Paul Goble Is for Real

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Along with the recognition of the genocide by Turkey, Armenians entertain the dream of recovering historic Armenia, based on the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920 and the pledge made by President Woodrow Wilson on behalf of the international community. At this point, the achievement of that dream does not seem realistic, because it depends mostly on the relative military power and political clout of Armenia and Turkey.

While Armenians dream of the emancipation of Western Armenian territories, unbeknownst to them a plan is shaping up about the very territory of the current Republic of Armenia itself.

Indeed, a plan has been hatched in Turkey by some Azerbaijanis to liberate the current territory of the Republic of Armenia to establish there a new country and government called the Republic of Western Azerbaijan. The news may raise some eyebrows and cause disbelief, but if we analyze the political crosscurrents in the region and reveal the source of the news, it becomes deadly serious.

The source of the news is Paul Goble, whose name is associated with an outrageous political plan which was floated first as a trial balloon, only to become eventually a major issue in a deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

This was the Meghri plan, which at first was not taken seriously, but when Presidents Robert Kocharyan and Heydar Aliyev met in Key West, it was almost a done deal. When Aliyev senior returned home, he refused to finalize it. Had they signed the agreement for a territorial swap, it would have been a blunder of historic proportions for Armenia. It would have been a strategic nightmare both for Armenia and its neighbors, particularly Iran.

The plan called for Armenia to cede Meghri to Azerbaijan in exchange for Azerbaijan’s acknowledgment of Nagorno Karabakh as part of Armenia. Had the plan been carried out, Azerbaijan would have possessed contiguous territory around Armenia after absorbing the autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan, a territory historically claimed by Armenia. Additionally, Armenia would lose its borders with Iran, the only reliable country through which Armenia could communicate with the outside world. And finally, the deal would have gifted an open door to Pan-Turkic designs of Turkish leaders.

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That was the unbelievable plan put forward by Paul Goble which almost became a reality.

Based on the veracity of that plan, we can ignore or take lightly this new plan at our peril.

In an op-ed in the May 12, 2020 issue of the Eurasia Review, Mr. Goble has presented the outline of a plan by a Turkish professor teaching at the University of Kayseri named Gafar Chahmagli. The professor purportedly is the descendant of Azerbaijanis deported from Western Azerbaijan, and therefore he has undertaken to organize a group and form a government of Western Azerbaijan in exile.

He states in a blog, “The main goal of the Republic of Western Azerbaijan (Irevan), which is dominated by the intelligentsia, is to return all historic lands, including Yerevan, Zangebasar, Goichu, Zangezur, Gyumri, Drlayza [Daralageaz?], and all remaining historical lands within the borders of Armenia.”

Then, the professor continues in his blog to justify his claim: “there is nothing bad in this initiative, and if affairs are correctly carried out, if the Azerbaijan republic supports them and defends the interests of the Republic of Iravan, then in the foreseeable future, under incredible conditions and perhaps even blood, those who have been driven out can become a real power of a genuinely liberated Azerbaijani land.”

Since Paul Goble had broken the news of the Meghri deal by creating a rare precedent, the revelation of this new project becomes more believable. He is not a mere journalist, or a scholar, but a political messenger with visible and clandestine ties, viz., his involvement in the CIA and State Department and his activities in Baltic states where the US has been implementing plans to contain Russia. His message has to be taken seriously and viewed within the context of politics in the Caucasus.

Ahmet Davutoglu, at one time Turkey’s foreign minister and ideolog of President Erdogan’s AK Party, has theorized in a study that the West is in decline and it is time for Turkey to rise to the occasion by expanding to the East and building a Turkic empire, using religion, demographic and linguistic paradigms. President Erdogan himself has argued that Armenia is an impediment. One would ask, impediment to what? Certainly it is a roadblock to Turkey’s drive to the East. In his turn, President Aliyev has repeated many times that Zangezur and Yerevan are Azerbaijani territories, echoing this good professor in Turkey.

Historians believe that this kind of masterplan can lead to tectonic changes in world politics. In that sense, the Nixon-Kissinger plan to open up China drove a wedge between the Soviet Union and China and led to the collapse of the USSR without using a single bullet. Therefore, we have to factor in the interest of the West, and in particular the US, in a powerful Azerbaijan. This is not necessarily for the latter’s energy sources, but rather for its strategic location next to Iran and its ethnic makeup, which could lure ethnic Azeris to an eventual breakup of Iran along ethnic fault lines.

Iran has long been on the State Department’s butcher block, like Iraq, Syria and Libya, to pave the way for unrivaled Israeli hegemony over the Middle East. Israel has already set up shop in Azerbaijan. President Aliyev has repeated many times that only ten percent of Azerbaijani-Israeli relations are visible.

In this heyday of territorial usurpation, no country should feel its territory is immune. Turkey has seized territories from Cyprus, Iraq and Syria. President Trump has gifted Syria’s Golan Heights to Israel and has further given the green light for confiscations of land on the West Bank. Russia has amputated Georgia and Ukraine, and the list goes on and on.

Many people in Armenia believe that eventually the territories around Karabakh which are under Armenian control should be ceded to achieve peace. No way, says General Vagharshak Harutyunyan, who had negotiated the ceasefire in 1994 with Azerbaijani generals. First, because Armenia’s lines of defense begin in Karabagh, and second, because Azerbaijani logic does not work that way. As President Aliyev has made clear many times, next he will lay claim to Zangezur and Yerevan. That is why, Harutyunyan concluded, there is no solution to the Karabakh conflict.

Turkey has made several attempts at inroads in Central Asia. After the religious factor proved ineffective in the atheistic societies of Central Asia, Turkey took the leadership in organizing an alliance of Turkic-language speaking nations, imitating the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Its drive into Central Asia has irritated China, which has already resorted to defensive measures. Turkey has been agitating the Uyghur ethnic population in China’s Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, where 23 million restive Muslims of Turkic origin live. Turkey has accused Beijing of committing genocide against the Uyghurs.

This is not the first attempt of Turkey or its predecessor state to project its power in Central Asia. Even when the Ottoman Empire was falling apart, a member of the ruling triumvirate of the Committee of Union and Progress was on a mission there. During the war of communism, the Bolshevik government was desperate to find allies. That is how Mustafa Kemal duped Lenin that he was leading a national liberation movement and headed towards socialism. He received arms, food supplies and money to chase the Armenians out of Cilicia and the Greeks out of Smyrna.

The Ottoman Empire’s minister of war, Ismail Enver Pasha, was in Central Asia and tried to use the same ruse to convince the Bolsheviks that he would unite Turkic nations in alliance with the Soviets. But the latter found out soon that Enver was in pursuit of uniting Turkic nations to form an empire and declare himself caliph.

The Soviets chased after him for a long time in the region until the head of a Soviet military unit, Hagop Melkumyan, tracked him down and killed him in Tajikistan in 1922.

Recently, during a spat with Vladimir Putin, President Erdogan threatened to use the 45 million Muslims living in Russia to blow apart the country. This was not the first time that Erdogan was weaponizing demographics and religion. Earlier, he had called upon Turks living in Germany and the Netherlands to have five children per family to overrun Europe with Turks and Muslims.

With such great odds against Armenia, does it mean that we have a lost cause? Certainly not, if the young leadership can play its hand correctly and align its policies accordingly.

Calls for sympathy for Russia or Europe are sentimental terms which have no place in realpolitik. Since the main thrust of Turkey’s policies is moving against Russia and China, it should be axiomatic to align our politics with that of those countries. That does not mean that they will be a perfect match.

China is giving disproportionate attention and support to Armenia to reinforce the very “impediment” which worries Mr. Erdogan. Similarly, Russia is Armenia’s strategic ally, but the current anti-Russian rhetoric in Armenia will only hurt the weaker party.

Since Turkey will be hosting the Western Republic of Azerbaijan, with the clear plan of destroying Armenia, that will justify a reciprocal action by the Armenian government to host a Republic of Western Armenia government-in-exile, coinciding with the centennial of the Sèvres Treaty, a document which would serve as the legal basis for that government.

When so much is going on in the region and many threatening situations are brewing, Armenia does not have the luxury to indulge in fistfights in the parliament nor internecine warfare between the old guard and the youthful new government.

It is time for all political parties to get their acts together and place their house in order, because Paul Goble is for real.

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