A Shia Muslim country that backs the US, opposes Iranian aggression, and is friends with Israel? Sounds like fiction. But welcome to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan-Ambassdor-mtg(Washington, D.C.) — In this crazy, chaotic world of ours, could there really be a Shia Muslim nation that strongly backs the U.S., opposes Iranian terrorism and regional aggression, and is not only a friend and ally of Israel but recently welcomed Israel’s Prime Minister for a state visit?

Sounds like fiction, I know. But it really exists — Azerbaijan.

Yesterday, I had the honor of a two-hour meeting with Ambassador Elin Sulaymanov at Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Washington. While our conversation was off the record, it was certainly fascinating. I gave the Ambassador an advance copy of WITHOUT WARNING, and he invited me to visit Baku.

Some facts about the country:

  • 9.8 million people
  • 97% Shia Muslim, 3% Christian, but with a fairly secular government
  • “Oil-rich Azerbaijan has redefined itself over the past two decades from a struggling newly independent state to a major regional energy player,” notes the BBC.
  • A former Soviet republic which became independent on August 30, 1991, just before the formal dissolution of the USSR
  • Located in a tough neighborhood, with Russian President Vladimir Putin to the north, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the south, and Armenia to the west which wrested control of some 20% of Azerbaijan (the Nagorno-Karabakh region) after a period of war and separatist uprisings during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Criticized by some internationally for an authoritarian government
  • Working closely with the U.S. and the West on regional energy and security issues

Some articles worth reading about the country:

Azerbaijan-map

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