An investigation by Haaretz has found that almost 100 flights loaded with Israeli weapons worth billions of dollars were shipped to Azerbaijan between 2016 and 2021. In exchange, Israel has been granted permission for Mossad spies to set up a forward listening post in Azerbaijan territory to spy on Iran.
Israeli weapons were ferried from Israel’s Ovda air force base north of Eilat using Azerbaijani Silk Way Airlines. This is one of the largest cargo airlines in Asia, and according to official documents, it serves as a subcontractor for various defence ministries around the world. In 2017, the airline was mired in controversy following allegations that it took weapons to Daesh and Al-Qaeda terrorists under the watchful eyes of the CIA and NATO.
Haaretz said Silk Way and other aircraft have landed at Ovda almost 100 times. Data found during the investigation shows increasing flights to Baku, capital of the Shia majority Azerbaijan. Flights were especially frequent in the middle of 2016, in late 2020 and at the end of 2021, which coincided with periods of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia have waged war over this disputed region many times since the beginning of the 20th century, all the more so since both countries gained independence after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Israel’s world-class defence industry with its relaxed attitude about its customer base has been invaluable for Azerbaijan. Baku’s substantial defence needs are said to be largely left unmet by the US, Europe and Russia for various reasons tied to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Israeli weapons played an important role when the fighting against Armenia restarted in the Four-Day War between the two countries in April 2016, and especially during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020. According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute, since 2016, Israel has provided almost 70 per cent of Azerbaijan’s weapons.
In addition to allowing Mossad to set up a forward listening post to monitor what is happening in Iran, Azerbaijan’s neighbour to the south, Israel has been given permission to prepare an airfield intended to aid the occupation state in case it decides to attack Iranian nuclear sites. Despite both being Shia-majority countries, relations between Iran and Azerbaijan have been frosty.
The Stockholm International Peace Institute says Israel’s defense exports to Azerbaijan began in 2005 with the sale of the Lynx multiple launch rocket systems by Israel Military Industries (IMI Systems), which has a range of 150 kilometers (92 miles). IMI, which was acquired by Elbit Systems in 2018, also supplied LAR-160 light artillery rockets with a range of 45 kilometers, which, according to a report from Human Rights Watch, were used by Azerbaijan to fire banned cluster munitions at residential areas in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In 2007, Azerbaijan signed a contract to buy four intelligence-gathering drones from Aeronautics Defense Systems. It was the first deal of many. In 2008 it purchased 10 Hermes 450 drones from Elbit Systems and 100 Spike antitank missiles produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and in 2010 it bought another 10 intelligence-gathering drones.
Soltam Systems, owned by Elbit, sold it ATMOS self-propelled guns and 120-millimeter Cardom mortars, and in 2017 Azerbaijan’s arsenal was supplemented with the more advanced Hanit mortars. According to the telegram leaked in Wikileaks, a sale of advanced communications equipment from Tadiran was also signed in 2008.
Haaretz reported from two years ago that the Mossad agents who stole the Iranian nuclear archive smuggled it to Israel via Azerbaijan. According to official reports from Baku, Israel has sold the most advanced weapons systems over the years, including ballistic missiles, air defence and electronic warfare systems and kamikaze drones.
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