By Varouj Vartanian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
On October 13, a Politico article reported that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated that the US State Department is concerned about a possible invasion of Armenia by Azerbaijan. The context of this must be underlined, because the article has caused severe panic among Armenian citizens and diasporans. This conversation took place as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-linked Artsakh government folded and surrendered to Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the Azerbaijani offensive (September 19-20). In the following weeks, Armenians from Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) were forced to flee to Armenia due to valid fears of abuse, kidnapping, rape, homicide, and genocide. As of October 13, nearly all of the 120,000 Armenians from the region have fled, and the only Armenians who have stayed behind are essentially elderly, mentally disabled, or unable to escape. As this was ongoing, it was uncertain what Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev was planning to do, regarding any further escalations.
It was unexpected for the Artsakh government to surrender in one day. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the international community were caught off guard. Regarding how these talks of an Azerbajani invasion of Armenian came about, it is possible that Aliyev had a plan to invade Syunik if Artsakh put up a fight, so that concessions (dissolving Artsakh’s government) could be made in exchange for Azerbaijani forces retreating from Syunik.
It should be noted that Aliyev has used the tactic of invading Armenia in the past with the purpose of getting what he desires from the Armenian government. When Armenia resisted Aliyev’s desire to oversee the “Zangezur Corridor,” and Aliyev saw that Armenia’s government was not open to the idea of giving a road connecting Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan, Aliyev began to change his rhetoric to a more aggressive tone. In May 2021, Azerbaijani forces invaded the Armenian provinces of Gegharkunik and Syunik, and the excuse was that the border is not demarcated or delimited. Later in July 2021, clashes occurred along the Armenian-Nakhichevan border, and a few months later in November, Aliyev ordered his troops to shoot at Armenians in Gegharkunik.
All of these minor incursions in 2021 were met with little to no resistance from the Armenian side, as Armenia was trying to signal to the international community that Armenia is not an aggressor and is trying to follow all terms of the November 9 Ceasefire Agreement (it should be noted here that Armenia stayed true to all terms and agreements, however Azerbaijan violated every single term listed by blocking the Lachin Corridor, continuing hostilities in Artsakh on a regular basis, not allowing refugees to return to the region, and holding on to hostages and prisoners of war. These were all explicitly prohibited, yet Azerbaijan disregarded the entire agreement). These minor incursions from 2021 could also have been a chess move to see if Aliyev could trick Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan into retaliating, giving Azerbaijan the casus belli to invade and occupy Armenia properly. From May 2021 to November 2021, we saw these minor incursions play out to pressure Armenia, but they failed.