The Eurovision Song Competition semi-finals begin May 22 in Baku, Azerbaijan, climaxing with finals May 26th. And the world should be watching, because Azerbaijan, which shares an open border with Iran, is believed to have opened access to airbases in the secular Moslem nation to Israel, with whom they have a relationship, according to Foreign Policy:
Four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. “The Israelis have bought an airfield,” a senior administration official told me in early February, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”
The report of Israel using airbases in Azerbaijan for war planes is discounted by Israel’s Haaretz, citing a number of logistical issues that make the use of the Azeri airfields impractical as launching grounds for F-15 fighter planes:
[T]hey fail to address the problem of where the Israeli warplanes can fly to once they have refueled in Azerbaijan. There is no friendly route to fly back to Israel, except over Iranian or Turkish territory, hardly appealing alternatives once an attack has already been carried out and both countries will be on highest alert…
Since landing in Azerbaijan after a strike on Iran would almost certainly mean that returning these valuable aircraft to Israel would be a lengthy and complicated process, especially at a time when the IAF [Israeli Air Force] would certainly need them for additional missions, this doesn’t seem to make sense. Other uses proposed in the FP feature, using Azeri fields just in the case of emergency landings or using them to base search-and-rescue helicopters or reconnaissance drones, makes more sense.
As part of the European Broadcasting Union, Israel is a participant in Eurovision, despite the contest’s May 26 final falling on Shavuot, an Israeli holiday, which commemorates God giving the Torah to the Jews. (Shavuot is celebrated seven weeks after the second day of Passover). Israel’s entry Izabo will perform on the May 22 semi-final.
Now in its 57th year, Eurovision is held among the active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) or members of the Council of Europe. Each member country submits a song which is voted on by other countries, and the winner hosts the next year’s contest, providing a chance to promote their nation. Eurovision is such a huge deal that in 2005, host country the Ukraine waived their visa requirements for the summer. This year, 75-year old Englebert Humperdink will be representing for the UK, and Russia has a team of grannies from Urals performing their entry. Sadly this year Armenia withdrew from the competition over tension with Azerbiajan stemming from the 1990s war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh which killed over 25,000.
Regarding the mounting Israeli/Iranian tension, Haaretz adds:
Meanwhile, it may turn out that the only Israeli attack through Azerbaijan this year will be psychedelic punk-rock band Izabo since according to Haaretz’s senior columnist, Amir Oren, Tuesday night’s announcement that the U.S. Defense Department would be seeking funding for further development of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, was a signal that there would be no Israeli strike on Iran this year.
But if for some reason Izabo cancels, duck and cover.