Israel-Azerbaijan Drone Era Alliance

In Biblical time, approximately 3,500 years ago, Moses sent out 12 spies, one from each tribe, to explore Canaan. ~ Numbers 13:1-33.

In the 21st century, to explore land you use drones. If the circumstance necessitates, drones can also deliver live fire.

Israel uses drones to explore its surrounding foes’ lands.

In a technological context, a drone is an unmanned aircraft, more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Essentially, a drone is a flying robot.

Israel has developed an industry that manufactures technologically advanced drones and several countries, including Azerbaijan, purchase Israeli made drones.

Now there is an allegation that the drones Israel sells to Azerbaijan are used as ‘suicide drones’ in Azerbaijan battlefield with Armenia, i.e. the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

About the conflict

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict took place in the late 1980s to May 1994, in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the enclave’s majority ethnic Armenians backed by the Republic of Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. The enclave’s parliament voted in favor of uniting itself with Armenia and a referendum, boycotted by the Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh, was held, whereby most of the [Armenian majority] voters voted in favor of independence. The demand to unify with Armenia began in 1988 in a relatively peaceful manner; however, in the following months, as the Soviet Union’s disintegration was approaching, it gradually grew into an increasingly violent conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

When, on February 20th, 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) in Azerbaijan parliament voted to unify the region with Armenia, fierce inter-ethnic clashes broke. Full-scale fighting erupted in the late winter of 1992.

Several International mediations failed to bring about an end resolution that both sides could live with. In the spring of 1993, Armenian forces captured regions outside the enclave itself, threatening the involvement of other countries in the region. By the end of the war in 1994, Armenia, with Russia's military assistance, managed to invade the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with the exception of the Shahumyan Region, in addition to seven surrounding areas of Azerbaijan proper. Over 800,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis and Kurds were expelled from the occupied regions of Azerbaijan.

A Russian-brokered ceasefire was signed in May 1994, but regular exchange of fire and skirmishes continue till today and the tension between the two countries is high.

Pseudo allegations

A video that was uploaded to YouTube allegedly shows what appears to be the IAI (Israel Aerospace Industry) Harop unmanned aerial vehicle flying over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The Washington Post reported that, allegedly, an Israeli made "kamikaze-suicide drone" has allegedly been spotted over the battlefield. That the aircraft's distinct wing shape and nose have lead observers to speculate that it is indeed the Israeli made IAI drone. The Post also reported that apparently the unmanned aircraft rammed into targets and destroyed them. That it targeted a bus full of “Armenian volunteers,” killing seven.

In April 2016, the high tension caused clashes to erupt between troops from Azerbaijani and Armenian troops, each blaming the other for violating the fragile ceasefire once again. Both sides report numerous casualties

Armenia claims that in the 2017 test of the drone it was illegally used to attack Armenian troops. The allegation are that an Israeli company was accused of attempting to bomb the Armenian military on behalf of Azerbaijan during a test run of a ‘suicide drone’.

The story goes back to August 13, 2017, when a report from the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Maariv revealed that the Israeli Defense Ministry recently received an unusual complaint, detailing claims that on July 7th, 2017, a team from Aeronautics Defence Systems company - in the middle of finalizing the sale of the ‘suicide’ drone to Azerbaijan - was asked by Azerbaijan to strike an Armenian military position while demonstrating its Orbiter 1K drone in a live-fire test.

The Orbiter 1K drone, also known as a ‘suicide drone’ — is a small unmanned aerial vehicle that can carry payloads up to 4.4 pounds and fly directly into an enemy target, detonating a bomb and destroying itself in the process.

 Aeronautics new Orbiter 1K-Google photo

Allegedly, in the past, Azerbaijan has used Israeli suicide drones to attack Armenian troops.

Demonstrations of the drone against live target is illegal under Israeli law. Aeronautics strongly denied conducting such demos.

For two decades Azerbaijan and Armenia have been at loggerheads over the mountainous breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which sits in Azerbaijan but has an ethnic Armenian majority. In the past two years, violent clashes at the ceasefire line have escalated and tension is high. Both sides are building up their arms stockpiles. Azerbaijan purchases arms, Armenia is being armed – free of charge – by Russia. It is also known that Azerbaijan has purchased weapons from Russia.

Since the 1990s, Azerbaijan and Israel have been close allies, frequently cooperating on security matters. As already noted, Azerbaijan is a valuable client of Israeli military equipment.

The justice pendulum weighs heavily in favor of Azerbaijan. Four passed United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions against Armenia, demanding of Armenia to withdraw its forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh, fell on Armenia’s deaf ears. Defiant Armenia is not prepared to negotiate a conflict’s resolve and is constantly escalating live fire skirmishes that claim lives.

As for Azerbaijan, it has shrugged off the allegations against Aeronautics as calculated Armenian fabrication.

Foreign policy reported: To justify its illegal occupation of Azerbaijani lands, Armenian military is desperately spreading false and fake news, a spokesperson for the Azeri Embassy in Washington D.C. said.

Though Azerbaijan and Israel are believed to have a robust security relationship, it is reported that neither country’s officials speak about the matter, neither respond to requests for a comment.

Foreign policy says that Israel’s Defense Ministry is now investigating Armenia’s claims. The Defense Ministry has even suspended the company’s sales and marketing to Azerbaijan. No details whether this was done as a precaution or as a result of finding evidence.

According to a letter it had issued to its investors, in Aeronautics they believe that the company’s license freeze was only temporary, till the investigation was concluded.

Over the next two years Aeronautics Defence Systems was poised to earn $20 million in trade with Azerbaijan. After the company disclosed the freeze, its shares dipped 17 percent on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

It is very difficult to believe these incredible allegations? Would Azerbaijan ask a foreign company to act violently on its behalf? Would a foreign company – in this case an Israeli company that is most familiar with conflicts and their sensitivities - that has no fight with Armenia agree to such risky behavior and action? Would a company that is going to make such profitable sale shoot itself in the foot? I am prepared to say NO, or at least I doubt it much. It all makes no sense, but the investigation and court case should reveal more.

Support for freedom of alliance

Both Israel and Azerbaijan are sovereign nations and the countries have the full right to cooperate with each other on any matter they choose.

Israel is fully entitled to sell arms to any country, providing it is not a belligerent one.

The difference between Armenia and Azerbaijan is that while Azerbaijan has to purchase arms to defend itself, Armenia gets its arms free of cost from Russia and 5000 heavily armed Russian troops are based in Armenia guarding its borders with its neighbors.

The cynical issue is that for the past 25 years Armenia has done all it can, including lying, in order to deprive Azerbaijan of purchasing weapons it needs to maintain its security and defend itself against Armenian aggression.

Azerbaijan is nestled in a very precarious, rather unstable and dangerous neighborhood. Just like Israel, Azerbaijan does not have any security guarantees from anyone but from itself. Therefore, the country must take care of itself, just as Israel does.

We must not get distracted from the real issue. Azerbaijan is not about to depend on Armenia’s mercy, nor to lag behind the rams’ race it is required to participate in in order to be able to defend itself from Armenian aggression.

All accusations against Aeronautics Defence Systems should be dropped. They are untrue, irrelevant. Aeronautics Defence Systems must immediately fulfill its drone contract with Azerbaijan.

Just as Israel manufactures and purchases arms, used to defend herself, no question asked, Azerbaijan is entitled to the very same just right. If the finger pointing against Aeronautics Defence Systems are untrue, they should fulfill the drone contract with Azerbaijan.