President Yitzhak Herzog and his wife Michal left Tuesday morning for a state visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Before their takeoff, the president said: “We have to remember that beyond the trade relations and historical ties, Azerbaijan is Iran’s neighbor. Iran is an unstable factor in the region that constantly pursues actions against Israel and against the developing alliance of peace and security in the region, and I will certainly discuss this.”
The president’s visit comes at a time when Azerbaijan is at the peak of tensions with Iran. The Azeris wanted a visit by a senior Israeli figure such as President Herzog on an official visit, to show their neighbor that they are being supported by the strongest military power in the region.
Herzog will meet with the senior leadership of Azerbaijan. While the president is visiting in Baku, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen just returned from a visit to neighboring Turkmenistan a few weeks ago.
הנשיא הרצוג לפני המראתו לאזרבייג’ן: “מעבר ליחסי המסחר והקשרים ההיסטוריים – מדובר בשכנתה של איראן. ננסה לקדם את היחסים ככל שניתן” • על שיחות ההידברות: “מציע להתעלם מרעשי הרקע ולחשוב על המטרה”@AmichaiStein1 (צילום: חיים צח, לע״מ) pic.twitter.com/JcLBzfzFoG
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) May 30, 2023
Naturally, the presence of high-ranking Israeli officials on their border arouses Iranians’ anger and suspicions. On Monday, Tehran Times cited a judiciary official who reported that “14 members linked to Israel have been arrested as they were seeking to identify and assassinate various individuals.” And last week, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence said it had taken down a network connected to a foreign intelligence service. The network monitored individuals who had access to sensitive material or were in charge of various positions in the nation’s sensitive organizations.
Yes, these reports have paranoia written all over them, triggered by every move by Israeli officials close to home. This paranoia may have been behind the May 22 replacement of the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani with Ali Akbar Ahmadian, a veteran Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander who is “set to transform the security body,” according to Tehran Times.
Rumors surrounding Shamkhani’s replacement began in January when one of his close associates was put to death over espionage for MI6. He was now replaced by a “hard-nosed IRGC general,” Tehran Times reported.
Expect more hangings.