Like the State of Israel, Azerbaijan faces an uphill struggle in getting badly needed support in Western capital cities in the face of the Iranian threat due to the existence of a bigoted perception against them.
Just as the BDS movement argues in the West for the sanctioning of Israel as it faces an existential threat from Iran, the Armenian lobby does likewise for Azerbaijan on Capitol Hill, even as the mullahs in Tehran hold Azerbaijani civilians in their custody. Both the BDS movement and such hostile actions against Azerbaijan on Capitol Hill do nothing more than embolden the mullahs in Tehran to continue to oppress both Azerbaijanis and Israelis.
Israel should use all of its diplomatic power in order to help change this situation for Azerbaijan, as Azerbaijan is a tolerant, multi-cultural country neighboring a state that routinely chants “death to Israel,” “death to America,” and threatens Azerbaijan over their friendship with the State of Israel. Friends should always stick together in hard times.
Presently, Azerbaijan reportedly supplies Israel with 40% of its gas supply. At the same time, Israeli technology is being used in order to improve agriculture in Karabakh, so that Azerbaijan can in the future help to alleviate the global wheat shortage in the face of the Ukraine war. When I visited Azerbaijan, I was in a joint Israeli-Italian dairy farm, which is being operated in the region. The cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan has only gotten stronger since then, as there is now an Azerbaijani Embassy in Israel.
However, Azerbaijan is not only a great friend of Israel but also a friend of the West. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg referred to Azerbaijan as a “valued partner.” This was due to Azerbaijan’s contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, where Azerbaijan together with Turkey secured the Hamid Karzai Airport during the evacuation of Kabul, which allowed for the safe evacuation of NGOs and government personnel as the country was overrun by the Taliban.
According to the Jamestown Institute, Azerbaijan’s contributions to the NATO effort started in 2002 with 22 peacekeepers and rose to 120 by the time of the withdrawal. In addition to ground support, Azerbaijani units had facilitated the Afghanistan-bound supply logistics for the allied forces by securing the transit routes for around 40% of the needed military cargo.
Stoltenberg also praised Azerbaijan for its badly needed gas supply to several NATO member states, which are facing an acute shortage of gas and oil in the wake of the war in Ukraine. While Azerbaijan is not fully able to substitute for Russia’s supply of gas to Europe, it does play a crucial role in helping Europe to reduce its dependency on Russian gas and oil.
Just as the West should consider Israeli concerns when dealing with Iran, they should also consider Azerbaijani concerns. Israeli and Azerbaijani concerns are no less important than Ukrainian concerns when it comes to dealing with the Iranian threat. Both countries should have a voice at the table as the West considers how to respond to the Iranian nuclear threat.
Ayoob Kara served as Israel’s communications minister under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.