by Rasim Musabayov

Feb 22 2010

Over the last 15-20 years, the regional geopolitics in the capacity
of external factors in the Southern Caucasus has been determined by
Russia, Turkey, Iran and of course, the USA. The European powers,
which are also present in the region, prefer to use "soft power"
and act in concert through the European Union, NATO, the OSCE or the
Council of Europe. As for China and Japan, they are far away from
the region and they have so far limited themselves to exclusively
economic interests. It seems that the list of players on the local
geopolitical scene has been determined and fixed for a long time.

Israel make first regional debut in Georgia

However, unexpected for many in the South Caucasus, Israel has
started to play an apparently active role to step up its economic and
diplomatic presence. Tel Aviv made the first regional debut in Georgia
since open sea communication lines were conducive to it as well as
the presence of rich and influential community of Georgian Jews.

The interstate relations, which have begun to shape as far back as
under [ex-Georgian president Eduard] Shevardnadze, have acquired very
close personal traits. It is suffice to underline that several members
of the Georgian government, including the defence minister, had both
Georgian and Israeli passports. The upgrading of military hardware
was carried out with the help of Israel, and Israeli instructors
helped the Georgian armed forces with training of its personnel,
in particular, with its important components, like units of special
purposes, reconnaissance and others.

When the known events of August 2008 occurred between Georgia and
Russia, Moscow demanded that Tel Aviv end military cooperation with
the government of [President Mikheil] Saakashvili. In response, it was
promised to close channels of supplies of Russian arms, first of all,
anti-tank missiles, to militants of Hezbollah and Hamas.

At that point, the sides seemed came to an agreement but now Israel
is insistently persuading Russia against supplying modern anti-air
defence missiles to Iran, in particular, S-300 missiles, which may
complicate possible US and Israel strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities
and military infrastructure.

Tel Aviv expanding military ties with Azerbaijan

Simultaneously, Tel Aviv is expanding cooperation with Azerbaijan. The
proof of this is the recent visit to Azerbaijan of Israeli Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman. It drew attention not only with unusual
three-day duration but also with wide range of issues discussed,
starting from economic and energy to foreign policy as well as military
and technical ones.

Almost immediately after him, the former Israeli prime minister
Ehud Olmert paid an unofficial visit to Baku. We should recall that
Israeli President Shimon Peres also arrived in Azerbaijan with an
official visit last year. The interest of the sides is mutual and is
not only exclusively limited to the fact that Israel is a major (the
third-fourth for the volume) purchaser of Azerbaijani oil, and we,
for our part, supply 20 per cent of this country's demand for oil
resources. Although, bearing in mind tense relations between Israel
with Arab producers, oil supply is of strategic significance for Tel
Aviv since this enables it to diversify sources of energy. For its
part, the volume of the Israeli goods and services at the Azerbaijani
market is expressed with major figures, measuring 300-400m dollars
annually with positive prospective to further growth.

Israel possesses modern technologies and has experience in producing
agricultural products intensively in conditions of shortage of water
as well as in pharmaceutics, medicines, up-to-date communications
technologies and electronics. The cooperation with Tel Aviv is of
great interest for Azerbaijan, which, in particular, is upgrading
its own armed forces and developing own military industrial complex.

Israel can supply high technologies, which, for different reasons,
are refused to us by western countries and Russia.

It is not ruled out that bilateral cooperation in the
military-technical sector for many years between Tel Aviv and Ankara
can with time be transformed to trilateral one, including also Baku.

The utilization of Israeli avionics to upgrade Azerbaijani old air
fleet of SU-25, SU-27 and MiG-29 can turn them into fully modern jets.

The use of Israeli electronics (sights, security equipment and others)
is expedient for upgrading T-72 tanks as well as the air defence
system. Such a fully successful experience took place with regard to
Georgia. Israel may also provide us with modern system to neutralize
enemy anti-air defence system. All these are not lethal weapons,
nevertheless, their application may qualitatively enhance combat
readiness of the Azerbaijani army.

Obviously, Israel's entry into the South Caucasus is not to Iran's
taste. The Islamic power of the IRI [the Islamic Republic of Iran]
does not hide its annoyance. Having not sufficed with propaganda
attacks in own media, Tehran is making direct threats. Nevertheless,
Baku has demonstrated a resolution and without yielding to pressure,
it is expanding cooperation with Israel in conformity with own
national interests.

Yerevan is unhappy

Yerevan is also unhappy. It is not surprising that declared earlier
visit of Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisyan to Israel was calmly
cancelled. The official version sounded in Yerevan is banal the prime
minister got cold. However, this seems to be a lame excuse.

An article under an expressive headline "The Azerbaijani-Israeli
alliance `nerves neighbours'" in the Armenian Novoye Vremya newspaper
illustrates this very well. Armenia's disappointment is very strong
for the reason that they already rubbed their hands there, observing
"complications" in the relations between Israel and Turkey, counting
their future dividends. However, as a saying goes, they "failed".

During the visit, though it was planned as a private one (as if
the prime minister craved for being in the Holy Land), it assumed
simultaneously to regulate a number of subtle issues connected with
interests of the Armenian church in Jerusalem. He as well planned
to seek ways of getting support of Jewish organizations for the
recognition of the so-called "genocide of 1915" by the US Congress.

Obviously, a boost in the Azerbaijani-Israeli relations made that
expectation senseless and consequently, deprived the visit itself of a
sense. The Armenian-Jewish relations are of centuries-old. If we make
attempts to characterize them briefly, then the best word to come here
would be "jealousy". Armenians have always viewed Jews more competitive
in commerce, in banking, international finance and other sectors.

However, simultaneously Armenians quite often draw parallels between
themselves and Jews. And allegedly there was "genocide" against them
and their Diaspora is similarly powerful. That Armenia, as a citadel
of Christianity, has been for centuries keeping the attack of "Muslim
Turk barbarians" as Israel in the surrounding of Arab Muslims.

However, those "passes" of Armenians do not get reaction of Jews and
it is completely founded. Unlike Jews, persecution and pogroms against
whom dragged on uninterruptedly in a sad and tragic mode from ancient
times throughout all the Middle Ages and in new time, Armenians lived
very comfortably everywhere where they found themselves and owing to
their own spirit of enterprise.

On the territory of the Ottoman Empire they enjoyed all privileges,
where Armenians were called loyal nation. Armenians had numerous
benefits in commerce. They were often appointed to important posts
up to viziers. It would not be a bad thing to remember that in
the government of the Young Turks, which is being accused of the
"genocide", there were two ministers ethnic Armenians, a dozen of
generals and ambassadors.

Even now when the world has officially denounced the genocide of the
fascists against Jews as against humanity, the anti-Semitic pranks in
many countries are not uncommon. In their turn, Armenians practically
do not come across with this, with the exception of beloved by them
Russia, where they as "bearers of crescent" are treated all alike
with other "Caucasians" and are quite often exposed to violence.

Azerbaijan militarily stronger than Armenia

Jews moved en masse to Israel and established a prosperous and powerful
state out of scrap.

As of now, there live seven million people, of whom over 80 per
cent are Jews. On the contrary, during the years of independence,
from a quarter to one third of the population left Armenia. Israel
is in hostile environment, but militarily, it is stronger than any
of opposing it Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon),
and economically, more than all, except for Egypt. For scientific
and technological potential, Israel excels whole of the Arabic world
all together. As for Armenia, militarily it is not stronger than
Azerbaijan and weakest of Turkey for many times. According to the
remaining parameters (demographic, economic, financial, technological
and so on) Armenia is inferior to both Turkey and Azerbaijan. Unlike
Israel, which has exits to both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea,
Armenia is in deep transport and geopolitical deadlock.

Therefore, vain attempts of Armenia to become the second "Israel"
in the circle of Turkic state spilt over into a miserable state,
becoming in all a Russian "outpost", the need for which will simply
fall away within the limits of the possible strengthening of the
Russian-Turkish and Russian-Azerbaijani relations. As for Israel,
through mutually beneficial cooperation with Turkey, Azerbaijan
and Georgia, it becomes step by step an evident factor of the South
Caucasus regional politics with which everyone has to reckon with
irrespective of the fact whether they like it or not.