Almost 100 flights loaded Israeli weapons worth billions of dollars were shipped to Azerbaijan between 2016 and 2021, an investigation by Haaretz has found. In exchange, Israel has been granted permission for Mossad spies to set up a forward listening post in Azerbaijan territory in order 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.
Silk Way and other aircraft have landed at Ovda almost 100 times, said Haaretz. Data found during the investigation shows an increasing number of 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 coincide 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 the 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.
Haaretz cited reports 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, over the years Israel has sold it the most advanced weapons systems, including ballistic missiles, air defence and electronic warfare systems and kamikaze drones.