By Edmond Y. Azadian
Azerbaijani leaders always contend that they have lost a battle with Armenia, but not the war. They believe that the war is not over, and that military conflict cannot be ruled out any time. Indeed, since May 1994, a tenuous ceasefire has been in place, as the threat of a military conflict continues to loom over the horizon.
The US State Department, the Russian Foreign Ministry and the European Union don’t miss any opportunity to announce that a military solution to the Karabagh conflict is not an option. Contrary to these warnings, the Azeri leaders continue their bellicose rhetoric without any party slapping their wrists. In the past, their claims were confined to the Azeri territories surrounding Nagorno Karabagh, under Armenian control, yet, recently they have been emboldened to include also Karabagh itself, targeted for “liberation.”
For a long time, the international observers and Armenian government circles believed that the war rhetoric was only for domestic consumption. However, Azerbaijani military build up, fueled by petro dollars and intransigence at the negotiating table, have given a more ominous significance to Baku’s intentions.
Until recently, military and government leaders in Armenia had only restrained responses to Azeri threats. That posture seems to have led Azeri leaders believe that their threats were intimidating Armenia into possible compromises. Not any more.
Armenia, in its turn, launched a media campaign to counter Azerbaijan’s military posturing. The public celebration of the 18th anniversary of the founding of the Armenian armed forces and the sober warning of Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian has heightened the tension between the two neighbors.