Israel continues to seek closer ties with Azerbaijan, Iran’s Muslim neighboring country.
This cannot be separated from the failure of attempts to form an alliance against Iran with the Gulf Arab states, however.
Saudi Arabia was a key target partner for Israel in efforts to form this alliance, but the government in Jerusalem now apparently realizes, after the normalization of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, that it needs to strengthen ties with Azerbaijan further.
Meanwhile, IAF attacks on Iran-related targets in Syria continue in full force and this is part of the overall Israeli strategy against Iran, as we shall see.
Tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran rose again last week after the Muslim country opened an embassy in Tel Aviv.
The opening of the embassy in Tel Aviv took place after a meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his colleague Jeyhun Bayramov of Azerbaijan in Jerusalem.
During his meeting with Bayramov, Cohen said that Azerbaijan has become “a strategic partner” and that there is close cooperation on “regional security” between Israel and the Muslim country.
At the opening of Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tel Aviv, Cohen later said that Israel and Azerbaijan have the “same perception” of the threat emanating from Iran.
“The Iranian Ayatollah regime threatens both our regions, finances terrorism, and destabilizes the Middle East,” said Cohen, who later announced that he would visit Azerbaijan next month.
Iran is obviously not happy with the developing good relations between Israel and Azerbaijan, and is behaving increasingly hostile toward its neighbor. More on that later.
Rising tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan and Iran, two neighboring countries, have a long history of tensions, and not just over Israel.
Iran, for example, is home to a large minority of Azeris who are not loyal to the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
They are encouraged by the government in Baku to rejoin neighboring Azerbaijan.
Iran, furthermore, has also been conducting regular military exercises along the border of Azerbaijan for about two years, and has set up an espionage network in the neighboring country.
The regime in Tehran accuses Azerbaijan of collaborating with Israel and has regularly claimed that the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, is active in the neighboring country.
Mossad allegedly carried out sabotage activities against Iran’s nuclear program from Azerbaijan territory, according to the regime in Tehran.
The Azerbaijan government, of course, denies that Israel has any presence in the territory of the Muslim country, and claims that it will not allow “third countries” to operate against Iran from there.
Iran is also apprehensive about Israel’s military aid to Azerbaijan, which consists of arms deliveries, such as the supply of unmanned aerial vehicles, and military advice.
Benny Gantz, the former Israeli Defense Minister, visited Baku at the end of 2022 and discussed the expansion of military aid that Israel provides to Azerbaijan.
That military aid has been around for years and was expanded during the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020.
Cohen said last week that Israel and Azerbaijan must form “a united front” against Iran. He made this statement after his meeting with Bayramov, and this prompted a sharp reaction from the Foreign Ministry in Iran.
Nasser Kanaani, a spokesman for the ministry, demanded clarification from the government of Azerbaijan.
He spoke of the “sinister plans of the Zionist regime” and claimed that Israel is turning Azerbaijan’s territory into a “national security threat” to Iran.
Iran is destabilizing Azerbaijan
The government in Baku fired back, accusing Iran of destabilizing the region by siding with Armenia, a predominantly Christian country, in its conflict with Azerbaijan.
Iran has supplied Armenia with weapons in its continuing occupation of territories belonging to Azerbaijan, the government in Baku said.
Another statement released by Baku last week rejected out of hand a claim made by a senior Iranian military officer.
Brigadier General Kioumars Haidari of Iran’s armed forces had claimed that ISIS terrorists fought alongside Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia and that they were still present there.
Last January, Azerbaijan closed its embassy in Tehran after a terrorist attack on the building.
The Azeri government held the Khamenei regime responsible for the attack, which killed the embassy’s head of security.
Recently, Iran was also involved in a terrorist attack against Fazil Mustafa, a member of parliament in Azerbaijan.
According to sources in Baku, Mustafa, a fierce critic of the regime in Iran, was injured when an unknown gunman shot at him near his home in Baku.
On Thursday, media reported that Azerbaijan had arrested six Islamists who were recruited by the secret service in Iran to stage a coup in the Caspian country. The government in Baku released a statement in which it said “Six Azerbaijani nationals were recruited by Iranian secret services to destabilize the situation in the country.”
The group was expected to set up a “resistance squad that aimed to establish a Sharia state through armed unrest and violent overthrow of Azerbaijan’s constitutional order,” the statement read.
Expanding relations with Israel
The tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan now seem to have led to further rapprochement between Israel and Azerbaijan.
This rapprochement is of interest to Israel after it became clear that the idea of an alliance with the Gulf Arab states against Iran had actually been reduced to a pipe dream after Iran and Saudi Arabia, following the example of the United Arab Emirates, restored mutual relations at the end of March.
Israel is now trying to form another anti-Iran front with Azerbaijan and to a lesser extent with Greece and Cyprus.
Strengthening ties with Cyprus
Eli Cohen was in Cyprus last week where he discussed the Iranian problem with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides.
Israel seeks support for placing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the European Union’s list of terror organizations.
Cyprus could play a role in this now that there is unprecedented cooperation with the island republic.
The Israeli army even held a drill last year in Cyprus, where the landscape resembles that of Lebanon, as a preparation for the long-anticipated confrontation with the Iranian Axis.
During that exercise with the Cypriot National Guard, an attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon was simulated.
New IAF attacks in Syria
Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes against Iran-related targets in Syria continue unabated.
Last week, three Israeli airstrikes against these targets in Syria were recorded killing two Iranian military advisors and again destroying weapons depots belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
Iran then finally responded, reportedly sending a large unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to northern Israel on Sunday afternoon.
The Iranian UAV was spotted in time and then shot down by the IDF.
Israel’s response to this new provocation from Iran came on the night from Monday to Tuesday when IAF fighter jets launched another missile strike against targets related to the IRGC’s Quds Brigade in the vicinity of Damascus.
At the time of writing this report, the exact targets were not yet known but it is certain that these and the three other attacks are part of the so-called MABAM campaign against Iran by the Israeli army.
This campaign, referred to in Israel by the Hebrew abbreviation for “war between wars,” has escalated further in recent weeks.
Galant continues as Minister of Defense
This escalation along with the increased terrorist activity of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in northern Samaria is seen as one battle against Iran’s increasing belligerent activities against Israel by the Israeli defense establishment.
In diplomatic circles, this escalation is seen as the underlying reason for Yoav Galant remaining as Israel’s Defense Minister.
Galant was fired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more than a week ago after he made clear he opposed Israel’s judiciary reform, but the official resignation letter did not reach Galant, and on Tuesday it became clear that he will remain as the minister responsible for Israel’s defense.
The ex-IDF general made immediately clear that the IDF continues to prepare for military action against Iran and will continue the MABAM campaign.
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