Israel is quietly getting much closer to Azerbaijan, a small country bordering northern Iran along the coast of the Caspian Sea. Israel has recently supplied Azerbaijan with a $1.6 billion arms deal including “sophisticated drones and missile defense systems” and has also, U.S. officials suspect, secured access to airfields which could be essential to Israeli fighter jets flying bombing missions over Iran. Mark Perry, writing in Foreign Policy:
“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.”
…The U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials told me they believe that Israel has gained access to these airbases through a series of quiet political and military understandings. “I doubt that there’s actually anything in writing,” added a senior retired American 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.”
…Former CENTCOM commander Gen. Joe Hoar simplified Israel’s calculations: “They save themselves 800 miles of fuel,” he told me in a recent telephone interview. “That doesn’t guarantee that Israel will attack Iran, but it certainly makes it more doable.”
For what it’s worth, officials in Azerbaijan have denied that Israel has been given access to airfields and that they would ever assist Israel in an attack on Iran.