We have been following the news and analysis heralding a military attack on Iran over its nuclear programme, and more recently, we have noted the media coverage --- following an Obama Administration "red line" against a strike --- hitting back at any launch of conflict.
Now an episode which brings both sides of the political and propaganda struggle together.
On Wednesday, journalist Mark Perry posted the dramatic revelation, "Israel's Secret Staging Ground":
Four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran's northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. "The Israelis have bought an airfield," a senior administration official told me in early February, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan."
It was immediately clear, however, that the news had not been fed to Perry to encourage the Israelis. Rather...
...senior U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Israel's military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions, according to the sources. Military planners, I was told, must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the Persian Gulf -- but one that could include the Caucasus. The burgeoning Israel-Azerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint in both countries' relationship with Turkey, a regional heavyweight that fears the economic and political fallout of a war with Iran. Turkey's most senior government officials have raised their concerns with their U.S. counterparts, as well as with the Azeris.
Perry adds the context of Israel's recent $1.6 billion sale of drones and missile-defense systems to Baku and rising Azeri-Iranian tensions, including Azerbaijan's arrest of 22 people on charges of spying for Tehran. He then returns to the military prospects:
The Azeri military has four abandoned, Soviet-era airfields that would potentially be available to the Israelis, as well as four airbases for their own aircraft....The U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials told me they believe that Israel has gained access to these airbases through a series of quiet political and military understandings. "I doubt that there's actually anything in writing," added a senior retired American diplomat who spent his career in the region. "But I don't think there's any doubt -- if Israeli jets want to land in Azerbaijan after an attack, they'd probably be allowed to do so. Israel is deeply embedded in Azerbaijan, and has been for the last two decades."
Most of the media who picked up Perry's article missed the story behind the story, namely the motives of US officials in spilling the secret. Credit, however, to Brad Knickerboxer of the Christian Science Monitor, who was on target: "Did US Just Torpedo Israeli Deal for a Base in Azerbaijan?"