Azerbaijan–Israel Relations - Security Relations

Security Relations

Following an October 2001 meeting with Israeli ambassador Eitan Naeh, Azerbaijan's then president Heydar Aliyev declared that the two countries had identical positions in the fight against international terrorism. Israeli intelligence helps collect human intelligence about extremist organizations in the region. One of the radical groups Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks the annihilation of the state of Israel, threatens both Jerusalem and Baku. Hizb ut-Tahrir is suspected of having several hundred members in Azerbaijan, several members of it were arrested and prosecuted by Azerbaijani authorities.

In 2008, a plot was foiled to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Baku, which is located in a high-rise building along with the Thai and Japanese embassies. Two Hizbullah terrorists went on trial for the attempt in May 2009. Local police narrowly averted the potential disaster, which involved placing three or four car bombs around the high-rise complex to carry out the attack. Groups planned the bombing in retaliation for the 2008 assassination in Damascus, Syria of Hizbullah's second in command Imad Mughniyah, which the Lebanese group blamed on Israel. News reports suggested Iran was involved in the plan as well. In 2012, Israel and Azerbaijan signed an agreement according to which state-run Israel Aerospace Industries would sell $1.6 billion in drones and anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan.

Some analysts consider that both Israel and Azerbaijan see Iran as an existential threat. Azerbaijan fears Iranian Islamist influence, but Iran fears Azerbaijan, too, as up to 30 million Iranians are ethnic Azeris. On the other hand, Azerbaijan has close links with Turkey, and the post-2006 worsening of Israel-Turkey relations may have repercussions on Azerbaijan's relations with Israel.

In February 2012, Iran rebuked Azerbaijan for allegedly aiding anti-Iranian activities by Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. A few weeks later Azerbaijan arrested 22 people in a suspected Iranian plot against Israeli and US targets in Azerbaijan. In March 2012, the magazine Foreign Policy reported that the Israeli Air Force may be preparing to use the Sitalchay Military Airbase, located 500 km (340 miles) from the Iranian border, for air strikes against the nuclear program of Iran.

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