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Azerbaijan - a secret springboard of 'Israel'?

Publication time: 30 March 2012, 14:40
"The Israelis have bought an airfield - the airfield called Azerbaijan", Foreign Policy quoted an unnamed senior official of the US administration as saying in an interview with an article's author, journalist Mark Perry.

US administration believes that the "Israelis" have gained access to airbases in Azerbaijan, says the magazine, citing US officials.

Does this bring "Israel" one step closer to a war with Iran? However, the magazine says: after the publication of this article, the official representative of Azerbaijan said that his country did not provide "Israel" access to its military air bases.

To begin with, the author refers to a cable from 2009 "Azerbaijan's discreet symbiosis with Israel", that later published on WikiLeaks. Donald Lu, Deputy US Ambassador in Baku, has sent this cable to Washington. If to believe the document, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said his country's relationship with the Jewish state as an iceberg: "nine-tenths of it is below the surface".

Now the US administration, according to sources, came to the conclusion that the "submerged aspect" of the Israeli-Azerbaijani alliance is heightening the risks of an "Israeli" strike on Iran. Unnamed in the U.S. - "four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers" - say that "Israel" has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran's northern border.

Senior US intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that "Israel's" military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates US efforts to dampen "Israeli"-Iranian tensions. "Military planners, I was told, must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the Persian Gulf -- but one that could include the Caucasus", the author writes.

Development of the "Israeli"-Azerbaijani relations complicates the relationship of "Israel" and Azerbaijan with Turkey, which fears the negative economic and political consequences of the war with Iran.

The burgeoning "Israel"-Azerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint in both countries' relationship with Turkey, a regional heavyweight that fears the economic and political fallout of a war with Iran.

During a recent visit to Tehran, however, Azerbaijan's defense minister publicly ruled out the use of Azerbaijan for a strike on Iran, the article says. He described Iran as "brotherly and friendly country".

"But even if government of Azerbaijan makes good on that promise, it could still provide "Israel" with essential support", says the author.

A US military intelligence officer noted that Azeri defense minister did not explicitly bar "Israeli" bombers from landing in the country after a strike. Nor did he rule out the basing of "Israeli" search-and-rescue units in the country.

"We're watching what Iran does closely", one of the US sources, an intelligence officer engaged in assessing the ramifications of a prospective "Israeli" attack confirmed. "But we're now watching what "Israel" is doing in Azerbaijan. And we're not happy about it".

In February, Azerbaijan has concluded with "Israel" contracts for the supply of drones, missile and other weapons in the amount of $ 1.6 billion. At the same time, Baku's ties with Tehran have frayed: Iran presented a note to Azerbaijan's ambassador last month claiming that Baku has supported "Israeli"-trained assassination squads targeting Iranian scientists. Baku has recently announced the arrest of 22 alleged Iranian spies.

Whatever it was, the Azeri airfields will bring great benefits to "Israel": F F-15I and F-16I fighter-bombers would not have to refuel midflight during a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, but could simply continue north and land in Azerbaijan. This is especially important because, according to the author, "Israel" does not have a lot of air tankers, and experience in-flight refueling is minimum. The author believes that the most suitable air base is located Azerbaijan - an airfield, where during the Soviet era Su-25aircrafts were deployed.

Azerbaijan benefits from relations with "Israel", says the author. "Israel" is the second largest purchasers of Azerbaijani oil. Arms purchasing from "Israeli" allows Baku to circumvent the OSCE's embargo. "Finally, modernizing the Azeri military sends a clear signal to Iran that interference in Azerbaijan could be costly", says the magazine. Azerbaijani authorities broken up the "pro-Iranian terrorist groups and countered Iranian propaganda efforts among its population", said an "Israeli"-American expert Alexander Murinson.

For their part, "Israeli" officials say their country's cooperation with Baku in the military sphere is not so big. They only notice that Azerbaijan - one of the few Muslim countries where "Israelis" feel welcome. In 2010, "Israeli" politician Ephraim Sneh called in an interview that Azerbaijan "an icon of progress and modernity in the Caucasus region".

"A laughable claim: Azerbaijan is a thuggish family-run kleptocracy and one of the most corrupt regimes in the world", says one of the informants of the author, the retired American diplomat.

Department of Monitoring
Kavkaz Center



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