the then-Soviet republic of Armenia and declared independence from Azerbaijan, another Soviet republic.

     In 1992, after the Soviet Union collapsed, a full-scale war broke out between the two new ­countries over control of the region. Nagorno-Karabakh is located within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan but is mostly controlled by political factions linked to Armenia.

     Between 20,000 and 30,000 people were killed in that conflict and hundreds of thousands were displaced before a cease-fire was declared in 1994. Not only did Armenia end up controlling Nagorno-Karabakh but it also occupied 20 percent of the surrounding Azerbaijani territory, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

     Between 1994 and 2020, periodic skirmishes flared along the border, including the use of attack drones, heavy weaponry and special operations on the front lines. In 2016, particularly fierce clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenian-backed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh raged for four days.

     But in 2020, a full-scale war broke out after Azerbaijan launched an offensive across the line of contact held by Armenian forces and local fighters. The campaign, which began on the morning of Sept. 27, sparked a six-week-long war.

     “The fighting is the worst it has been since the Karabakh War of 1992 to 1994, encompassing the entire line of contact, with artillery, missile, and drone strikes deep past Armenian lines,” Michael Kofman, director of the Russian studies program at the Center for Naval Analyses in Virginia, and Leonid Nersisyan, CEO of the Armenian Research & Development Institute, wrote at the time.

     The war, they said, featured “modern weaponry … representing a large-scale conventional conflict.”

     One of the major features of the war was the military support Turkey, a regional power and longtime foe of Armenia, gave Azerbaijan. In the months before the conflict broke out, Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan rose sixfold, according to exports data analyzed by Reuters. The sales included drones and other military equipment, which experts say helped turn the tide for Azerbaijan.

     As part of the Russia-mediated cease-fire, Armenia had to cede swaths of territory it controlled for decades. More than 7,000 combatants were killed, according to the International Crisis Group, and Russian peacekeepers were deployed to patrol the region.

     The cease-fire Russia brokered “brought neither full stability nor security to the region,” Alexa Fults and Paul Stronski of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote in April. “And even before the Ukraine war, Moscow’s peacekeepers have struggled to do their jobs.”

     Russia, they said, arguably has the most influence of any outside power to push peace forward. But its resources and attention have been sapped by the war in Ukraine.

     “After the 2020 war, the front line has become longer and more volatile than before,” according to the International Crisis Group.”

     And in a previous essay on this conflict:

April 15 2022 A History of the Third World War and Russia’s Imperial Wars of Dominion Since 2020, Part Six: the Nagorno-Karabakh Theatre of War

     That which is not spoken of becomes forgotten, and ceases to be real as a historical informing, motivating, and shaping force of our identity. This is why the witness of history is important to our adaptive range and our possibilities of becoming human, and why meaning and value can be created in the present as an unfolding and realization of the past.

     Memory, history, identity; such recursive processes sculpt us across vast epochs of time as a stone is formed by wind and water.  We are prochronisms, a record in our forms biological, psychological, and sociocultural-civilizational of how we solved problems of adaptation to change like the shell of a fantastic sea creature.

     This is true of nations as well as individuals; and here I practice my art of seeing futures that might be in the stories of which we are made, using methods of literature, history, and psychology in an archeology of the future, as originated by Robert G.L. Waite in his study of Hitler, The Psychopathic God.  I first read it as a senior in high school, and its why I chose these three disciplines of scholarship at university in my life mission to understand the origins of evil.

    Here is the sixth and final part of my interrogation of the theatres of World War Three, that of Nagorno-Karabakh.

     As I wrote in my post of October 10 2020, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Today a Fragile Peace in a Century Old Conflict; An ephemeral moment of peace stilled the thunder of war in the developing third front of the historic civilizational Great Powers conflict of dominion between Russian and Turkey; adding the Armenian-Azerbaijan theatre to those of Syria and Libya, which have destabilized Europe and cast the fate of the Middle East and the Mediterranean to the winds of fate.

     That today’s cease fire falls within days of the historic 1920 Baku Congress which shattered the grip of European colonial powers on the world is no accident, but a distant echo of that vigorous idealism and vision of a new future for humankind.

     Here are the ringing words of the closing call to action at the end of the Congress; “Go forward as one in a holy war against the British conquerors! …this is a holy war to liberate the peoples of the East; to end the division of humanity into oppressor peoples and oppressed peoples; and to achieve complete equality of all peoples and races, whatever language they may speak, whatever the color of their skin, and whatever the religion they profess.”

     They are words which still hold true today, as we battle for our humanity, our liberty, our equality, and our lives against tyrannies of force and control in the streets of Portland, Seattle, New York, and across America and the world; in Hong Kong, Syria, Yemen, Chile, Bolivia, Kashmir, India, and that dual entity which is both al Quds and Jerusalem, among many others.

     Yet Armenia holds a unique symbolic position in the iconography and mythology of genocide and survival, for the events of the 1914-1917 campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing by the Ottoman Empire were Hitler’s justification for the invasion of Poland. The text of the Obersalzberg address on 22 August 1939, provided by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of German military intelligence, to an allied agent is as follows; “Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter – with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me. I have issued the command – and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad – that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians.”

     So it is that Armenia has become a symbol of the struggle between civilization as human meaning and value on the one side and the atavistic barbarism of an amoral modernity and nihilism in which only power is real on the other. And of the beauty of resistance, by which the powerless become unconquerable and free.

      As written by Bryan Gigantino in Jacobin; “In 1994, representatives of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, and the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh signed the Bishkek Protocol. After six years of deadly fighting and ethnic cleansing, this document provided a much-needed reprieve — and an immediate end to the bloodshed. But this produced only a fragile peace, and far short of addressing the root causes of the conflict, it institutionalized mutual enmity and the uncertainty over Nagorno-Karabakh’s future.

     A quarter-century later, this September 27, military clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out once more. Again, the fighting between these South Caucasus neighbors centered on Nagorno-Karabakh — a mountainous, unrecognized de facto independent state surrounded by Azeri territory. Once populated by both Azeris and Armenians, since the war of 1988–1994 the territory has become increasingly homogenous, with its 150,000 Armenians. The region is de jure part of Azerbaijan, but since 1994 it has been both controlled by local Armenian armed forces and wholly dependent on Armenia for security, economic survival, and access to the outside world.

     Following the latest two weeks of violence, on Saturday, October 10, a cease-fire was hastily agreed. This came after ten hours of talks between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, who met in Moscow with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Yet even this truce is fragile — only an hour into the truce and both sides immediately accused the other of breaking it, as reports of shelling abounded.

     While the post-1994 cease-fire was broken by repeated skirmishes, the recent fighting was the most severe in decades. Previous instances such as the clashes in 2008, the April War of 2016, and fighting this July pale in comparison; this time, hundreds of civilians and military personnel have been killed and thousands forced to flee their homes. Previous upticks were often sparked by murky circumstances or accidents. But this time was different: for the Azeri offensive had been months in the making.

     After armed confrontations in July resulted in the death of Azerbaijan’s major general, Polad Hashimov, massive pro-war demonstrations flooded the capital, Baku. Missteps over Karabakh had ended the careers of many Azeri elites in the 1990s; this was not lost on President Ilham Aliyev, who, especially given the economic pressure from the COVID-19 crisis, could not ignore the nationalist rage. Aliyev publicly stated that searching for a peaceful solution with Armenia was pointless. On September 24, just three days before the fighting started, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ominously released a list of so-called provocative actions taken by Armenia since reform-oriented Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan came to power in that country’s 2018 Velvet Revolution.

     Following Azerbaijan’s initial offensive on September 27, the fighting rapidly escalated. Azeri rockets and heavy artillery bombarded the regional capital Stepanakert almost daily. Towns within Armenia and military positions along the two-hundred-kilometer “line of contact” separating Azerbaijan from Nagorno-Karabakh also came under fire. Armenian forces unsurprisingly responded, attacking Azeri positions and repelling drones — one of which was shot down alarmingly close to Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. But they also shelled targets within Azerbaijan’s territory, including its second city, Ganja.

     There is, indeed, a substantial asymmetry between the two countries, with Azerbaijan’s defense budget, military hardware, and total personnel far outweighing Armenia’s. With a population of nearly ten million, Azerbaijan has a defense budget of $2.73 billion at 5.4 percent of GDP, whereas Armenia has a population of slightly under three million and a defense budget of $500 million at 4.7 percent of GDP. Notably, Turkish- and Israeli-made drones have played a central role in Azerbaijan’s military operations: Amnesty International confirms that Israeli-made cluster munitions were used in residential areas of Stepanakert.

     State officials in both Armenia and Azerbaijan have fueled the fighting with a concomitant information war, unleashing a deluge of accusations, misinformation, and false data. Each state’s intransigent rhetoric thickens the abyss of unverifiable information widely circulating on Twitter and Facebook. Despite the best efforts of well-intentioned journalists and analysts, these conditions filter much of the conflict to the outside world. Even when more or less accurate information is available, the overall picture remains foggy. For example, Armenia releases consistent updates on military casualties but not civilian ones, whereas Azerbaijan does the inverse.

     Yet such details alone do not explain why two neighboring post-Soviet countries with deep and intertwined histories are still locked in conflict. Fundamentally, irreconcilable official narratives and national understandings are central to the persistence of tensions and the reproduction of enmity. The region’s recent history can put this dynamic into a much clearer perspective.

     For Armenians, the defense of Nagorno-Karabakh, or Artsakh as it is traditionally called, is an existential struggle. Between 1914 and 1917, 1.5 million Armenians perished in the genocide at the hands of Ottoman soldiers and Kurdish irregulars. The combination of forced deportation and indiscriminate slaughter depopulated Eastern Anatolia of nearly its entire Armenian population. Though the cities of Tbilisi and Baku were far more culturally, economically, and politically significant for Armenians, nationalists of the time had seen Eastern Anatolia as the future home of an independent Armenian state.

     The permanent loss of this land created a territorially dismembered nationalism, in which not only a shared language and religious traditions but a sense of loss and popular memory of the genocide shape the Armenian national idea. This, in turn, fuels its intransigence over Nagorno-Karabakh — much like how Israeli irredentism often invokes the fear of a second Holocaust.

     For Azeris, too, Karabakh is also critical to the national imagination. This mainly owes to the nearly six hundred thousand Azeris who became internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the fighting before the 1994 cease-fire. While some IDPs came from Nagorno-Karabakh, the vast majority fled seven districts in Karabakh’s historically Azeri-populated flatlands currently (according to Azerbaijan) under Armenian occupation. Since the end of the last war in 1994, the reclamation of these lost territories and the eventual return of their residents has been a pillar of Azeri nationalism.”

     As I wrote in my post of April 27 2021 Biden Recognizes the Armenian Genocide; Biden’s historic Armenian Remembrance Day speech last Saturday, the first official recognition of the Armenian Genocide by America, went as follows; “Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring. Beginning on April 24, 1915, with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople by Ottoman authorities, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in a campaign of extermination. We honor the victims of the Meds Yeghern so that the horrors of what happened are never lost to history. And we remember so that we remain ever-vigilant against the corrosive influence of hate in all its forms.

     Today, as we mourn what was lost, let us also turn our eyes to the future—toward the world that we wish to build for our children. A world unstained by the daily evils of bigotry and intolerance, where human rights are respected, and where all people are able to pursue their lives in dignity and security.”

     Thus has our President and our nation given warning to the tyrannies of the world that we will defend the universal human rights which supersede the claims of any nation, and defend the people from unjust governments when necessary. In the context of the Armenian Genocide, especially this warrant is served to the regimes of Erdogan of Turkey and Putin of Russia, who between them now contest for the dominion of the Middle East and the Mediterranean in pursuit of refounding their former historic empires prior to the First World War. 

     With recognition must come reparations by Turkey, and the restoration of a sovereign and independent Armenian homeland. While the boundaries of Tigranes the Great’s Armenia included Jerusalem and all of Syria from Damascus and Palmyra to the sea, I think some compromise may be able to be worked out, considering that Turkey wants NATO support for its seizure of Libya’s oil fields through a puppet regime which is threatened by Russia’s massive line of Libyan fortifications and mercenary army; surely this vast wealth and dominion of the Mediterranean would be worth the price of justice for Armenia. Turkey and Iran may also find a buffer state useful, as Iran and Russia support the brutal Assad regime in Syria against the Turkish army and liberation forces of secular democracy.

     And with America undergoing a Restoration of democracy and independence from Russian conquest in the wake of our repudiation of her puppet Trump, a new willingness to challenge Russia’s imperial conquest of Ukraine, Russia’s vassal state Belarus in the process of an independence struggle, and a popular democracy movement in Russia itself leading the resistance to Putin, now is an excellent moment for a realignment of Turkey with America.

    We have a chance to forge a peace together, Turkey and America, in which both of us win. My hope in this is that the world’s champions and guarantors of democracy, freedom, equality, truth, and in the case of the Armenian people most especially justice, may yet find a way forward to throwing words instead of stones, as Sigmund Freud taught us.      

     As written by the historian Heather Cox Richardson in her daily current events newsletter; “In his first major speech as Secretary of State, Antony Blinken laid out the principles of the Biden administration in foreign policy, emphasizing that this administration believed foreign and domestic policy to be profoundly linked. Biden’s people would support democracy at home and abroad to combat the authoritarianism rising around the world… including in the U.S.

     “The more we and other democracies can show the world that we can deliver, not only for our people, but also for each other, the more we can refute the lie that authoritarian countries love to tell, that theirs is the better way to meet people’s fundamental needs and hopes. It’s on us to prove them wrong,” Blinken said. “So the question isn’t if we will support democracy around the world, but how.” He answered: “We will use the power of our example. We will encourage others to make key reforms, overturn bad laws, fight corruption, and stop unjust practices. We will incentivize democratic behavior.”

     President Joe Biden has set out a foreign policy that focuses on human rights and reaches out more to foreign peoples than to their governments, heartening protesters in authoritarian countries.

     On Saturday, Biden issued a document declaring that the displacement and slaughter of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans in 1915 was a “genocide.” The U.S. had previously refused to recognize the ethnic cleansing for what it was because of the strategic importance of Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO (among other things, Turkey holds the straits that control access to the Black Sea, on which Russia and Ukraine, as well as other countries, sit).

     Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide is a reflection of the fact that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is increasingly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Taliban, and appears to be abandoning democracy in his own country, giving Biden the room to take a step popular in America but previously too undiplomatic to undertake. (Remember when Erdogan’s security staff beat up protesters in Washington, D.C., in 2017 and prosecutors dropped the charges?)

     Erdogan greeted Biden’s announcement with anger, demanding he retract it, but he also said he expected to discuss all of the disputes between the U.S. and Turkey at the June NATO summit. Geopolitics in Erdogan’s part of the world are changing, as Putin is struggling at home with protests against his treatment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and with the new U.S. sanctions that, by making it hard for him to float government bonds, could weaken his economy further. It is looking more and more likely that Biden and Putin will also have a summit early this summer.”

The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Historical and Political Perspectives, M Hakan Yavuz,. Michael Gunter (Editors)

Murder in the Mountains: War Crime in Khojaly and the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, Raoul Contreras

Script of The Harvest, season premier of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

https://buffy.fandom.com/wiki/The_Harvest/Script

      A Reading List on the Armenian Genocide:

Shameful Act, by Taner Akcam

My Brother’s Road: An American’s Fateful Journey to Armenia, by Markar Melkonian

The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, by Peter Balakian 

The Psychopathic God, by Robert G.L. Waite

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-16352745

http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/armenian_genocide.php

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/serj-tankian-president-biden-armenian-genocide-1160770/

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/10/armenia-azerbaijan-cease-fire-conflict-nagorno-karabakh

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/10/azerbaijan-armenia-conflict-nationalism-colonialism

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/09/baku-congress-azerbaijan-1920

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/06/armenia-serzh-sargsyan-hhk-uprising-election

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/08/04/nagorno-karabakh-conflict-explained/?utm_campaign=wp_todays_worldview&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_todayworld&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F37ea73a%2F6321533af3d9003c58d65174%2F5a60d667ae7e8a0f035f4c5a%2F40%2F75%2F6321533af3d9003c58d65174&wp_cu=1510b69ce851e944b04aebc74d8f00d5%7C63111D7B4FCE0E34E0530100007FB417

https://www.quora.com/profile/Ahmad-Abubakr-%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%A8%DA%A9%D8%B1

Why the Sunni Ottomans and Mughals failed to unite versus Shia Persia, written by Ahmad Abubakr (احمد ابوبکر)

“I wouldn’t really say that the Sunni Ottoman and Mughal Empires never tried to make an alliance against the Shia Safavid Empire of Persia. But to truly understand this, one must first understand the geopolitics of the Muslim world in the early gunpowder age.

The question in this only mentions three of the powers of the early gunpowder age within the Muslim world. These being the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Empire of Persia and the Mughal Empire of Hindustan. It misses out on one of the most important powers that was directly responsible for the geopolitics and the policies of the Mughal Empire. One that is usually not given the attention that it deserves. This last power were the Uzbeks of Central Asia.

Note: This is a long and detailed answer. One that explains the geopolitics of the Muslim world in the early gunpowder era. It also explains the relationship between the Mughals, Safavids, Ottomans and Uzbeks. For a concise summarized answer, skip to the summary at the end.

The great powers of the Muslim world during the early gunpowder age. Notice how the Shia Safavid Empire (purple) is surrounded by three different Sunni Empires. To its west, lies the Ottoman Empire (red/pink). To its east, the Mughal Empire (green/yellow). To the north, the Uzbeks (orange).

The Uzbeks

To understand the relationship between the Mughals and Uzbeks, one must first understand how the Uzbeks came to power in Central Asia. The Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur or Tamerlane carved out a massive empire centered in Transoxiana. This Timurid Empire was the greatest power in the Muslim world. Timur died in 1405 and was succeeded by his son, Shah Rukh Mirza. Shah Rukh Mirza became the second Timurid Emperor. He managed to hold onto most of Timur’s empire.

About two decades after that, a man named Abu’l-Khayr Khan united several nomadic clans under his own command and began to launch raids into the Timurid territory in the south. In 1430, he invaded the region of Khwarezmia and took the city of Urganj. He would be driven back soon after by Shah Rukh Mirza. However, this can be said to be the beginning of the Uzbek Khanate.

The Uzbek migration into Transoxiana

The problems for the Timurids began with the death of Shah Rukh Mirza in 1447. With this came the decline and fragmentation of the Timurid Empire. The third Timurid Emperor Abu Sa’id Mirza would consolidate control over central parts of the empire. He died in 1469 and the Timurid Empire fragmented into many small city states or kingdoms.

Around the year 1500, the Uzbek tribes were once again united under the command of one man. This man was Muhammad Shaybani Khan, the grandson of Abu’l-Khayr Khan. Shaybani Khan began to take the Timurid cities one by one. The Uzbeks drove the Timurids out of Central Asia and took their kingdoms. In 1506, the city of Bukhara was captured. This was the formation of the Khanate of Bukhara. Muhammad Shaybani Khan was killed in 1510 in the Battle of Merv against Shah Ismail, founder of the Safavid Empire. The death of Shaybani Khan resulted in the fragmentation of the Uzbek state into the Khanate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva. Both of these were Uzbek states.

Muhammad Shaybani Khan

Babur

Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, became the Timurid King of Ferghana at the age of eleven in 1494 after his father’s accidental death. Like the other Timurid kings, he was soon driven out of Central Asia by Shaybani Khan and the Uzbeks. It should be noted that the Uzbeks were the greatest enemies of the Timurids at this time. Babur took over as the Timurid King of Kabul in 1504 after the death of Ulugh Beg II, the Timurid King of Kabul and Babur’s uncle. Babur would make multiple attempts to take back the cities of Central Asia from the Uzbeks, but with little success.

In 1510, Shaybani Khan was killed in the Battle of Merv against Shah Ismail of the Safavid Empire. Shah Ismail had Shaybani Khan’s head turned into a bejeweled drinking goblet, which was sent to Babur as a gift. Khanzada Begum, Babur’s sister who had been in the custody of the Uzbeks, was also returned to Babur. This was the beginning of an alliance between Babur and Shah Ismail of the Safavids against the Uzbeks.

For a more detailed answer on Muhammad Shaybani Khan – ‎Ahmad Abubakr (احمد ابوبکر)‎’s answer to Who are some lesser known but still interesting leaders throughout history? What is their story?

The Battle of Merv between Shah Ismail and Muhammad Shaybani Khan

Now let’s discuss Babur’s relationship with the Safavids and the Ottomans. Babur was still intent of capturing Transoxiana back from the Uzbeks to restore Timurid rule. The Uzbeks were the greatest enemy for Babur. His relations with the Safavids and Ottomans were based on that.

The Ottomans and Safavids were at war. Shah Ismail of the Safavid Empire had been defeated by Selim the Grim of the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514. On the other side, the Safavids laid claim to the region of Khorasan. This put them in conflict with the Uzbeks who also claimed the region. As such, the Ottomans and Uzbeks were natural allies. Both Sunni Orthodox states waging war against a Shia state trying to expand and spread its influence.

Shah Ismail, founder of the Safavid Empire

Since the Ottomans supported the Uzbeks, this meant that Babur looked upon them negatively. Not to mention that the common enemy of the Uzbeks had resulted in an alliance between Babur and Shah Ismail of Persia. This does not mean that Babur was very fond of the Safavids. The Safavid Empire under Shah Ismail persecuted the Sunni population in conquered territory, including a few massacres of the civilian populations in Central Asia. Babur being a witness to a few of these, was put off by them. But his alliance with the Safavid was based on pragmatism, not emotions.

Sultan Selim the Grim had provided Ubaydullah Khan of the Uzbeks with firearms. This naturally resulted in poor relations between Babur and the Ottomans. It is believed that Sultan Selim later decided that it would be better to bring Babur over to his side and away from the Safavids. He sent firearms and experts to wield them to assist Babur in his campaigns. These would become a key part of Babur’s military strategy.

Sultan Selim I or Selim the Grim, the ninth Ottoman Sultan and the first Ottoman Caliph.

Seeing Central Asia as a lost cause, Babur began to turn his eyes towards India. Babur invaded the Delhi Sultanate in 1526 and defeated the armies of the sultanate in the First Battle of Panipat. This brought an end to the three century long rule of the Delhi Sultanate and resulted in the formation of the Mughal Empire.

It should be noted though that we have no evidence of any direct contact between Babur and the Ottoman Sultans.

Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire.

Humayun

Humayun ascended to the throne in 1530 following Babur’s death. One of the problems that he faced early in his reign was Sher Shah Suri, a man who would drive Humayun out of North India altogether and take over the empire. Humayun’s brothers offered him no help and were instead intent on killing him. Humayun decided to seek refuge under the protection of Shah Tahmasp I of the Safavid Empire.

The Safavid Shah showed Humayun more hospitality than his own family had. Not only did Tahmasp offer Humayun refuge, later on he also offered Humayun men to help take back his empire. In return, Humayun was to hand Kandahar over to the Safavids if he succeeded. Humayun returned and took Kandahar and Kabul from his brothers. Kandahar was handed over to Shah Tahmasp, who made his young son the viceroy of the city. The young prince died and then Humayun took over the city for himself.

Shah Tahmasp I of the Safavid Empire

Humayun then decided to capture Balkh and retake Samarkand. He defeated an army of Uzbeks outside of Balkh. However, before he could take Balkh, a threat to Kabul forced him to return to the city. After this, Humayun would make no attempt to retake their ancestral home in Central Asia.

Humayun returned to India to retake his empire form the family of Sher Shah Suri. Humayun defeated Sikandar Shah Suri in the Battle of Sirhind in 1555 to re-establish the Mughal Empire once more. The first official interaction between the Mughal Empire and Ottoman Empire would occur in 1556. Sidi Ali Reis, an Ottoman admiral that had been shipwrecked in India, visited the court of Humayun. Humayun would send a personal letter to Suleiman the Magnificent.

During Humayun’s era, we see the relationship between the Mughals and Safavids improve even more. However, Humayun’s decision to keep Kandahar would result in future in conflict between the two empires. We also see the Mughals trying to establish contact with the Ottomans.

Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor.

Akbar

Humayun died in less than a year after retaking his throne. He was succeeded by his fourteen year old son, Akbar. Akbar’s relationship with the Ottomans was great in the early part of his rule. He even wrote a letter to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire, accepting him as the Caliph. However, in the later part of his rule, this relationship became a little hostile.

Suleiman the Magnificent

While Akbar was consolidating control over the Indian domains of his empire, Kabul and Kandahar were lost. Kabul was under the control of his brother, Mirza Muhammad Hakim. Kandahar was captured in 1558 by Shah Tahmasp of the Safavid Empire. Kandahar would remain in Safavid hands for the next three decades.

After dealing with the threats in North India, Akbar began to turn his eyes towards the Hindu Kush region. Traditionally, the Indus River had marked the boundary between Hindustan and the western regions. However, this was unacceptable to Akbar. To safeguard his empire from threats from the west, the Mughals must hold the two gateways into his empire. These being Kabul and Kandahar.

A topographic map of Afghanistan. Kabul and Kandahar were the two entry points into Hindustan from the west. Controlling these two cities ensured that there would be no invasion of the Mughal Empire from the west.

Kabul was captured in 1581 from Muhammad Hakim. It would be completely annexed by the Mughal Empire in 1585. This brought the Mughals in direct contact with the Uzbeks to the north. The Uzbeks at this time were led by Abdullah Khan Ozbeg. The Uzbeks had been supporting the Pashtun tribes in their rebellion against Mughal authority in the region. This posed a problem for Akbar.

Abdullah Khan reached out to Akbar that he wanted to form a tripartite alliance against the Safavid Empire. He wanted an alliance between the three Sunni states of the Ottomans, Uzbeks and the Mughals against the Shia Safavids. The Ottoman Empire and the Uzbeks were already allies against the Safavid Empire. Akbar seems to have disagreed with the idea of the tripartite alliance against the Safavids.

To Akbar, the Safavid state was never really a threat for the Mughal Empire. The two empires had been on friendly terms, despite the conflict over Kandahar. Let’s not forget that the Mughals cared far less about religion than the more orthodox Ottomans and Uzbeks. Akbar’s own regent, Bairam Khan, had been a Shia Muslim. The Mughals viewed the Safavid state differently than the Ottomans or Uzbeks. In Akbar’s view, the existence of the Safavid state was actually beneficial for the Mughals. As the Safavid Empire kept the Uzbeks to the north in check. So the Safavid served as a means of balancing the power and influence of the Uzbeks.

Abdullah Khan Ozbeg

At the end, there would be no tripartite alliance against the Safavid Empire. Abdullah Khan reached out to Akbar. In 1586, the two came to an agreement that Akbar would remain neutral during the Uzbek invasion of Safavid-held Khorasan. In return, the Uzbeks would end any support to the Afghan rebels. The Uzbeks also acknowledged Kabul as part of the Mughal Empire. This was perfect for Akbar, as he used this time to bring an end to the rebellion by the Afghan tribes and established Mughal authority in the region. So while the Uzbeks and Ottomans waged war against the Safavids, the Mughal remained neutral.

The Safavid Shah at this time was Shah Abbas the Great. He was at war with Sultan Murad III of the Ottoman Empire and Abdullah Khan of the Uzbeks. During this time, Kandahar came under threat from the Uzbeks. The Safavids could do nothing about it as they were busy with the Ottomans. The governor of Kandahar at this time was Mozaffar Hosayn, a Safavid prince who had a poor relationship with Shah Abbas. Not to mention the raids by the Uzbeks that the Safavids could do nothing about. The Mughals managed to entice Mozaffar Hosayn over to their own side and away from the Safavids. Kandahar was properly annexed into the Mughal Empire in 1595.

Under Akbar, we see the Mughals adopt a more pragmatic policy. Even willing to work with the Uzbeks, their old enemy, to achieve their own goals. By neither joining the Safavids against the Uzbeks or the tripartite alliance against the Safavids, Akbar was able to gain both Kabul and Kandahar. However, it should be noted that Akbar still harbored intent of taking back their ancestral home of Transoxiana. There was just nothing he could do about it at this time.

Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor

Jahangir

Jahangir ascended to the throne in 1605, following the death of Akbar. Initially, Jahangir had friendly relations with the Safavids. Even the relations with the Uzbeks seem to have been more friendly. On the other hand, the Ottomans were treated with indifference.

Jahangir had friendly relations with the Safavid Shah, Abbas the Great. The two would exchange gifts and ambassadors. In 1616, Shah Abbas was waging a war against Sultan Ahmed I of the Ottomans. He asked Jahangir for financial assistance, for his war against the Ottomans, and Jahangir obliged.

The Shaybanid Dynasty of the Khanate of Bukhara had been overthrown and replaced by the Ashtarkhanid Dynasty. In 1615, Imam Quli Khan of the Uzbeks sent ambassadors to Jahangir with gifts. Jahangir would return the favor by sending gifts in 1621.

Imam Quli Khan, the third Khan of Bukhara of the Ashtarkhanid Dynasty

In 1622, Shah Abbas led an army to take Kandahar from the Mughals and laid siege to the city. Jahangir ordered his son Shah Jahan to relieve the city, but Shah Jahan refused. This resulted in the capture of Kandahar by the Safavids. Jahangir seems to have seen this as a betrayal by the Safavids. While to the Safavids, this was simply taking back the city that Humayun had promised them. The Mughals were unable to make an attempt to take back the city, due to Shah Jahan’s rebellion. At the end, Jahangir had to send an envoy to Shah Abbas in 1623 and accept the loss of Kandahar to the Safavids.

Shah Abbas the Great of the Safavid Empire

The conquest of Kandahar by Shah Abbas changed Jahangir’s mind and policy towards the Safavids and Ottomans. Sultan Murad IV of the Ottoman Empire sent a letter to Jahangir, asking him to assist Imam Quli Khan of the Uzbeks against the Safavid Empire. Around 1626, Jahangir began to plan for a tripartite alliance against the Safavid Empire. However, nothing materialized due to Jahangir’s death in 1627.

During the rule of Jahangir, we see a shift in policy. From a friendly stance towards to Safavids to seeing them as rivals. In my opinion, the taking of Kandahar was a very risky move for Shah Abbas. Had it not been for Shah Jahan’s rebellion and the death of Jahangir, a tripartite alliance may even have materialized. Such an alliance would have marked the end of the Safavid state.

Jahangir, the fourth Mughal Emperor

Shah Jahan

Shah Jahan took the throne in 1628 following the death of Jahangir. Initially, Shah Jahan also contemplated a tripartite alliance against the Safavid Empire. However at the end, no alliance would materialize. The foiled raid on Kabul by Nazr Muhammad, the Uzbek leader of Balkh, did not help matters.

Ali Mardan Khan was the Safavid governor of Kandahar. He was dismissed from his office by Shah Safi of the Safavid Empire. As an act of revenge, Ali Mardan handed Kandahar over to the Mughals in 1638 and joined the Mughals. In return, the Mughals awarded him a high position within the administration. Kandahar was once again in Mughal hands.

Shah Safi of the Safavid Empire

The Mughals received word of Safavid military preparations in the region. In 1638, Shah Jahan sent his first embassy to Sultan Murad IV of the Ottoman Empire. Shah Jahan suggested an alliance between the Mughal and Ottoman Empires against the Safavid Empire. Shah Jahan proposed a tripartite alliance against the Safavid Empire and a coordinated attack on the Safavid Empire by all three states. However, nothing seems to have materialized.

Sultan Murad of the Ottoman Empire

Here we have to discuss Shah Jahan’s desire of reclaiming their ancestral home of Transoxiana. While the previous emperors had paid minimal attention to this in terms of action, Shah Jahan would actually begin a military campaign towards Central Asia. Shah Jahan’s desire for reclaiming the legacy of Timur can be seen by his title “Sahib-e Qiran-i Sani”, which translates to the “Second Lord of Auspicious Conjugation”. Timur being the Lord of Auspicious Conjugation.

Hassan Khan Shamlu, the Safavid governor of Herat, sent a letter to the Mughals asking whether the Mughals had any plan of retaking their “hereditary domains”. He further requested that if there is such a plan, he should be informed so that the Safavids and the Mughals can join in an alliance against the Uzbeks. However, the Safavids would take back this offer as they decided to retake Kandahar.

The Khanate of Bukhara was currently led by Nazr Muhammad. He had taken over this role from his brother, Imam Qoli Khan. However, many disagreed with him and a rebellion broke out against him. Even his sons joined in the rebellion. He was forced to flee to Balkh. Nazr Muhammad asked for assistance from Shah Jahan, who was more than happy to oblige since he already had plans for Central Asia. Shah Jahan sent an army under his son which occupied Balkh. Nazr Muhammad had fled to the Safavid court and asked for assistance to reclaim his throne. He had realized that Shah Jahan had no intention to help him, but to actually capture him and conquer Balkh for himself. This would result in a two year long war over Balkh between the Mughals and the Uzbeks.

The new leader of the Uzbeks was Abdul Aziz Khan, son of Nazr Muhammad. The Mughals would do well militarily against the Uzbeks and defeat them in battle. However despite their victories in battle, the Mughals were defeated and were forced to return Balkh to the Uzbeks. The Mughal army of the frontier had suffered great damage. Shah Jahan’s invasion of Balkh and war against the Uzbeks destroyed any chance of a tripartite alliance against the Safavids. During this time, the Ottomans would even sent letters to Shah Jahan and ask him to settle the matters with the Uzbeks.

Abdul Aziz Khan, the fifth Khan of Bukhara.

Shah Abbas II of the Safavid Empire took advantage of this and captured Kandahar in 1648. This would result in the Mughal–Safavid War of 1649–53. The Mughals would besiege the city of Kandahar on three different occasions, but would fail to take the city.

The first attempt came in 1649 under the command of Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s son. The second was in 1652, once again under the command of Aurangzeb. Shah Abbas II of the Safavids entered into an alliance with Abdul Aziz Khan of the Uzbeks. Abdul Aziz Khan sent ten thousand men to harass the Mughal supply lines near Kabul, making it impossible to carry on the siege. The third and final siege came in 1653, under the command of Dara Shikoh. Despite the much larger army, Dara Shikoh was also unable to take the city. The defeat in this third siege brought an end to the Mughal-Safavid War.

Kandahar would now remain in Safavid hands. Though it is a little ironic that it is the city of Kandahar that would result in the downfall of the Safavid Empire.

Shah Abbas II of the Safavid Empire

As we can see, Shah Jahan had initially considered a tripartite alliance. However, his war with the Uzbeks made that an impossibility. This war was not well received by the Ottomans either. Not to mention that Shah Abbas II took advantage of this to take Kandahar. It also resulted in friendly relations between the Safavids and Uzbeks, which was not in the best interest of the Mughals.

Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal Emperor

Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb took the throne in 1658 after a succession war. Aurangzeb’s accession to the throne was controversial, as Shah Jahan was still alive and Aurangzeb had imprisoned him. Aurangzeb’s relations with the Safavid Empire were initially poor. However the two sides never went to war.

Aurangzeb had exchanged embassies and gifts with Shah Abbas II of the Safavid Empire. However, a minor conflict between the forces of the two armies near Kandahar resulted in a tense situation. Aurangzeb was preparing his forces to deal with the Safavids. The death of Shah Abbas II in 1666 brought an end to hostilities between the two empires.

Shah Abbas II was succeeded by his son, Shah Suleiman. Suleiman sent a message to Aurangzeb mocking his title Alamgir (world-seizer), claiming that all he had conquered was his own father and should be called Padergir (father-seizer). He also gave refuge to Sultan Muhammad Akbar in 1686. This was Aurangzeb’s son who had rebelled against him and had been driven out of the Indian Subcontinent. The Safavids would not provide him with any assistance to take back the throne.

Shah Suleiman of the Safavid Empire

Aurangzeb’s relations with the Ottomans were quite formal. There was little direct contact between the Ottoman sultans and Aurangzeb. This was quite different from the reign of Shah Jahan, when the contact was at its peak.

Aurangzeb was congratulated on his accession by Hussain Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Basra. The Ottoman governors of Basra and Yemen and the Sharif of Mecca sent ambassadors to Aurangzeb in 1665. When Hussain Pasha was ousted from his position, he was given refuge and a position in the Mughal administration. Aurangzeb even gave a position to the next governor of Basra, Yahya Pasha. It is safe to assume that the Ottomans did not take kindly to Aurangzeb providing refuge to their enemies.

In 1690, the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman II sent an embassy to Aurangzeb. He urgently requested assistance from Aurangzeb, as the Ottomans were not doing too well in the War of the Holy League. The Ottoman embassy was received quite coldly by Aurangzeb, as the Ottoman sultan had sent no embassy to him thirty-two years into his reign. Yet now when he needed assistance, he had sent one. Aurangzeb did not sent help to the Ottomans and also did not declare a war against the Christians.

The Safavid Empire was no longer a threat for the Mughals. It was also not very powerful anymore. From the Mughal perspective, there was no need for any sort of alliance with the Ottomans anymore. As the Safavid Empire had been the only common enemy for the two previously. Plus, both the Mughal and Ottomans had problems within their own empires to deal with.

Sultan Suleiman II of the Ottoman Empire

Aurangzeb’s relations with the Uzbeks were quite friendly. Aurangzeb had no desire for a military campaign to take Central Asia. He had led the Mughal forces in the war against the Uzbeks in Balkh during the rule of Shah Jahan. He had seen first-hand that over-extension of the empire towards Central Asia was next to impossible.

At the time of Aurangzeb’s accession, Subhan Quli Khan had been the first foreign leader to recognize him. Subhan Quli at the time was the Uzbek ruler of Balkh. In 1681, Subhan Quli Khan would become the sixth Khan of Bukhara. A role that he would take over from his brother, Abdul Aziz Khan.

The two rulers would have friendly relations. He is believed to have requested an alliance with the Mughals. In 1685, Aurangzeb sent an embassy to Subhan Quli bearing many gifts. This included elephants.

As it can be seen, Aurangzeb’s attitude towards the three states was more or less friendly. He maintained relations with all three. Yet at the same time, he made no alliances with any one of them. Nor did he wage war against any of them. Aurangzeb focus was mostly within the Indian Subcontinent, so he had little need for assistance from outside powers. The weakness of the Safavid state meant that no sort of alliance with the Uzbeks or Ottomans was required.

Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor

After Aurangzeb

Following Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, the Mughals had enough internal problems of their own to even contemplate any sort of alliance against the Safavid Empire. The Ottomans had their own internal problems to focus on.

Mostly importantly though, the Safavid Empire was not a threat to either one of them anymore. It has ceased to be one some time ago. In 1709, Mirwais Hotak would lead a rebellion against the Safavids in Kandahar. The city of Kandahar would become the stronghold of the Hotak Dynasty and in 1722, the Hotaks would capture the Safavid capital of Isfahan itself.

For a more detailed answer on the Hotak Dynasty – Ahmad Abubakr (احمد ابوبکر)‎’s answer to What were some of the weakest, smallest or most short-lived Empires in history?

Mirwais Khan Hotak

Summary

During the rule of Babur, the Mughals were not exactly one the best of terms with the Ottomans. This was because the Ottomans were allies to the Uzbeks, enemies of Babur. Plus Babur had no direct contact with the Ottoman sultan. Babur and Shah Ismail of the Safavids were allies against the Uzbeks.

During the rule of Humayun, the Safavids were seen as allies and friends. The Safavids actually provided refuge to Humayun when he was driven out of his empire by Sher Shah Suri. They also provided him with an army to take back his empire. Humayun did have contact with the Ottomans, but it was not regarding the Safavids.

During the rule of Akbar, a tripartite alliance against the Safavids was suggested. However, Akbar had no interest in such an alliance. As the Safavids were seen as a counter to the Uzbeks. It was in the interest of the Mughals that the Safavid state continues to exist.

During the rule of Jahangir, the relation with the Safavid was initially very friendly. However, upon Shah Abbas’s capture of Kandahar from the Mughals, this changed. Jahangir proposed the idea of a tripartite alliance against the Safavid Empire, but he died before any plans could be made.

During the rule of Shah Jahan, the idea of a tripartite alliance was floated as well. However, his invasion of Balkh brought an end to that. The war against the Uzbeks was not seen very well by the Ottomans either. The Safavids used this to capture Kandahar from the Mughals again. At this point, the tripartite alliance was not possible. The Uzbeks had allied with the Safavids against the Mughals.

During the rule of Aurangzeb, the Mughals had little interest in either Persia or Central Asia. Aurangzeb’s focus was inwards on the Subcontinent. He made no attempt to take Kandahar. Plus the Safavids were now weak so no longer seen as a threat to either the Mughals or Ottomans.

After Aurangzeb’s death, both the Mughals and Ottomans had enough problems of their own to think of any such alliance. Plus the Hotak rebellion would destroy the Safavid state on its own.

Why didn’t the Sunni Ottomans and Mughals make an alliance to conquer Persia?

The Mughals never had an interest in conquering Persia. The only point of contention between the Mughal Empire and the Safavid Empire was the city of Kandahar. Beyond that, they two sides had no issue with each other.

The Mughal focus of expansion was never into Persia. It was either deeper into the Indian Subcontinent or into Central Asia to reclaim Transoxiana. This made the Uzbeks the natural enemies of the Mughals. Not the Persians.

The Mughals actually had friendly relations with the Safavid Empire for the most part. Sometimes far better than the relations with the Ottomans or Uzbeks.

The Safavid Empire was seen as an essential counter against the Uzbeks of Central Asia. This made the existence of a Safavid state a positive thing.

The Mughals were never all that religious to begin with. The Ottomans and Uzbeks were a lot more orthodox Sunni than the Mughals. The Mughals also cared a lot less about the Sunni-Shia issue. The conflict between the Ottomans and Safavids may have been very sectarian based. But to the Mughals, this was not really a problem.

The only time such an alliance almost came to be was late in Jahangir’s rule. The tripartite alliance could have marked an end for the Safavid Empire. Fortunately for the Safavids, Jahangir died a year later before any sort of preparations were made.

Shah Jahan’s obsession with reclaiming their ancestral homeland, drove the Uzbeks into the hands of the Safavids. It also hurt the Mughal-Ottoman relations. This made any tripartite alliance an impossibility.

Aurangzeb had no interest in either Persia or the Ottoman Empire. His focus was inwards.

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