TEHRAN, BAKU, TEL AVIV (Combined Sources)—Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Iran said a $1.6 billion arms deal with Israel, which was announced Sunday, was made “to liberate occupied Azerbaijani land,” Iranian news agencies reported Tuesday.
The Azeri ambassador, Javanshir Akhundov, acknowledged the arms purchase after getting confirmation from his government when Iran challenged Azerbaijan on the reported arms deal, reported Agence France Presse. Akhundov acknowledged that the weapons would be used on the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which Baku contends is “occupying” Azeri territory.
Akhundov was called in to the foreign ministry to explain the weapons and to receive a warning that Israel must not be permitted to use Azerbaijan to stage “terrorist acts” against Iran.
The Iranian agencies quoted Akhundov saying that Baku “will not allow the weapons to be used against third nations, in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Israel Inks $1.6 Billion Arms Deal With Azerbaijan
Israeli defense officials on Sunday confirmed $1.6 billion in deals to sell drones as well as anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan, bringing sophisticated Israeli technology to the doorstep of archenemy Iran, reported the Associated Press.
Tel Aviv said the deal between the Azeri government and the Israeli state-run Israel Aerospace Industries is not linked to Iran’s nuclear development program or Iran’s alleged involvement in plots to Israeli diplomats in Azerbaijan, India and Georgia.
Reporting on the story for Eurasianet.org Joshua Kucera wrote that “regardless of the ongoing ratcheting up of tension between Israel and Iran, and increasing attention to Israel’s intelligence activities in Azerbaijan, these weapons are destined to be used not against Iran,” but against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
In September, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Armed forces shot down an Israeli-made unmanned drone flying over Karabakh airspace, near the village of Vazgenashen in the Martuni region.
Israel and Azerbaijan have been developing their military alliance in recent years, culminating in a decision in September to develop drones and other military hardware in Azerbaijan using Israeli defense technology.
“Israel is a valuable arms partner for Azerbaijan not because of anything related to Iran. Rather, Azerbaijan has a lot of money, and Israel has top-quality defense manufacturers. And Baku is restricted in what it can buy from the U.S. because of opposition by pro-Armenia members of Congress, plus the U.S.’s general desire not to inflame the situation in Karabakh. And it’s limited in what it can buy from Russia because of Russia’s alliance with Armenia (occasional missile defense sales notwithstanding). Israel has no such concerns,” said Kucera in his report for Eurasianet.org.
The AP reported Tuesday that Israeli officials have said they will not warn the US if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations with US officials, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in the coming days at the White House and in Congress.
Israeli officials said that if they eventually decide a strike is necessary, they would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the US would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel’s potential attack, said one US intelligence official familiar with the discussions. The US has been working with the Israelis for months to convince them that an attack would be only a temporary setback to Iran’s nuclear program.
Israeli defense officials confirmed that there are no plans to alert the US ahead of time about any operation against Iran, though they stressed no decisions have been made on whether to attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a confidential security matter.