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Why Iran targeted the Israeli embassy in Baku

Iran is trying to make the Azerbaijanis afraid of maintaining their close relations with Israel.

Flags of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel near Nariman Narimanov station in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Oct. 6, 2020. Credit: Aykhan Zayedzadeh via Wikimedia Commons.
Flags of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel near Nariman Narimanov station in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Oct. 6, 2020. Credit: Aykhan Zayedzadeh via Wikimedia Commons.
Israeli Minister of Communications Ayoob Kara.
Ayoob Kara
Ayoob Kara served as Israel’s minister of communications.

It was recently reported that Azerbaijan’s security forces thwarted a terror attack on the Israeli embassy in Baku. The incident came after a terror group linked to Iran took Israeli Ph.D. student Elizabeth Tsurkov hostage in Iraq. Jews and Israelis were targeted in Greece, Turkey, Georgia and Cyprus, thankfully without success. It was reported that Iran has attempted over 50 terror attacks against Jews around the world in recent years.

The attempted embassy attack also followed Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s visit to Azerbaijan.

The question is: Why did Iran seek to attack the Israeli embassy in Baku at this time?

For the Iranians, the State of Israel is the “little Satan” and the U.S. is the “big Satan.” There is a clock in Tehran that literally counts down the time until Israel is destroyed. At political rallies, supporters of the mullahs chant “death to Israel” and “death to America.”

The Iranians are creeping closer to obtaining nuclear weapons and Israel is one of the few countries standing in its way.

It should be noted that the only time the Iranians stopped their nuclear program was when former U.S. President George W. Bush invaded Iraq and the Iranians feared they would be next. However, in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East, no one but Israel can credibly challenge them.

Thus, the Iranians object to anything that strengthens Israel. The alliance between Azerbaijan and Israel does precisely that.

Azerbaijan currently supplies Israel with up to 40% of its oil and natural gas. At the same time, Israel is a leading arms supplier to Azerbaijan, supplying 60% of Azerbaijan’s major arms imports between 2016-2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Azerbaijan recently opened an embassy in Tel Aviv and there are daily flights between Baku and Tel Aviv on Azerbaijan Airlines.

In recent months, a series of high-profile Israelis have visited Azerbaijan, from Gallant to Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and President Isaac Herzog. Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fariz Rzayev visited Israel and spoke at the prestigious Herzliya Conference. All of this highlights the strong friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan, and could lead to a strong alliance against the mullahs in Tehran.

The Azerbaijanis have their own grievances with Iran. Forty percent of the Iranian population is of Azerbaijani origin and they are systematically repressed for the crime of being Azerbaijani, deprived of the right to be educated or to work in their mother tongue.

The Iranians systematically deplete Lake Urmia, the main source of water for South Azerbaijan, an ecological crime against the local Azerbaijani community. Azerbaijanis who protest find themselves arrested, tortured and even executed. A recent European Parliament panel exposed how the Iranian media systematically discriminates against Azerbaijanis on racial grounds, because they are a Turkic nation, unlike the Persian majority.

Presently, two Azerbaijanis are being held hostage by the Iranians to be used as bargaining chips against Baku. Iran almost killed an Azerbaijani member of parliament and attacked the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran on International Holocaust Memorial Day, killing a security guard.

For these reasons, the relationship between Baku and Tehran is quite tense, with frequent provocations along the Azerbaijani-Iranian border and Iranian attempts to sabotage a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The attempted attack on the Israeli embassy in Baku added fuel to a fire that has already been ignited.

This is why the attempted attack took place: to make the Azerbaijanis afraid of maintaining their close relations with Israel. Iran’s rulers want their Shiite Muslim neighbor to adapt their radical ideology rather than continue to be a secular, tolerant, multicultural country with a thriving Jewish community and an alliance with Israel.

So far, however, this scare tactic has not worked. Azerbaijani-Israeli relations continue to blossom and thrive as if the attempted attack never took place.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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