By Philip Giraldi | March 27, 2012
Israel is tightening the noose around Iran. The Israeli government has signed a secret agreement with the government of Azerbaijan to lease two former Soviet military airfields located close to the Iranian border. One of the facilities is being used as an intelligence collection site, with advanced Sigint capabilities and preparations underway for drone operations. The other base is being designated a search-and-rescue facility. It will eventually have helicopters that will presumably be dispatched to aid downed Israeli fliers if there is a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The base will also have limited refueling and recovery capabilities for planes too damaged to make the long flight back to Israel over Iraqi or Saudi airspace. The Azerbaijani bases are much closer to the prime Iranian nuclear targets at Natanz and Fordow than are airfields in Israel itself. Recent Iranian government and media complaints about threatening Azerbaijani activities reflect official concern on the part of Tehran over the new developments.
Tel Aviv is also increasing its presence in neighboring Georgia, which is serving as the conduit for equipment going to Azerbaijan, which is shipped through the Black Sea port of Poti. The Israelis control an airfield in Georgia that is being used for intelligence gathering and logistical support for the large Israeli private-contractor and military-adviser presence in the country. Israeli advisers are training the Georgian army in the use of largely U.S.-supplied military equipment and are effectively partners in the country’s intelligence and security agencies. Drones operating over northwest Iran have been flying out of the Georgian base. John McCain’s 2008 claim when the country went to war with Russia that “we are all Georgians now” becomes a lot more comprehensible when one realizes that the drive to aid the country was largely about supporting Israel.
Israeli intelligence officers and military personnel in mufti are active in Iraqi Kurdistan as well, where they have been recruiting agents to collect information and carry out operations inside Iran. Many of the recruits are affiliated with Pajak, a U.S. State Department-listed terrorist organization. There are concerns within the U.S. intelligence community that the Israelis are playing fast and loose with their affiliation in what are known as false-flag operations, frequently representing themselves as Americans in actions similar to those relating to Mossad’s efforts to recruit Jundallah militants in Western Europe. Israel also reportedly attempted to hide behind a false flag in January when one of its drones that had been operating over Syria went down in Turkey. The Israeli Foreign Ministry initially denied any knowledge, suggesting that the device was American. But the Turks, who have U.S. drones flying from airbases in their own country, recognized that the drone was not of American manufacture, and the Israeli Embassy was forced to recant and eventually apologize. No apology was forthcoming to the United States. Back at home, the FBI is investigating persistent reports that Israeli intelligence officers operating in the U.S. are again pretending to be FBI or CIA to obtain the cooperation of Arab-Americans.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.