Azerbaijan's "Iranian Terror Plot" Arrests: Case of a Split Personality?
Looks like Azerbaijan and Iran agreeing not to be enemies does not mean they agreed to be friends. Police in Baku on March 14 arrested 22 individuals whom they claim are terrorists hired by Iran to attack US and Israeli targets in Azerbaijan.
Tehran must not have been pleased to read this news; it had just got done hearing reassurances from senior Azerbaijani officials that Azerbaijan would not be used for a possible military strike against Iran (notwithstanding Baku's recent $1.6 billion purchase of Israeli weapons).
But Azerbaijan did not promise to keep its lips tight about any suspected Iranian funny business (although it proved relatively mum after allegations about a supposed plot against the Israeli ambassador and other Israeli targets in Baku); it just ruled out use of its territory for any possible attack. Nonetheless, coming on the heels of earlier claims that Iran stood behind attacks against Israeli embassy personnel in Georgia, Thailand and India, these reports do offer ammunition to those pushing for war. So it is a little unclear what Baku's game is.
As of March 15, Tehran had not responded officially to the charges, but perhaps that is because it has other things to worry about.
Citing an unnamed "highly placed" Russian diplomat , Russia’s influential Kommersant daily on March 14 reported that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the April "meeting of six" (the US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Germany and France) to discuss Iran's nuclear activities will be "the last chance" to avoid a war against Iran. The source claimed that Clinton had asked Lavrov to pass the word on to Tehran.
The unnamed source, who predicts that the invasion of Iran "will occur before the end of the year," went on to claim that Israel, not exactly a longtime big buddy of Russia, is "blackmailing" US President Barack Obama to support an attack against Iran by threatening to deny him support from Jewish lobby groups during the 2012 presidential election campaign.
But something rings slightly off-key here. The claim that ethnic lobby groups in the US can act only as passive yes-men for the countries with which they share ethnic ties is a perception of American politics common in post-Soviet countries, and one fairly far removed from reality.
Nonetheless, even if Kommersant's diplomatic source is a tad tone-deaf for American politics, he or she may know more about the workings of Russia's dealings with the US on the subject of Iran. Or maybe not.
Time will tell.