In the well-respected Foreign Policy, Mark Perry’s lengthy article “Israel’s Secret Staging Ground” made on March 28th the unreasonable claim that Israel intends to use airbases in Azerbaijan in the event that it’ll move to attack Iran’s nuclear installations.

This claim, though not backed by any serious source or convincing evidence, was widely covered by all Israeli media outlets, which engaged in speculation as to the reasons why this purportedly sensitive information was “leaked” by US officials.

This episode only reflects the current poor state of the Israeli press, which was willing to take seriously a story that simply does not make any sense. It also illustrates the ongoing tensions over the possibility that Prime Minister Netanyahu may decide to ignore American advice and order a military strike.

The truth is that Perry’s piece did not deserve the attention. The veteran anti-Israel warrior has simply taken advantage of the negligent naivety of Foreign Policy’s editors in order to plant one more of his cloak-and-dagger patchwork stories aimed at undermining the state he intensely detests.

Flights of fancy

No one seems to have raised the real questions before rushing to publish or quote the Perry-tale:

Elementary, Mr. Perry: How would the Israeli Air Force reach those airbases in Azerbaijan? Are the Israelis going to get a permit from Mr. Erdogan to fly over Turkey on their way to hit Iran? Does it make any sense? Or, alternatively, does Perry want us to believe that the Israelis will choose to bypass Turkey on their secret mission via the longer route over Greece and Bulgaria, thus becoming fully exposed to Russian radar in the Black Sea? Take a look at the map, Mr. Perry — there is no other way for the Israelis to get to Azerbaijan!

By now, the editors of Foreign Policy may regret, too, that they did not bother to open their atlas.

By now, the editors of Foreign Policy may regret, too, that they did not bother to open their atlas.

And if the argument is that the Israeli pilots will only be allowed to land in Azerbaijan after a strike on the Iranian nuclear installations, then another important issue emerges: How can Azerbaijan possibly afford to cooperate in an attack on Iran when it depends on Iran entirely for maintaining control over that significant part of this country, the Nakhichevan region, an exclave and autonomous republic of Azerbaijan that is totally separated from the main Azeri territory by its arch-enemy, Armenia? Did Perry and the editors who handled his copy give any consideration to the question of what President Ilham Aliev would hope to achieve in embarking upon such a risky adventure?

Besides, Iranian missiles can quite easily knock out those airbases as well as the huge Azeri BP oil terminal near Baku, which is the lifeline of the country’s economy. Teheran leaders are on record stating that they will retaliate forcefully against any state that will provide bases for an attack against it.

Well, Perry-tales avoid the real questions.

The fact that Azerbaijan maintains close relations with Israel — including big arms and oil deals — does not justify flights of fantasy. Serious debate requires down-to-earth discussion based on facts and then a grain of common sense. The discourse about the way to tackle Iran’s nuclear challenge is far too fateful to allow it to be hijacked by the likes of “author and historian” Mark Perry.