Is there a Mossad base near Iran? The London Times published Sunday an interview with a man claiming to be an Azerbaijan-based agent of Israeli intelligence agency, who confirmed the existence of such a base.
The man, identified in the article as "Shimon," told the paper that there were dozens of Israeli Mossad agents working out of the base.
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"This is ground zero for intelligence work," he said. "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 is a wonderfully porous country."
The meeting between the agent and the London Times' reporter took place in Baku, near the Israeli Embassy, the report said.
The Israeli mission to Baku has come under threat recently, when it became the apparent target of a terror attack, meant to avenge the assassination of terrorist mastermind Imad Mugniyah, four years ago.
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Bako is several-hours drive south of the Iranian border, an area "Shimon" referred to as a "grey zone for intelligence operatives… There is a great deal of information there from people who regularly and freely travel across the borders.
"It's mostly unregulated – except for the Iranians who are watching us watch them," he said.
Arastun Orujlu, a former Azeri counter-intelligence officer and director of the Baku East-West Research Center compared the area to "Norway during WWI or Casablanca during WW2 — it is at the centre of the espionage world."
Orujlu believes that there are "only a few Mossad agents working there… but they operated in a more effective way," than the Iranian intelligence agents, who he said number in the thousands.
"The Iranians act in the open, they want everyone to know that they are here. The Israelis are more subtle, like the Americans. But in the end everyone knows they are here too."
Zazdusht Aleizada, who met The Times in the newspaper offices he runs, said the spy networks were an “open secret” in Baku. “We all know that they are here. The only secret is how much money they paid the Azerbaijani Government in bribes.”
“There is a natural relationship between Azerbaijan and Iran. Azerbaijan is a gateway to Iran,” said Kamil Salimov, a law professor at Baku University with former ties to the Government.
About 16% of Iranians are native Azeris and enjoy visa-free travel between the two countries.
But according to the report, tensions between Tehran and Baku are on the rise, as the state-run Azerbaijani news service are increasingly reporting the mistreatment of Azeris in Iran.
“There is anger over perceived Iranian arrogance, and the fact that Iran continues to support and grow ties with Armenia, with which Azerbaijan has a territorial dispute,” Mehman Aliyev, director of the independent news agency Turan, told the British publication. .
According to the paper's sources, "The Azerbaijani military force is already completed in sync with the Israeli and American systems,” Orujlu said.
“Largely because the Americans have been using Azerbaijan for medevacs from Afghanistan for years.”
"Shimon" confirmed that the Israeli and Azerbaijani militaries were “well acquainted” with one another.