U.S. officials believe that the Israelis have gained access to airbases in Azerbaijan. Does this bring them one step closer to a war with Iran?
In particular, four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran's northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. "The Israelis have bought an airfield," a senior administration official told me in early February, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.""We're watching what Iran does closely," one of the U.S. 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."Israel's deepening relationship with the Baku government was cemented in February by a $1.6 billion arms agreement that provides Azerbaijan with sophisticated drones and missile-defense systems. At the same time, Baku's ties with Tehran have frayed
Foreign Policy quotes U.S. diplomats as saying that 'Israel is deeply embedded in Azerbaijan' and says intelligence officials worried that Israel's military involvement in Azerbaijan would complicate efforts to reduce Israeli-Iranian tensions.According to the report, U.S. intelligence officials are worried that Israel's military involvement in Azerbaijan would make it more difficult for the U.S. to reduce Israeli-Iranian tensions. Apparently now, military planners must prepare for a war scenario that would also involve the Caucasus.
In February, Israel signed a $1.6 billion arms deal with Azerbaijan, committing to sell drones and anti-aircraft missile defense systems to Baku. According to a retired U.S. diplomat, the deal left Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "sputtering in rage," since Israel had previously canceled a contract to develop drones with the Turkish military.The report said that the Azeri military has four abandoned, Soviet-era airfields that could be available to Israel and four air bases for their own aircraft, quoting the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Military Balance 2011.U.S. officials told Foreign Policy that they believe Israel has been granted access to these air bases through a "series of quiet political and military understandings.""I doubt that there's actually anything in writing," said a former U.S. diplomat who spent his career in the region. "But I don't think there's any doubt - if Israeli jets want to land in Azerbaijan after an attack, they'd probably be allowed to do so. Israel is deeply embedded in Azerbaijan, and has been for the last two decades."Earlier this month, Azerbaijan authorities arrested 22 peoplesuspected of plotting to attack the Israeli and American embassies in the capital Baku. Iran's Revolutionary Guards was reportedly behind the plan to attack Israeli and U.S. targets in the country, according to Azerbaijan's national security ministry.