Iranians Spooked About Azerbaijani-Israeli Attack?
It's been sporadically reported/speculated over the past few months that Azerbaijan would play some kind of role in an Israeli attack on Iran. Those reports have usually been vociferously denied by officials in Baku, and indeed Azerbaijan would seem to have little to gain by such an adventure. But Iran's leadership may believe otherwise, reports Michael Moran at Global Post:
According to intelligence officials, Iran’s security services have concluded that Azerbaijan, its Muslim neighbor to the north, has been enlisted by Israel in a campaign of cyber attacks, assassinations and detailed military planning aimed at destabilizing and ultimately destroying Tehran’s nuclear research program.
That Iranian perspective, described by a range of current and former US intelligence officials who asked that their names remain confidential, has led to a crackdown on Iran’s sizeable ethnic Azeri minority and the launch of an Iranian counter espionage offensive to destabilize the government of President Ilham Aliev...
“What I can say is that Iran believes the link is much more substantial — to the point where they fear Israeli aircraft or special ops guys could be based on Azeri territory,” the official said. “In many ways, what Iran perceives is as important as anything else.”
With the usual caveat that reports like this are subject to multiple layers of misinformation campaigns, it would be understandable if Iran were expecting the worst from Azerbaijan. Relations between the two countries, never great, have declined substantially over the past year or so. Iranian attempts to sow trouble in Azerbaijan predate any talk of an Israeli-Azerbaijani attack on Iran, so it's not clear what connection there is between those two issues, but it's reasonable to imagine that Iran has stepped up its efforts in response to what it sees as Azerbaijani collusion with its enemy.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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