A new report that Israel might use Azerbaijan to target Iranian nuclear facilities has triggered new Israeli concerns about the Obama administration's handling of Iran. ForeignPolicy.com published a story by journalist Mark Perry highlighting closer military ties between Israel and Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority nation on Iran's northern border.
Perry, a fervent advocate of U.S. engagement with terrorist organizations like Hizballah and Hamas, is a former adviser to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, and his recent reporting on Pentagon decision-making has been marred by questions about its accuracy.
In the Foreign Policy piece, Perry quoted Obama administration officials as saying Israeli-Azerbaijani military ties are heightening the risk of an Israeli strike on Iran.
Perry wrote that senior U.S. intelligence officials "are increasingly concerned that Israel's military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions." Closer ties between Israel and Azerbaijan have also "become a flashpoint in both countries' relationship with Turkey," Perry wrote.
A U.S. intelligence officer expressed concern that Azerbaijani defense officials have not explicitly barred Israeli bombers from landing there after a military strike in Iran, removing a significant logistical barrier for the Israel Air Force.
"We're watching what Iran does closely," Perry reported the officer as saying. "But now we're watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan and we're not happy about it."
War gaming by American military officials indicated an attack on Iran could draw the United States into a regional conflict, causing hundreds of American casualties.
Perry's report has added to Israeli concerns that Washington is going public to deter Israel from striking Iran. Veteran Israeli defense correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai wrote that "the Obama Administration has decided to take its gloves off."Ben-Yishai, who spent seven years as Yediot Ahronoth's Washington correspondent, added that in recent weeks that the administration has "shifted from persuasion efforts vis-à-vis decision-makers and Israel's public opinion to a practical, targeted assassination of potential Israeli military operations in Iran. The administration seeks to make it difficult for Israeli decision-makers to order the IDF to carry out such a strike, and what's even graver, to erode the IDF's capacity to launch such [a] strike with minimal casualties."