Israel's growing military and intelligence cooperation with Iran's Northern neighboring state of Azerbaijan and the increasing number of the Israeli drones in the Caucasian country have raised serious questions about the ultimate goals and objectives behind the move.(FNA)
Azerbaijan has recently purchased military equipment from Israel for an amount of $1.6 billion. Details of this purchase were never mentioned, but now the veil of secrecy is being lifted.
Also obtained were five Heron and five Searcher UAVs. The Israeli Heron TP is a 4.6 ton aircraft that can operate at 14.5 kilometers. The Heron TP has a one ton payload, enabling it to carry sensors that can give a detailed view of what's on the ground, even from that high up.
The endurance of 36 hours makes the Heron TP a competitor for the US MQ-9 Reaper. The Searcher 2 is a half-ton aircraft with an endurance of 20 hours, max altitude of 7,500 meters and can operate up to 300 kilometers from the operator. It can carry a 120 kg payload.
Among the items ordered were Gabriel anti-ship missiles. These are 522 kg weapons with a range of 36 kilometers.
For air defense, there are Barak-8 systems, including 75 missiles. The Barak missiles cost about $1.6 million each, weigh 98 kg with 21.8 kg warhead and have a range of ten kilometers. The missiles are mounted in an eight cell container (which requires little maintenance) and are launched straight up.
The radar system provides 360 degree coverage and the missiles can take down an incoming anti-ship or cruise missile as close as 500 meters away. Each Barak system (missile container, radar, computers and installation) costs about $24 million. The missile is also effective against aircraft and can be mounted on ships or trucks.
Also part of the deal is a Green Pine radar system, which Israel uses for its missile defense system. Green Pine can detect incoming ballistic missiles up to 500 kilometers away, but can also spot approaching warplanes.
Although, Azerbaijan has told Tehran that these weapons were not intended for belligerent purposes against Iran, but for settling a territorial dispute with neighboring Armenia, analysts said that the equipments and Israel's access to airbases in Azerbaijan prove to the otherwise and will leave negative impacts on regional peace and security.
To add to the sensitivity of the issue, Azerbaijan recently sheltered several Mossad agents who had escaped from Iran after assassinating an Iranian nuclear scientist.
Iranian officials had earlier warned Azerbaijan not to shelter the Zionist regime's terrorist agents whose mission is carrying out acts of sabotage and espionage against Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Azeri Ambassador to Tehran Javanshir Akhundov to protest at Baku for sheltering several Mossad-trained terrorists who had assassinated the Iranian scientists.
In January and in the fifth attack of its kind in two years, a magnetic bomb was attached to the car of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan in the capital, Tehran. His driver was also killed in the terrorist attack.
The blast took place on the second anniversary of the martyrdom of Iranian university professor and nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, who was also assassinated in a terrorist bomb attack in Tehran in January 2010.
The assassination method used in the January bombing was similar to the 2010 terrorist bomb attacks against the then university professor, Fereidoun Abbassi Davani - who is now the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization - and his colleague Majid Shahriari. While Abbasi Davani survived the attack, Shahriari was martyred.
Another Iranian scientist, Dariush Rezaeinejad, was also assassinated through the same method on 23 July 2011.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi underscored that the US, Israeli and British spy agencies were involved in the terrorist attacks against the Iranian scientists.
The London Times reported in February that Israel is using Azerbaijan, a small Eurasian country which shares a border with Iran, as a base to spy on the Tehran government.
The newspaper cited the testimony of an anonymous Mossad agent referred to only as Shimon.
"This is ground zero for intelligence work," Shimon told the Times. "Our presence here is quiet, but substantial. We have increased our presence in the past year, and it gets us very close to Iran. This (Azerbaijan) is a wonderfully porous country."
According to Shimon the Azerbaijan-Iran border, just a few hours south of the capital Baku, is prime territory for the Israeli intelligence service to gather information on Tehran's activities.
"There is a great deal of information there from people who regularly and freely travel across the borders. It is unregulated - almost," said Shimon.
Azerbaijan is a major energy producer and exports oil to Israel and imports weapons and military hardware in return from Israel.