Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exudes impatience, saying Tehran is barely a year from a "red line" for atomic capacity. Many fellow Israelis, however, fear a unilateral strike, lacking US forces, would fail against such a large and distant enemy.
- Israel denies it has access to Azerbaijan air bases
- Iran arrests two Azeris for espionage
- US denies leaking info on Israeli access to Azeri bases
But what if, even without Washington and Israel were not alone?
Azerbaijan, the oil-rich ex-Soviet republic on Iran's far northern border, has, say local sources with knowledge of its military policy, explored with Israel how Azeri air bases and spy drones might help Israeli jets pull off a long-range attack.
That is a far cry from the massive firepower and diplomatic cover that Netanyahu wants from Washington.
But, by addressing key weaknesses in any Israeli war plan – notably on refueling, reconnaissance and rescuing crews – such an alliance might tilt Israeli thinking on the feasibility of acting without US help.
It could also have violent side-effects more widely, and many doubt Azeri President Ilham Aliyev would risk harming the energy industry on which his wealth depends, or provoking Islamists who dream of toppling his dynasty, in pursuit of favor from Israel.
Yet despite official denials by Azerbaijan and Israel, two Azeri former military officers with links to serving personnel and two Russian intelligence sources all told Reuters that Azerbaijan and Israel have been looking at how Azeri bases and intelligence could serve in a possible strike on Iran.
"Where planes would fly from – from here, from there, to where? – that's what's being planned now," a security consultant with contacts at Azeri defense headquarters in Baku said. "The Israelis… would like to gain access to bases in Azerbaijan."
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop