According to a new article in Foreign Policy, Israel has, through a longtime but recently deepened relationship with Azerbaijan, gained access to airfields in a country bordering Iran, which it could use to make more feasible its attack on Iran. FP reports:
In 2009, the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Baku, Donald Lu, sent a cable to the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom titled “Azerbaijan’s discreet symbiosis with Israel.” The memo, later released by WikiLeaks, quotes Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev as describing his country’s relationship with the Jewish state as an iceberg: “nine-tenths of it is below the surface.”
Why does it matter? Because Azerbaijan is strategically located on Iran’s northern border and, according to several high-level sources I’ve spoken with inside the U.S. government, Obama administration officials now believe that the “submerged” aspect of the Israeli-Azerbaijani alliance — the security cooperation between the two countries — is heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran. . . . “The Israelis have bought an airfield,” a senior administration official told me in early February, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”
As it stands, Israel doesn’t quite have the bombing forces or the aerial refueling capacity to launch an attack on Iran that could be sure to hit all of their nuclear sites. Though Azerbaijan has publicly ruled out the possibility of Israel using their airbases to launch attacks on Iran, calling Iran “our brother and friend country,” FP explains that the bases could be put to any number of useful purposes that will extend Israel’s reach, especially by allowing Israeli planes to land on Azeri airfields after an attack. Though Israel has had economic relationships with Azerbaijan for decades, things have changed:
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: Iran presented a note to Azerbaijan’s ambassador last month claiming that Baku has supported Israeli-trained assassination squads targeting Iranian scientists, an accusation the Azeri government called ”a slander.” In February, a member of Yeni Azerbadzhan — the ruling party – called on the government to change the country’s name to “North Azerbaijan,” implicitly suggesting that the 16 million Azeris who live in northern Iran (“South Azerbaijan”) are in need of liberation.
Today on Fox News, John Bolton blasted the Obama administration, accusing them of intentionally leaking the information, saying it was part of “this administration’s campaign against an Israeli attack,” which is motivated by their opinion that “an Israeli attack is worse than an Iranian nuclear weapon.” Israeli newspapers also reported this accusation today — the FP story about airbase access was based on “four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers.” Bolton explained that he believes “the Obama administration has torqued it up a notch, and now they’re going to reveal very sensitive, very important information that will allow Iran to defeat an Israeli attack.” The video is below: