Israel and Azerbaijan Close Multi-million Dollar Arms Deal

Israel to sell Iran's secular northern neighbor ammunition, mortars and radio equipment.

Israel and Azerbaijan have closed a weapons deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to agreements signed by the Defense Ministry and the government of Azerbaijan, which borders on Iran, Israel will sell the southern Caucasus state ammunition, mortars and radio equipment.

Predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan has increasingly been caught in a tug-of-war for influence between its large southern neighbor, and the secular, democratic West.

Rumblings of Shi'ite political Islam have been particularly noticeable in the more conservative regions that border Iran, and the secular government has displayed concern over Iranian influence.

An number of Israeli firms were involved in the various deal. Soltam will sell mortars and ammunition to Azerbaijan, Israel Military Industries will sell the country rocket artillery and Tadiran Communications will sell it radio equipment.

Israeli companies have also recently signed deals worth tens of millions of dollars with Kazakhstan, a neighbor of Azerbaijan's.

Minister of National Infrastructures and former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer has visited Azerbaijan in the past, and has said that the country can serve as a source of oil and gas for Israel.

Foreign news outlets have reported that the two countries maintain intelligence and security contacts. The bolstering of these ties has reportedly been achieved by former Mossad agent Michael Ross. The Canadian-born Ross describes Iranian intelligence operations in Azerbaijan in a book he published last year.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has met with Israeli leaders at various international forums as well as at Baku, his nation's capital. He has voiced the desire for closer relations with Israel and has also spoken of threats that both countries face from Iran.