Global political players prey on and use the misery of smaller nations to score political gains. In the case of Kosovo, the West was vitally interested to break up the former Yugoslavia and even used NATO forces to create a Muslim nation in the heart of Europe.
In the case of Karabakh, no one seems to be interested in the plight of the Armenians trapped in that enclave, nor does any party appear to be interested enough to cynically score some political points through standing up to provide aid during this miserable situation. And thus, the lifeline between Armenia and Karabakh remains blocked, creating a humanitarian disaster.
Azerbaijan seems to have developed a playbook which guides its actions and its hybrid war against Armenia. Baku, when it attacked Armenia’s sovereign territory in September 13, had not anticipated the world reaction that followed that brief war. This time around, it is moving in a more calculated way to strangulate the people in Karabakh, with the ultimate goal of depopulating that enclave and simultaneously extracting a price from Armenia, in terms of having unhampered access to the “Zangezur Corridor.”
Words of condemnation have come from major centers of power, which have not thus far deterred President Ilham Aliyev in his determination to continue his policy of ethnic cleansing. They all call for the implementation of the November 9, 2020 tripartite declaration, signed by Moscow, Yerevan and Baku.
There is also some disingenuous intent in all those calls, which render them ineffective; thus, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern about the ongoing blockade of the corridor, following his meeting with Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan. But the statement was issued through his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric. Similarly, the US State Department has pitched in, this time around, not through the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, by the Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department Vedant Patel. In diplomatic parlance, all details are very significant. The messenger provides the weight of the message. Thus, President Aliyev can figure out the feel of the message on the priority agenda of the messenger and shape his reactions accordingly.
Once in a while we hear messages from Turkey, which orchestrates Azerbaijan’s foreign policy. Right during this standoff between the so-called Azerbaijani environmentalists and the Russian peacekeeping forces, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu intervened and announced that the blockade will not end until the mines are shut down in Karabakh.
Azerbaijan certainly did not do its best regarding optics while staging this charade of self-styled ecowarriors blocking the Lachin Corridor. The demonstrators, demanding to check the workings of a mine in Artsakh, were meant to symbolize all that is pure and good. Thus, they released doves. However, they chose to release 44 doves, a tribute to the war that broke the back of Artsakh, and the spokeswoman for the group, dressed in a fur coat, something no true environmentalist would do, caused the poor dove in her hands to die while she was shaking it and speaking. The sight of that poor little creature falling to the ground encapsulated the tragedy of the actions.
The mining industry is the major component of Karabakh’s economy. Any interruption in mining will paralyze Karabakh’s weak economy.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also spoken in support of Aliyev’s demand in creating a false parity between Lachin and carving out a swathe of land in Armenia, in Zangezur. The latter is part and parcel of a global Turanic plan, which was discussed recently in Turkmenistan, where Aliyev assured his Turkic colleagues that it is already a done deal.
As the plan which the Turkic nations are trying to achieve runs counter to Iran’s interest, that is why Tehran has made Armenia’s territorial integrity a priority and a red line for its foreign policy. It is a different story as to whether Iran will go to war if Turkey and Azerbaijan force their way through Syunik to create the “Zangezur Corridor.” The Syunik province, where Iran opened a consulate this year, is a vital region for Armenia’s mining industry, but it has also turned into a piece of strategic territory of global significance in the rivalry between Iran and the Turkic world. Russia is a stakeholder with Iran in that territory too.
Last week, the chief of the MI-6, the British intelligence agency, Richard Moore, visited Armenia. Scant information was released on his talks with Armenian authorities. Comments were made that the visit was related to Armenia’s plans to develop its own foreign intelligence agency. But placing that visit in a broader context, we can find that it is more likely related to the Western and Israeli plans concerning Iran. Indeed, last spring, the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, visited Armenia followed by his Russian counterpart, Sergey Naryshkin. The picture will be completed when we mention that in between those visits, Israel’s and Turkey’s defense ministers were in Baku, meeting with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia.
Domestic unrest in Iran correlates with the secret plans plotted against that country in the hallways of power among the global players. Armenia will not remain safe should the regime in Tehran collapse.
Armenians were heartened recently with the news that India would be selling $250 million in modern weapons to Yerevan to build its shattered armed forces’ arsenal. Those hopes were further elevated when a story in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor appeared. According to that article, “Iran might supply Armenia with indigenously-built combat drones and loitering munitions, enabling Armenian forces to pose a crude deterrent against rival states, primarily Azerbaijan.”
The author of the article, Fuad Shahbaz, rather than seeing a military balance which may lead to an equitable peace treaty, believes that the acquisition of those weapons will further delay the prospect of peace. That view is certainly based on the belief that now that Armenia is down militarily, it will be more advantageous for Baku to force down a treaty on its own terms.
While major political and strategic conflicts are developing in the general area, some local cloak-and-dagger games are also in play. Thus, Azerbaijan shut off the flow of natural gas to Karabakh for several days, to freeze Armenians. Suddenly, news came that the flow of gas had been restored. The Artsakh Minister of State of Ruben Vardanyan announced that there had not been any discussions or compromises with the Azerbaijanis to restore the flow of gas. The restoration of gas certainly was not out of charity by Baku authorities. Later on, a different narrative emerged, with the mention of the Sarsang water reservoir. That reservoir has a double use; it provides electricity to Karabakh and irrigation water to lowlands in Azerbaijan. The Karabakh authorities had threatened to deny the flow of irrigation water to Azerbaijan next season and instead use the entire capacity to generate electricity this winter. That did the trick.
The Lachin corridor remains blocked, creating a food and medical emergency for the people trapped in the enclave. The Azerbaijani authorities are counting on the patience of the people in Karabakh and Armenia, pushing them to the brink of starvation, so that they may resort to some desperate acts which would then justify a new war by Azerbaijan.
Vardanyan stated that “we will learn to live under those conditions.”
The name of the game is patience and calculated moves.