Dangers of Iran Land Lease Exposed

Armenia wants to lease pastures to Iran

A potential and controversial deal to lease 800,000 hectares of land in the Syunik Province to Iran to be used as grazing pastures for Iranian livestock has far-reaching geopolitical ramifications.

In an article by James Brooks for the Moscow Times environmentalists and activists denounce the Armenian government’s intention to lease such a large swath of land, expressing fears that the critical area bordering Iran and Azerbaijan on both sides could become populated by ethnic Iranians of Azeri descent.

Below is an excerpt from Brooks’ article for the Moscow Times.

The sheep would largely graze in Armenia’s southernmost region, Syunik. Long and as narrow as 30 kilometers wide in some places, Syunik is Armenia’s lifeline to Iran. But it is strategically vulnerable, sandwiched between two territories of Azerbaijan.

Although Syunik is Armenia’s ­second-largest region, it is also one of its least populated. With 15 percent of Armenia’s land area, Syunik has less than 5 percent of Armenia’s people. The population dropped in the late 1980s after ethnic fighting forced an Azeri minority to flee to Azerbaijan and northern Iran.

Without a large local population to draw on, the Iranian sheep project would mean importing Iranian shepherds and possibly their families. Depending on the age of slaughter — for lamb or mutton — an annual export of 2.5 million sheep could mean an Iranian flock of 5 million sheep in southern Armenia. Given the region’s steep terrain, it would be hard for one shepherd to watch more than 500 sheep. So, back-of-the-envelope calculations point to as many as 10,000 Iranian shepherds. Where would the shepherds come from?

The memorandum of understanding was signed between Syunik and the neighboring Iranian region, a place with a name that sounds ominous to many Armenians — Eastern Atrapatakan, or Eastern Azerbaijan. With a population 20 times that of Syunik, Eastern Atrapatakan is a keystone for the northern Iran’s Azeri minority, about 17 million people.

The Iranian sheep deal could come with as many 10,000 ethnic Azeri shepherds, their families, and their watchdogs. But there is another wrinkle: Over the past 20 years, the withdrawal of Armenian shepherds from the mountain pastures has allowed the nation’s wolf population to surge. Armenian authorities now pay a $275 bounty for each wolf shot. So it stands to reason that Iranian shepherds would carry rifles to protect their flocks from wolves and other predators.

In a nutshell, Armenians say, the Iranian sheep deal would mean several thousand ethnic Azeri men, most of whom are armed with rifles, infiltrating into a strategic area.

“With the sheep, a couple of thousand people may come to Armenia, and may live in places that are strategically important for Armenia,” said Evoyan, the environmentalist. “It’s not only about the employment. As I said, it’s about the informal migration of other nationalities to Armenia that is not a strategically right choice for Armenia.”

“I remember how the Azerbaijanis were quietly taking control of Syunik during the Soviet years,” environmentalist Silva Adamyan told Armenia Now. “We have liberated it. And now, we want to give it to them again? Can’t we really understand that it is the same Azeris — citizens of Iran — who would be coming back to Syunik with their families, and so the blood we shed for those lands would turn out to be for nothing?”


Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.


  1. lobo said:

    Local workforce or no deal. Or are the Iranians really looking for ways to create some 10.000 underpaid jobs? No, they should be able to ignore that factor. All they need is fertile land in their dry Nortwest. That they can lease, no more. Unless of course the government…

  2. vartan said:

    I see this issue is surfacing once more by Moscow Times reporter. Armenia does not need any azeri sheep or
    theire sheepish owners to come to Armenia for grazing. Armenia also does not need azeri shopkeepers with Iranaian passport to roam Yerevan ‘s street. enough is enough. I am seak and tired of this ,wake up Armenia . Iam sure this deal is dead forever.otherwise the entire ARMENIAN NATION will rise like angry huricane ,and will punish all the TREAZENERS.

  3. ԲԺ Իշխան բաբաջանեան said:

    մենք հազար անգամ ասում ենք որ Երեւանում ժամանակակից քաղաքականության գիտակցությունը պակասում է ոչ մի մարդ չի լսում ?
    Նրանք ոչ թէ պետք ունեն անփույթ Ռուսների կամ էլ Ամերիկացիների խորհրդակցության, այլ նրաք պետք ունեն սփիւռքի սրտացավ , անշահախնդիր եւ բանիմաց հայրենակիցների օգնության
    Լավ էր որ Թուրքերը մեզ այդ տխրահռչակ Արեւտրի Protocol-ից ազատեցին.
    Այ քեզ բան հիմա էլ կենդանիների Արեւտրի միջոցով Ազարիների գործակալներին մեր տուն են հրավիրում
    Արդիյոք այս անգամ ով է մեզ այդ հրավիրյալ լրտէսնըրից ազատելու?



  5. MGL said:

    Here is the land to live on. Why Armenians from Syria and other, not so friendly countries, don’t move to Armenia?

  6. Parvaneh said:

    Good. It seems Armenia does not want to do business. That is fine. One has to remember that scare mongering is not going to help a land locked tiny country. If Armenia can not understand that Iranians are different from Turkey and Azerbaijan then it is useless to argue. Recently it is becoming clearer and clearer that Armenia is becoming more and more anti-Iran despite the fact that Iranians whether they be Iranian Azeris or others have helped Armenians. But all this is changing with rhetorics coming out of this tiny country with a volatile and bloody history surrounded by enemies. It is good for Armenanians to remember than if and when calamity strikes it will not be Russia or EU that will help them, as history has proven. And now with angering Iranians by trying to belittle them and insult them, it is only a matter of time before Iran runs out of patience and seal the border with Armenia and recatogrize it as an enemy of Iran, the same way they are doing with Azerbaijan. Pertinent to also keep in mind that it is not Iran that needs Armenia but it is the other way round.

    • Charter_Communication=Criminals said:

      That has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is a question of national security. Why don’t you give Kurds or Armenians rights to own the oil fields in Iran? Come on guy, you are smarter than that. Population changes and immigration is not progressive. Iranians have more land and opportunity in Iran, why move to a Christian country anyways? It is more so a question of the Armenian national security. Stop polarizing this debate into Iranian and Armenian; rather, it is about the national security of Armenia. How do we know that Azerbaijan will not fund those families to move to Iran? Furthermore, Azeri-Iranians armed under the pre-text of “protecting against wolves” is a danger to Armenia national security. There is no logical reason why anyone would endorse such a step.

    • Arto said:

      Actually my friend, Iran needs Armenia more than you care to admit. If Armenia loses its southern regions to Azerbaijan, then the entire northern borders of Iran will be controlled by Turkic people who are hostile to Iran. Soon, next will be the partition of Iran and you will lose large sections of your northern regions. Armenia is a very important buffer both for Iran and for Russia. In the future the railway from Armenia through Georgia will open and there will be direct link from Persian gulf to Black sea and Russia. Then Iran and Armenia will be strategically and economically stronger. So don’t try to blackmail and talk like that about Armenia. Your country is in deep shit too. Bottom line is we are good neighbors and friends and should help each other against common enemies. If you don’t understand that Azerbaijan is a big problem for Armenia then there’s nothing that can be said to you. Don’t bother with some of the uneducated people on this comments page. No dangerous decision will be taken in Armenia with regards to this issue because Armenia’s security is a big concern for Russia as well as the Armenian government.

    • GB said:

      Dear Parvaneh, (butterfly girl)
      Are you an Azri Turk? or Persian, or independent Azerbaijani Turkic citizen??If you read your history you will find out how corrupted Iran’s Qajar Turkic Dynasty treated Iravan Khanat Armenians, and Persians in general …I wonder why Iran needs little Armenia’s land??Iran Ergonomically more isolated than Armenia at this moment, It is Iran who needs Armenia, than Armenia needs Iran!! Armenia will end up to integrate with EU Standard sooner or later, but future of Armenia will be much brighter than Iran!! We have Turkic tribes in Iran, who wants separated from Iran..I wonder what will happen that location in the next 50 years from now…It is Armenia’s RIGHTS to protect it’s border as much as we can!! Armenia’s land is not for sale for fake grazing!! Remember those so called free fake Azerbaijani republic Turks may very much get involved and and even Iran dump them over Armenia’s side and we can’t create our own problems for the next 50 years, where sheep grazers will become new occupiers of little Armenia’s land!

    • Ashot said:

      I don’t know what rock you live under but iran help azergayjan not armenia during the war…go check what your general said….

  7. Shlimon said:

    In the next 50 to 100 years there will be no Armenia, it will be sold to neighboring countries.

  8. George said:

    Armenians should learn from Palastine, Lebanon, Israel, EU, once they are in you can’t get them out, Armenian’s don’t need enemies, they are their own enemy.

  9. George said:

    If it is financialy viable to Iran . it should be also viable to Armenia, then why won’t Armenian’s use their own sheperds and maximize the profit by exporting the sheep and adding new jobs?

  10. Socius said:

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Iran wouldn’t let anything happen to your land by its citizens. Keep in mind that the government of Iran is very big on iranization. Making all ethnic minorities feel or want to feel “Iranian” as opposed to whatever other group they may identify themselves as.

    If these groups have loyalties to Azerbaijan the country, then the loss of livestock by them defecting would be a huge issue for Iran as well. Iran will not allow anything to happen, nor do I believe anything would happen. The majority of azeri’s want to be Iranian. If they wanted to live in Azerbaijan the country, as opposed to Azerbaijan the Iranian province, they could have moved long ago.

    Besides, our relationship with Armenia is important to us and we wouldn’t do anything to risk that.

  11. Stephen T. Dulgarian said:

    Armenia should not be leasing our grazing lands to anybody, since it would mean that Iranian’s would be settling on our lands and who knows what damage would be done. We need our Armenian People to settle on those lands and increase food for our people by growing vegetables, wheat, and have our own people bring their sheep & cattle their for grazing. The Armenian Government must wake up or lands will be controlled by Foreigners. Wealthy Armenians not only from Armenia, but from Russia & other diasporean nations must be asked to help our country before it’s too late.

  12. GB said:

    Shame on our traitor Armenian greedy stupid Government officials and traitor Serge Sargsyan, who let Syunik get out of control!! This is one of the reasons, that we do not have proper opposition party to fight against this shameful dictatorial Armenia’s regime. If those corrupted uneducated Soviet era politicians learnt our sad and painful past Armenian history of Syunik region, they would have never thought about this shameful deal!

    Armenians shade blood, for Syunik Marz, during Iran’s Turkic Qajar Dynasty, when they made Armenians as slave, where they put a name like Iravan Khanat!! Iran has millions of hectare of grazing land in East and West Iran’s Azerbaijan. They don’t need this land …this is a true Iran’s political land invasion toward “little” Armenia!!

    Very shortly this land will be over crowded by friendly Turkic tribes, where new housing, Mosques, shops, schools will be built, and their children will be our future Armenia’s “Turkic” speaking soldiers against AXerbaijani soldiers…what a laughable deal these traitors, corrupted Armenians creating, for poor leaderless Armenia!!

  13. grigor sharlakyan said:

    apush gortsark. voch mi depkhum!!!! ev erkrord. ajs kargi voroshoumnern petk e endunven miajn u miajn ambochj hajutajan kartsikhn hashvi arnelov,ajsinkhn hasarakakan hartsumi ardjunnkhneri himman vra!!!!

  14. Vartan Thomasian said:

    Please …Please, open your eyes and brains. for god sake do not sell our mother land for bunch of dollars, Barely we could get reed of that feneminon, do not try to bring them agin, think about comming generation do not put more problems upon them. Think how to strengten our borders against our enemy, do not wide open our door and invite them in, to come and take over every thing, How long it took us to clean that aria,and now we are inviting them back. PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT THAT FOR YOUR GOD SAKE< DO NOT THAT

  15. hayro said:

    why not the armenians take care of the iranian sheep grazing ? kind of subcontracting from their sheppards to armenian sheppards
    i am sure this is a great concept to make money from the iranians for a change rather than giving them the opportunity of extra land and more empoloyment to their people.keep the armenian land that everybody fought for and lost loved ones for it .

  16. Arziv said:

    The shepherds and the sheperding must not be from Iranian sources. The shepherding must , must be carry out by Armenian shepherding families This business deal, it might be mutually beneficial in the short term, however it is a conduit and legal sanction for ” illegal immigration”. The shepherds will settle in the grazing lands with their sheep, and as their sheep multiply so will their numbers. Furthermore the matter will be aggravated if these so called shepherds happen to be of Azeri provenance. Is the Armenian government so misguided as to not be able to forsee what its coming with this asinine land lease. It has to be shot down without a second thought. Who thinks about leasing land to a foreign power bordering on turkic lands and with an internal turkic population ? Why don’t they lease Karabagh back to the Azeries ? Why don’t they lease the rest of Armenia to Turkey ? It makes dangerous precedent. Paradignmatic shift , leasing land .

  17. David said:

    Iran’s first revolution happened during the Mosadegh era. At that time Soviets and the British empire had a great interest to split Iran in to northern Iran and Southern Iran. During that period the Iranian Azeris were spear heading a movement to join the Azeri brothers north of the border. You may look at this as a Soviet push but I think they are the same people and they had aspirations to join together.
    What is happening today draws a very strong parallel to the almost 100 years ago activities. So being watchful to say the least is warranted. I believe there are forces that work against the prosperity of Armenia and these are long term attrition type weakening plans for the country. The sooner we wake up and do what is right the better of we will be. We need people who are farsighted and really have the homeland interest in heart (long term not short term).

  18. Armenian said:

    I would not be surprised if Azerbaijan one day will be directly connected to Nakhichevan and the rest of Turkey. We will have our incompetent, corrupt and delusional government to thank for that.

  19. MK said:

    Syunik region governor Surik Khachatrian notorious for so many scandals better known to most Armenians with his “Liska” nickname a loyal friend of corrupt serzh are now preparing to lease land to Iran,what a disgrace on serzh to even think about it,a person who can sign the treacherous protocols is capable of anything.

  20. Kevork said:

    This was a good catch. Iran needs to start re-Iranifying these people further to cleanse them of all the disgusting Turkishness they are tainted with.

  21. R.S. said:

    We’ll never learn, if this happens we might as well say good-bye to these lands.

  22. Tos said:

    Hyperbole aside, it is not some automatically linked event that investors of business can mass import their own workers independent of normal immigration rules. Unless Armenians can absolutely not fill the jobs, and besides citizens of Armenia there are many Armenian refugees from Syria (as well as Kurdish and Christian and Alawite Arab refugees) who may need any type of work somewhere they can escape the violence, even if just for several years of work. Only if no options are available from the normal labor pool should importing Iranian workers ever even be considered. Nothing in particular against Iranians there, Chinese like to mass import their own laborers into projects in Africa or countries like Greenland, bur sovereign countries can resist that. If some portion of the labor force for the project can’t be easily filled, then Iranian laborers could be considered under the aegis of Armenian immigration policy, not automatic justification with the lease without even first seeking to utilize the options normally available within Armenia. Workers from other CIS countries or Mongolia or other countries would also be potential sources of labor, without issues of Azeri ethnicity. Any worker who wants to extend a visa for a longer stay should conform to normal immigration procedures and learn Armenian, etc.

  23. Dr. Babajanian said:

    Dear Mrs Parvaneh (if that is your real name) I am sorry that you don’t know or understand what is going on now on Iranian and Azerbaijan’s borders in the northern side of the Aras with exception of Armenian border in meghri in Nakhchivan, Moghan, Lankaran, Astara and also on western part on Turkish border in Kurdistan
    Turkey and Aliyev with their supportes planing a “Turkish Turanestan State” which goes through Armenia and Tabriz In Tabriz there is a signficant number of separetist group who worked with their supporters in Europe with hundreds of foreign Agents in Kurdistan and the other side of Aras, day and night tying to sede Iranian Azebaijan from motherland and annex to Baku
    I think now you must get it why Armenian concern that most mixed azeris agents can invade Armenian lands and worked againt both Armenia and Iran. Mrs Parvaneh Please be fair, if you are really an honest and wise iranian you must know, what I am talking about. Now we both are threaten. Small Armenian nation are fighting for their survival they must be careful.
    Mrs Parvaneh I assure you that Armenians, whether in Yerevan or Tehran,in spite of all the Western pressure liked Iranians and always apprecited their hospitalities. I hope you get it. Armenians have no problem with Iran I think they both equally need ech other for their nations sovereignity and territorial integrety.
    Thank you

  24. Satenik said:

    Iranians and Armenians have lived together for thousands of years. I don’t believe that Armenia is anti Iranian as some would suggest nor Iran is anti Armenia , in fact in the recent years there has been many cultural/educational and business exchanges at all level between the two countries and that’s absolutely fine. Because of our past tragic history and the aftermath of the genocide, Armenians are simply over cautious and I don’t think anyone can blame them for that. If you’ve been through what Armenians have ,then you would understand their reasons why they would find such a deal difficult to accept. These has nothing to do with Iran. I think the same sentiments would be echoed if it involved any other country. Perhaps Armenia should have a rule that no land is for sale or lease to non Armenians . Armenia is a tiny country so can not afford to be so generous with its land. Refusal to lease these lands should not have any negative impact on the deep friendship that these countries have together. The Armenian government should have given it a careful consideration before doing anything and this way, would have averted many misunderstanding that may arise from it.

  25. Y said:

    This job has to be stopped in any way, because of the following reasons:

    1. The iranian green lands have been miss used by farmers by feeding much more sheep than lands capacity. Therefore the lands green have disappeared.

    Mainly the turkish Iranian will come to Iran which will be dangrouce for Armenian indipendance.

    What will learn Armenian from them?

    What will be paid for the leasing? Gold, Euro, USD? Or useless iranian equipments which can not be sold even in Iran?!!!!

    The person who makes descision either do not know the last 3-400 years history of Iran and Armenia, or wants to sell Armenia agains some houndreds of thousend of USD.

  26. Dr. Babajanian said:

    Reply to (maybe) Iranian Ms Parvaneh
    Ms Parvaneh if you are not Iranian? please don’t read this article
    Here is what happened on 1945

    In early 1970 in Armenia, I came across an old, frail and tired Ardashes Ovanessian. Iran’s highest-ranking Communist Leader, who spent many years in hiding, prison and exile,
    This honorable man was still able lecture about his ideology, even though he was well aware that contrary to the old days in Iran, nobody in Soviet Armenia cared about his speeches .
    This man was a brilliant, dedicated and a knowledgeable pharmacist and politician, fluent in almost a dozen of languages, but he wasted his precious time in vain supporting a failed ideology.
    I asked him many questions about Iran, the Soviet Union, international affairs and Soviet Armenia.
    He recounted the change of events of 1945 in Iranian Azerbeijan. Ardashes Ovanessian, who was the Director-General of Iran’s Azerbaijani Pishavari government, disclosed his very important role. He had prevented the separation of Iranian Azerbaijan from Iran. He said, “The main goal of separatist movements in Iranian Azerbaijan in 1945 was entirely to separate Iran’s Azerbaijan from Iran and finally unify both Soviet and Iranian Azerbaijans.” He had been against the separatist movement and had prevented the separation of Iran’s Azerbaijan and thus its annexation to Soviet Azerbaijan.
    Ovanessian continued, “I sent a secret massage to the leadership of the USSR that the separation movement in Azerbaijan was based on the personal and nationalistic interest of Soviet Azerbaijan leader Bagirov, and the separatist leader of Iran’s Azerbaijan, Pishevari. Bagirov wanted to unite the population of Iran’s Azerbaijan to a small minority in Soviet Azerbaijan. Because of my objection to ceding Iran’s Azerbaijan, they tried hard to get rid of me but they could not.”
    I enjoyed talking with and learning from this dedicated and intelligent Armenian, but my meeting with his was bittersweet, as I was disappointed that such a knowledgeable and experienced man had wasted his entire life for a fruitless cause that had produced so many disastrous results.
    This old and weak, but proud Armenian, who spent many years in hiding, prison, exile, and after having been sentenced to death in absentia by an Iranian court, was now retired and had left behind his vagrant life to come to his ancestral land and live at the pity of the KGB. This man had been my hero, especially when I found out that he was prevented cession of Iran’s Azerbaijan from motherland Iran.
    At the end of our meeting, I invited Ardashes Ovanessian to my wedding.

    Ishkhan Babajanian MD

  27. Anahit said:

    Ես չգիտեմ, ո՞վ ո՞ւմ աւելի պէտք ունի, սակայն Սիւնիքը օտար հովիւների պէտք չունի: Աւանդավէպը պատմում է թէ դարեր առաջ Վանի թագաւորներից մէկը դրացի երկրների հետ բարի դրացիական յարաբերութիւններ ունենալով հանդերձ, որպէս օրէնք արգելած էր վանակաթը – «obsidian» չմշակուած արտահանելու: Հայ ոսկերիչներին խրախուսում էր որ վանակաթից պատրաստուած զարդերը արտահանեն ոչ թէ հումքը: Վանակաթի հումքը արտահանելը մահացու յանցանք է համարուել: Յանցանք, թէ ոչ յանցանք,այս համաձայնութիւնից դրական արդիւնք ակնկալելը շատ հեռու է իրականութիւնից: Այդքան ոչխարը Սիւնիքի բլուրները մի քանի տարում անապատի կը վերածեն: Մենք մեր ձեռքով որոգայթ ենք լարում մեզ համար: Խոհեմութիւն գործադրել պէտք է, քանի դեռ ուշ չէ:

  28. Hay said:

    Don’t do it. Syunik was liberated don’t give it away!! remember these azeris are the same people that did the massacers in kirovabad,sumgait,baku and occupied nakhichevan.this goverment is corrupted and dosent think about the future of Armenia.we are a small country and they want to give away land!?!? I dont think monte,garo would approve of this!it is better for armenian farmers to use this land.We fought for Artsakh and liberatied it and now the goverment want to sell armenian land!??!.It will be exactly like nakhichevan slowly but surley the armenian population was driven out.In 1828 nakhichevan’s population was 44% armenian and now the number is 0%.There are now no armenians left in nakhichevan. don’t do the same mistake with Syunik!! Iran has lots of land don’t let them buy armenian land it is our land. Armenias government must not sell one milllimeter pf armenian land to another country!! This is a shame.Shame on you Serzh!!

  29. Hay said:

    If the land is good then they can just let armenian farmers use it.The emigration from Armenia is all because of jobs.now only 2.8 million live there and in baku there are 2 million now the emigration is going to increase because of this stupid stupid dissicon!!

  30. Vagheenag Tarpinian said:

    If the Iranians do not understand the sensitivity of having Iranians move in to Syunik
    They have no clue about what happened all these years
    You want your sheep to be grazed ?
    We will do it for you
    No offense
    And this has nothing to do with liking or not liking each other

    • Dave said:

      I don’t blame the Iranians for responding to the offer but if you really want to know why this dangerous proposal was offered simply “follow the money” and it will probably lead to a certain unelected Governor named “Liska”, who distinguished himself by assaulting an Armenian business woman and breaking the arm of a local teenager with impunity. Now, he’s selling off the country which is no surprise to me. Prior to this “deal”, the Iranians were seeking to fill a huge dying lake in their country (Urmea) with 200sq miles of Armenian water which is becoming more valuable than oil in that region. You need to change your laws so Governors will have to be elected by the citizens. 10,000 shepards, now add their families and how do you think the Iranian Guard is going to take it if you ever ask those people to leave?