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What's the Israel-Azerbaijan connection?

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“Baku has an important role in Israel’s regional aspirations,” said an Israeli diplomat who has worked on several trade deals that involved Azerbaijan. He couldn’t be named because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the subject with a reporter.

Speculation on how far the relationship goes is rampant. Israel, after all, has been threatening to take military action against Iran’s nuclear program. A recent report in Foreign Policy magazine alleged that, in addition to the commercial ties, Israel has acquired access to airfields in Azerbaijan’s north that might be used in any attack on Iran.

Azeri and Israeli officials have denied the story. In a recent news report on Israeli preparations for a possible strike on Iran broadcast by Israel’s Channel 2, unnamed Israeli officials said there were “better, more practical options” than airfields in Azerbaijan. The program didn’t elaborate on what those might be, however.

That hasn’t made Iranians any happier about the Azeri-Israeli alliance. Relations between Azerbaijan and Iran have worsened steadily, and earlier this year Iranian officials summoned Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Tehran to the Foreign Ministry over reports that the Azeri government was allowing Israeli Mossad agents to gather intelligence along the Azerbaijan-Iran border.

In Azerbaijan, military analysts have speculated that access to Azeri airfields could be intended for drone missions over Iran, rather than a strike.

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