Israel agreed on Tuesday to sell nearly $5 billion of its infamous ‘Iron Dome’ defence system to Iran’s northern neighbour, Azerbaijan, in a mutually beneficial trade deal.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev told reporters that historical trade between the two countries was strong, as Israel buys a large proportion of its oil from Azerbaijan.
“So far the contracts between Azerbaijani and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing defence equipment have been close to $5 billion,” Aliyev said.
“More precisely, $4.85 billion.”
Azerbaijan was forced to cut its defence budget in February, after low oil prices hit its overall revenues.
It had previously been a big buyer in the defence industry, purchasing helicopters and tanks from Russia and missiles from Israel.
Azerbaijan has historically directed much of its defence spending towards a potential conflict with its neighbour Armenia.
The two countries were engaged in a bloody conflict in 1992 which many people on both sides feel was never resolved.
“Azerbaijan’s armed forces need better equipment as Armenia continues its occupation policy in defiance of international law,” said Azerbaijan’s finance minister, Samir Sharifov.
Doubts surround the true size of the reported arms deals however, as Azerbaijan has a history of exaggerating its defence budget – due in part to a perceived arms race with Armenia.
In January 2015, Emil Sanamyan, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, found that the army had bloated arms sales claims between 2010 and 2015 by $13 billion.
The army had claimed receipts of $20bn, whereas the true figure was closer to $7 billion – a 65 percent reduction.
“Judging by itemized spending since 2011, Azerbaijan may have overstated its actual military spending by more than $1 billion annually so that this spending would appear larger than Armenia’s budget,” said Sanamyan.
By The New Arab