BAKU: Azerbaijan’s Arms Purchases From Israel No ‘Direct Threat To I


Thu 29 March 2012 06:25 GMT | 7:25 Local Time

News.Az interviews Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher on the Arms
Transfers Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute (SIPRI).

SIPRI reports that the $1.6-billion arms deal, signed between
Azerbaijan and Israel in 2011, envisages the purchase by Baku of the
Barak-8 missile system, 75 Barak-8 missiles, the EL/M-2080 Green Pine
radar, Gabriel-5 anti-ship missile, five Heron unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAV) and five Searcher UAVs. How accurate is this information?

Almost all the information we have regarding Israeli arms sales to
Azerbaijan is uncertain. It has been widely reported that the Israeli
company IAI signed a deal worth USD1.6 billion with Azerbaijan in late
2011/early 2012, but the exact content of the deal is still not known.

Reports generally agree that at least one Green Pine radar is
included. However, whereas it has been widely reported that the
deal includes SAM systems, anti-ship missiles and UAVs we still
lack sufficient independent reports to confirm which exact types are
involved and how many. Therefore the information about the Barak-8,
the Gabriel-5, the Herons and the Searchers are all estimates, both
regarding type and numbers involved. It is entirely possible that
the deal includes other weapons too.

It’s important to point out that Azerbaijan has acquired a whole range
of other weapons from several suppliers, not just the recent deal with
Israel. I attach a register of major arms procured by Azerbaijan in
the period 2007-2011. The register only shows transfers of major arms
as defined by SIPRI. There are other significant projects ongoing,
e.g. the modernization of T-72 tanks by Israeli companies.

Also all indications are that Azerbaijan plans substantial further
arms procurement in the coming years.

What can you say about those types of weapons, are they offensive ones?

There are no inherently defensive weapons. An offensive is usually
backed up with a proper defence in order to counter a counter
offensive, i.e. you don’t attack with tanks without defending them
with SAM systems against counter air attacks. Therefore weapons
procurement should always be considered in the context of existing
and planned arsenals and military capabilities, security policies,
known or suspected intentions of arms procuring states and military
doctrines. The USD1.6 billion deal with IAI includes air defence
systems, which can defend Azeri forces against air attacks.

The systems could theoretically be used to defend Azeri forces
defending Azerbaijan or to defend Azeri forces using other weapons,
such as the variety of other combat aircraft, tanks and artillery
mentioned in the attached register, to attack a neighbour.

Tehran is still warning that Azerbaijan could use that weapon against
Iran. As a military expert, do you think that this kind of weapon
could pose a danger to Iran?

The Azeri arms procurement from Israel is not a direct threat to Iran,
in the sense that it seems very unlikely that Azerbaijan would attack
Iran. I am also not aware of Iran having complained about all the arms
deals Azerbaijan has signed with other countries. However the Israeli
arms deals are a strong signal that Azerbaijan and Israel have good
relations. This is of strategic importance to Israel and it is not
surprising that the deal probably strengthen Iran’s existing threat
perception of being surrounded by US- or Israeli-friendly countries
equipped with advanced military capabilities.

Pakistan is another country offering similar weapons to Azerbaijan.

What can you say about the quality of the Israeli weapons?

The Israeli arms industry produces a wide diversity of arms and
other military equipment, which is widely regarded as well designed
and of high quality. In particular in the field of command, control,
communication, reconnaissance, intelligence and surveillance systems
and in the field of air-defence systems Israeli companies have achieved
major export successes. But also regarding armour, artillery and small
arms Israeli companies are highly competitive on the international

Still, there is no reason to single out Israeli arms supply to
Azerbaijan, other than that it upsets Iran. Many other arms producing
companies based elsewhere are aggressively marketing their products
in Azerbaijan.

>From the attached list you can see that companies in a variety
of countries supplied arms to Azerbaijan in recent years: Russia,
Ukraine, Turkey, South Africa, Belarus, Bosnia and Israel. In addition
China and Pakistan have been mentioned as countries marketing arms
to Azerbaijan. Standard open market principles can be applied.They
may offer weapons Israel does not offer (e.g. Pakistan offers in
cooperation with China complete new combat aircraft, Russia supplies
new combat helicopters), they may offer less advanced weapons
cheaper, they may offer weapons similar to those offered by Israel
but at better prices or other conditions (e.g. presumably the Russian
supplied S-300 SAM system).

Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of violating the Conventional Forces in
Europe (CFE) Treaty. Azerbaijan is indeed actively arming itself and
does not conceal that it is doing so in case of a military scenario to
resolve the Karabakh conflict. But is there evidence of CFE violations?

The accusations of violating the CFE Treaty go both ways. I cannot
judge myself right now if these accusations are correct. One problem is
that it will be difficult to determine how much operational equipment,
limited by the CFE Treaty, both countries have.