Azeri Base Rumor Called Baseless

A big story that has had Washington buzzing in recent days was the Foreign Policy magazine report that “several high-level sources…inside the U.S. government” believe Israel has made a deal with Azerbaijan to use former Soviet air bases in that country for its attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. 

The article, “Israel’s Secret Staging Ground” by Mark Perry, made headlines in all the Israeli papers and many others around the world and was quickly denounced by administration critics as an attempt by Washington to thwart a possible Israeli attack.

The usual suspects were quick to blame President Obama personally for selling out the Jewish state.

The administration and the Azeri government branded the story false, as did several Israeli intelligence experts.

Nargiz Gurbanova, a spokesman for the Azeri embassy in Washington, called the story “an interesting piece of fiction” that is “very provocative and unsubstantiated.”

He pointed out what the author and Foreign Policy editors neglected: It “makes no sense in terms of geography.”  Several Israeli military and intelligence analysts said the same thing.

To get to and from Azerbaijan’s air bases the Israeli planes would have to overly Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Russia, none of which is likely to give a green light.

 “By now, the editors of Foreign Policy may regret, too, that they did not bother to open their atlas,” wrote Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari.  Those bases, along with a huge oil terminal near Baku, he pointed out, are easily within range of Iranian missiles.

It makes one worry not only about the author’s work but also the intelligence of the intelligence officials he quoted.

Yaari called Perry a “veteran anti-Israel warrior” bent on “undermining the state he intensely detests.”

The usual crowd of Obama haters wasted no time latching on to the story as evidence of the President’s willingness to sell out the Jewish state and suck up to the ayatollahs in Tehran.

One of the loudest was the bombastic John Bolton, George W. Bush’s former U.N. ambassador. He was quick to go on Fox News to blame President Obama for intentionally leaking  Israel’s most secret strategic plans.  As the Iraq war showed, Bolton is not one to carefully check rumors and is willing to rely on inaccurate intelligence before shooting from the lip. This time was no different: he admitted he had no facts to back up his latest accusation. 

Douglas Herz, writing in the right-wing publication American Thinker, had a simple explanation: The administration leaked the story because "If Israel attacks Iran, Obama will lose the presidential election this fall."

Israeli YNET columnist Ron Ben-Yishai contends the story "indicates that the Obama Administration has decided to take its gloves off” in its efforts to block an Israeli attack this year.

Azerbaijan has good relations with Israel, including major arms and oil deals,  but it also wants good relations with its large and powerful neighbor to the south, Iran.

Several prominent Israeli military and intelligence analysts "categorically dismissed" Perry's article, reported the Times of Israel.

Shlomo Brom, former chief of strategic planning for the IDF, called the article "baseless," and  Ephriam Kam, a former IDF intelligence official, said, "It doesn't make any sense."


About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.