Azerbaijan's Israeli Weapons: A Lot For Armenia, But A Little For Iran, Too?
When Israel announced that it was selling $1.6 billion in arms to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani government officials took pains to assure their neighbors in Iran that the weapons were intended for a war with Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh, not for Iran. Well, Azerbaijan's Turan news agency got hold of some details of the weapons package, and while there aren't too many surprises, there is one element that might raise eyebrows in Tehran.
According to Turan's report, Baku's haul includes five Searcher and five Heron drones, Barak-8 air defense systems and Green Pine missile defense radar. All of that would, indeed, be useful against Armenia (or any other foe, really.)
But one item in the deal stands out: Gabriel anti-ship missiles. Obviously, landlocked Armenia doesn't have a navy. But one country has been a consistent irritant to Azerbaijan on the sea: Iran. As Turan writes: "Azerbaijan will use these to protect its Caspian Sea coast from the growing number of Iranian warships being introduced in the area."
That's not to say that Azerbaijan is going to get involved in any Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran. Independent of the issues the West has with Iran, Azerbaijan is worried about Iranian encroachment on its Caspian Sea oil and gas infrastructure, which has fueled the country's booming economy. No one around the Caspian particularly trusts Iran, so it's an understandable move. But you can still expect this to be brought up next time Iranian and Azerbaijani officials meet.