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Israel and Iran Duke It Out in Azerbaijan

Tehran officially complained to the government of neighboring Azerbaijan this weekend, accusing the Azeris of turning a blind eye to Mossad agents operating in the country. Azerbaijan (a secular government) is pro-West in its politics, friendly with Israel, and cooperates in the quest to stop Iran from going nuclear. Baku and Tehran have for years had a tense relationship, made worse when the Azeris recently protested to Iran over an alleged plot to kill Israelis in Azerbaijan.

Iran has made it clear it will retaliate against anyone they perceive as helping Israel. Azerbaijan, though definitely not a vital ally of Israel, certainly falls in that group. Complicating matters is a large ethnic Azeri population in northern Iran: the largest minority in Iran, comprising about 16 percent of the population—about 12.5 million people.

Iran’s ethno-religious communities

As Israel and Iran’s war of subterfuge continues (or escalates) this year, Azerbaijan could find itself dragged into a conflict it does not need. Iran is well aware of Azeri nationalist aspirations and afraid, perhaps, of a repeat of a 2006 incident in which ethnic Azeris were discovered collaborating with American troops to foment instability in Iran. Tehran could make life difficult for ethnic Azeri Iranians.

As in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and the Gulf, Iran can stir up ethnic and religious conflicts, if provoked.

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  • WigWag

    I wonder if the Mossad agents supposedly providing logistical support to the MEK are entering Iran through Azerbiajan. Another angle on the Israeli-Azerbaijani relationship that I have always wondered about is where Armenia falls into the equation.

    It is well known that Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in a low level war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabkh. One has to assume that the Azerbaijani price for cooperating with Israel is Israel’s economic and military assistance in it’s struggles with Armenia.

    In addition to it’s long term ties with Turkey (now torn apart by Turkish belligerence) I have always been curious about whether its relationship with Azerbaijan inspired Israeli reticence in supporting moves in the U.S. Congress to recognize the Armenian Genocide. In light of it’s own experience with genocide, Israeli supp

  • WigWag

    Sorry for the broken comment; it’s hard drafting comments on an I-Phone. At least it is for me.

    The point I was trying to make is that Israeli reticence to support a resolution calling out the Turks for the Armenian Genocide even now that it’s relationship with the Turks has soured may be related to it’s close relationship with the Azerbaijanis who are involved in a smoldering dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

    Unless I am mistaken, the Azerbaijani’s and the Turks are ethnic kinsmen and Israeli support of Azerbaijan might serve as a countervailing force in the recent hostility between Israel and Turkey.

    Israeli agents have two land routes into Iran; through Azerbaijan and through the Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq. Just as it has with the Azerbaijanis, Israel has also cultivated excellent relationships with the Iraqi Kurds. While what the Kurds are experiencing at the hands of both the Turks and the Iranians may not be a genocide like the Jews of Europe and the Armenians of Turkey experienced, there experience is far from pleasant.

  • Corlyss

    In his address to the School for Advanced Strategic Studies at Ft. Levenworth in 2000 Robert Kaplan noted that most of the improvements in infrastructure in Azerbaijan had come courtesy of Iran. He remarked on the irony that Iran cares more about the average Azeri than his own government does. Kaplan was comparing Azerbaijan to Armenia and how most of the vastly superior modernization and infrastructure buildout in Armenia, paid for with private donations, had come as a consequence of a robust Diaspora . . . to the US. “Nothing beats it!” pronounced Kaplan.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Iran needs to be crushed; we should strategically bomb Iran’s entire energy industry, and put the entire nation on foot and in the dark. Iran has had no part in the development of modern civilization and should have this point made perfectly clear to them by denying modern civilization to them. This action would have the added benefit of, a slap in the face, to all the other loser cultures out there that our tolerance of their BS only goes so far.

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