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The Caucasus and Black Sea

According to ANCA, over 100 US Senators and Congressman are expressing solidarity with Armenia and condemning Azerbaijan, as Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan has intensified.  They are making this call even though such a motion contradicts America’s national security interests. Farid Mammadov, a board director of Azerbaijan’s Coordination Council in America, noted: “Since 1994 when American oil companies came to Azerbaijan, the two countries have built up very good cooperation and Azerbaijan is helping the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both countries also fight against radical extremism in the Middle East. Azerbaijan has also exceptionally good cooperation with Israel.”

It should be stressed that international law is clearly on the Azerbaijani side.  Thus, if the US suspends assistance to anyone, it should not be the Azerbaijani side.  Sam Kliger, director of Eurasian Affairs at the American Jewish Committee, added: “We support Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its right to defend itself and re-establish and regain control over the 20 percent of Azerbaijan territory that was occupied 30 years ago.  I personally believe such an outcome will benefit both Azerbaijani and Armenian people, and we hope that such a decision will come about peacefully through diplomacy rather than through military means.”  In 1993, the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions – 822853874, and 884 – all of which reaffirm Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, demanding an immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from all of the occupied regions. To date, Armenia has refused to fulfill these legally binding resolutions.


Brenda Shaffer, a faculty member at the US Naval Postgraduate School, stated that the US has had important security successes in the region since the Soviet Union broke up: “If you did a survey of agencies in the US government, it is clear that Azerbaijan is an important partner of the US for several decades.  In addition, bringing the Caspian energy resources has been a real bi-partisan project with successive Republicans and Democratic US administrations, supporting the East-West infrastructure projects. But now, with these threats to the corridor, America is not protecting its gains in the region.”

It is ironic that some of the same members of Congress that support Armenia present themselves as anti-Russia.  Shaffer pointed out that “Russia has two air bases in Armenia, and that its airspace and air defense is completely controlled by Moscow.  Russia has border guard forces on Armenia’s border with Turkey and an Armenian military unit serves together with Russia in Syria.”

In addition, some members of Congress, such as Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, have been extremely critical of Israel and would like to condition US aid on stopping Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  Yet, they have supported US legislation that supports Armenian settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh.  One million Azerbaijanis became refugees unable to return to their homes after Armenia illegally occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven adjacent Azeri districts.   Shaffer stated that Congresswoman Omar seems to care about the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War, yet not the Azerbaijani refugees from the 1990’s.

Azerbaijani activist Arzu Mamedova is infuriated by this: “Ilhan Omar is Muslim.  She came to the US as a refugee from an unprivileged country at age eight.   Yet, there were so many children killed in the Khojaly Massacre, who were unable to flee to the United States.   Why do you support people who are against the historic truth and justice, given that you have a similar story?  I cannot imagine how an American congresswoman could put her own political interests above justice and human rights.”

Some members of the US Senate as well, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, support foreign aid to Israel being continent on stopping Israeli settlements, yet they support the Armenian settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In recent times, the United States has had three military agreements with Azerbaijan, all designed to achieve “the security objectives that are in the national security interests of both the US and Azerbaijan,” Department of Defense Spokesman Mike Howard stated.  Given Azerbaijan’s strategic location between Iran and Russia, much of this security assistance is designed to assist America’s struggle against the Iranian regime.  In light of this, it is not prudent for the US government to undermine such a pivotal strategic interest in favor of a domestic lobbying group, especially given the fact that Armenia has received the backing of the mullah’s in Tehran.

According to Shaffer, “Islamic solidarity does not guide their foreign policy.  The Iranians fear a prosperous Azerbaijan that could be a source of attrition for its own Azerbaijani civilians.   So, from the early 1990’s, they supported Armenia.  Armenia would not have survived that war without Iran.”  In recent days, both Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have come out in favor of Armenia.  In fact, Rouhani even stated that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh could lead to a “regional war.”  Thus, any American who is concerned about the increasing amount of Iranian hegemony in the Middle East region should be gravely concerned by the support that Tehran and its proxies are giving to Armenia.

An anonymous source inside Iran claimed that there are filmed that have been verified that show that the Iranian authorities have sent Russian military supplies to Armenia through their territories.  This source claims that the Iranians have also given “heroes funerals” to Armenian who have been fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and permitted Armenians to travel to the occupied region without hindrance.   In contrast, the Iranian imams have condemned Azerbaijan’s right to defend its territorial integrity as “pan-Turkism” and Iran has called upon Azerbaijan to have a cease-fire.

In recent days, the Iranian regime has arrested 200 Azerbaijani activists who were protesting the fact that Iran was sending supplies to Armenia.  According to an anonymous Iranian Azerbaijani source, these Azerbaijanis were tortured by the mullah’s regime: “Iran is fighting against its own population.   There are still two Iranian provinces who still carry Azerbaijan’s name.   Very few Persians live in that area.  Fifty percent of Tehran is Azerbaijani.  Nevertheless, it is forbidden for Azerbaijanis in Iran to study in their own language at school and to express solidarity with Azerbaijan.  Nevertheless, the Armenians in Iran are not deprived of the right to speak their own language nor to support Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan.”  The source stressed that the status quo in favor of Armenia assists Iran’s nuclear program: “Iran has a weapons embargo.  They cannot receive nuclear fuel from Russia over the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan would not allow it through their territory.  They cannot do it in Armenia proper due to the mountains.  That route is also through Georgia or Turkey, so it blocked.  So, they opened up roads in Nagorno-Karabakh through their bridges.”  The source claimed that’s why Iran is panicking and doing everything to support Armenia in this conflict.

Since many Iranian Azerbaijanis are presently not happy with the mullah’s regime, the source stressed that a strong Azerbaijan who retakes Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven Azerbaijani provinces can strongly undermine the stability of the mullah’s regime: “This is the best opportunity for US, Israel, and the free world to fight against the mullah’s in Iran.”  For this reason, the source called upon America to support Azerbaijan, for it could lead to great instability in the Islamic Republic of Iran.    In contrast, a victorious Armenia will lead to nothing more than the mullah’s strengthening their grip over the region, which goes contrary to America’s national interests.  As Mamedova concluded: “Azerbaijan is the only country that can guarantee security in the region.  When we have no peace, there will be no peace and security in the region.”

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Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."