Israel-Azerbaijan Arms Trade: A Growing Challenge for Iran

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Israel and Azerbaijan have a long-standing and lucrative defense relationship that has drawn attention and controversy amid the recent clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Israel has been a major supplier of weapons and military technology to Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority country that borders Iran and Russia. But how much does Israel sell to Azerbaijan, and what are the strategic implications of this partnership?

According to various sources, Israel has sold Azerbaijan weapons worth billions of dollars over the years, including drones, missiles, air defense systems, electronic warfare systems, and more. In light of the facts and figures, Israel accounted for 27 percent of Azerbaijan’s major arms imports from 2011–2020.

Israel’s arms sales to Azerbaijan had increased significantly since 2011, when the two countries signed a $1.6 billion deal that included a battery of Barak missiles and Searcher and Heron drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

In 2012, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev revealed that Israel had agreed to sell Azerbaijan defense equipment worth nearly $5 billion.

In 2020, during the war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan used Israeli-made drones extensively and effectively against Armenian forces, showcasing Israel’s advanced military technology.

Israel’s defense selling to Azerbaijan is driven by several factors, including economic, strategic, and geopolitical interests. Economically, Israel benefits from the lucrative arms market in Azerbaijan, which is one of its largest customers in Asia. Israel also receives oil from Azerbaijan, which provides about 30 percent of Israel’s oil needs. Strategically, Israel views Azerbaijan as a valuable partner in countering Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions. Geopolitically, Israel seeks to strengthen its ties with Azerbaijan as an alternative or complementary ally to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have normalized their relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords.

However, Israel’s defense selling to Azerbaijan poses challenges and risks for both countries. Azerbaijan may face pressure and backlash from Iran and other Muslim countries for its alignment with Israel. It may also have to deal with the humanitarian and legal consequences of its actions in Nagorno-Karabakh, which have been condemned by some human rights groups. For Israel, it may face criticism and scrutiny from some of its allies and partners for its arms sales to Azerbaijan, which may fuel instability and violence in the region. It may also have to contend with the possibility of a renewed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which could drag it into a complex geopolitical situation.

Therefore, while Israel’s defense selling to Azerbaijan may benefit both countries economically and strategically, it may also entail challenges and opportunities for both countries. The future of this relationship may depend on how they manage their interests and expectations, as well as how they navigate the regional dynamics and realities.

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