In my opinion, behind the Nagorno Karabakh war of 2020 is the NewAbwehr – Germany, pursuing their old and also World War 2 goals of conquering Transcaucasia, next after Ukraine; by strategically fostering and invisibly managing this conflict through their unwitting puppets: Israel, Turkey, Russia, and TOC – Transnational Organized Crime which is the Russian-Jewish-Azeri Mob.
The most intriguing aspect of this affair which appears to have been planned well (years) in advance and very carefully, is its connection with the Trump Presidency. They appear to the parts of the same package performed by the same actors and in the same style. It is worthwhile to look into this hypothesis further.
On the last weekend of September, one of the world’s frozen conflicts heated up. Armenia and Azerbaijan, two small nations in the Caucasus Mountains on the southeast frontier of Europe, accused each other of shelling around the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Officially part of Azerbaijan on the map, Nagorno-Karabakh is de facto controlled by Armenian forces, following a bitter war in the 1990s. In the last week, 220 people have died and conflicts have spread to the major cities in the region.
It’s hard to remember a time when the two neighbors, both former members of the Soviet Union, weren’t full of mutual hatred and distrust. But in 1993, an unexpected event briefly brought them together.
Rafael Baghdasaryan was born on Feb. 10, 1930, in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. As a boy, he admired the hoodlums and ruffians he saw on the streets. He began stealing at age 11 and before long started skipping school. By 14, he’d run away from home and been crowned a “thief-in-law,” one of the youngest to earn the title.
A thief-in-law, or a vor-v-zakone, is the Russian mafia’s equivalent to a “made man.” A vor is a highly respected figure in the criminal underworld that emerged from Stalin’s gulags, abiding by a set of rules and principles known as the thieves’ code, which strictly prohibits cooperating with the authorities. While hardly progressive — the thieves’ ideology, such as it is, is famously apolitical and misogynistic — the underworld was inclusive: Almost all nationalities of the USSR were represented. In the early days, there was a strong Jewish influence, and much of the underworld’s slang is borrowed from Yiddish.
Baghdasaryan, going by the nickname Svo Raf, would spend 34 years — more than half his life — behind bars for theft, robbery, hooliganism and drugs. The brief spells of freedom when he wasn’t incarcerated were spent plotting robberies. In 1971, he learned of a black market jeweler in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, who was an easy mark at a time when all private entrepreneurship was illegal under the laws of the USSR. Svo turned up with an associate dressed in police uniforms and confiscated 800,000 rubles’ worth of cash and jewels, then told the mark to report himself to the local authorities the next day.
“He really was one of the true, old-school vory-v-zakone, who clung to the traditional code of the underworld that dated back to its earlier days,” explains Mark Galeotti, author of The Vory, a book about the Russian mafia. “After the 1940s and 1950s, the rules were relaxed to allow some cooperation with the authorities, especially corrupt figures within it. Svo stuck to the old taboo against even the most token such actions, even if it meant he spent longer in prison and missed out on the lucrative opportunities to be had in black marketeering with corrupt Party officials.”
By the late ’80s, the Soviet dream of a brotherhood of nations was coming apart. The USSR split its territories seemingly arbitrarily. Nagorno-Karabakh was mainly populated by Armenians, but assigned to Azerbaijan. In 1988, protests over the status of the territory escalated to bloody anti-Armenian rioting in Azeri cities. After independence in 1991, the fighting became a full-scale war. In 1992, Armenian forces entered the town of Khojaly and slaughtered hundreds of Azeri civilians, including women and children. The remaining Azeris, around a quarter of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, fled the region.
Weapons were being sent from the Tula armaments factory in Moscow to Azerbaijan. According to one conspirator, on a foggy night after the weapons had been loaded onto trucks, a group of men overpowered the shipment’s guards, who were gagged, bundled into a car and driven to a country house outside Moscow. After the weapons arrived at their destination in Armenia, the guards were set free.
In December 1992, Svo had just returned from a “business trip” in Germany when his room at Moscow’s Hotel Minsk was raided. He was found in the company of his faithful Azeri henchman Fikret Magerramov and an American-made Ingram submachine gun, complete with a silencer. Svo was taken to Lefortovo Prison, where German investigators questioned him about a series of murders — and where, the following June, he died in the prison hospital. His relatives still insist the autopsy was botched to conceal what they believe was his murder.
Svo’s body was flown to Yerevan, where he was buried on June 27, 1993. Hundreds of underworld figures from across the former Soviet empire attended the funeral, including four crime bosses from Azerbaijan. For the first (and only) time in the ’90s, a flight took off from Baku to Yerevan, carrying a delegation of Azeri mobsters to pay their respects. Svo had built a reputation of living up to the ideals of a vor, never giving in to the authorities, even when it meant extra jail time, and was given his due respect by crooks of all backgrounds.
Thanks to financial difficulties and the war with Azerbaijan, Yerevan was experiencing serious power outages, with only two hours of electricity per day. But the mafiosi arranged for gas and electricity to be switched on for three days to facilitate the funeral. When they left, the city plunged back into darkness.
“If it is an urban legend, it’s a phenomenally widespread one, as I’ve heard it repeated several times, and never seen any rebuttals. As I understand it, the fuel oil for power was indeed arranged by both Armenian and Azeri criminals as their parting gift to him,” says Galeotti. “He was indeed a criminal legend, and even today’s vory-v-zakone — whom he would probably regard with contempt as a pallid, weak caricature of the figures of his generation — talk about him as such.”
The bloody six-week war waged for Nagorno-Karabakh has ended with a stark defeat for Armenia and a clear triumph for Azerbaijan. It ushers in a reshaping of influence in the South Caucasus and raises questions as to what Russia, Turkey, Iran and, to an extent, Georgia, stand to win or lose from the outcome.
Is Russia the major winner here?
Some observers feel that the Kremlin had a game plan all along and that everything has turned out much as it intended. Russia has a security pact with Armenia—though admittedly it does not extend to protecting self-proclaimed republic Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan despite nearly three decades of ethnic Armenian control—and analysts were curious as to why Moscow never looked like coming to the small, impoverished nation’s assistance against the technologically much superior armed forces of hydrocarbon-rich Azerbaijan. Russia also has amicable relations with Baku and if it had truly set its face against Azerbaijan’s military plans it could very likely have forestalled them.
Moscow also stood by while Turkey, entering a region that Russia quite clearly regards as its own backyard on its southern flank, took an obvious role in the conflict. Armenia claims this extended to providing military advisers that devised and ran the campaign, deploying many Syrian militia mercenaries and backing the offensive with great numbers of armed drones and even F-16 fighter jets (all of this is denied by Turkey, but it was bellicose in its backing for Baku and made it clear all along that a simple request from Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev would be enough for it to send Turkish troops to the theatre of war).
Now the fighting is over, however, Russia will attempt to keep Turkey’s new presence in the South Caucasus heavily curtailed. Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved a more than two decades-old Russian ambition of inserting Russian peacekeepers into Nagorno-Karabakh on a renewable five-year basis. Turkish troops will be limited to helping run a ceasefire monitoring centre to be set up outside the mountainous enclave. By moving to broker an end to the war when he did, Putin prevented a full Turkish-backed Azerbaijani takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh which the Armenians said was just days away (though Putin possibly had a deal with Baku and Ankara for only a partial conquering of the territory by Azerbaijan all along). Turkey is also not a signatory to the peace deal, thus once more its influence is not recognised as anything but limited .
“Today’s [November 10] deal [to end the conflict] … in many ways addresses core Russian interests in the conflict, and is perhaps the best outcome (at least in short term) Moscow could get,” according to Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.
“Russia has put its 2,000 peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh—something that Moscow wanted to do back in 1994 [after the end of the six-year war that left the ethnic Armenians in control of the enclave], but was unable to. There will be no Turkish armed peacekeepers, which is very important for Moscow.”
“Russia did well in this,” Matthew Bryza, a former co-chair of the Minsk Group—a long-standing diplomatic effort to resolve the claims on Nagorno-Karabakh co-chaired by Russia, the US and France, which has now been sidelined in irrelevance by events—was quoted as saying by RFE/RL. “Putin has dominated. He’s the kingmaker in the situation.”
Is the outcome really such a big success for Putin?
Moscow may have been savouring what it was presenting as a diplomatic coup, but Mark Galeotti, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the ceasefire deal flattered to deceive.
“This is managing decline, a Russia that in regional terms is strong in capacities, weak in will, trying to make the best of a situation, and in the process disappointing its allies and doing nothing to deter its challengers,” he wrote in a Moscow Times opinion piece.
He added that maintaining the peace deal would be “an additional burden on its military and treasury. It does bake a role for itself into the geopolitics of the region, to be sure, but this was a part of the world in which it was already meant to be dominant?”
“When you have to escalate your commitment to retain your position, that does not seem a sign of progress so much as laboring to hold back decline,” Galeotti also noted.
Carey Cavanaugh, a former US diplomat who helped organise the 2001 talks in Key West, Florida, where the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents came close to reaching a resolution, told RFE/RL the deal was a clear victory for Azerbaijan, given its military gains. He disagreed that Russia was a clear winner, suggesting that Moscow was forced by the circumstances to find a way to avert a major escalation.
Moscow, he said, faced the danger of a continued fight by Azerbaijan, which could have sparked desperate military acts—for example, an Armenian missile attack on Baku, or targeting the Caspian-to-Mediterranean oil pipeline—that would then have sucked Russia and Turkey into a deeper conflict.
The deal was a way “to staunch the bloodletting,” he said. “They had to stop it from going any further, over the precipice, where it would have been ‘desperate-times-call-for-desperate measures’.”
As things stood before the conflict erupted on September 27.
What level of influence can the Western powers still exert in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute?
As things now stand, almost none. The Minsk Group for mediation, which involved France and the US, played no role in resolving the war. Donald Trump showed almost zero interest in the conflict. Paris, which almost every week returns to its war of words with Turkey over Ankara’s aggressive foreign policy, was clearly frustrated that Armenia—with which France has been enjoying increasingly cordial relations given the substantial ethnic Armenian minority in France and Armenia’s spring 2018 Velvet Revolution which brought about more cultural and political exchanges between Armenia and Western Europe—was getting outgunned on the battlefield, very much thanks to Turkish guns, but was constrained in what it could do given that Russia is Armenia’s strategic partner and the South Caucasus is an historic sphere of influence for Moscow.
Whether Joe Biden, when he takes over as US president on January 20, will want to, or be able to, get his foot in the door to introduce new US influence as regards Nagorno-Karabakh remains to be seen.
The lack of engagement by Trump in the events that have played out may also have damaged Georgia in that the West’s level of influence when it comes to its Russian-occupied territories and its ambition to join Nato may have been degraded.
Azerbaijan state propaganda video glorifying the successes of armed drones in the conflict. The consensus of defence analysts is, however, that the drones gave Azerbaijan a ‘magic bullet’ advantage that led to the annihilation of many Armenian military assets.
How much of Nagorno-Karabakh has Azerbaijan regained?
The deal consolidates major battlefield gains by Azerbaijan’s forces and will leave Baku in control of about 40% of Nagorno-Karabakh itself, as well as nearly all of the surrounding occupied territories long held by Armenian forces.
Before the conflict, Armenian-backed forces controlled the whole of Nagorno-Karabakh, plus parts of the seven surrounding districts. Collectively, these territories amounted to around 13% of Azerbaijan.
Will Iran be content with how the war has been resolved?
Around one-fifth of Iran’s population of 84mn are Iranian-Azerbaijani. And many were growing rather restive during some moments of the conflict, alleging that Tehran was on the side of Armenia, particularly given that, if their claims were correct, Iran was allowing Russian weapons and supplies to pass into Armenia via its territory. Given that these frustrations now no longer threaten to boil over, Iran will feel some relief.
Iran, given its dire economic situation under heavy US sanctions, can ill afford to fall out with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia or Turkey, trading partners one and all. It is also one year into a temporary two-year preferential trade agreement with the Moscow-led European Economic Union (EEU), which groups Russia, Armenia, Belarus and Turkic nations Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
What is the final death toll from this conflict?
It is too early to say. Both sides have been less than transparent as to their losses, with Azerbaijan not even announcing any military casualty figures at all. The fighting appeared brutal at times, with indiscriminate shelling of civilians in both Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Two weeks ago, Russia estimated 5,000 dead. It would not be a surprise if the final grim tally is far higher than that, with hundreds of civilians dead.
There is also the question of how many of the around 100,000 ethnic Armenians who were displaced by the war will want to, and will be able to, return to their homes.
The future for Stepanakert looks dim, Laurence Broers, the Caucasus programme director at Conciliation Resources, a peace-building group, was cited as saying by the Guardian, adding that “maybe the calculation is that it’s going to be such an awful place to live that most of the Armenian population—most of whom have already left—won’t come back”.
The ethnic Armenian population of the territory stood at around 150,000 before hostilities broke out.
France 24 English reported that Armenian PM Pashinian is seen as having misled Armenians for six weeks over how badly the conflict was going for their country.
Can Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian survive this surrender?
Pashinian called the decision to sign the truce “inexpressibly painful”. He said he only did so after “an in-depth analysis of the military situation” by his armed forces, a day after Azerbaijani forces seized the fortress city of Shushi, known as Susa in Azerbaijani.
“This is not a victory, but there will be no defeat until you admit you are defeated,” Pashinian said. “We will never admit that we are defeated and this should be the beginning of our period of national unity and revival.”
Moments after the agreement to end the war was announced, angry crowds began searching for Pashinian around Yerevan. He was forced to issue a statement denying he had fled the country.
There is a school of thought that Moscow would be only too pleased to see the end of Pashinian’s political career. Since he took office, though he has been careful to praise the Russian-Armenian strategic relationship as inviolable, he has instructed his government to make good on its anti-corruption and anti-cronyism promises, and that has often involved pursuing oligarchs and politicians of the old power structure that had close links to Russia. Pashinian has also been building up links with the EU, European institutions and the US and the Armenian diaspora, particularly in the US and France. All of this is no doubt viewed by Moscow with suspicion.
Hasn’t Pashinian rather overplayed his hand as regards Nagorno-Karabakh since coming to power, particularly given Armenia’s increasing military inferiority to Azerbaijan as a consequence of the latter’s rising defence spending?
Well-known commentator on Caucasus affairs Thomas de Waal, a scholar at the Carnegie Europe think tank, has said that Pashinian was foolish in visiting Nagorno-Karabakh and making speeches to crowds about ‘Greater Armenia’.
Moscow-based Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow and chair of the Russia in Asia-Pacific Programme at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said in a Twitter thread: “By Moscow’s assessment, @NikolPashinyan‘s way of handling the conflict and relations with Baku have been extremely risky since 2018, leaving Russia with increasingly fewer options to prevent a military scenario. As the war resumed, it had left Moscow with few good options.”
Gabuev also noted the “very complicated relationship with Turkey that matters much for Moscow’s broader game in the Middle East and Northern Africa”. In such a context, Yerevan’s standing was diminished.
Did Armenia ever stand much of a chance of winning this conflict?
Azerbaijan is far superior to Armenia in terms of its defence budget and number of military personnel, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In 2019, Baku had a defence budget of $1.8bn and a 60,000-strong army. Armenia’s defence budget extended to $644mn and 44,000 troops.
Baku prepared for the war by buying extensive amounts of Turkish and Israeli military hardware.
And, when war broke out, the Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh forces appeared to be in a wretched condition. Karabakh Armenian leader Haraik Harutyunan, in explaining to hetq.am why the Armenian side basically capitulated, said that predecessors were guilty of failures, observing: “The moral-psychological condition of the army was extremely poor, there were illnesses (coronavirus, haemorrhoids, dysentery), we were unable to rotate troops, treat the sick. Nonetheless our armed forces were able to resist for 43 days.”
Is it possible to get a detailed assessment of the losses in terms of equipment and men suffered by both sides?
Al-Monitor referred to local news reports as stating that the Armenian military has lost about 100 main battle tanks, some 50 armoured combat vehicles and personnel carriers, about 70 howitzers, 60 multiple launch rocket systems, about 20 air defence systems and more than 400 trucks since September 27.
The Azerbaijani forces, the reports indicate, have lost 20 tanks, about 10 howitzers and multiple launch rocket systems, nearly 50 trucks and about 20 drones. The figures, based on corroborative footage and photographs, suggest the Armenian army has seen the destruction of nearly 35% of its inventory in terms of tanks, artillery and trucks.
As for obtaining more information on the death toll, local sources put Armenia’s losses at up to 5,000, or around 10% its standing army. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, has lost about 1,200 men, but that’s according to official statements. As the war progressed, the Armenian side was claiming the Azerbaijani armed forces death toll was much higher.
Will Turkey and its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan be satisfied with the outcome?
Eurasia Group said Erdogan would probably not be too upset by the way things had turned out. “Turkey maintains some role, but it is clearly secondary to Russia’s,” it said in a research note. “Erdogan is likely fine with this. His military support for Azerbaijan made a big difference at relatively little cost to Turkey, and it granted Ankara a nationalist win and some leverage with Russia.”
Erdogan needs all the wins he can get right now with Turkey’s economy perched on the edge of precipice and a pervasive feeling among many Turks that it was his bungling that got it there.
A handy gain for Ankara is that the peace deal will open up a land corridor that runs from Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, which borders Turkey, through Armenia to Azerbaijan. That will have some economic significance—trade between Turkey and Azerbaijan presently often must go through Georgia. Plus it will fit in neatly with Erdogan’s ‘neo-Ottoman’ aspirations to rebuild the Turkic identity as a major power.
How extensive is the Russian peacekeeping force and when will it leave?
The Russian peacekeeping force comprises of 1,960 troops, 90 armoured vehicles, 380 other vehicles and special equipment. It is deploying along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory of 12,000 square kilometres, and along the so-called Lachin Corridor, the main road from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
It has a five-year mandate that is automatically renewable if neither side objects six months in advance.
In Nagorno-Karabakh, drones gave Azerbaijan huge advantage and showed future of warfare
Roots of War: When Armenia Talked Tough, Azerbaijan Took Action
The Realist Victory In Nagorno-Karabakh Analysis
In Nagorno-Karabakh, drones gave Azerbaijan huge advantage and showed future of warfare
News – Nagorno Karabakh: military analysis – Google Search
In Nagorno-Karabakh, drones gave Azerbaijan huge advantage and showed future of warfare – The Washington Post: Azerbaijan used its drone fleet purchased from #Israel and Turkey to stalk and destroy #Armenias weapons systems in Nagorno-Karabakh …
Nagorno-Karabakh: Russia deploys peacekeeping troops to region – BBC News <a href=”http://bbc.com” rel=”nofollow”>bbc.com</a>
ANALYSIS – Five key military takeaways from Azerbaijani-Armenian war
At Front Lines of Armenia-Azerbaijan Fighting, Death and Fear Reign – The New York Times <a href=”http://nytimes.com” rel=”nofollow”>nytimes.com</a>
The Realist Victory In Nagorno-Karabakh – Analysis -Eurasia Review
Nagorno Karabakh: Germany, Turkey, Israel – Google Search
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict highlights Israels strategic role in region <a href=”http://jewishinsider.com” rel=”nofollow”>jewishinsider.com</a>
Op-Ed: Does Armenia Pose a Threat to The State of Israel?
The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has been brewing for decades. Why is it taking so long to find a solution?
Ilias Uyar: The solution would be peace and security for the people in Nagorno-Karabakh. The international community and the OSCE Minsk Group haven’t done enough to achieve this in recent years.
The people in Nagorno-Karabakh are invoking their right to self-determination set out in Article 1 of the United Nations Charter; the territorial integrity claimed by Azerbaijan is based on a decision made by the dictator Stalin, who arbitrarily ceded Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan.
Precisely this major principle of international law, the right to self-determination, was answered by Azerbaijan in the late 80s with pogroms and repeated attacks and war.
Since then, the Republic of Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, has established itself as a democratic state. There are elections, there’s a party system, there are universities, schools, cultural institutions and those holding political responsibility are not related to one another. There’s no family clan ruling over everything. Azerbaijan is the total opposite.
Nevertheless, the sovereign status of Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognised under international law…
Uyar: All the prerequisites are there from a legal point of view, all that’s missing is the international political will. The recognition of this sovereignty is being torpedoed by the oil state of Azerbaijan with cash, lobby firms from Washington’s K Street and the famous caviar diplomacy.
We know from research by 15 international media companies within the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium that Azerbaijan has bribed deputies and manipulated decision-makers in the U.S., the EU and in Germany.
Successful mediation: the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to an end to all fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. The “total” ceasefire was mediated by Russian President Putin. The Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that after more than a month of bloodshed he had signed an agreement with Azerbaijan and Russia that was “unspeakably painful for me and for our people”. After a thorough analysis of the situation, he decided to end the conflict, said Pashinyan. There was immediate talk of capitulation in Armenia, which led to protests and riots in the capital Yerevan
Peace initiatives sidelined
In 2016, the former Armenian foreign minister Vartan Oskanian said in an interview: “The decider here will be overcoming the mentality of the state of war. Ultimately, I have faith in a reconciliation.” The Azerbaijani deputy Rasim Musabeyov issued a similar statement, saying: “I would like to believe that I will see peace with my own eyes.” If key actors on both sides are saying they want peace, why has the conflict been reignited now?
Uyar: This is essentially due to Turkish influence. Turkish President Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev are kindred spirits. They are not concerned with the well-being of their nations, what they care about is that their regimes retain power by any means necessary. Both nations are in an economically precarious situation, they hope that the war will weld them together on the domestic policy front.
The voices calling for peaceful solutions are being silenced in both countries. In Turkey, Erdogan has been persecuting and arresting members of the opposition for years; Aliyev is doing exactly the same. In Azerbaijan, Akram Aylisli, regarded there as a great writer for the people, has been subjected to a campaign of harassment; he was stripped of all his titles after he wrote a novel in 2012 that was critical of the pogroms against Armenians.
The human rights activist Giyas Ibrahimov spoke out publicly in favour of peace at the start of the conflict and then received a visit from the Azerbaijani police. Voices like this should be heeded, but that’s exactly what the Aliyev regime wants to prevent.
The OSCE Minsk Group has been trying to mediate in this conflict since 1992. Has this endeavour now failed?
Uyar: Three ceasefires were agreed at the instigation of France, the U.S. and Russia. But Azerbaijan has no interest in such a move. Following a meeting between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Geneva, (Swedish foreign minister at the time and head of an EU delegation) Carl Bildt tweeted: “Armenia wants a ceasefire, Azerbaijan wants victory.”
Peace isn’t an option for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s military budget is larger than the entire national budget of Armenia. Aliyev believes he can win with the support of Israeli and Turkish drones.
Israeli arms supplies to Azerbaijan
Why does Israel of all countries support such aggression?
Uyar: Israel says it is contractually obliged to Azerbaijan through weapons shipments. This is cynical. Israel is thereby squandering any moral claim. With Turkey, we’re dealing with the grandchildren of the perpetrators of the 1915 genocide, firing today on the grandchildren of the survivors of the genocide with Israeli weapons. Despite this ominous situation, Israel has ignored several demands to stop supplying this war with weapons. It really is unbelievable.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been at war again over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in the South Caucasus for over a month. Three ceasefires have failed. The conflict is taking its toll on civilians. Julia Hahn reports
What role does Turkey play as a close ally of Azerbaijan?
Uyar: Following clashes in the summer, Turkey despatched jets and high-ranking officers to Azerbaijan, arms sales have gone through the roof. The air space over Azerbaijan is monitored by Turkish officers, Turkey has sent allied jihadists from Syria to the region, who are now murdering in its name.
One captured jihadist stated that the fighters are being paid 100 dollars for the head of every dead Armenian. This makes Turkey, a NATO partner and EU accession candidate, an active party in an illegal war of aggression.
We’re hearing some new genocide rhetoric from Turkey, which to this day denies the 1915 Armenian genocide. In the summer, there could be no mistaking what Turkish President Erdogan meant when he spoke of “ending what our grandfathers began in the Caucasus”. It’s my impression that these threats aren’t really being taken seriously in the EU. How can this be interpreted?
Uyar: Both the EU and Germany are pretending they can’t see or hear anything. This appears to be a tradition in Germany when it comes to the existence of the Armenians; the silence reminds me of 1915. The government clearly has other interests. It probably wants to protect the refugee agreement with Turkey; also I assume it wants to avoid problems with sections of the Turkish community in Germany.
The German-Armenian lawyer Ilias Uyar lives in Cologne and is active in the civil society initiative “RECOGNITION NOW”, which was instrumental in the German parliament’s resolution to recognise the genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Pontus Greeks and also demands that the genocide of Armenians be taught in schools. He is also active in local politics in the Cologne CDU
The role of Germany’s Turkish community
In Germany too, the DITIB is drumming up support for the war – just as it did several times before when it took action against the Kurds…
Uyar: I don’t know what the DITIB is actually preaching in its mosques, but it’s known that they preached in favour of the war when Turkey invaded Syria. DITIB mosque congregations post war propaganda related to the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in social networks, while the Armenian church in Germany holds prayers for peace.
When the German government remains silent over this, it is playing into the hands of nationalists and agitators. They perceive this as an encouragement to continue. The German government shares some of the responsibility should the situation escalate. It is cynical, if DITIB congregations receive political support as co-operation partners for integration and anti-racism projects. Why, in this country, is financial support being given to Turkish organisations and associations that deny the Armenian genocide?
The French government has responded with a ban on the right-wing extremist Grey Wolves organisation, following violence against Armenians in France. Would this also be an option for Germany?
Uyar: This is a necessary measure and long overdue, particularly as intelligence agencies have had their eye on the Grey Wolves for some time already. Turkish and Azerbaijani extremists carried out attacks on Armenian shops in Germany this summer. I referred to this threat already back in early October at the federal press conference. We shouldn’t be waiting until the same thing that happened in France also happens here. The German government must abandon its course of inaction, and in doing so it should make no distinction between German, Turkish and other right-wing extremists. The Grey Wolves organisation should be banned.
The peace process has barely made any progress since the 1990s. Is finding a solution still possible at all? What does the future hold for the region, do you think?
Uyar: I very much hope that peace can be established because that is the only realistic option. I’m working to achieve this every day. The Armenians have lived in Nagorno-Karabakh for millennia and will also continue to defend themselves against aggressions. But I’m pessimistic. Because on an international level, the Armenians with their peace efforts aren’t listened to, only the aggressor with the cash and the oil.
Interview conducted by Gerrit Wustmann
© Qantara.de 2020
Translated from the German by Nina Coon
In recent days, Advisor to the Chief of the Armenian Army General Staff Vladimir Pogosyan compared Israel to Nazi Germany and threatened: “We will not forgive anyone, and we will not forget whose hands are covered in Armenian blood. The day will come, and we will take revenge. Israel, Turkey, and other countries built the Azerbaijani army. And what did they achieve by that? We will win! Have no doubt about it.”
Considering these recent statements, can the Jewish people expect Armenians to attack Jewish people? It is hard to know. However, what we do know is that is better to play it safe and take the threat seriously, if history has taught us anything. According to the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), in 2019, Fathi Hammad, a member of the Hamas Politburo, urged members of the Palestinian diaspora to kill Jews around the world. Hammad said: “You have Jews everywhere and we must attack every Jew on the globe by way of slaughter and killing if God permits.”
About a year later, five synagogues and three Jewish schools were attacked in Los Angeles as rioters shouted “effing Jews” during the Black Lives Matter protests in the city. One of the synagogues had graffiti sprayed on it that read “f_ck Israel” and “Free Palestine.” There were PLO flags spotted in the background and some of the onlookers claimed that the assailants were Palestinian. Did Hamas order this attack upon the Los Angeles Jewish community? There is no proof of that, yet there is a great chance that the incitement emanating from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority towards the Palestinian Diaspora did likely influence it. This means that if the Armenian government incites against Israel, it can potentially have a similar reaction among the Armenian Diaspora.
In recent days, the Armenian National Assembly of America in accordance with government policy issued from Yerevan issued a press release, where they utilized highly divisive religious rhetoric to incite US President-Elect Joe Biden against Azerbaijan. They portrayed the Nagorno-Karabakh as a struggle between “Christian Armenia” and “vulnerable Christian communities” against “Turkish jihadists.” Similarly, the Armenian National Committee of America after praising the election of President-Elect Biden called for him to end all military assistance to Azerbaijan, a strong US ally, yet to back the independence of Artsakh and assist Armenia, who is a proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They issued this statement right before the peace agreement was reached between these two sides, yet to date have not retracted this statement.
Similarly, a program called Birthright Armenia has been instrumental in bringing Armenian Diaspora youth to Armenia in order to get immersed into the society and its culture doing internship programs, where some of them are indoctrinated into settling in Nagorno-Karabakh as settlers and even joining the Armenian military. In other words, these Armenian Diaspora groups actively violated the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which bars settlers the right to relocate into territories where the original inhabitants were ethnically cleansed. In the 1990’s, one million Azerbaijanis were forced to flee Nagorno-Karabakh, yet Diaspora Armenians were encouraged to settle in areas that used to be their home.
During the conflict, Birthright Armenia partnered with the Armenian Wounded Heroes Fund to raise $100,000 for Armenian soldiers by November 24. In fact, even some Armenian churches, such as the St. Vartan Apostolic Church, called upon their congregants to work “for the defense of Armenia and Artsakh” by raising funds to support the Armenian military forces.
As the St. Vartan Apostolic Church stated in a recent Facebook post right before the peace agreement: “The Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee are urging Congress and the Administration to condemn the Azeri aggression and demand its immediate cessation; to end U.S. financial aid to Azerbaijan; to rein in Turkey from its military support of Azerbaijan; and the recognize Artsakh’s right of self-determination. Armenia’s government is looking to the diaspora for financial as well as moral support. At the behest of the Armenian government, the Eastern Diocese is directing contributions to the Armenia Fund. Donations can be made directly to Armenia Fund, on its secure website.”
Such activities that the Armenian Church, Birthright Armenia, the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian National Assembly of America are engaged in do nothing more than assist Armenia, who during the conflict wantonly targeted civilian population centers in Azerbaijan and utilized cluster munitions against innocent people. Baku reported 93 civilian deaths and 407 injured since the fighting erupted on September 27 till the signing of the peace agreement. Some 504 civilian facilities, 3,326 private homes and 120 apartment buildings were also damaged by Armenian artillery and missile fire. When members of the Armenian Diaspora raised funds for the defense of Armenia and Artsakh, their money does nothing more than encourage war crimes and crimes against humanity against Azerbaijan civilians.
Sadly, the Armenian Church and these Armenian lobbying groups have great influence over the hearts and minds of many Armenian Americans. “In a city like LA … you have Armenian schools, Armenian businesses, Armenian churches,” Alex Galitsky from the LA-based Armenian National Committee of America’s western region told the Guardian. “Someone could grow up living in LA and never be exposed to anything other than Armenian culture.” Thus, if these lobbying groups with the backing of the Armenian Church and the Armenian government incite hatred, then many members of the Armenian Diaspora will follow their lead.
It appears that already it has been proven that such divisive rhetoric does nothing but encourage hate crimes. On the eve of July 2020, thousands of Armenian nationalists were marching to storm the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles and attacked Azerbaijanis who were peacefully protesting Armenia’s recent provocation. Seven Azerbaijanis were injured in the attack and four of them have been hospitalized, while a Los Angeles police officer suffered a head injury. Afterwards, Some American Armenians in California shared life-threatening messages on social network against Azerbaijanis living in LA and surroundings.
On July 22, in the result of Armenians attacks, Azerbaijani embassy building in Brussels was damaged, several Azerbaijanis including the correspondent of the European Bureau of Azerbaijan-based REAL TV were seriously wounded. Then, a group of several Armenians also attacked a young Azerbaijani, beating him and filming it on camera. On July 24, Belgian law enforcement agencies detained 17 Armenians who attacked the Azerbaijanis in Belgium. During July, Armenian protestors carrying ASALA signs attacked diplomats and civilians in Europe and beat peaceful Azerbaijani protestors in London.
There were also some incidents in France, Netherlands, Ukraine and Canada where Azerbaijanis were assaulted because of their ethnic origins and in some cities of Europe, Azerbaijani embassies was subject to attack and were damaged.
Nowadays, Armenian diaspora organize some protests against Azerbaijan in some countries which cause much turmoil to the local authorities and population. Within the last 10 days, the Armenian diaspora have already assaulted Azerbaijani embassies in some European countries. But, there is no such incident caused by Azerbaijani diaspora.
In October 2020, Armenian rioters vandalized a Turkish restaurant in California while chanting that they “wanted Turks to die” and that they are here “to kill Turks.” According to the Los Angeles Times, between six to eight Armenians completely vandalized Café Istanbul, throwing chairs, breaking dishes and they also assaulted the waiters. On November 7, Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Ukraine’s Kharkiv came under an attack by Armenian gunmen. The Armenians opened fire at the consulate building. As a result, the building’s entrance door and windows were broken. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the firing on the building of Azerbaijan’s Honorary Consulate in Kharkov.
Thus, if the Armenian government decides to incite against Israel to the same level, it could also lead to the same thing happening to us, if it is done with the same tenacity and passion at which they incite against Turks and Azerbaijanis
Fern Sidman of The Jewish Voice in New York wrote an article titled “Armenian antisemitism rears its ugly head again” that “Armenia is cited as the least tolerant toward Jews among 18 countries in Central and Eastern Europe in data published by the Pew Research Center. Fully 32% of the Armenian respondents surveyed said they would not even accept Jews as fellow citizens. That figure is jarring, but actually, not surprising.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Index of Antisemitism, Armenia is the most saturated with antisemitism among the post-Soviet countries, with anti-Jewish sentiments shared by 58% of its population. “The typical official response to antisemitism in Armenia is to deny its existence,” Sidman wrote. The Holocaust memorial in Armenia’s capital of Yerevan was vandalized multiple times in 2004 and 2005, but police reportedly concluded that the monument “had just fallen on its own,” and no officials publicly condemned the incidents.
It is important to note that the closest ally of Armenia in today’s conflict is Iran, a country that openly declares its desire to destroy the Jewish state, and which is a major sponsor of world terrorism. More than that, American Rabbi Israel Baruk wrote about the coordinated action of the Armenian student organizations in the US to advance in various universities the BDS Movement.
“Violent prejudice against Jews and deeply antisemitic action in Armenia is a long-term crisis, despite an absolute lack of public awareness to this fact, particularly in the US,” Baruk wrote in the Times of Israel. “It is practically unknown to most that Armenian antisemitism played a weighty role in Hitler’s ‘Final Solution,’ specifically when 20,000 Armenian Nazi collaborators lent a hand by rounding up Jews and other ‘undesirables’ behind the German Army.”
The leaders of those collaborators were Gen. Dro and Gen. Njdeh, both of whom are hailed as national heroes in Armenia today. Moreover, in the 1930s, the Armenian-American media outlets, such as Hairenik, gave its full propaganda support to Hitler, calling Jews ‘poisonous elements,’ justifying the Holocaust and naming it a necessary ‘surgical operation.’ In the center of Yerevan, a monument now stands to Nzhdeh, who is considered a national hero. “The numbers don’t lie,” concludes Sidman. “Armenian antisemitism is a serious problem, and the issue must not be denied, whitewashed or ignored.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of JerusalemOnline.
A bloody six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region came to an end Tuesday with a deal brokered by the Russian government, which deployed its own peacekeepers and transferred control of much of the territory to Azerbaijan.
The brief conflict highlighted the significant, if below-the-radar, role Israel plays in Azerbaijan’s military policy, and strained the Armenian-Israeli relationship to such a degree that Armenia recalled its ambassador to Israel.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus nations over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has been ongoing for decades. The territory is primarily populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, but is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. In the most recent conflict, Azerbaijan reclaimed territory that was internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but had been controlled by Armenia since the early 1990s.
Svante Cornell, director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy, told Jewish Insider that the latest fighting came from the confluence of multiple factors, including Azeri frustration with a lack of progress in negotiations, increased Turkish backing for Azerbaijan and new Armenian leadership, which pulled out of peace talks.
Speaking to JI in the weeks before the peace agreement, both Azerbaijan and Armenia’s ambassadors to the United States blamed the other country for the conflict.
“At no point has Azerbaijan attacked Armenia. We have never crossed anybody’s borders. This is all within Azerbaijani internationally recognized territory,” Azerbaijani Ambassador Elin Suleymanov told JI in late October. “We’re doing self-defense, we’re not attacking anybody.”
Suleymanov accused Armenia of targeting civilians with military weapons, an allegation supported by a recent Human Rights Watch report.
“Nagorno-Karabah has been attacked and is subject to aggression by Azerbaijan, Turkey and jihadist terrorists,” Armenian Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan told JI in early November, adding that Azerbaijan’s actions amounted to “state-sponsored terrorism.”
Suleymanov denied media reports that Azerbaijan deployed Syrian mercenaries or that the Turkish military was directly involved in the conflict.
Israel is one of Azerbaijan’s three most consistent allies, alongside Turkey and Pakistan, and consequently played an outsized role in the conflict.
The relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan traces back to the once-close alliance between Turkey and Israel, according to Cornell, and has persisted despite the breakdown of ties between Ankara and Jerusalem. Azerbaijan is also a major oil supplier for the Jewish state.
Armenia, meanwhile, receives support from Russia and Iran, the latter of which it shares a border with.
Israel sees Azerbaijan as an important ally because it is a non-Arab, secular Muslim country with a largely-positive relationship with the Jewish community, Cornell told JI.
Suleymanov echoed that sentiment. “[The relationship is] based on several things. One, the most important thing, is of course the relationship between Azerbaijan and the Jewish people. Azerbaijan has one of the largest Jewish communities in the Muslim world,” the ambassador said.
The Jewish presence in present-day Azerbaijan extends back to the 7th century, and Jews have played significant roles in the country’s military history and government.
“There’s this unique experience which precedes the independence of both the State of Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan,” Suleymanov continued.
In a press briefing on Nov. 6, U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr praised Azerbaijan’s relationship with its Jewish community.
“I have publicly said this and I’ll say it again: Azerbaijan is in so many ways a model of interethnic and interfaith not only tolerance but true affection – true affection between its Muslim majority and its Christian community and its Jewish community,” he said.
While Turkey is Azerbaijan’s top supplier of military equipment, Azerbaijan also purchases some weapons from Israel, including the Harop “suicide drones” — unmanned aerial vehicles packing a warhead that can be used as a bomb or missile — that Azerbaijan used in the most recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Harop is a more versatile weapon than a standard missile because it can remain airborne until a target is identified, or return to base and be re-used later if a target cannot be found, Sebastien Roblin, a freelance journalist specializing in international security, told JI. It can also pack a larger payload than a standalone missile launched from a drone, enabling it to destroy larger targets, he explained.
Roblin said that Azeri forces used dozens of the drones during the latest conflict, particularly to target tanks and air defenses.
Azerbaijan has also been using other types of Israeli-manufactured weaponry.
“The unmanned systems are the ones that are sort of driving the shape of the current conflict, that and artillery, rockets.” Roblin said. “In both cases, Israel has contributed to Azerbaijan’s technical edge and its ability to change the balance of power in that conflict.”
But, he added, Turkish intervention likely played a more significant role.
Suleymanov described the defense relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan as “super exaggerated” but claimed that high-tech precision weaponry allowed Azerbaijan to avoid killing Armenian civilians.
“What we do with precision military targets and having a superior technology, including the precision technology, allows us to save lives, because that brings collateral civilian damage and death to [a] minimum,” he argued.
Armenia withdrew its ambassador from Israel in early October in protest of the arms sales. Nersesyan added that the weapons have destroyed civilian targets as well as military ones. He told JI the drones, including the Harop, “make a difference in the battlefield.”
“We have been asking the Israeli side not to sell these deadly weapons to Azerbaijan or to consider stopping them, because Armenian and Jewish people… know what is the impact of the persecution, of genocide and of the determination of certain other sides to exterminate our nations,” Nersesyan said.
In Los Angeles, which has one of the largest Armenian expat populations in the world, members of the community staged a protest outside the Israeli consulate last month, with at least one protester holding a sign saying that “Israel is complicit in war crimes and genocide” and “You are not any better than the Nazi Germany!”
During the latest conflict, U.S. lawmakers have largely sided with Armenia, with circulating Senate resolutions calling for investigations into Azerbaijan and Turkey’s actions in the conflict — including whether Turkey used U.S.-built F-16 fighter jets to commit human rights violations. Other resolutions call for an end to those two countries’ military actions and international recognition for the Republic of Artsakh.
None of the resolutions address Israel’s role in providing military support to Azerbaijan. JI contacted more than 20 of the sponsors and cosponsors of the resolutions to ask about Israel’s role in the conflict. None provided comment.
In remarks in the House on Oct. 23, before the peace deal was signed, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who co-sponsored a resolution calling for international recognition for Artsakh, accused Azerbaijan and Turkey of possible war crimes.
“The Armenian people are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the genocide perpetrated a century ago by the Ottoman Empire, and the words and deeds of Erdogan and Aliyev today call to mind the crimes of 100 years ago,” said Schiff, who represents the district with the largest Armenian population in the country. “If they persist in this violence, we must recognize the Republic of Artsakh as an independent nation. Doing so would send the strongest possible message that we will not allow border disputes to be settled by the indiscriminate and devastating use of force against civilian populations.”
By Maximilian Hess*
(FPRI) — Armenia’s accession to a Russian-mediated settlement with Azerbaijan over their long-running conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh to Armenians, on November 10 marks a major, perhaps irreversible, loss for Yerevan. But it is not just Armenian forces who stand defeated. It also marks the trouncing of a liberal approach to the region and the supremacy of realist power politics.
In mid-September, Yerevan held significant de jure Azeri territory outside the borders of the Soviet-era Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO)—today, it is at the mercy of Russian peacekeeping forces to maintain control of a rump Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia moved to agree to the terms after the symbolically and strategically significant citadel city of Shushi (Shusha in Azeri) was seized by Azeri forces. Under the deal, Azerbaijan will retain Shushi, granting them control of the heights over Armenian-controlled Stepanakert, as well as its other territory gains in the recent fighting. Furthermore, Armenian forces also have to evacuate from crucial districts outside the NKAO that the country has held since 1994, and access to the Armenian mainland will only be possible through a five-kilometer-wide corridor overseen by Russian troops.
Though many other details of the settlement remain murky and undefined, including to what extent Armenian forces can stay in the remaining territory, there are additional losses for Yerevan.
A sense of dread and encirclement could follow if Azeri President Ilham Aliyev follows through on his comments to allow Turkish troops to deploy to the area, amid already significant fears of renewed ethnic cleansing of Armenians in territory being returned to Azerbaijan. Finally, there is genuine fear that the democratic government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan may not survive the capitulation—the announcement led to such an outpouring of anger that Armenians stormed the national assembly and assaulted parliamentary speaker and longtime Pashinyan ally Ararat Mirzoyan.
The second Karabakh war, however, does not just represent an Armenian defeat. It is proof that the liberal international order is completely absent from the South Caucasus, and unlikely to return anytime soon.
Pashinyan’s surrender has even been criticized by President Armen Sarkissian, the sole senior government official to remain in his position following the 2018 Velvet Revolution that brought Pashinyan to power. However, the reality is that a failure to stop fighting after Shusha’s capture and after weeks of fighting had made clear that Armenia was unable to hold off steady, and extremely deadly, Azeri advances would have been disastrous and extremely irresponsible.
Pashinyan will be well aware that the same corrupt forces he ousted from power in 2018, who almost to a man are veterans of the first Karabakh war, could seek to use the loss to oust him. Other forces, such as Gagik Tsarukyan, head of the largest opposition party, already spoke out against him. Russia arguably would even prefer such an outcome, having long been uncomfortable with Pashinyan’s image as a liberal reformer. The November 11 arrest of Tsarukyan and other politicians who fomented unrest in Yerevan in the wake of the deal may have staved off any such challenge, but further challenges are sure to come.
In his time in power, however, Pashinyan has been keen to avoid antagonizing Moscow. He has not moved Yerevan out of the Russian orbit politically or economically, despite having previously been a sceptic of Armenia’s ties with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. Once in power, even when criticizing Russia’s gas politics and arms sales to Azerbaijan, he did so in a feint manner, sure to remind Moscow of its status as Armenia’s strategic partner.
While Pashinyan’s 2018 Velvet Revolution was hailed as a beacon of hope amid the populist waves coursing through Western politics by the liberal stalwart that is the Economist¸ conferring upon Armenia the honor of “country of the year,” Yerevan did not receive even a fraction of the political or economic support from the West offered to Ukraine after its 2014 Euromaidan Revolution. Nor has the West given any significant support to Armenia in the latest fighting, not even bothering to attempt to cast the conflict as one between liberalism and illiberalism as with the Russo-Ukrainian war. The European Union and United States may not have said so publicly, but its economic and strategic interests in Azerbaijan prohibited such a declaration.
Where the West was active in Armenia, its actions proved counterproductive. Highlighting the failure of the West to offer an alternative route for Yerevan is the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s failed investment in the Amulsar gold mine, cancelled this August in light of steadfast local opposition. The United Kingdom and United States wasted political capital pressuring Pashinyan into supporting the project, ignoring the fact that many of those protesting it were among the coterie that brought him to power in the first place.
It would be unfair to say that Pashinyan’s government had any hopes of significant Western support in its conflict with Azerbaijan. There was no significant Western response to the April 2016 fighting, which was until this year the most significant in Karabakh since 1994, nor was there when conflict flared up in July 2020 along the de jure Armenian-Azeri borders.
Even advocates of the liberal order face difficulty endorsing Armenia’s position given that its 1994-2020 control of not just Nagorno-Karabakh but also surrounding Azeri districts represented an effective redrawing of borders by force (though this is often confused), contravening the United Nations Charter and Helsinki Final Act. The same language has been used to oppose Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and recognition of the “independence” of the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Furthermore, the realist interest pervades: Azerbaijan is not only a significant oil supplier, with BP having led investment in the sector since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but also the key to Europe’s Southern Gas Corridor strategy. Azerbaijan’s lack of democratic credentials has not proven an impediment to its purchase of Western arms. It has been a major customer of Israeli arms as well, with the relationship shored up by the fact that Baku is Tel Aviv’s largest supplier of crude.
It is improbable that the Second Karabakh War will change the West’s interests vis-à-vis Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan both stand credibly accused of using cluster munitions, and neither side has proven capable of enabling peaceful co-existence. Longtime observers of the region will recall that when the West did back a peace agreement in 1997—not too dissimilar from the November 10 statement signed by Pashinyan, Aliyev, and Russian President Vladimir Putin—that then-President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan was forced to resign by the following February.
This despite the fact that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden called in late October for a “stop [to] the flow of military equipment to Azerbaijan.” The statement also called for the United States to lead a diplomatic effort alongside its European partners, but the Azeri military advance and Russian-negotiated agreement have precluded that outcome. It also gives legal cover to the Russian military overseeing transportation and trade between NKAO and Armenia proper, as well as between mainland Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhchivan, on Armenia’s west. While the agreement limits the number of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh to 1,960 soldiers, it includes no limit on the number of Russian border guards who will now oversee the latter corridor, which will run along the Armenian-Iranian border.
Much has been made of the fact that Russia has witnessed tumult on its borders in recent months, with unrest in Belarus, a coup-cum-revolution in Kyrgyzstan, and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, raising questions about whether Putin had lost his grip on Russia’s vaunted “near abroad.” While some have argued that this deal represents a potential loss for Moscow given Turkey’s key role—with Baku’s success in large part enabled by its use of Turkish drones—it remains to be seen how active Turkey will be in the new settlement. More likely than not, it will refrain from actions that risk upsetting its entente cordiale with Moscow, a relationship also enabled by Ankara’s adoption of a realist approach to power politics with Moscow.
However, the outcome in the Second Karabakh conflict, in which Moscow is a victor second only to Baku despite the defeat of its nominal ally, highlights that as an uber-realist power Moscow is able to turn such situations to its advantage, particularly in contrast to a West that still espouses liberal values but fails to follow through on them. Unless the West adopts a more realist approach, it is likely to remain in retreat not just in the South Caucasus, but across wider Eurasia.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.
*About the author: Maximilian Hess is a Central Asia Fellow in the Eurasia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He is the Head of Political Risk Analysis and Consulting at AKE International in London, where he also heads the Europe and Eurasia desks.
Source: This article was published by FPRI
TERTER, Azerbaijan — For years, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia had agreed to postpone discussion about the status of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, to avoid inflaming passions. But that changed suddenly this spring, when Armenia’s populist prime minister declared the area indisputably Armenian.
To Azerbaijanis, who lost a bitter, unresolved war with Armenia over the region in the 1990s, the remark by the prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, landed with explosive force. Even more infuriating, it was delivered in Shusha, a city that Azerbaijanis regard as their cultural capital but that lies in territory lost during the war.
“The final nail in the coffin of the negotiation process was when he said that Nagorno-Karabakh was Armenian,” said Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to the Azerbaijani president.
The two countries returned to all-out war a month ago, with Azerbaijan determined to retake the roughly 13 percent of its land that Armenia seized 26 years ago, displacing 800,000 Azerbaijanis in the process. The fighting threatens to draw in Turkey, on the Azerbaijani side, and Russia, which backs Armenia.
Casualties in the conflict have already mounted into the thousands, but as his troops make advances, Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, is showing no signs of slowing down, and the country is gripped with war fever.
A cease-fire mediated in Washington last weekend was broken within an hour of coming into force as both sides traded artillery fire Monday morning.
Mr. Aliyev is demanding that Armenian forces withdraw to internationally recognized borders in keeping with United Nations Security Council resolutions and basic principles agreed to in previous negotiations. These were the terms agreed upon 10 years ago but never implemented, and analysts say that Armenia became less ambiguous this year about claiming Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts seized during the war.
Mr. Hajiyev said in an interview that Azerbaijan had hoped for progress when the Armenian leader, Mr. Pashinyan, came to power after a popular uprising in 2018. At their first meeting, Mr. Pashinyan, a former journalist, asked Mr. Aliyev for time but promised to pursue a new policy on Nagorno-Karabakh.
That policy never came. Tensions escalated this year, analysts say, as Mr. Pashinyan and his defense minister made increasingly populist statements over the territory, announcing plans to make Shusha the regional capital and in August moving the Parliament there. Those steps may ultimately prove to have been major miscalculations.
An American-Armenian historian, Jirair Libaridian, has suggested as much. “We became obsessed with our dreams instead of focusing on the possible,” he wrote in September.
Independent analysts largely see Azerbaijan as the main driver of the war, saying it prepared a major offensive, but add that Mr. Pashinyan pushed the envelope with his populist talk.
“It’s logical that Azerbaijan wanted to start this, not the Armenians, who merely want the status quo,” said Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe and author of “Black Garden,” a book on Nagorno-Karabakh. “But the Armenians also played their part with provocative moves.”
The Armenian government has accused Azerbaijan of mounting a planned offensive and of instigating the clashes that led to all-out war, and says it is acting entirely in self-defense.
Russia has been a crucial presence backing Armenia. It supported Armenia in the original conflict, maintains two military bases in the country and has provided support and equipment.
Since the moribund truce in 2009, leaders of both countries proceeded carefully, believing it was politically safer to stick with the status quo than risk the territorial compromises that a peace deal would demand, Mr. de Waal said.
All the while, Mr. Aliyev, who inherited the presidency from his father in 2003, was using his country’s oil and gas wealth to build up the military, purchasing advanced weapons and sending officers for NATO-standard training in Turkey.
The rearming effort seemed to bear fruit in 2016, when in four days of fighting Azerbaijani forces seized control of a village just over the cease-fire line. But Russia intervened to stop the advance, said Farid Shafiyev, a former diplomat and director of the government-funded Center for Analysis of International Relations in Baku.
The popular disappointment at that time was palpable, he said. He noticed the same public reaction when Russia negotiated a cease-fire on Oct. 10, just two weeks into the latest fighting. “People were very depressed,” he said.
The immediate spark for the current conflict came in July, in a deadly clash near the border town of Tovuz, where Azerbaijan’s vital oil and gas pipelines run on their way to Georgia and Turkey.
Armenian soldiers fired on an Azerbaijani military vehicle, touching off heavy cross-border exchanges that killed more than a dozen people, including several officers.
One of those killed, Maj. Gen. Polad Hashimov, was a popular figure whose death stirred an outpouring of emotion. A small protest became a demonstration of tens of thousands of people marching through the capital, Baku, demanding that the country retake Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The July events sent a shock wave,” said Mr. Hajiyev, the policy adviser. “And public opinion and the youngsters sent this message: ‘Enough is enough.’”
Frustrations over the coronavirus pandemic and severe water shortages added pressure, said an Azerbaijani journalist, Khadija Izmayilova. “It was clear to Aliyev that the public was ready to explode and it was time to act.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey regarded the clash at Tovuz as a strategic threat to Azerbaijan and immediately dispatched jets and troops for two weeks of joint military exercises with the Azerbaijani military.
Turkish analysts saw Mr. Erdogan’s move as a way to gain leverage in his dealings with Russia. But protecting his Turkic ally, which recently replaced Russia as Turkey’s main source of natural gas, was also hugely important.
“It is a cliché that Turkey was instigating it,” Mr. Shafiyev, of the Center for Analysis of International Relations, said of Azerbaijan’s venture into war. But he confirmed, as both Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Aliyev have since, that Turkey has promised active support if Azerbaijan were to run into difficulties.
In August, the Azerbaijani authorities said the army had detained Armenian troops making another cross-border foray. “We understood something was coming,” Mr. Hajiyev said.
After years of trading sporadic artillery fire, both sides were poised and ready for more by September.
Villagers living on the Azerbaijani side of the cease-fire line near the town of Terter were forewarned by the Azerbaijani military on Sept. 26. Some who had cars left in the night. Those who stayed described a barrage of Armenian rockets at 7 a.m. the following day.
“We hear shelling all the time, but this was completely different,” said Gulbeniz Badalova, 59, who lives in Terter, just 500 yards from the cease-fire line. “They started to fire continuously, and we all got scared.”
Azerbaijan quickly retaliated, saying it was defending its civilian populations. “They started attacking civilians and we were obliged to make a counter offensive operation,” Mr. Hajiyev said. But even some officials admitted they had been waiting for an excuse to launch an attack.
Azerbaijani troops have already retaken parts of four southern districts along the border with Iran and have come within striking distance of the Lachin corridor, a mountain pass that is a critical supply route from Armenia.
But there is little doubt that it has been tough going for Azerbaijani forces. Baku has not released numbers of military casualties, but President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Thursday that each side had already lost more than 2,000 soldiers in less than a month of fighting. Missile strikes have also killed at least 65 civilians from Azerbaijan and 37 from Armenia, according to official figures from both sides.
Public support for the offensive remains solidly behind Mr. Aliyev and the army, but the president could face a difficult job managing expectations.
Many Azerbaijani families displaced by the shelling in Terter are originally refugees from Karabakh, and said they would not be satisfied if Mr. Aliyev halted after taking only a few districts.
“It’s not enough,” Zarifa Suleymanova, 43, said, before listing all the regions Azerbaijan needed back. “We have very brave sons. It will not take long.”
The expanding array of relatively low-cost drones can offer countries air power at a fraction of the cost of maintaining a traditional air force. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh also underscored how drones can suddenly shift a long-standing conflict and leave ground forces highly exposed.
On Tuesday, Armenia accepted a cease-fire on punishing terms to possibly end the latest round of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave controlled by ethnic Armenian factions but inside the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan.
“Drones offer small countries very cheap access to tactical aviation and precision guided weapons, enabling them to destroy an opponent’s much-costlier equipment such as tanks and air defense systems,” said Michael Kofman, military analyst and director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense think tank in Arlington, Va.
“An air force is a very expensive thing,” he added. “And they permit the utility of air power to smaller, much poorer nations.”
In Azerbaijan, the videos of the drone strikes have been posted daily on the website of the country’s Defense Ministry, broadcast on big screens in the capital, Baku, and tweeted and retweeted online.
They were also studied by Western military analysts to track Azerbaijan’s swift military gains.
Thousands of protesters gathered in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on Wednesday as pressure grew for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to step down after agreeing to a deal that calls for a 2,000-member Russian peacekeeping mission and allows Azerbaijan to regain territory it lost in the Nagorno-Karabakh war of the early 1990s.
The deal came just after Azerbaijan took the strategic city of Shusha (known in Armenia as Shushi), a town of cultural importance to Azerbaijan perched high above the Nagorno-Karabakh capital, Stepanakert. As Azerbaijan forces advanced toward Shusha, its military propagandists published gruesome videos of drones destroying forces in trenches.
Wider use of armed drones
Armed drones have increasingly become part of warfare since the Pentagon deployed its Predator in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. Missile-firing drones are now produced in many countries including Turkey, China and Israel, and have been used by various sides in battles including Libya’s proxy war.
In a matter of months, however, Nagorno-Karabakh has become perhaps the most powerful example of how small and relatively inexpensive attack drones can change the dimensions of conflicts once dominated by ground battles and traditional air power.
It also highlighted the vulnerabilities of even sophisticated weapons systems, tanks, radars and surface-to-air missiles without specific drone defenses. And it has raised debate on whether the era of the traditional tank could be coming to an end.
Azerbaijan used its drone fleet — purchased from Israel and Turkey — to stalk and destroy Armenia’s weapons systems in Nagorno-Karabakh, shattering its defenses and enabling a swift advance. Armenia found that air defense systems in Nagorno-Karabakh, many of them older Soviet systems, were impossible to defend against drone attacks, and losses quickly piled up.
Franz-Stefan Gady, a research fellow on the future of conflict at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said traditional military equipment such as tanks and armored vehicles will not become obsolete.
But Nagorno-Karabakh has shown “the ever-increasing importance” of using armed drones along with other weapons and highly trained ground forces, and “the exponentially more devastating consequences of failing to do so in future wars,” he said.
The separatist region in Azerbaijan with a largely Armenian population broke away in the late 1980s, leading to war and Azerbaijan’s humiliating loss of the enclave and seven surrounding districts. A decades-long process, led by the United States, France and Russia, failed to reach a settlement.
Armenia became content with the status quo of a frozen conflict, retaining territory. But Azerbaijan, frustrated at a peace process that it felt delivered nothing, used its Caspian Sea oil wealth to buy arms, including a fleet of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones and Israeli kamikaze drones (also called loitering munitions, designed to hover in an area before diving on a target).
When fighting flared again Sept. 27, the drone videos playing on big screens in Baku and on YouTube stoked popular support for the war, even as Azerbaijan hid figures on its own war dead.
“It’s pretty obvious that Azerbaijan has been preparing for this. Azerbaijan decided it wanted to change the status quo and that the Armenian side had no interest in a war because they wanted to keep what they had,” said Tom de Waal, an expert on the Caucasus at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Clearly, the decisive factor in this conflict is Turkey’s intervention on Azerbaijan’s side. They seem to be heavily coordinating the war effort,” he said, adding that it appeared Turkey had moved Syrian mercenaries into Azerbaijan two weeks before the conflict.
Turkey denies recruiting Syrian mercenaries to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh.
And then there were the drones. Their targets included fortified positions from the 1990s.
“There were massive losses,” de Waal said. “Possibly around a third of Armenian tanks have been destroyed. That’s obviously been a critical factor in taking all those territories.”
Unable to match Azerbaijan’s drone power, Armenian forces, demoralized and racked by covid-19, suffered a series of military calamities.
‘Very hard to hide’
Officials from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh said they had no choice but to sign Tuesday’s truce to avoid further losses of life and territory.
In the early stages of the war, Azerbaijan used 11 slow Soviet-era An-2 aircraft that had been converted into drones and sent them buzzing over Nagorno-Karabakh as bait to Armenian air defense systems — tempting them to fire and reveal their positions, after which they could be hit by drones.
Azerbaijan used surveillance drones to spot targets and sent armed drones or kamikaze drones to destroy them, analysts said.
Turkey, which took part in joint military exercises with Azerbaijani forces in Azerbaijan over the summer, supports its ally but denies direct involvement in the fighting.
But Azerbaijan probably benefited from Turkey’s experience of its recent use of drones in Syria as well as Libya, where its drones trounced the Russian-made Pantsir S1 air defense systems used by the forces of renegade general Khalifa Hifter in May.
Videos posted by both sides in Nagorno-Karabakh — including drone hits and soldiers advancing through villages and towns — enabled military analysts to tally confirmed hits.
Stijn Mitzer, an analyst writing on the military-affairs blog Oryx, noted that both sides used propaganda to play up their military gains but that analysis of video footage made it possible to verify the claims. The group published a list of the destroyed military hardware, including photographic or video evidence for each tanks and weapon system.
Their tally, which logs confirmed losses with photographs or videos, listed Armenian losses at 185 T-72 tanks; 90 armored fighting vehicles; 182 artillery pieces; 73 multiple rocket launchers; 26 surface-to-air missile systems, including a Tor system and five S-300s; 14 radars or jammers; one SU-25 war plane; four drones and 451 military vehicles.
Azerbaijan, the group concluded, had visually confirmed losses of 22 tanks, 41 armored forced vehicles, one helicopter, 25 drones and 24 vehicles. The full tally of losses on both sides cannot be independently verified, however Armenian losses appear significantly higher, according to military analysts.
The leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, said Tuesday that all of Nagorno-Karabakh would have been taken “within days” had fighting continued, citing the “very heavy human losses” inflicted by drones.
Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, wrote on the RealClearDefense website that systems such as the kamikaze drone probably will become more prevalent as technology improves and costs go down.
“That’s a potential game-changer for land warfare,” he wrote.
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