March 30, 2012
By Bilal Y. Saab – Is Israel’s sale of drones and anti-aircraft missile defence systems to Azerbaijan in any way linked to Israeli officials’ war plans against Iran? Some people think it is.
It is far from clear if Israel’s arms sales are meant to estbablish a security relationship, or partnership, with Azerbaijan, a northern neighbor of Iran. It is too soon to tell. However, these sales, when coupled with reports of a secret Israel-Azerbaijan agreement to allow Israeli jets access to airbases in Azerbaijan for refueling purposes it is difficult to see this newfound friendship as anything other than yet another indication of Israeli preparation to strike Iranian nuclear facilities.
Access to these bases would serve two major purposes with regard to an Israeli strike: one, they would allow Israeli F-16 bombers to carry less fuel, and thus more armaments to their targets; and two, they would allow Israeli F-15 fighter escorts to remain on station in the vicinity of Iranian targets for longer periods of time, thereby giving Israel the ability to obtain and maintain aerial dominance over Iranian territory.
This likely partnership and the potential for an Azeri role in an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is concerning to US officials who believe such an event could cause a backlash in the Caucasus…as if the potential backlash in the Gulf – attacks on US military personnel and facilities in the region, disruption of oil production, and disruption of sea traffic through the Strait of Hormuz – wasn’t already enough of a concern.
With the sale of military equipment and the possible authorization to access Azeri airbases, it appears that Israel is looking for ways to maximize the probability of success of a potential air strike in Iran, regardless of US concerns. I’ll keep monitoring this story.
Seth Smith, Scoville Fellow at CNS, contributed to this post.