Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Israel's Muslim Ally - Azerbaijan
Ever since the State of Israel was created, they've always faced the reality of being surrounded by a ring hostile Arab neighbors. But what the Israelis also noticed that outside this ring were a number of non-Arab countries in the region that had similar problems with their Arab neighbors and were excellent candidates for strategic alliances and commercial trade.
This was known in Israel as the Strategy of the Periphery.
It's why Israel had strong relationships with Iran and Turkey until the Islamist takeovers of those countries, why Israel was an ally of the Maronite Christians in Lebanon, why Israel helped arm and train the Kurdish Persh Merga to defend themselves against Saddam Husein's genocide, why Israel was one of the first countries to recognize South Sudan and why Israel still has a numbers of friends in East Africa.
The latest example of how this works is Israel's strategic alliance with Azerbaijan, a former part of the Soviet Empire located on Iran's northern border near the Caspian Sea. It is a predominantly Muslim country comprised of Azeris, who are a non-Arab, predominantly Shi'ite Muslim people.
The relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel goes back to the earliest days of Azerbaijan's independence with the fall of the Soviet Union's empire in 1991. The country had a large population of Jewish Azeris possibly dating back to the days of the Jewish Khazar kingdom. The majority of Azerbaijan's Jews emigrated to Israel during the chaos in the early days of independence, but once the dust settled Israel made some initial overtures and the two countries quickly established ties.
For the Azeris, the main advantages were access to Israeli aid and technology, especially in defense and agriculture and a counterbalance against neighboring Iran, which also has a large population of Azeris living just over the border. Early last year, there was a massive $1.6 billion weapons deal announced between between Azerbaijan and Israel, considered one of the largest sales in Israel’s history.The Azeris also were able to capitalize on their friendship with Israel to increase their influence in Washington, especially when it came to an ongoing dispute with neighboring Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
For the Israelis, aside from another market, the big advantage was oil as well as a friendly listening post next door to Iran. Before the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran was main source of Israel’s oil. After the Ayatollahs took over, Israel's next major source of oil was Mexico and the Soviet Union.
Now, Azerbaijan supplies around 40% of Israel's oil via a pipeline that runs through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan:
While Israel's relationship with Turkey is almost non-existent these days thanks to PM Tayipp Erdogan and the AKP regime, money talks, Turkey makes a nice profit on the traffic and the lucrative deal still continues.
With Israel's own gas and oil scheduled to come online this year the oil is of less importance to Israel, but close ties are expected to continue - especially since there are a number of influential Israelis of Azeri origin, Azerbaijan still benefits from Israel's friendship in Washington and Iran is still a hostile factor.
There are a number of rumors circulating that Israel has made a deal with Azerbaijan to use airfields in the country as a staging ground in the event of an attack on Iran. What I've heard that is more likely is that Israel has arrangements with Azerbaijan to land and refuel for the trip home, which would be a major assist in a successful strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Azerbaijan is likely to remain a key ally of Israel for some time. In the Middle East, there's no greater reason for friendship than the same enemies and mutual benefit