Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What's the Latest Development?

From cultivating energy business with the rest of Europe, to pursuing diplomatic ties with Israel, to inviting pop stars like Jennifer Lopez and Shakira to perform, the tiny nation of Azerbaijan is doing its best to position itself as the polar opposite of Iran, its less tolerant and more repressive neighbor to the south. Former US ambassador Matthew Bryza says, "It is one of the most serious threats to the long-term viability of the Iranian regime...Every day that Azerbaijan grows stronger economically...that’s another day in which the Iranian regime grows weaker." 

What's the Big Idea?

Recent diplomatic clashes between Iran and Azerbaijan have contributed to the chilly relationship between the two. However, the event that caused Iran to withdraw its ambassador was a cultural one: Azerbaijan hosted this year's Eurovision Song Contest, which Iran attacked as "an anti-Islamic 'gay parade'." Historically the country has always been more tolerant than its neighbor, especially with regards to women's rights. According to one Azeri official, "It’s not so much that we have changed, it’s that others have come to understand who we are." 

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