GETTING THE FACTS RIGHT ON NAGORNO KARABAKH
The Hill, DC
Sept 23 2014
By Mark Dietzen
In his September 11 post, absurdly titled "Armenia has always been
the aggressor," the U.S. Azeris Network's military analyst Denis
Jaffe once again distorts the facts pertaining to the Nagorno Karabakh
conflict. Jaffe's exaggeration and abuse of the truth does a disservice
to The Hill's readers.
First, Mr. Jaffe points to four United Nations Security Council
Resolutions to back up his false claim that Armenia is the aggressor
in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. But a reading of these resolutions
shows that they make no mention whatsoever of Armenia as an aggressor
or occupier, as Jaffe irresponsibly asserts.
ADVERTISEMENT Instead, while these resolutions express "serious concern
at the deterioration of relations between the Republic of Armenia and
the Azerbaijani Republic and at the tensions between them," references
to control over disputed territory specify "local Armenian forces,"
a point lost to Jaffe. These local forces were those of the Nagorno
Karabakh Republic (NKR), the independent but thus far internationally
unrecognized state, cosignatory to the 1994 ceasefire agreement,
and an official party to the peace talks until Baku refused to
continue negotiations with it in 1998. Though Armenia is a party to
the conflict and a guarantor of the NKR's security, the core problem
is between Azerbaijan and the NKR. So when it comes to the meaning
of the UN Security Council resolutions, Jaffe is right. We really
should not take his word for it.
Second, the NKR's secession from Soviet Azerbaijan happened not because
of Russia, but in spite of Russia's opposition, even though it was
in full accordance with then acting Soviet legislation. Moscow
had no determinant effect on the Karabakh War. Indeed, it was
post-Soviet Russia that mediated the ceasefire agreement between
Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the NKR. Jaffe's attempt to depict the NKR's
secession from Azerbaijan, and its current state-building efforts, as
"Russian-sponsored separatism," is simply contrary to the facts. It
was only a year ago when, during a press conference with Russian
President Putin, Azerbaijani President Aliyev announced that he had
made arms deals with Russia worth 4 billion dollars. Surely Baku would
not make such deals if it was convinced that Moscow was a NKR-sponsor.
Third, Jaffe's attempt at proving his unfounded charge that Armenia
has been "making grave threats against Azerbaijan for many years,"
is based on a series of cherry-picked quotations from the very same
articles that clearly demonstrate Armenia's adherence to peace. For
example, when Jaffe refers to the November 8, 2012 Wall Street Journal
interview, writing, "President Sargsyan said that Armenia would
strike Azerbaijan in a 'disproportionately' hard way," he attempts
to mislead readers by taking the original sentence totally out of
context. It reads: "President Sargsyan said Armenia would strike
Azerbaijan only if Nagorno Karabakh or Armenian were attacked, but
vowed that Yerevan's response would be 'disproportionately' strong."
The analyst does this again in his reference to the November 14,
2010 article published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, when he
writes, "Sargsyan said: 'our strike must be devastating and final this
time around.'" Yet, here is the same quoted passage from President
Sargsyan, in its entirety: "'We never wanted war, we were simply
compelled to defend our homeland at that time,' he said, referring
to the first Armenian-Azerbaijani [War]. 'We will not attack first
now either. But if the moment arrives, if they force us, our strike
must be devastating and final this time around.'" Clearly, these are
not the words of an aggressor. And clearly, Jaffe's Nazi reference
was completely inappropriate. One only needs to review the bellicose
rhetoric of top Azerbaijani officials for evidence of who is actually
jeopardizing regional peace.
Fourth, though the U.S. President has utilized his ability to
waiver Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act -- something granted
to him by the Senate in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to allow for
the transportation of military hardware through Azerbaijan on route
to Afghanistan -- Section 907 is still acting legislation: Congress
has never revoked the law. This signifies that the U.S. government is
still waiting for Azerbaijan to take, as the law states, "demonstrable
steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against
Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh." Predictably, Jaffe's allegation that
Section 907 also limits U.S. assistance to Armenia is not true either.
Finally, in his blanket attack on the Armenian lobby, Jaffe seems
oblivious to the New York Times investigation published earlier this
month, "Azerbaijan and Think Tanks," which uncovered the government
of Azerbaijan's hiring of lobbying and public relations firms since
2012 to "build relationships with think tanks."
I would welcome a continued debate with Mr. Jaffe on the Nagorno
Karabakh issue, including in the form of a public debate in Washington
DC. But let us focus on the facts, not exaggerations and groundless
allegations intended to misinform and deepen mistrust between Armenians
Dietzen is executive director of Americans for Artsakh.