Why the Conflict in the Caucasus Matters to Israel

In July, Armenia initiated a brief round of skirmishing with its neighbor Azerbaijan. The two former Soviet republics have had uneasy relations since fighting a war in the 1990s, and the Kremlin has long backed Yerevan, while Baku maintains a more pro-Western orientation. Although Israel has stayed formally neutral in the latest round of the conflict, it has clear interests in it, as Emil Avdaliani explains:

Iran, located to Azerbaijan’s south, is Israel’s archnemesis, while Baku and Tehran have mixed relations. Diplomatic relations exist and bilateral economic contacts are extensive, [but] Baku is nevertheless apprehensive about Iranian moves that could complicate its position in the South Caucasus and Caspian Sea. All of this is heightened by Tehran’s concerns about the allegedly political aspirations of the Azeris in Iran. Tehran thinks that at an opportune moment, this minority might begin to talk of secession and a “Greater Azerbaijan” idea might emerge.

This is all hypothetical, but there is a high level of distrust between the two states. Consider, for example, Azerbaijan’s recent claim that Iran was sending trucks to Nagorno-Karabakh, [the Azeri territory long occupied by Armenia]. Baku summoned Iranian diplomats and accused Tehran of stoking the conflict over the land.

This state of affairs naturally makes Israel a comfortable partner for Azerbaijan. Moreover, from Jerusalem’s perspective, Azerbaijan’s geographic position on Iran’s border makes it an ideal site for the gathering of strategic intelligence. Media sources claim that Israel helped Baku build electronic intelligence-gathering stations along the Azerbaijani border with Iran in the 1990s.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Armenians, Azerbaijan, Iran, Israel diplomacy, Russia

 

In the Next Phase of the War, Israel’s Biggest Obstacles May Be Political Rather Than Military

To defeat Hamas, Israel will have to attack the city of Rafah, which lies on the border between Egypt and Gaza, and which now contains the bulk of the terrorist group’s fighting forces as well as, most likely, the Israeli hostages. Edward Luttwak examines how this stage of the war will be different from those that preceded it:

To start with, Rafah has very few of the high-rise apartment houses, condo towers, and mansions of Gaza City and Khan Yunis. This makes street-fighting much simpler because there are no multilevel basements from which many fighters can erupt at once, nor looming heights with firing positions for snipers. Above all, if a building must be entered and cleared room-by-room, perhaps because a high-value target is thought to be hiding there, it does not take hundreds of soldiers to search the place quickly.

Luttwak also argues that the IDF will be able to evacuate a portion of the civilian population without allowing large numbers of Hamas guerrillas to escape. In his view, the biggest challenge facing Israel, therefore, is a political one:

Israel will have to contend with one final hurdle: the fact that its forces cannot proceed without close coordination with Egypt’s rulers. President Sisi’s government detests Hamas—the Gaza offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood they overthrew—and shed no tears at the prospect of its further destruction in Rafah. However, they also greatly fear the arrival of a flood of Palestinians fleeing from the Israeli offensive.

As for the Israeli war cabinet, it is equally determined to win this war in Rafah and to preserve strategic cooperation with Egypt, which has served both sides very well. That takes some doing, and accounts for the IDF’s failure to move quickly into Rafah. But victory is Israel’s aim—and it’s not going to give up on that.

Read more at UnHerd

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security