The Azeri connection

Recently there was a report, issued from Washington and attributed to a US military source, that Azerbaijan had agreed to allow the IAF to refuel from an airfield on its territory during an attack on Iranian nuclear weapon sites. It was inferred that Israel would pay the Azeris for this privilege, either by leasing the airfield or otherwise. Both Israel and Azerbaijan vehemently denied this report, even the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev himself categorically denied it. However, such denials do not mean that there is no truth to the report, and neither does the source indicate that it is necessarily true. It can be considered part of Pres. Obama’s strategy to embarrass Israel and prevent it from acting militarily against Iran.

One kernal of truth to the report might be found in the fact that Azeris constitute the largest minority group in Iran. Persians are of course the majority (61%), Azeris are the largest minority (16%), then there are Kurds (10%), Lurs (6%), Arabs (2%), Baluchis (2%), and Turkmens and other Turkic tribes (2%). So that Persians have only a small majority in Iran, and the Azeris are a restive group, with close ties to their fellow Azeris across the northern Iranian border in Azerbaijan. Therefore, it is quite likely that Azerbaijan would support an Israeli attack on Iran, if only because they would be one of the first countries to be threatened by an Iranian nuclear weapon, but also because they would seek to annex the northern Azeri-speaking provinces of Iran.

We should never forget that there is a two-pronged basis for the Iranian threat to obtain nuclear weapons, first is the unique feature of being the only fully Shia Islamic country in the world. But, second we should not forget that before Islam, Persia was a great empire throughout central Asia and the Middle East, as far west as Egypt. The current attempt to assert Iranian hegemony throughout this region owes a great deal to the desire to reassert Persian rights over most of the Arab world. No wonder the Arabs are worried and no wonder the Saudis and the Gulf States want to arm the opposition to Pres. Assad of Syria, Iran’s main ally in the Arab world. Also, the Turks consider this Iranian threat a direct competition for their own ancient imperial status and ambitions. So don’t underestimate the yearning of the Iranian minorities, specifically the Azeris, the Kurds, the Baluchis and the Arabs within Iran, to be freed of what they consider Persian imperialism.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.