On September 27, 2020, a massive attack was launched against Artsakh by Azerbaijan with the direct participation of Turkey and Islamic Jihadist mercenaries. The Azeri/Turkish side not only attacked Armenian military forces, but also peaceful civilians in various villages and Stepanakert—the capital of the Republic of Artsakh. Ominously, there have been reports of Turkish F-16 Air Force jets operating in the war zone after several threatening remarks against Armenia by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
As I write this article on Monday (Sept. 28), the battles continue. We hope that France, Russia and the United States will intervene and stop the bloodshed. So far 370 Azeri soldiers, including Lieutenant-Colonel Mehman Miraziz, have been killed. Mais Barkhudarov, an Azeri Major General was wounded and captured by the Armenian forces. In addition, 81 foreign Islamist Jihadist mercenaries have been killed. At the time of this writing, 84 Armenian soldiers have been killed and more than 100, mostly civilians, wounded. Turkey, which transported a large number of these Islamist terrorists to Azerbaijan, has promised to pay them thousands of dollars a month. It is embarrassing that Azerbaijan and Turkey with their own huge militaries are too cowardly to use their own soldiers and are importing mercenaries from Northern Syria. Hopefully, these hired terrorists will suffer the same fate as the Afghan Mujahideen and Chechen mercenaries who were brought to Azerbaijan in the 1990s to fight against the Armenian forces. Many of them were killed in battle, and the rest left Azerbaijan seeing the cowardly behavior of Azeri soldiers. In addition, Armenian forces have destroyed Azerbaijan’s four helicopters, 36 tanks and armored vehicles and 27 drones, including those purchased from Israel and Turkey.
Russia and the United States issued statements calling for a ceasefire and return to the negotiating table. Significantly, the US State Department announced that “participation in the escalating violence by external parties would be deeply unhelpful and only exacerbate regional tensions.” This was an indirect call to Turkey not to meddle in the Artsakh conflict. However, the United States government should go beyond mere words and sanction both Turkey and Azerbaijan by not providing any weapons or foreign aid to either of them. In addition, we are seeing the same meaningless statement urging both sides to cease fire without condemning the party that started the attacks, which is always Azerbaijan. I am certain that the United States and Russia know full well who started the attacks.
I am sure most Armenians realize that at this critical time when the lives of the populations of Armenia and Artsakh are at risk, they should refrain from continuing their personal or partisan disputes. This is no time to engage in internal disagreements. The priority is to deter the common enemy. We should all rally around the government of Armenia. Similarly, Diaspora Armenians should set aside their petty disputes and join ranks. I know many Armenian-Americans have been engaged in supporting the different candidates in the upcoming US presidential elections; Facebook is full of their heated comments. I urge everyone to take a break from these political disputes and rally around Armenia and Artsakh. We are facing much larger and more powerful enemies—Azerbaijan and Turkey. Only our united effort and smart tactics can protect us to avoid the reoccurrence of the Genocide.
Though I am not a military expert, I do have some common sense suggestions for Armenia’s leaders. This is not a partisan issue. I had made the same suggestion to Armenia’s previous and current governments, regrettably to no avail. I would like to remind our political leaders in Armenia that they should immediately declare that they will postpone all negotiations until such time that Azerbaijan and Turkey stop firing on Armenia and Artsakh. How can one carry out peaceful negotiations when the other side is holding a gun to your head? Armenia should declare to the world that we are for peaceful negotiations; however, it is not acceptable that Azerbaijan keeps firing while supposedly negotiating. What kind of negotiation is that? One can either fight or talk, but it’s impossible to do both at the same time. If the negotiations are interrupted, Azerbaijan is the one that will be the loser because that is the only way that it hopes to arrive at mutual concessions. It is in Azerbaijan’s interest to stop firing and start negotiating. The international community will only blame Azerbaijan for the interruption of the peaceful negotiations. By not placing such a reasonable condition on negotiations, Armenia is in fact encouraging Azerbaijan to continue firing on Armenia and Artsakh, costing the lives of many young Armenians. No more negotiations unless Azerbaijan stops these continuous attacks.
I also suggest that we should never tell the enemy where we would or would not attack. After the spokesman of the Azeri Defense Forces threatened in July that Azerbaijan could attack the Metsamor nuclear power plant, I was dismayed to hear an Armenian official state publicly that Armenia would never attack civilian targets in Azerbaijan. There was no need to make such an announcement. Let the enemy guess what you would or would not do in case of war. If Armenia thought that by making such an announcement it will gain praise from the international community, it is sadly mistaken. War is not the time to play Mr. Nice Guy. The world respects only strength. Rights and good behavior do not count. Let Azeris worry that Armenia could attack their dams, pipelines, oil fields and civilian populations. We do not need to announce whether we could attack such targets or not. Azerbaijan had no hesitation attacking Stepanakert this week, why should we announce that we have no interest in retaliating on similar Azeri targets?
Finally, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan just announced that the possibility of Armenia recognizing Artsakh’s independence is “on the table and needs to be reviewed.” This is a welcome announcement. Pashinyan already had announced in Stepanakert last year that “Artsakh is Armenia, period.” The previous Armenian government had also declared that if Azerbaijan attacks Artsakh, Armenia would then recognize Artsakh’s independence. It is high time that Armenia take such a decision which would be an appropriate response to the Azeri/Turkish attack on Artsakh.
I urge all Armenians around the world to united and defend the homeland in whatever way they can against its enemies, Azerbaijan and Turkey.