NEW YORK - Israel has been given access to airbases by Iran’s northern neighbour Azerbaijan from which Israel could launch military air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities or at least drones and search and rescue aircraft, the Foreign Policy magazine reported Thursday citing American officials.
The report by author Mark Perry quotes an intelligence officer as saying, “We’re watching what Iran does closely…But we’re now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan . And we’re not happy about it.”
The report came a week after the results of a classified war game was leaked to the New York Times which predicted that an Israeli strike could lead to a wider regional war and result in hundreds of American deaths.
A US diplomat’s memo, later released by WikiLeaks, quoted 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.”
The 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 .
In particular, the report cites four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers as saying that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border. “To do what, exactly, is not clear,” a senior administration official told, adding “The Israelis have bought an airfield, and the airfield is called Azerbaijan .”
Senior US intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Israel’s military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates US efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions, according to report. “Military planners, I was told, must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the Persian Gulf - but one that could include the Caucasus,” Perry said.
“The burgeoning Israel-Azerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint in both countries’ relationship with Turkey, a regional heavyweight that fears the economic and political fallout of a war with Iran . Turkey’s most senior government officials have raised their concerns with their US counterparts, as well as with the Azeris, the report said.
The Israeli embassy in Washington, the Israel defence forces and the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, were all contacted for comment on this story but did not respond, it said.