Jerusalem: Israel is "deeply embedded" in Azerbaijan and can use its airbases bordering Iran to carry out an attack against Iranian nuclear installations, a media report said.
"The Israelis have bought an airfield," a senior US administration official was quoted as saying by Foreign Policy magazine.
The magazine quoting three diplomatic sources said that Baku has granted Jerusalem permission to use four abandoned, Soviet-era airfields, should the need arise.
In the event of an Israeli air strike on Iran's nuclear installations, access to Azeri airfields would rid Israeli fighter jets from the need to refuel in mid-flight, the report said.
US intelligence officials are worried that Israel's
military involvement in Azerbaijan would make it more
difficult for Washington to reduce Israeli-Iranian tensions.
"Apparently now, military planners must prepare for a war
scenario that would also involve the Caucasus", the report
Foreign Policy quoted an intelligence officer as saying
that Washington is "watching what Iran does closely... but
we're now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And
we're not happy about it".
Israel-Azerbaijan ties have been growing stronger over the
past few months with the two signing a 1.6 billion USD arms
deal in February which will see Jerusalem supply Baku with
sophisticated drones and missile-defence systems, the report
Washington believes that there is a covert aspect of the
Israeli-Azeri alliance and that "the security cooperation
between the two countries is heightening the risks of an
Israeli strike on Iran".
Defence analyst David Isenberg said that "the ability to
use Azeri airfields is a significant asset to any Israel
In fact, he added, "being allowed access to Azeri
airfields would be crucial," as Azerbaijan is strategically
located on Iran's northern border.
The magazine noted that both Israel and Azerbaijan were
asked to comment, but opted to stay mum.
Meanwhile, a new report commissioned by the US Congress
said that an Israeli strike on Iran would only halt Tehran's
nuclear project by six months, Ynetnews reported.
The report says that the wide dispersal of Iran's nuclear
facilities would pose a major difficulty for Israel should it
attempt to curb Tehran's nuke programme.
Researchers have said that the potential effect of a
military strike on Iran's ability to acquire nuclear weapons
Moreover, US and Israel cannot pinpoint all of Iran's
nuclear sites, they said.
First Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012, 22:20