Iran Tries to Bully Azerbaijan into Distancing Itself from Israel

Oct. 21 2021

At the end of last month, the Islamic Republic conducted major military exercises near its border with Azerbaijan, a country that has deep and ancient connections with Iran. Since Azerbaijan and its neighbor, Armenia, became independent from the Soviet Union, Tehran has joined Moscow in backing the latter, while Baku has aligned itself with the West and developed strong ties with the Jewish state. Eran Lerman analyzes the situation from an Israeli perspective:

The Iranian maneuvers near Azerbaijan’s borders . . . were designed to intimidate the leadership in Baku, to deter it from curbing Iran’s illegal [oil] trade with Armenia, and to force Azerbaijan to downgrade its strategic relationship with Israel. . . . As tensions rise over its nuclear program, Tehran apparently hopes . . . to warn countries in the region against offering any assistance to Israel and other forces aligned against the Iranian regime. Ultimately, Iran seeks to frustrate what they suspect to be Israel’s plans and to deter Israeli leadership from acting against Iran.

Thus, the implications of Iranian pressure on Azerbaijan extend well beyond the confines of the southern Caucasus. It adds to a growing list of points of friction where the Iranian regime is overtly seeking to test the limits of international, Western, and ultimately Israeli (and Arab) responses. Israel must tread carefully in this complex region, where ancient hatreds often dominate. Explicit statements should be avoided. While the existing understandings with the Azeri government should be upheld and discreet intelligence sharing should continue, it would be unwise for Israel to make any commitments that cannot be realized, and that might exacerbate regional tensions.

At the same time, at the diplomatic level and as part of a broader discussion on Iran’s intentions and actions, Israel cannot ignore the Iranian pattern of intimidation. This should be one of the focal points in Israel’s ongoing effort to alert the U.S. administration and its Western allies to the escalating danger inherent in leaving Iranian actions unanswered.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israel diplomacy, Israeli Security

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror