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      Azerbaijan Hosts Jennifer Lopez - and More; Iran Grits its Teeth

      Azerbaijan's love for Western culture is salt in the wounds of Iran's sanction-plagued Islamist culture.
      By Scott Krane
      First Publish: 10/16/2012, 8:47 PM

      Inaugurating Chabad Ohr Avner in Azerbaijan, north of I
      Inaugurating Chabad Ohr Avner in Azerbaijan, north of I
      courtesy of Chabad.org

      Last month, a crowd of 30,000 in Azerbaijan crammed into a space near ancient Zoroastrian ruins – consisting of a stage on the edge of the Caspian Sea – to watch an armada of jets from California, pyrotechnics and sequin constumes.

      “Hello lovers!” shouted Jennifer Lopez, the American pop diva as she began her performance at Crystal Hall in Baku. The American concert in the Shiite-dominated country of 9 million was all but meant to irritate the neighbors in the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to an article in Monday’s Washington Post.

      Azerbaijan is soaking up the economic boom and cultural liberties that result from sanctions-and-soft-war-plagued Iran that can only watch and grit its teeth. New pipelines connect Europe with Azerbaijan’s rich petroleum fields on the Caspian Sea.

      A former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Matthew Bryza told the Washington Post, “It is one of the most serious threats to the long-term viability of the Iranian regime.” he said. “Every day that Azerbaijan grows stronger economically and more connected to the Euro-Atlantic community – that’s another day in which the Iranian regime grows weaker.”

      Israel has been strenghening relations with Azerbaijan. Trade between the two countries reached $4 b.this year and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Baku in April.

      The American performer, Rihanna, came to the country after J-Lo’s September performance, only to be followed by the Latin America Shakira.

      What else? Baku  hosted the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament this year and the country has been elected to host this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

      And Chabad has a strong presence there.

      In February, Azerbajain foiled an Iranian plot to murder Israeli diplomats and Jewish educators in Baku.