So far, Azerbaijan is standing firm against these threats from Iran. And if the Azeris, or the Israelis, needed another demonstration of why they should tighten their military alliance, the Iranians, with their military exercises and their crude threats, have just supplied it. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
Iran is clearly disturbed at the close military collaboration between Azerbaijan and Israel. The Azeris have been buying most of their weapons, including the indispensable military drones, from Israel, and the Baku government believes that these were key to Azerbaijan’s recent swift victory in its war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. A leading Iranian journalist has just claimed in a television interview that Israel and Turkey are jointly planning to attack Iran from Azerbaijan, and that Israel’s previous “terror” attacks on Iran have been launched from Azerbaijan. A report on his charge is here: “Iranian Expert: Israel Has Been Launching Operations Against Iran From Azerbaijan,” JNS.org, October 12, 2021:
The international affairs journalist and political analyst Mostafa Khoshcheshm claimed in an Oct. 2 interview on Iranian Ofogh TV that Israel is collaborating with Turkey to attack Iran through Azerbaijan, and that many Israeli “terror” operations against Iran were launched from there.
The notion that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose antipathy to Israel is well known, could ever be collaborating with the “Zionist” state against Iran, is ludicrous. Erdogan was the one who denounced Israel over the Mavi Marmara affair in 2010, in which Israeli commandos prevented a Turkish ship carrying both Turkish anti-Israel activists and supplies from breaking Israel’s blockade and landing in Gaza, accusing Israel of “terrorism” — a charge he frequently makes against the Jewish state. Erdogan has consistently taken a pro-Palestinian line, sometimes more vehemently than the Arabs themselves. In 2020, he provided Turkish citizenship and passports to a dozen members of Hamas. This should not surprise, for Erdogan supports the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is considered to be the Gazan branch. At a meeting in Davos, he famously told Shimon Peres that “when it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill,” and then he stormed off the stage, vowing never to return to Davos. Erdogan has said of Israelis that “terrorism…is in their nature.” And this is how he described Israelis this past May: “They are murderers, to the point that they kill children who are five or six years old. They only are satisfied by sucking their blood.” Erdogan has said in a televised speech that a “Jewish prime minister” had told him he took “greatest pleasure” to kill Palestinians when the unnamed official was a general in the Israel Defense Forces. “This is part of their (Israelis’) nature.”
Given that record, it is impossible to believe, as Iranian journalist Mostafa Khoshcheshm claims, that Israel and Turkey are working together against Iran.
But it is most plausible that Azerbaijan and Israel — both of which have been threatened by Iran — are collaborating on trying to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
According to the report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Khoshcheshm said the alleged Israeli operations [launched from Azerbaijan] included assassinations and the 2018 operation where Mossad agents stole thousands of documents from Iran’s nuclear archives.
The No. 1 enemy of this country is the Zionist regime, whose national security doctrine includes the weakening and destruction of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
In the interview on Iranian TV, he also claimed that Iran will not tolerate the presence of Salafi groups or Israelis along the Iran-Azerbaijan border.
According to the report, he said “4,000 or 5,000 precision-guided missiles will suffice. Believe me, we are not talking about war. Why not? [Because] Azerbaijan knows it is not [an equal] rival in this fight.”
While Israel has sold many weapons to Azerbaijan, and the two countries have friendly relations, there is no evidence that the Israeli military have been working from bases in Azerbaijan. The journalist’s charge was meant to warn Azerbaijan not to allow Israel to do so; he mentioned the threat of 4,000-5,000 Iranian precision-guided missiles raining down on Azerbaijan should Israeli operatives, whether of the IDF or Mossad, be found working from bases in Azerbaijan on the border with Iran. Of course, if Israel did have such a close military alliance as the journalist claims, surely the Jewish state would help Azerbaijan defend itself against Iranian missiles, supplying it with a few Iron Dome batteries and with the Iron Beam, a high-energy laser anti-missile weapon even more effective, and much cheaper, than Iron Dome.
What all this Iranian talk exposes is the high anxiety in Iran about the very thing it wants to head off: Israeli use of bases in Azerbaijan from which airstrikes and missile strikes can be launched against Iran. By threatening Azerbaijan, Iran has so far had the very opposite of the desired effect. A previous warning to Azerbaijan not to get too close to Israel came not from a journalist, but from the military exercises held by Iran the week before right on its border with Azerbaijan — a display of military might meant to cow Azerbaijan.
It didn’t work. The Wall Street Journal reports:
On Oct. 4, Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, mugged for the cameras. Beaming before reporters, he stroked, patted, and put a loving arm around a Harop, a kamikaze drone manufactured by Israel.
Technically classified as a “loitering munition,” the Harop behaves, in the latter stages of its mission, like a cruise missile, crashing into its targets and exploding on impact. In the early stages, however, it functions as a drone, circling high above the battlefield, waiting for targets to emerge. The Harop is well known in Azerbaijan, thanks to the role it played in the victory last year against Armenia.
But it was for Iran’s benefit that Mr. Aliyev organized this photo-op. In recent weeks, Tehran has engaged in a crude campaign of intimidation that included military exercises on Azerbaijan’s frontier—a surprise move that elicited an angry response from Mr. Aliyev. “Why now, and why on our border?” he asked publicly. “There were no such incidents in the 30 years of Azerbaijan’s independence.”
Iranian officials answered by demanding that Azerbaijan end its alliance with Israel. “We do not tolerate the presence and activity against our national security of the Zionist regime, or Israel, next to our borders,” said Hossein Amirabdollahian, the Iranian foreign minister. “And we will carry out any necessary action in this regard.”
So far, Azerbaijan is standing firm against these threats from Iran. And if the Azeris, or the Israelis, needed another demonstration of why they should tighten their military alliance, the Iranians, with their military exercises and their crude threats, have just supplied it.
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