Democratic Jewish group attacks Mark Perry for report on Israeli access to Azeri airspace

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
on 10 Comments
Mark Perry speaking on Al Jazeera (Photo via DJIA TV)

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) has smeared a distinguished journalist, Mark Perry, as an “‘anti-Israel warrior’” as part of a partisan battle over whether the Obama administration is leaking information to the press to head off an Israeli attack on Iran.

The NJDC went on the offensive early this month against the rival Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for claiming that the “Obama administration leaked highly sensitive information in an effort to hinder Israel’s ability to defend herself against Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.” The impetus for the RJC statement was Perry’s March 28 article in Foreign Policy magazine reporting that US officials say that “Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border [through Azerbaijan].”

The NJDC, trying to score partisan points, attacked Perry’s report on April 2:

It is pathetic that in their zeal to score political points, John Bolton, the Republican Jewish Coalition and their allies in the conservative blogosphere would go so far as to amplify this ridiculous, debunked story by standing with Mark Perry—a former Arafat Advisor and a ‘veteran anti-Israel warrior,’ to coin vaunted Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari’s phrase. They should be ashamed of themselves for pushing this dangerous and offensive smear of the Obama Administration, for purely partisan purposes—damn the cost. Now that it has been debunked both in Washington and by Israeli military sources, those advancing this false story should apologize—especially the RJC, which issued a press release touting Perry’s words as holy writ [RJC, March 30, 2012]. Not that we think they will, but the time has come once and for all to put Israel’s and America’s security above partisan politics. Enough is enough.

It’s no surprise the NJDC is going after the RJC for pushing the line that the Obama administration is unfavorable to Israel. But the more important development here is that Perry’s reporting is being unfairly attacked by a Democratic Party-linked group, another reminder that the Israel lobby, and with it the Iran-war drumbeat, have a home inside the party.

The NJDC’s “debunking” of Perry relies on the words of the White House, Israeli military officials and an Azerbaijani official.

There’s no surefire way to know whether Perry’s report was 100% accurate, but taking the words of officials with an interest in denying the story at face value is irresponsible. The White House does not want to be seen as leaking unfavorable stories about an Israeli attack on Iran to the press; Israeli officials, of course, don’t want their attack plans broadcast to the world; and Azerbaijan does not want to be seen as acquiescing to an Israeli attack using their airspace. So all the sources the NJDC uses to “debunk” Perry have a vested interest in doing so.

The hysteria over Perry’s report smothers the importance of his story. Even if Israel has not been granted access to Azerbaijani’s airspace, the deepening of ties between the two countries is an important development to look at when examining the potential for an Israeli attack on Iran.

From Perry’s report:

Israel’s deepening relationship with the Baku government was cemented in February by a $1.6 billion arms agreement that provides Azerbaijan with sophisticated drones and missile-defense systems. At the same time, Baku’s ties with Tehran have frayed: Iran presented a note to Azerbaijan’s ambassador last month claiming that Baku has supported Israeli-trained assassination squads targeting Iranian scientists, an accusation the Azeri government called “a slander.” In February, a member of Yeni Azerbadzhan — the ruling party — called on the government to change the country’s name to “North Azerbaijan,” implicitly suggesting that the 16 million Azeris who live in northern Iran (“South Azerbaijan”) are in need of liberation.

And this month, Baku announced that 22 people had been arrested for spying on behalf of Iran, charging they had been tasked by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to “commit terrorist acts against the U.S., Israeli, and other Western states’ embassies.” The allegations prompted multiple angry denials from the Iranian government.

More evidence of deepening Israeli-Azeri ties, as well as a strengthening of the US-Azeri relationship, is easy to find. For instance, the American Jewish Committee, an ally of the Israeli government, has cultivated Azeri officials for years.

10 Responses

  1. Tzombo
    April 15, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Democratic you say? Are you sure?

  2. Theo
    April 15, 2012, 12:24 pm

    It seems Israel is working very hard to cause problems in the ME!
    European rulers did the same, causing twists between groups of different nationalities, with the aim to divide and rule.
    I hope the aziries will not fall for the trap, a war with Iran would only strengthen the russian position.

  3. Kathleen
    April 15, 2012, 2:11 pm

    The other Mark Parry/Richard Engel story keeps expanding too. Israel intelligence agencies funding, training, arming MEK to assassinate Iranian scientist, blow facilities up etc. Then Seymour’s story about the US allegedly working with the MEK

    Former Head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit Micheal Scheuer has a interesting response to the OBama’s administrations alleged leaks
    link to
    Obama keeps pushing the bipartisan religion of interventionism
    By mike | Published: April 2, 2012

    Too often, I believe, Americans think about Washington’s interventionism only as the actual physical intervention of U.S. military forces abroad in places where no U.S. interest is at risk. That activity certainly is intervention, but President Obama’s despicable decision last week to have his administration leak intelligence claiming that Israel has concluded an agreement with the government of Azerbaijan to allow its use of Azeri airfields for an air strike on Iran is just as much an unwarranted intervention by the United States government.

  4. Les
    April 15, 2012, 3:03 pm

    This is amazingly juvenile behavior for people who claim to be adults. It’s like a claque hired by one diva to hoot down a competitor. It is illustrative as well as how juvenile American journalism has sunk to, thanks to its own doing.

  5. Annie Robbins
    April 15, 2012, 5:23 pm

    alex, kudos to you for covering this important story. i had it on my back burner for awhile ( albeit a slightly different angle) and stashed a few links from that time.

    here’s what stood out for me and my focus around the turn of the month. you wrote about the plans to bomb iran be moved back to next year here on 3/29: link to

    the haaretz article open’s with “At 8:58 P.M. on Tuesday, Israel’s 2012 war against Iran came to a quiet end.” so tuesday would have been the 27th. at the time they cited “war simulation conducted by the U.S. Central Command, the Iranians could kill 200 Americans” but that stuck me as not quite right, i knew it was more than that. they had been caught by surprise with their pants down to make such a surprising walkback so fast but they didn’t want to lay it all at the foot of the Azerbaijan leak because it would be a form of admission.

    recall this was sandwhiched right after goldberg’s ‘bluff’ article in bloomberg where he had promised to write the following week about how attacking iran would be good for us (paraphrasing).

    anyway. israel was clearly pissed. here’s Yitzhak Benhorin in ynet on the 29th all over the leak and insinuating the WH of “concentrated media effort “. link to

    anyway look what i found in this “Syria tops agenda as Erdogan visits Iran; Tehran vows to support Damascus”, March 28th article which i saved: link to

    Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tehran on Wednesday for talks on Iran’s nuclear program amid strained relations between the two countries over the continuing bloodshed in Syria, as Tehran vowed to do everything it could to support Damascus.

    Erdogan will be meeting Iran’s most powerful authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his two-day visit.

    Erdogan held talks about Iran with U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday in South Korea, raising speculation Turkey was taking a message from Washington to Tehran — although a Turkish official dismissed that.

    While Turkey has repeatedly voiced its support for Iran’s right to establish a peaceful nuclear program, it is at odds with Tehran over Syria where the government crackdown continues against opposition rebels and anti-government demonstrators.


    Turkey has offered to host the next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries which could take place as early as mid-April but a location has yet to be confirmed.

    sunday would have been march 25th. Erdogan arrived wednesday the 28th and possibly met with both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad that day. it could very well be that meeting was crucial and decisive.

  6. Annie Robbins
    April 15, 2012, 5:38 pm

    then there’s also this:

    link to

    A report published in The Sunday Times on March 25 suggests that “Israel is using a permanent base in Iraqi Kurdistan to launch cross-border intelligence missions in an attempt to find ‘smoking gun’ evidence that Iran is building a nuclear warhead.” (Israeli spies scour Iran in nuclear hunt, The Sunday Times, March 25, 2012)

    Western sources told the Times Israel was monitoring “radioactivity and magnitude of explosives tests” and that “special forces used Black Hawk helicopters to carry commandos disguised as members of the Iranian military and using Iranian military vehicles”. The sources believe “Iranians are trying to hide evidence of warhead tests in preparation for a possible IAEA visit”. (Cited in Report: Israeli soldiers scour Iran for nukes, Ynet, March 25, 2012 )

    here’s the ynet link: link to

    the london times link is not available because of the firewall and that news was never published in the US msm. and i assume they mean Israeli “special forces used Black Hawk helicopters to carry commandos disguised as members of the Iranian military and using Iranian military vehicles”

  7. Annie Robbins
    April 15, 2012, 5:49 pm

    and then one last link from israel also from the 29th and also from link to

    Analysis: US thwarting Israeli strike on Iran

    Obama betraying Israel? US making deliberate effort to hinder Iran strike by leaking classified info, intelligence assessments, says Ron Ben-Yishai in special Ynet report

    so the accusation goes straight from israel to the The Republican Jewish Coalition in one day!

    but i must say i was very impressed by the number of leaks that came out between the 25th and the 28th. very impressive.

  8. Daniel Rich
    April 15, 2012, 7:39 pm

    Q: Democratic Jewish group

    R: in light of how things have been going lately, this phrase has become an oxymoron [with quite some sympathetic emphasis on the latter part of the word]

  9. DICKERSON3870
    April 15, 2012, 11:16 pm

    RE: “the more important development here is that Perry’s reporting is being unfairly attacked by a Democratic Party-linked group” ~ Alex Kane

    MY COMMENT: That’s why they call the period leading up to a major election in the U.S. “the silly season”!

  10. seniorpunk
    April 17, 2012, 6:15 pm

    It seems to me that if we are really concerned with peace in the area, the fact that Israel already has a large store of nuclear weapons is much more of a concern than whether Iran may have such weapons in a number of years. I actually hope the report concerning the Obama administration is true, it would indicate that they have not completely surrendered to Israel. Of course, I would like it much more if they had the balls simply to say no to Israel!