By Harut Sassounian,
On January 27, Israel’s international TV station, i24NEWS, aired a half-hour program full of falsehoods to glorify Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel and vilify Armenia, Iran, and Russia.
This scandalous program had nothing to do with journalism, and everything to do with Azerbaijan’s notorious ‘caviar diplomacy.’
Here are excerpts from the TV program which I have transcribed. My comments are in brackets:
The narrator, Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman, said: “Azerbaijan has problematic neighbors, especially Vladimir Putin’s Russia in the North and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Iran in the South. Yet, its main historical enemy is another neighbor, Armenia, a country with a Christian majority that has clashed with Azerbaijan in two major wars, causing thousands of victims. In the first war of Nagorno-Karabagh in 1991, Armenia, backed by Russia, [first lie] managed to conquer 10,000 square kilometers in the border zone, a region the size of Lebanon. The official objective was to create a buffer zone. For Azerbaijan, 2020 was the year of victory in the second Karabagh war. Pres. Ilham Aliyev’s army reconquered all areas [second lie] occupied by the Armenians only to find dozens of villages and small towns completely destroyed and booby-trapped. [Third lie]. Such was the case in Khodaafarin area, just a few meters from the Iranian border on the banks of Arax River. In this scenario, Iran supported Armenia [fourth lie] and Israel supported Azerbaijan.”
The reporter interviewed Mubarak Qurbanli, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, who said: “Armenia seized our lands. [Fifth lie]. It took a huge heroic effort for our army to win them back in the last war. The Azerbaijani people know that during this war, Iran was on the side of Armenia. [Sixth lie]. So you can understand these unpleasant feelings, not towards the people, but towards the Iranian regime…. Iran reproaches Israel it seems from the point of view of Orthodox Islam. But, where was Iran for 30 years when Armenia, violating all international laws [seventh lie], occupied Azerbaijani lands, including the Iranian border. Why did Iran remain silent then?” [Eighth lie].
The narrator continued: “The ceasefire was finally achieved by Vladimir Putin. At the liberation celebration in Baku, the army viewed the offensive drones it had acquired from Israel and which caused many casualties among Armenian forces [shameful boast about killing Armenians]. One of the strong men in the Baku government is Hikmet Hajiyev, Pres. Aliyev’s top advisor and his foreign policy strategist. He claims that Israel is one of the first countries that recognized Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991 and delivered news that angered Tehran.” Hajiyev said: “The President of Azerbaijan and National Parliament made a decision to open a full-fledged Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the State of Israel, and with the opening of the Azerbaijan Embassy in Israel we will be able to manage to bring to a quantitatively new level the Israel-Azerbaijan strategic partnership.” [Hajiyev did not mention that due to Pres. Aliyev’s fear of a backlash from Islamic States, Azerbaijan opened an Embassy in Tel Aviv only in 2022 — almost 30 years after Israel opened its Embassy in Baku in 1993. And then, to soften the negative reaction of Islamic states, Azerbaijan opened a representative office in Ramallah, the West Bank].
The reporter then added: “The closer the strategic relation between Baku and Jerusalem is, the more Tehran threatens both countries. In a video broadcast by the Islamic Republic of Iran, it clearly defined that the path to the Holy Mosque of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem passes through the capital of Azerbaijan. It is the first time that Tehran has threatened the two countries, saying ‘you are digging your graves. Anyone who defies Iran will be destroyed.’ Tehran also attacks Israel’s new Arab partners that support the Abraham Accords: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and even Saudi Arabia…. This is one of the most explosive borders in the world. On this side, we are in Azerbaijan which is a secular Muslim country, a strategic ally of Israel, and there we can see the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran which defines the U.S. and Israel as ‘the big Satan and the little Satan.’ According to Iran, the road through Jerusalem passes through Baku, the Capital of Azerbaijan. In October 2022, the Iranian army decided to launch an act of intimidation against Azerbaijan accusing its Northern neighbor of being agents of Israel. Thousands of Iranian soldiers crossed the Arax River on the border between the two states with tanks, planes, helicopters and military trucks. The Iranian army also dropped hundreds of paratroopers over the border area. There were dozens of videos of military maneuvers which showed time and time again, the target of their missiles: The Jewish State’s Star of David. Tehran points to the growing ties between Baku and Jerusalem.” Then a video is shown of an Iranian General saying: “We are turning at the crossing of the Arax River on the border with Azerbaijan so that they will take us seriously. We do not accept the presence of Zionists next door.”
The i24NEWS program continued: “Many of the military drills took place on the Iranian side of the river, but at times, there were air and ground infiltrations within Azerbaijani territory. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev responded to Iranian Generals with a tweet that enraged Tehran: A photo of the leader of Azerbaijan embracing the Israeli Harop type kamikaze drone. Azerbaijan bought the SkyStriker and LORA drones from Israeli companies Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries.”
The journalist then interviewed Efraim Sneh, a former Israeli Minister, who is described as “the architect of the alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan.” He said: “I recognized the importance of friendly Azerbaijan, given its very close proximity to Iran and the fact that a big part of Iran is Azeri. [Ninth lie]. I thought this is a case for us to establish a strong, sound bridge between Israel and Azerbaijan…. The Azeri people took a major role in the combat against Nazi Germany. Hundreds of thousands of Azeris who went to the war against Hitler during the ‘Great Patriotic War,’ didn’t return home. They fell in the battlefield in Europe and Germany. And this is something that a Jew can never forget. We remain always grateful for the contribution of Azerbaijan to the defeat of the Nazis.” [Tenth lie. The Israeli Minister seems unaware that fighting for Nazi Germany were 70,000 Azeris who participated in the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising. Hitler called these Azeris his reliable allies].
The narrator continued: “During our journey along the 700-kilometer border, we saw other Israeli technologies being used to surveil the Iranian side, for example, high-precision cameras and very sophisticated electronic sensors. According to several sources, these systems support operations conducted by special units and Israeli secret agents who infiltrate Iran to fight against its nuclear projects. It’s a delicate surgical fight, according to the international press. Israel permanently maintains pilots of its Air Force in Azerbaijan as well as several [U.S.] F-35 fighter jets, the fifth generation of combat aircraft considered to be the most sophisticated on the planet. Following the Iranian drills, an F-35 apparently infiltrated Iranian airspace to assess the efficiency of its anti-aircraft system.” [If true, this is a clear admission that Israel has violated its agreement with the U.S. not to transfer the F-35’s to another country].
[Part 1: To be continued next week]