Talking about Peace, Worrying about War
By Edmond Y. Azadian
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan are heading to Washington for another round of talks within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). These talks have become routine rituals, where diplomats spin their wheels, while on the ground a serious confrontation between the parties develops.
Historically, these encounters have proven futile, particularly when they are held in a major capital. During those meetings in high-profile centers, instead of focusing on finding a resolution, the issue becomes the rivalry between these capitals. In this case, it is not in the interest of Moscow for a sudden breakthrough to take place in Washington. Consequently, no breakthrough could be achieved in Moscow for the same reason.
However, the parties are far from reaching any agreement or breakthrough, since storm clouds are gathering, while the parties prepare to talk about peace. A military analyst, Hayk Nahapetyan, commented recently in the Armenian press on the developing situation in the region by stating: “Azerbaijan is slowly but steadily closing the circle around Artsakh,” referring to the Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises in Nakhichevan. “Such a growth in intensiveness,” Nahapetyan said, “was observed also in February-March 2016, on the eve of the military operations in April.”
Azerbaijan had previously announced plans for seven joint exercises with the Turkish military, but that number was raised to 13, signaling a worsening of the situation.
Warned by this buildup, Armenia has also increased its military preparedness, to avoid a repeat performance of the stealth attack by Azerbaijan on Artsakh of April 2016.
A more alarming development is the massive troop buildup by Turkey in Nakhichevan.
While Turkey is in bed with Moscow and Tehran on the Syrian issue, it is seeking alternative goals in the Caucasus.
One short-term goal is to boost the morale of the Azerbaijani army in confronting Armenian forces. But it looks like Ankara is after long-term goals as well, extending its focus further east.
The push of Turkish forces into Nakhichevan is particularly telling, as it is coinciding with the US military buildup in the Persian Gulf. We have yet to learn of any plausible explanations about the parallel moves of those forces, which allow the US to confer certain strategic tasks to Turkey.
On the one hand, the Turkish push toward the east has historic motives. Turkey has not given up its Ottoman dreams of bringing Central Asian Turkic nations under its sway. During the 1921 Kars Treaty negotiations, Turkey was able to open a 15-mile territorial corridor with Azerbaijan to allow contiguous access to territory along that plan.
On the other hand, Turkey is acting as a NATO member, never mind its current standoff with Washington.
American-Turkish relations have experienced turbulent times in the past and Ankara has realized that brinkmanship pays off. At this time, when the pundits have been collectively holding their breaths regarding Washington’s ultimatum to Turkey on the purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already a plan B to avert catastrophe.
Ever since the West concocted and executed the “Arab Spring,” Turkey was the first beneficiary after Israel.
In concentrating its forces in Nakhichevan, Mr. Erdogan is counting on the war rhetoric of National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who seem ready to unleash a war with Iran.
In the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” in Iraq, Turkey was able to station its forces in that country, under the pretense of protecting the Turkoman minority there, but in reality to curb the activities of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) from Iraq. While maintaining friendly relations with the Kurdish regional government, the Turkish government is on guard there to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdistan which can inflame the aspirations of all the Kurds in the Middle East.
Also as part of the “spring,” Turkey moved its forces into Syria and has been tenaciously holding on to chunks of territory there.
Last but not least, the “spring” also swept through Libya, where a war of attrition is currently raging and Turkey has been siding with the Islamist forces there. One should not forget that Libya once was also under Ottoman rule, along with Syria and Iraq.
In view of all these developments, it would be naive to think that Turkey is an innocent, disinterested party at the doorstep of Tehran.
The two major forces which historically have fought many wars in the region with the Ottoman Empire have been the Russian and Persian empires.
In the midst of all these alarming regional and international developments, it is reported that the rift between Yerevan and Artsakh is deepening. According to various sources, the resignations of Vitaly Balasanyan, secretary of the National Security Council of Artsakh and Arthur Aghabekyan, an advisor to the president in Artsakh, were requested by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia. It is the worst time to destabilize Artsakh in light of the imminent peril surrounding it.
Washington has never made a secret of its plans to divide Iran along its ethnic fault lines. That, of course, will benefit Azerbaijan and achieve the dream of one of its late leaders, Abulfaz Elchibey. Turkey is also waiting in the wings to take its share of the spoils, both as a NATO partner and as a “legitimate” heir to the Ottoman legacy.
The complexities of the Caucasus region amplify the potential of war there and create the possibility for it to become a global problem, well beyond the confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The world is watching this explosive situation with apprehension. Any minor incident — or major accident — may lead to a wider conflagration.
The wars in Iraq and Syria demonstrated that there are many false-flag operations in support of inciting wars; the recent tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf are certainly of that nature.
After recovering pieces of Ottoman territory from Cyprus, Iraq and Syria, Ankara is hoping for a disaster in Iran.
The Turks’ plans and actions are in the open. It remains to find out the positions of Russia and China, which may end up on the losing end, should the war machine move to the Caucasus.
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