As the Iran-Azerbaijan crisis escalates, Israel faces conflicting interests. Israeli defense officials likely want to stay away from this danger zone, but Azerbaijan is a strategic ally and Iran a mortal enemy.
The IDF certainly has little desire to engage militarily in a remote arena that favors Iran logistically. However, deploying air defenses or weapons could serve as a highly valuable real-life test of Israeli hardware vs. Iranian capabilities.
According to unconfirmed reports, Jerusalem is quietly helping its Azeri allies behind the scenes for now.
Israel sent a team of security advisers and stationed two F-35 jets in Azerbaijan, an unnamed defense source told Saudi website Elaph. In parallel, an Azeri transport plane made a round trip from Baku to Tel Aviv with undisclosed cargo, according to another report.
However, there has been no official confirmation of any Israeli military aid, and reports are hard to verify due to the issue’s high sensitivity. Notably, Iran believes that Israel uses Azeri territory as a base of operations and intelligence, and has warned that it would not accept Israel’s presence at the border.
For Iran, the Azerbaijan issue is mostly about economics and regional influence, with major geopolitics in the background. However, it is unlikely that the tense standoff will trigger a major clash, veteran analyst Ehud Yaari estimated. Officials in Jerusalem have been mostly quiet so far and this is a wise move, he wrote.
But if fighting does erupt, Israel will face a difficult dilemma, and another potential front in its battle against Iran. For now, Jerusalem prefers to see other regional actors, like Turkey, deterring the Iranians from taking military action.