Friday, March 30, 2012

Israel and Azerbaijan: unlikely allies?

Claims – disputed by both countries – that Israel has secured Azerbaijani airbases has awakened interest in the Caucasus

The Guardian

"In the latest in a series of explosive reports on Israel's covert hostilities against Iran, one vigorously denied by both the Israeli government and Baku, Foreign Policy magazine has quoted anonymous US officials saying that Israel has secured access to airbases on Iran's northern border through its well-nurtured defence alliance with Azerbaijan."The Israelis have bought an airfield," a senior US administration official was quoted telling Foreign Policy's Mark Perry, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan."

Israel has refused to validate the report, which goes on to outline US concerns that the claimed move will inflame already raw Israeli-Iran relations and potentially draw the Caucasus into any war. One of Perry's US intelligence sources told him:

We're watching what Iran does closely. But we're now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we're not happy about it......

"Iran's fear that its considerable Azeri minority may have aspirations for independence is the current bed of its relations with Azerbaijan. As a result, Azerbaijan is very interested in firming up its relationship with Israel."

Last month Israel confirmed the sale of drones and anti-aircraft missile defence systems to the former Soviet state in a $1.6bn arms deal.....

More than 30% of the Iranian population are ethnic Azeris, including Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader, and the opposition leader, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who is currently being held under house arrest....."

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