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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09BAKU439
2009-06-01 09:17:00
SECRET
Embassy Baku
Cable title:  

IRAN/AZERBAIJAN: GOAJ INCENSED BY IRANIAN PRESSURE

Tags:   PREL  PTER  IS  IR  AJ 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO7161
RR RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKB #0439/01 1520917
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 010917Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1291
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0065
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
						S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BAKU 000439 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2019
TAGS: PREL PTER IS IR AJ
SUBJECT: IRAN/AZERBAIJAN: GOAJ INCENSED BY IRANIAN PRESSURE
OVER PLANNED VISIT OF ISRAELI PRESIDENT

REF: A. A) BAKU 132

B. B) BAKU 139

C. C) BAKU 175

D. D) BAKU 282

Classified By: Robert Garverick, Polecon Chief, for Reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d)

Summary
---------



1. (S) The GOAJ, as well as a large number of political
figures and organizations from across the political spectrum,
has expressed deep resentment over recent heavy-handed
Iranian government efforts to force the GOAJ to rescind its
recently extended official invitation to Israeli President
Peres to visit Baku. While most anger is focused on a strong
condemnatory statement by the Iranian Army Chief of Staff
that was widely reported in the local press, the GOAJ has
recently informed post that the General's remarks were
followed by a furious series of demarches (not yet made
public, during which the Iranian Ambassador reportedly
threatened the GOAJ with "very, very grave consequences" if
the invitation is not rescinded. The GOAJ Foreign Minister
and other senior officials have told us that they are
incensed by the Iranian pressure, and have no intention of
canceling the official visit - in fact, they say they now
want it more than ever. This is the latest effort by a
neighboring country to strong-arm Azerbaijan, which is
fighting craftily to maintain its independence as a secular,
modernizing state. GOAJ officials look apprehensively toward
an "inevitable" future with a nuclearized Iran on their
borders, which they predict will in the short term encourage
greater Iranian regional ambitions and adventurism. End
Summary.

GOAJ Invitation to Israeli President...


--------------------------





2. (SBU) On May 6, during a meeting with Israeli Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Prague, Azerbaijan President
Ilham Aliyev agreed to invite Israeli President Shimon Peres
to make an official visit To Baku, in concert with the
latter's planned visits to several Muslim-majority Central
Asian republics, expected to occur some time in late June or
early July. The joint communique released after the Prague
meeting added that President Peres will be received in Baku
"at the highest level and with all honors." This will be the
first visit of an Israeli President to Azerbaijan, although
current Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Baku during
the mid-1990's, during his earlier term as Prime Minister.

Sparks Anger, Condemnation in Tehran


--------------------------





3. (C) On May 19, Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major
General Hassan Firuzabadi strongly criticized Azerbaijan's
invitation to Peres during an interview with Iran's ISNA news
service. ISNA quoted him as stating that "the Republic of
Azerbaijan's invitation to the President of the Zionist
regime is insulting to Muslims," and "in contradiction with
Azerbaijan's (professed) friendship with Iran." Other press
reports claimed that Firuzabadi described the Peres

invitation as a "provocation." Firuzabadi's statements were
widely reported in the Azerbaijani press, resulting in many
angry retorts from Azerbaijani members of Parliament from all
parties, as well as from several Azerbaijani NGOs, and local
media.

Azerbaijani MPs, Press Attack Iranian "Hypocrisy"


--------------------------

---



4. (C) For example, the Azerbaijani news agency Azadlig
described Firuzabadi's statement as a "threat against
Azerbaijan," while member of Parliament (and head of the
Azerbaijani People's Front) Fuad Qahramanli cited
Firuzabadi's statement as a reminder that Azerbaijan is
threatened by Iranian "fanatics." Another MP, Sabir
Rustamanli, attacked Iran's "hypocrisy," noting that "this
(Muslim country) embraces and supports (Christian Armenia)

BAKU 00000439 002 OF 003


against us." Former Azerbaijani Ambassador to Iran Aliyar
Safarli similarly wondered out loud if Iran was consulting
Azerbaijan over its close relations with Armenia. Another
Azerbaijani MP, Arzu Samadbayli, called for the immediate
opening of an Azerbaijani Embassy in Tel Aviv (Note: While
Israel has maintained an Embassy in Baku since the early
1990's, Azerbaijan has yet to open a counterpart Embassy in
Israel, officially citing "budget limitations."
Unofficially, the GOAJ has told us that Iranian sensitivity
to such an Embassy opening has also slowed the process. End
Note).

Iranian Demarche: "Very Grave Consequences" If Visit Occurs


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. (S) On May 18, newly-arrived Iranian Ambassador to
Azerbaijan Bakir Bahrami presented his credentials to
President Aliyev. During a meeting with Staffdel
Makovsky-Katz on May 27th, Presidential Office Foreign
Relations Division Chief Novruz Mammadov related that
Ambassador Bahrami had called on him the previous day to
furiously protest the invitation to President Peres.
According to Mammadov, Bahrami told him there would "very,
very grave consequences" if the GOAJ went forward with this
visit. Later the 27th Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar
Mammadyarov confirmed the harsh Iranian demarche to
Ambassador Derse. He told Ambassador Derse that the GOAJ is
now more committed than ever to going ahead with the Peres
visit, if only to send a message to Iran that it "cannot push
Azerbaijan around."



6. (S) Mammadyarov revealed that the GOAJ had actually
extended the invitation to the Israeli President to visit
months ago (well before Prague), but that Israel had
refrained from making any announcement. He added that he
told Ambassador Bahrami in no uncertain terms that Azerbaijan
did not need Tehran's permission before inviting official
visitors. Note: information about the above Iranian
demarches to the GOAJ has not/not yet been released publicly
by either government, and must be held close. End Note.

"Revolutionary Guard Flooding Azerbaijan with Narcotics"


--------------------------



--------------------------





7. (S) During a separate meeting with Staffdel Makovsky-Katz,
Presidential apparat Chief-of-Staff Ramiz Mehdiyev railed at
Iran's alleged multi-faceted efforts to destabilize
Azerbaijan. Among other measures, Mehdiyev claimed to have
evidence that Iranian security forces are collaborating with
drug traffickers and flooding Azerbaijan with inexpensive
narcotics, including heroin. (See reftels (a) (b) and (c) for
detailed analysis of Iran's Hezbollah-like influence-building
tactics in Azerbaijan; reftel (d) also relates GOAJ
accusations concerning Iranian security authorities alleged
collaboration in trans-Caucasus drug trafficking).

Comment


--------------------------





8. (S) Azerbaijan in many ways can be seen as a brave little
country stubbornly attempting to hold on to its independence
and chart a secular path in a very tough neighborhood. GOAJ
officials are deeply aware of their limited menu of options
in repelling perceived Iranian and Russian attempts to turn
their country into a satellite state, or an object within a
sphere of influence, but have managed to play their cards
fairly well up to now. In several recent conversations GOAJ
officials have signaled to us that they are very concerned at
what a notionally nuclear Iran will mean for this region and
their country. Though seemingly resigned to the eventual
inevitability of a "nuclear Iran," they express little doubt
that in the short term such capability will embolden Iranian
adventurism.



9. (S) The implications of Ambassador Bahrami's threats and
General Firuzabadi's public statement for the future
Iran-Azerbaijan relationship remain to be seen. Further
public Iranian protests (not excluding organized
"spontaneous" protest demonstrations in Tehran and elsewhere)
are to be expected once the actual date of Peres visit is

BAKU 00000439 003 OF 003


announced, and during the visit itself. What other concrete
actions by Iran, if any, will be revealing. How to handle
this may be the first major foreign policy test of the
incoming Iranian President, especially if Ahmedinanjad is not
re-elected.
DERSE