The war in Karabakh has caught the attention of major world powers because in an interconnected world, all conflicts are the result of the intersection of the interests of many countries, although they may seem to relate only to a certain localized region. Conversely, all conflicts have far-reaching impact around the world.

For the last thirty years, the Karabakh conflict has resulted in many flare ups between Armenia and Azerbaijan with no conclusive results. In 1994, the parties agreed on a ceasefire, on the basis that the conflict has no military solution and that the parties will not resort to the use of force.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, which is co-chaired by the US, Russia and France, has been working for a solution based on that assumption. However, Azerbaijan has broken its agreement more than once; it tried to use force first in April 2016, as well as in July of this year. Every act of aggression was repulsed forcefully, as well as with additional retaliation, to convince the leadership in Baku that violence would not deliver its hoped-for results.

The conflict has also been used by regional and world powers for their own ends. The leadership in Azerbaijan has been encouraged by such developments, adopting a maximalist posture. President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly said that the only solution is based on the complete surrender of the Armenian side. To this day, he insists that peace will not be established until all Armenians leave Karabakh. That has led Mr. Aliyev further, to the delusion that he might occupy the entire territory of the Republic of Armenia itself.

The current flare-up is the direct result of Turkey’s involvement in the conflict with intentions and plans much greater than Azerbaijan’s goals. Turkey is in the Caucasus to contain the influence of Russia and Iran, a goal very much in synch with the West’s aspirations. But Turkey’s present leader has also a more selfish agenda: to restore the Ottoman Empire and bring the nations formerly within that empire back under its bloody thumb.

Mr. Erdogan’s adventures in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean thus far have backfired and as a fallback, he is trying his luck in the Caucasus. Today Azerbaijan is a virtual colony of Turkey under the catchphrase “One Nation, Two States.”

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But that second state is hardly visible under Turkey’s dark shadow.

President Aliyev has lost control completely. The war is commanded by Turkish military advisors and is fought with Islamist mercenaries imported from Syria at the behest of Mr. Erdogan.

It is no exaggeration when Karabakh President Arayik Harutyunyan states that the Armenian forces are fighting Turkey, not just Azerbaijan.

Incidentally, Harutyunyan has turned out to be an outstanding wartime leader, even braving the frontlines personally. Before his election, his forte was considered to be his contribution to the Karabakh economy. He had participated in the liberation war as a young man but had chosen to go into business rather than politics.

As the war extends to its second week, the outcome is appearing grimmer. The fact that the Armenian side has held up successfully speaks highly of the professionalism of its armed forces. Azerbaijan began to target civilian structures in Stepanakert and Vardenis in Armenia, betraying its frustration and exasperation.

That, in turn, not only will result in misery for the Armenian side but it will create problems for Azerbaijan and Turkey.

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Armenia has already lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights against Azerbaijan for violating the terms of the Geneva Convention by indiscriminately bombing civilians.

The Turkish and Azerbaijani war planners were anticipating that Armenia would be intimidated by the former’s unconditional support of Azerbaijan. But that was not the case. Instead, the Armenians lobbed a well-planned retaliation by destroying the military airbase in Ganja, Azerbaijan, after warning the civilian population there to leave, in advance of the attack.

Targeting Ganja had more than one symbolic meaning. First, the F-16 fighter jet, which had shot down an Armenian warplane over Armenia, had flown from that base. Second, that base also houses the repair facilities of Azerbaijan’s air force and the guidance center of their drones.

Lastly, Ganja historically has been the hub of Azerbaijan’s Turkic nationalism, the birthplace of the Mosavat Party and the city where Azerbaijan’s independence was declared in 1918.

Armenians found the Ganja military airport to be an easy target because it was not well defended.

Armenians are finding many other undefended military targets, which leads one to the conclusion that Azerbaijan’s military doctrine is based on only offense. Their armed forces wage war under the assumption that the enemy will surrender and therefore, they will not need a defensive backup plan. Their assumption has not proved successful thus far. The Armenian armed forces were able to absorb the first shock, and follow it by attacking and engaging the enemy in continued operations. Thus, Armenia proved that it has the most professional fighting force in the region.

In addition to Armenia’s complaint to the European Court, Amnesty International has also accused Azerbaijan of using cluster bombs. They stated, “Over the weekend, footage consistent with the use of cluster munitions in the city of Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno Karabakh, was published by the region’s de facto authorities. They also reported unidentified civilian casualties after further shelling in Stepanakert and the town of Shushi.”

Turkey is in the Caucasus to change the status quo by containing Russia’s influence and by creating a counterweight to Iran, the world’s major Shiite force. Turkey is competing for the leadership of the Sunni bloc. That is why it has tangled with the other contenders for that title, namely Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But Turkey’s fallout with those two powers was also not only due to its desire to lead that religious bloc. Ankara was fighting to scare off a host of nations which had interest in hydrocarbon deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s bullying so far has led to a coalition formed against it, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Greece and Cyprus.

It is not just those countries that are taking a vocal stand against Turkey; France and Germany have also been offended to a dangerous point.

France has been vociferously critical of Turkey’s actions in the region.

Erdogan’s calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel a Nazi angered that country so much so that Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Erdogan had crossed a line.

With France and Germany disposed against Turkey, the US has found itself facing a catastrophic crack in the NATO structure. It looks like Turkey is wearing out its welcome there.

Germany has already begun moving its military assets from Incirlik air base in Turkey. The US is also considering an alternate site on Greek islands. Turkey no longer holds hostage its allies in periods of crisis, as it has done in the past.

Russia has not yet spoken as the fighting continues. Many in Armenia are questioning when the Collective Security Treaty Organization pact with Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as members will kick in to support a fellow member in trouble.

To demonstrate how dysfunctional that pact is, suffice it to observe fellow signatory of the pact, Belarus, sending military equipment to Azerbaijan!

However, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced that as yet Armenia can fight its war but no one knows what could happen if the war is protracted.

The developments have caused grave concern also for Iran, which has been a historic rival of Turkey. The Eurasian Times reports in its October 5 issue that Tehran has concentrated 200 tanks and troops on its border with Armenia, supposedly to help Armenia. If in fact there is such a concentration of Iranian forces, certainly it is not intended for Armenia. Iran has other concerns; indeed, Azerbaijan has lent itself to Israel as a launching pad for a potential attack on Iran. With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sagging popularity and with the US in an electoral mood with an ailing president, the opportunity may be ripe. Turkey will become an active participant despite its angry exchange with the Israeli leadership. There is a tacit understating with Israel that Erdogan may criticize Israel, pretending to defend the Palestinian cause. It has even gone so far recently as to suggest that Jerusalem should revert back to Turkey. Had there been an actual row between the two countries, Israel would have already recognized the Armenian Genocide.

Pashinyan’s government is composed mostly of young cadres, not experienced in dealing with this kind of situation in the global news media, especially in the diplomatic field. A diplomatic challenge was thrust upon it and it has so far fared well. Compared to previous conflicts, it received wider news coverage and Armenia projected, in general, a positive image. The leadership also gave cogent interviews to major publications around the world and the military leadership continuously updated the situation on Twitter and other social media. They also stressed that reporters were free to come to Armenia and Artsakh, unlike Azerbaijan.

Armenian government representatives, taking the cue from Erdogan himself, were able to capitalize on the issue of the Genocide, indicating that this struggle was between Armenia and Turkey and that Turkey had come to finish what it had started in 1915.

Pashinyan called US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to question the US about US-made F-16 fighter-bombers Turkey sent against civilian populations. He also raised the same question in an interview with the New York Times.

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian reached out to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to complain about the Israeli-made cluster bombs being used against civilians by Azerbaijan. Yerevan also recalled its ambassador to Israel as an act of protest.

François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s foreign minister announced that his country was suspending arms supplies to Turkey.

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, advised Turkey to use its position to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

In previous unsavory Turkish adventures, he had unquestionably supported Turkey’s actions.

When the OSCE called for a cessation of hostilities, the first party it reached out to was Erdogan, not Aliyev. Even when supposedly Azerbaijani forces had taken Jebrail (which later proved not to be true) again Erdogan had broadcast the “good” news.

This haste means one thing: Turkey is in command and Azerbaijan is a shell of its former self.

This war has propelled Arayik Harutyunyan to the world scene. Pashinyan himself has been enhancing Karabakh’s image, with the apparent intention that he will propose that the Karabakh government sign the ceasefire or peace agreement and that Azerbaijan recognizes the Karabakh government as its counterpart. But before reaching that point, Armenia has to pave the way by itself recognizing Karabakh’s independence. It is already high time.

Erdogan and Aliyev have changed their tone. They are the ones who are now eager for a peace deal.

The Karabakh army is not defeated. In all probability, it is Karabakh which will call the shots.

 

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