By Edmond Y. Azadian
Should Armenia hit back at Azerbaijan or not? That is the Shakespearean dilemma looming over the border between Karabagh and Azerbaijan. Although it is a forgone conclusion on the Armenian side of the border that sooner or later Armenian forces have to retaliate against Azerbaijan for its provocation in shooting down last week an Armenian unarmed military M1-24 helicopter, which was flying near the ceasefire line accompanied by another helicopter.
As of this writing, recovery efforts have failed. The helicopter was shot down within the no-man’s land and the bodies of the three soldiers remain on board and inaccessible, as the area remains under intense firing on both sides. The Armenian side is firing to keep the Azeri forces away to prevent them from committing any foul play; the Armenians worry the enemy may plant a missile in the crash site to prove their case that the Armenian forces had hostile intentions. The Azeris are firing to keep away the Armenian forces from the no-man’s land and possibly protract the tension and its eventual resolution.
In defiance of President Ilham Aliyev’s declaration of Karabagh’s air space as a no-fly zone, President Serge Sargisian arrived at the Stepanakert airport aboard a military helicopter, accompanied by Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. They both wore military fatigues, viewed the continuing war games and the Armenian president delivered a stern speech, threatening to retaliate against the aggression in an appropriate manner, painful enough to discourage Azerbaijan from further provocations.
The opposition and the pro-government circles are unanimous in their determination that retaliation is a must. But many differ in the timing and the measure of that retaliation. The military brass is inclined to exercise immediate and massive retaliation, while other circles advise further study of the Azeri motivations and the consequences of that retaliation.