Opportunities and Challenges in Israeli-Azerbaijani Relations
A controversial article in the influential Foreign Policy magazine stirred a debate whether Israel would use the Azerbaijani territory as a “basing” facility in its possible air strike against Iran. Israel is weighing its options in the event that Western economic and political sanctions do not compel Iran to stop its nuclear program. At the same time, the Jewish state is aware of Azerbaijan’s sensitivities in its dangerous neighborhood, and wants to preserve the valuable friendship with an emerging regional leader in the South Caucasus. The South Caucasus is a geographic area of a special concern to Israel because it borders Iran and serves as a gateway to the hydrocarbon reaches of the Caspian. Azerbaijan became a natural ally of Israel as a secular state that shares strategic perceptions on regional threats such as Iran and Armenia. The latter serves as a proxy of Russia in the South Caucasus and is tightly aligned with Iran. Azerbaijan, alone in the region, is positioned to benefit from its unique tradition of amity and hospitality towards Jews. Azerbaijan sees in Israel not only a powerful ally in Washington, but also a source of sophisticated military hardware, intelligence and security equipment. As a friendly Muslim nation, Azerbaijan has gained special importance for Israel since Turkey, under the AKP, shifted its foreign policy from a strategic partnership with Israel to closer relations with Iran and Syria. This mutually beneficial relationship is flourishing and provides both countries with unique strategic advantages.
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