Top American officials believe that Israel has gained access to airbases in Azerbaijan, possibly as part of its preparation for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Foreign Policy Magazine reported Thursday. According to the report, three diplomatic sources confirmed to the magazine that Baku has granted Jerusalem permission to use four abandoned, Soviet-era airfields, should the need arise.
In the event of a strike, according to the report, access to Azeri airfields would rid Israeli fighter jets from the need to refuel in midflight during a strike on Iran. Defence analyst David Isenberg told Foreign Policy, “The ability to use Azeri airfields is a significant asset to any Israel strike.” In fact, he added, “being allowed access to Azeri airfields would be crucial.”
Israel and Azerbaijan’s ties have improved recently. In February the two states signed a $1.6 billion arms agreement, by which Israel will supply Azerbaijan with sophisticated drones and missile-defence systems. However, a Haaretz report claims this morning that Israel has decided not to attack Iran this year, following the outcome of a US war simulation that showed the high casualties that would be suffered by US personnel from Iranian retaliation.
In other news, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said today that negotiations over the country’s controversial nuclear programme would resume next month. Salehi, who spoke to reporters as he welcomed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran, said that 13 April had been set as the date for the next nuclear talks, and the location will be announced “in days.”