How Eurasia will be interconnected

How Eurasia will be interconnected

April 04, 2021

by Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The extraordinary confluence between the signing of the Iran-China strategic partnership deal and the Ever Given saga in the Suez Canal is bound to spawn a renewed drive to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and all interconnected corridors of Eurasia integration.

This is the most important geo-economic development in Southwest Asia in ages – even more crucial than the geopolitical and military support to Damascus by Russia since 2015.

Multiple overland railway corridors across Eurasia featuring cargo trains crammed with freight – the most iconic of which is arguably Chongqin-Duisburg – are a key plank of BRI. In a few years, this will all be conducted on high-speed rail.

The key overland corridor is Xinjiang-Kazakhstan – and then onwards to Russia and beyond; the other one traverses Central Asia and Iran, all the way to Turkey, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. It may take time – in terms of volume – to compete with maritime routes, but the substantial reduction in shipping time is already propelling a massive cargo surge.

The Iran-China strategic connection is bound to accelerate all interconnected corridors leading to and crisscrossing Southwest Asia.

Crucially, multiple BRI trade connectivity corridors are directly linked to establishing alternative routes to oil and gas transit, controlled or “supervised” by the Hegemon since 1945: Suez, Malacca, Hormuz, Bab al Mandeb.

Informal conversations with Persian Gulf traders have revealed huge skepticism about the foremost reason for the Ever Given saga. Merchant marine pilots agree that winds in a desert storm were not enough to harass a state of the art mega-container ship equipped with very complex navigation systems. The pilot error scenario – induced or not – is being seriously considered.

Then there’s the predominant shoptalk: stalled Ever Given was Japanese owned, leased from Taiwan, UK-insured, with an all-Indian crew, transporting Chinese merchandise to Europe. No wonder cynics, addressing the whole episode, are asking, Cui Bono?

Persian Gulf traders, in hush hush mode, also drop hints about the project for Haifa to eventually become the main port in the region, in close cooperation with the Emirates via a railway to be built between Jabal Ali in Dubai to Haifa, bypassing Suez.

Back to facts on the ground, the most interesting short-term development is how Iran’s oil and gas may be shipped to Xinjiang via the Caspian Sea and Kazakhstan – using a to-be-built Trans-Caspian pipeline.

That falls right into classic BRI territory. Actually more than that, because Kazakhstan is a partner not only of BRI but also the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

From Beijing’s point of view, Iran is also absolutely essential for the development of a land corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea and further to Europe via the Danube.

It’s obviously no accident that the Hegemon is on high alert in all points of this trade corridor. “Maximum pressure” sanctions and hybrid war against Iran; an attempt to manipulate the Armenia-Azerbaijan war; the post-color revolution environment in both Georgia and Ukraine – which border the Black Sea; NATO’s overarching shadow over the Balkans; it’s all part of the plot.

Now get me some Lapis Lazuli

Another fascinating chapter of Iran-China concerns Afghanistan. According to Tehran sources, part of the strategic agreement deals with Iran’s area of influence in Afghanistan and the evolution of still another connectivity corridor all the way to Xinjiang.

And here we go back to the always intriguing

Lapis Lazuli corridor – which was conceptualized in 2012, initially for increased connectivity between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Lapis Lazuli, wonderfully evocative, harks back to the export of an array of semiprecious stones via the Ancient Silk Roads to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans and North Africa.

Now the Afghan government sees the ambitious 21st century remix as departing from Herat (a key area of Persian influence), continuing to the Caspian Sea port of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan, via a Trans-Caspian pipeline to Baku, onwards to Tblisi and the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi in the Black Sea, and finally connected to Kars and Istanbul.

This is really serious business; a drive that may potentially link the

Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

Since Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in 2018, in the Kazakh port of Aktau, what’s interesting is that their major issues are now discussed at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where Russia and Kazakhstan are full members; Iran will soon be; Azerbaijan is a dialogue partner; and Turkmenistan is a permanent guest.

One of the key connectivity problems to be addressed is the viability of building a canal from the Caspian Sea to Iran’s shores in the Persian Gulf. That would cost at least US$7 billion. Another issue is the imperative transition towards container cargo transport in the Caspian. In SCO terms, that will increase Russian trade with India via Iran as well as offering an extra corridor for China trade with Europe.

With Azerbaijan prevailing over Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh flare up, while finally sealing a deal with Turkmenistan over their respective status in the Caspian Sea, impetus for the western part of Lapis Lazuli is now in the cards.

The eastern part is a much more complicated affair, involving an absolutely crucial issue now on the table not only for Beijing but for the SCO: the integration of Afghanistan to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In late 2020, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan agreed to build what analyst Andrew Korybko delightfully described as the PAKAFUZ railwayPAKAFUZ will be a key step to expand CPEC to Central Asia, via Afghanistan. Russia is more than interested.

This can become a classic case of the evolving BRI-EAEU melting pot. Crunch time – serious decisions included – will happen this summer, when Uzbekistan plans to host a conference called “Central and South Asia: Regional Interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities”.

So everything will be proceeding interconnected: a Trans-Caspian link; the expansion of CPEC; Af-Pak connected to Central Asia; an extra Pakistan-Iran corridor (via Balochistan, including the finally possible conclusion of the IP gas pipeline) all the way to Azerbaijan and Turkey; China deeply involved in all these projects.

Beijing will be building roads and pipelines in Iran, including one to ship Iranian natural gas to Turkey. Iran-China, in terms of projected investment, is nearly ten times more ambitious than CPEC. Call it CIEC (China-Iran Economic Corridor).

In a nutshell: the Chinese and Persian civilization-states are on the road to emulate the very close relationship they enjoyed during the Silk Road-era Yuan dynasty in the 13th century.

INSTC or bust

An extra piece of the puzzle concerns how the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) will mix with BRI and the EAEU. Crucially, INSTC also happens to be an alternative to Suez.

Iran, Russia and India have been discussing the intricacies of this 7,200 km-long ship/rail/road trade corridor since 2002. INSTC technically starts in Mumbai and goes all the way via the Indian Ocean to Iran, the Caspian Sea, and then to Moscow. As a measure of its appeal, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Oman, and Syria are all INSTC members.

Much to the delight of Indian analysts, INSTC reduces transit time from West India to Western Russia from 40 to 20 days, while cutting costs by as much as 60%. It’s already operational – but not as a continuous, free flow sea and rail link.

New Delhi already spent $500 million on a crucial project: the expansion of Chabahar port in Iran, which was supposed to become its entry point for a made in India Silk Road to Afghanistan and onward to Central Asia. But then it all got derailed by New Delhi’s flirting with the losing Quad proposition.

India also invested $1.6 billion in a railway between Zahedan, the key city in southeast Iran, and the Hajigak iron/steel mining in central Afghanistan. This all falls into a possible Iran-India free trade agreement which is being negotiated since 2019 (for the moment, on stand-by). Iran and Russia already clinched a similar agreement. And India wants the same with the EAEU as a whole.

Following the Iran-China strategic partnership, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Mojtaba Zonnour, has already hinted that the next step should be an

Iran-Russia strategic cooperation deal, privileging “rail services, roads, refineries, petrochemicals, automobiles, oil, gas, environment and knowledge-based companies”.

What Moscow is already seriously considering is to build a canal between the Caspian and the Sea of Azov, north of the Black Sea. Meanwhile, the already built Caspian port of Lagan is a certified game-changer.

Lagan directly connects with multiple BRI nodes. There’s rail connectivity to the Trans-Siberian all the way to China. Across the Caspian, connectivity includes Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan and Baku in Azerbaijan, which is the starting point of the BTK railway through to the Black Sea and then all the way from Turkey to Europe.

On the Iranian stretch of the Caspian, Amirabad port links to the INSTC, Chabahar port and further on to India. It’s not an accident that several Iranian companies, as well China’s Poly Group and China Energy Engineering Group International want to invest in Lagan.

What we see in play here is Iran at the center of a maze progressively interconnected with Russia, China and Central Asia. When the Caspian Sea is finally linked to international waters, we will see a de facto alternative trade/transport corridor to Suez.

Post-Iran-China, it’s not far-fetched anymore to even consider the possible emergence in a not too distant future of a Himalaya Silk Road uniting BRICS members China and India (think, for instance, of the power of Himalayan ice converging into a shared Hydropower Tunnel).

As it stands, Russia is very much focused on limitless possibilities in Southwest Asia, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear in the 10th Middle East conference at the Valdai club. The Hegemon’s treats on multiple fronts – Ukraine, Belarus, Syria, Nord Stream 2 – pale in comparison.

The new architecture of 21st century geopolitics is already taking shape, with China providing multiple trade corridors for non-stop economic development while Russia is the reliable provider of energy and security goods, as well as the conceptualizer of a Greater Eurasia home, with “strategic partnership” Sino/Russian diplomacy playing the very long game.

Southwest Asia and Greater Eurasia have already seen which way the (desert) winds are blowing. And soon will the masters of international capital. Russia, China, Iran, India, Central Asia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Korean Peninsula, everyone will experience a capital surge – financial vultures included. Following the Greed is Good gospel, Eurasia is about to become the ultimate Greed frontier.

Maria Zakharova : weekly briefing with a US history

April 01, 2021

The Iranian-Turkish Scandal Over Azerbaijan Is Just A Gigantic Misunderstanding

12 DECEMBER 2020

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

The Iranian-Turkish Scandal Over Azerbaijan Is Just A Gigantic Misunderstanding

President Erdogan’s recitation of a 19th-century Azeri nationalist poem during his attendance at Baku’s Victory Parade as his Azerbaijani counterpart’s guest of honor last week provoked harsh criticism from Iranian officials who regarded it as implying territorial claims on their country’s three northwestern provinces that form part of the historic Azerbaijan region (which also naturally includes the Republic of Azerbaijan), though the entire scandal is just a gigantic misunderstanding since it’s doubtful that the Turkish leader meant to convey any such intentions and simply wasn’t aware at the time of how negatively those words would be interpreted by the Iranian government.

The Aras River Poem

The Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership was rocked by a sudden scandal after Tehran strongly protested President Erdogan’s recitation of a 19th-century national Azeri nationalist poem during his attendance at Baku’s Victory Day parade as his Azerbaijani counterpart’s guest of honor last week. The controversial words that the Turkish leader uttered are as follows: “They separated the Aras River and filled it with rocks and rods. I will not be separated from you. They have separated us forcibly.” This poem has previously been used by some to imply territorial claims on Iran’s three northwestern provinces that form part of the historic Azerbaijan region, which was separated by the Aras River from what is nowadays the Republic of Azerbaijan (which forms the other half of that transnational region) as a result of Russian imperial conquests at the time.

Diplomatic Disagreements

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif swiftly responded on Twitter by writing that “Pres. Erdogan was not informed that what he ill-recited in Baku refers to the forcible separation of areas north of Aras from Iranian motherland. Didn’t he realize that he was undermining the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan? NO ONE can talk about OUR beloved Azerbaijan.” The Turkish Ambassador to Iran was then summoned to that country’s Foreign Ministry over President Erdogan’s comments, after which the Iranian Ambassador to Turkey was symmetrically summoned to that country’s Foreign Ministry to deny the allegations made against their leader and complain about Tehran tweeting about this misunderstanding instead of utilizing diplomatic channels to resolve it. The resultant scandal has predictably emboldened opponents of their strategic partnership to become more vocal.

The Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership

Objectively speaking, however, the entire issue seems to be a gigantic misunderstanding. It’s extremely unlikely that President Erdogan was aware of the negative historical connotation associated with that nationalist Azeri poem, exactly as Foreign Minister Zarif suggested, but at the same time, Tehran felt obligated to publicly oppose anything that can even remotely be misportrayed by those will ill intent as encouraging Azeri separatism in northwestern Iran. Iran and Turkey are closer nowadays than at any time in recent memory as a result of their geostrategic convergence on several issues of common interest across the so-called “Greater Middle East” such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, and even Libya. It’s therefore unthinkable that President Erdogan would knowingly jeopardize this historic moment just to earn more applause during a parade in Baku.

Azerbaijan’s Regional Integration Proposal

It can’t be known for sure, but President Erdogan might have had his Azerbaijani counterpart’s visionary proposal for a regional integration platform in mind — which he likely would have been briefed about before his trip — when he made the decision to recite that poem during the parade. President Aliyev told reporters after his talks with President Erdogan shortly before the parade started that a new multilateral platform should be created in the region for all the relevant countries to join. The day after, President Erdogan told a Turkish TV channel that “Mr. Putin has a positive view on this idea”, which the Turkish leader also said could include Armenia, Georgia, and Iran as well. If this ambitious platform is successfully created, then the Aras River — among other borders — would naturally transform from a regional barrier into a bridge for regional integration.

Iranian Interests

There’s a pretty good chance that most — if not all — of the relevant countries will decide to join, with the only possible uncertainties between Armenia and Georgia, the first of which might still be sour about its nearly three-decade-long occupation force finally being kicked out of Nagorno-Karabakh while the latter might refuse to join any platform alongside Russia due to their dispute over the status of Abkahzia and South Ossetia (which Tbilisi claims as its own while Moscow recognizes both of them as independent). In any case, Iran has everything to gain by strengthening multilateral strategic relations with Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey, especially those with a security dimension such as thwarting any separatist plots of ultra-nationalist radicals in its northwestern provinces who might be influenced by hostile third parties like the US and “Israel”.

President Erdogan’s Optimistic Mindset

Having established the background context of President Erdogan’s controversial remarks, it therefore can’t be discounted that was simply assuming the future successful implementation of the regional integration proposal that President Aliyev had just publicly unveiled immediately prior to the military parade at which his guest of honor was invited to speak. In the Turkish leader’s mind, the nationalist aspirations embodied by that poem could finally be fulfilled through peaceful means as a result of creating a transnational community of peace and prosperity through closer regional integration between Azerbaijan and Iran alongside the other members such as Turkey, Russia, and possibly even Armenia and Georgia that could also join this initiative. Had he known how negatively Iran would have reacted to his words, however, then he might not have said them in hindsight.

Clarifying The Turkish Leader’s Comments

All that President Erdogan seemingly intended to convey was that the era of regional divisions has ended as a new era of regional integration emerges in its wake following Azerbaijan’s glorious military victory over Armenia. He certainly didn’t mean to imply that the Azerbaijan would set its sights on the historic Iranian region of the same name next, but just that the Aras River which has separated the transnational Azeri people for over one and a half centuries might soon transform from a regional barrier to a gateway for regional integration in the event that President Aliyev’s visionary proposal is successful. Having presumably been briefed about it ahead of time, he probably thought that his recitation of that nationalist Azeri poem would speak to the heartfelt aspirations of this divided people without realizing how negatively the Iranian state would react to it.

Hindsight Is 20/20

It’s for this reason that observers can remain optimistic about the prospects of the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership and the larger regional integration goals that their leaders share since both governments will probably realize just how gigantic of a misunderstanding this entire scandal really is after finally speaking to one another about it behind closed doors. President Erdogan likely only had positive intentions in mind, yet Tehran wanted to make sure that no one with ill intent exploited his words, hence its very harsh public reaction to them. In hindsight, perhaps President Erdogan shouldn’t have recited that nationalist poem, the same as Foreign Minister Zarif should have resorted to traditional diplomatic channels to resolve the misunderstanding instead of going public with it, yet neither state representative meant any harm by what they did.

A Sad Misunderstanding

It’s all simply a sad misunderstanding where one well-intended action unwittingly led to another. After President Erdogan recited the nationalist Azeri poem, the Iranian government felt compelled to publicly respond in order to make its displeasure known and preemptively thwart any potentially forthcoming Balkanization attempts by hostile third parties such as the US and “Israel”. It’s regrettable how everything turned out considering the original intent since this scandal has overshadowed President Aliyev’s visionary regional integration proposal. Moreover, the opponents of the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership in both countries and abroad have become more vocal over the past few days, which could set into motion a self-sustaining cycle of distrust among their friendly people if such views aren’t moderated as soon as possible.

Concluding Thoughts

Looking forward, it’s predicted that this scandal will soon pass and that the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Partnership will emerge even stronger as a result, especially if both countries join Azerbaijan’s proposed regional integration platform alongside Russia and perhaps even Armenia and Georgia as well in the best-case scenario. As it stands, all sides should accept that this scandal is just a gigantic misunderstanding and realize in hindsight what they should have done better. Under no circumstances must they submit to the sudden pressure upon them to weaken their newfound strategic partnership since that would only ultimately end up playing into their geopolitical enemies’ hands. The larger region needs closer integration at this historic moment, not a return to the era of distrust and Balkanization plots, which both leaderships seem to understand very well.

Turkey Making Ties With Israel

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12.12.2020 

Author: Vladimir Odintsov

In recent years, one can more and more often find articles in various media about Turkey’s apparent desire to develop and strengthen its diverse ties with Israel. New Eastern Outlook has also repeatedly addressed the issue of assessing the current state of relations between the two countries, dealing with one issue in particular: Turkey and Israel: Enemies or Allies?

Relations between the two countries have developed in waves over the past decades, most notably sparking a crisis in 2010 after the Israelis shot and killed 10 Turkish activists who were trying to reach the shore on the Mavi Marmara in besieged Gaza in support of the Palestinians. Ultimately, in May 2018, Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and recalled its own because of Israeli attacks on Gaza and the United States’ decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. At the same time, it is no secret that economic ties have been maintained, and among the construction companies engaged in building Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory since the 1990s, there are also Turkish companies, such as the Yılmazlar Construction Group, which renewed its relationship with Israel in 2002.

As for Israel, it sees Turkey as a country with important financial flows for it and as one of the centers of world trade, a key and strategically important place for its domination in the Middle East. This explains Tel Aviv’s moves to agree to secret contacts with Turkey, one of which was the recent communication between the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Service, Hakan Fidan, and Israeli officials as part of Turkey’s efforts to normalize relations. These latest contacts, according to sources, have involved, among other things, restoring ties between Turkey and Israel back to the envoy level.

As The Jerusalem Post notes in this regard, Turkey expects not only to show its friendly attitude towards Israel and the Jews, but also to get dividends in the eyes of Joe Biden’s administration. At the same time, the publication stresses that “this is a model that has been used before… However, it is still unclear whether Israel will pander to Turkey and ignore its support for Hamas.”

The other day there was another offer from Ankara to reconcile with Israel and end the lingering bilateral conflict. Cihat Yaycı, a retired admiral and political science professor who is close to Erdoğan, has published an article in the December issue of Turkeyscope, a monthly magazine of the Moshe Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University, proposing a solution to the maritime economic border between Israel and Turkey. He sees this, in particular, at the expense of reducing the interests of Cyprus, with which Ankara’s relations have recently seriously deteriorated against the background of Turkish expansion in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is true that in the comments to this article, the editor-in-chief of Turkeyscope, Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, PhD in Oriental Studies, noted: “In order to raise the level of Israel’s relations with Turkey, in order to achieve a real normalization, it is necessary to restore mutual trust, for which, above all, it is necessary to return the envoys and consuls.”

The essence of the Turkish proposals is to establish a sea economic zone border between Turkey and Israel at the expense of Cyprus and, by redrawing the sea economic zones, to transfer a number of Cypriot blocks to Israel. In announcing these proposals, Ankara is trying to play on the fact that the border zones between Israel and Cyprus are still disputed, despite all the signed agreements. And since economic waters are concerned, where on the Cypriot side there is the Aphrodite gas field with 100 billion cubic meters of gas worth $9 billion, the new demarcation of the sea border is presented by Ankara as a very expensive gift to Tel Aviv, but only on one condition: Israel will only have business with Turkey and absolutely nothing with Cyprus, whose opinion does not interest Erdoğan in the slightest. At the same time, Ankara makes no secret of the fact that it, too, has “claims” to Cyprus, thus suggesting that Israel should conduct an “exchange of interests” by signing an agreement.

Admiral Cihat Yaycı also advises Israel not to build the expensive EastMed gas pipeline to Greece through Cyprus, but to connect to the Turkish pipeline for gas supplies to Europe, which is more practical and cheaper, clearly referring to the “Southern Gas Corridor” from Azerbaijan, which passes through Turkey.

It is worth noting that Turkey had already signed earlier a very similar agreement, only at the expense of Greece, with the Libyan government in Tripoli, which angered not only Athens, but also Brussels, Cairo and Tel Aviv. Moreover, it was the former Turkish admiral Cihat Yaycı, who suggested the idea of this agreement with Libya.

As the Israeli media commented on Yaycı’s proposal, this is the second time in the last four months that Ankara has used the energy sector in an attempt to negotiate a truce with Israel. The clearly targeted rapprochement on Turkey’s part is evidenced not only by the increasing frequency of contacts between representatives of the secret services of the two states, but also by the fact that Erdoğan himself has stopped his openly insulting attacks against Israel in recent months.

Regarding Israel’s proposed sea border agreement with Turkey, Israeli observers have already called it a “Turkish gambit,” in which Erdoğan intends to sacrifice another piece instead of a pawn… That piece being Cyprus, with which Israel has not yet agreed on a sea border.

Ankara’s proposed agreement on the mutually beneficial delimitation of the sea economic zone has so far been received rather negatively in Israeli expert circles. In particular, there is a clear warning that, if agreed on, it could pit Israel not only against Cyprus and Greece, but also against its new peace partner, the United Arab Emirates, whose formal ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Zayed, recently signed a defense treaty with Greece. At the same time, it is not ruled out that tensions between the UAE and Erdoğan with his partners in Qatar could also lead to a serious conflict between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.

Under these conditions, experts believe that Israel certainly will not accept Ankara’s proposed agreement and betrayal of its ally Cyprus, which, in turn, casts doubt on the “Turkish gambit’s” success. As for Turkey, Tel Aviv insists that it must first change its public attitude towards Israel, stop delegitimizing it in the eyes of the Turkish population, and end its relations with Hamas. In doing so, Israel shows that if Erdoğan follows through, the Jewish state will find ways to restore the formal, mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries that it had in the past.

Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

CHAOS AND ARMED CONFLICTS: U.S. STRATEGY TO DISMANTLE RUSSIA IS ALREADY WORKING

South Front

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

In 2020, there have been several notable developments, that all seem to have been happening along Russia’s borders and in key regions developments in which influencing the Russian position on the international scene.

These include:

  • Ukraine’s refusal to seek peace in its East with the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and various questionable policies.
  • Western-backed protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, with a ‘school teacher-turned-politician’ challenging him with an insignificant share of the vote in the presidential election. She received wide support from the West, especially from heavily US-aligned states such as Poland and the Baltics.
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other groups in Syria are being supported openly, and not so openly, by the United States and sabotage the further diplomatic settlement of the conflict in Syria.
  • The situation in Central Asia is rather exacerbated, with an evident increase in ISIS activity in Afghanistan, alongside various terrorist elements appearing near its borders with Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) countries. The Russian Security Service – FSB – is hard at work in countering various ISIS and other terror cells on the territory of the Russian Federation, and reports such as these are frequent, meaning that there appears to be a network that is successful in either moving terrorist elements into the country, or recruiting them there.
  • There also was the Armenian-Azerbaijan War in Nagorno-Karabakh, which Russia didn’t directly involve itself in, since the fight was for the self-proclaimed independent republic of Artsakh, and Armenia never officially asked for assistance. Regardless, with the Peace Deal it brokered on November 10th, there have been numerous voices in Armenia blaming Russia for the defeat. And that is even though it essentially saved it from an even bigger fiasco and loss of territory. At the same time, despite being the victor, Azerbaijan simply received what it was promised with the Minsk agreements, with the addition of Shusha. There are protests against Russia in Azerbaijan, a country in which any non-government sanctioned protest is snuffed, violently. There are calls that Russia stole the “glorious victory”, while in Armenia there are calls to renew hostilities, while the Russian peacekeepers are there and somehow force their hand in the fight.
  • Turkey deployed thousands of Syrian militants to South Caucasus, and there are claims that it is even reportedly attempting to relocate families from Syria’s Afrin and other areas to the parts of Karabakh that were given to Azerbaijan. This is likely to also provide a fresh extremist presence in the region.
  • Turkey, once again, appeared to be shifting its gaze towards Crimea, but also cooperate with Ukraine in terms of selling UAVs to it and other military equipment.

All of these developments, somehow, almost entirely coincide with a report which the RAND Corporation released back in 2019.

The report is called “Extending Russia” with the subtitle “Competing from Advantageous Ground.” A short description of the report reads the following:

“The steps we posit would not have either defense or deterrence as their prime purpose, although they might contribute to both. Rather, these steps are conceived of as measures that would lead Russia to compete in domains or regions where the United States has a competitive advantage, causing Russia to overextend itself militarily or economically or causing the regime to lose domestic and/or international prestige and influence. This report deliberately covers a wide range of military, economic, and political policy options. Its recommendations are directly relevant to everything from military modernization and force posture to economic sanctions and diplomacy; consequently, it speaks to all the military services, other parts of U.S. government that have a hand in foreign policy, and the broader foreign and defense policy audience.”

Notably, the report suggests that the following “Geopolitical measures” need to be employed in order to counter Russia’s spreading influence and capabilities to provide an adequate answer to an extraordinary situation.

This chapter describes six possible U.S. moves in the current geopolitical competition:

  • providing lethal arms to Ukraine,
  • resuming support to the Syrian rebels,
  • promoting regime change in Belarus,
  • exploiting Armenian and Azeri tensions,
  • intensifying attention to Central Asia,
  • isolating Transnistria (a Russian-occupied enclave within Moldova).

There are several other possible geopolitical moves discussed in other RAND research but not directly evaluated here—including intensifying NATO’s relationship with Sweden and Finland, pressuring Russia’s position in the Arctic, and checking Russia’s attempts to secure its influence in Asia.

Ukraine

Between 2014 and 2016, the US provided $600 million in security assistance to Ukraine. These funds have been used to train Ukrainian military forces and provided nonlethal military equipment, including counterartillery and countermortar radars, secure communications, logistics systems, tactical unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, and medical equipment.

According to RAND, the US could increase its military assistance to Ukraine, or increase its calls to allow Kiev into NATO.

“Expanding U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including lethal military assistance, would likely increase the costs to Russia, in both blood and treasure, of holding the Donbass region. More Russian aid to the

separatists and an additional Russian troop presence would likely be required, leading to larger expenditures, equipment losses, and Russian casualties. The latter could become quite controversial at home, as it did when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.”

Eastern Ukraine is already a significant drain on Russian resources, exacerbated by the accompanying Western sanctions. Increasing U.S. military aid would certainly drive up the Russian costs, but doing so could also increase the loss of Ukrainian lives and territory or result in a disadvantageous peace settlement. This would generally be seen as a serious setback for U.S. policy.

What’s going on in reality? There appears to be no conclusive peace settlement in Ukraine, and anti-Russian policy continues moving forward full speed. The Kiev regime, at large controlled from Washington, is intentionally sabotaging attempts to de-escalate the situation and publicly preparing for a new military operation in eastern Ukraine. Recently, pro-Kiev sources started laying great hopes on the Turkish military aid. For sure, the US is also involved. In August 2020, incoming US President Joe Biden promised to provide Ukraine with even more lethal weapons. In late 2019, the Trump administration also approved several sales of “defensive lethal weapons” to Ukraine.

As such this part of RAND’s suggestion appears to be moving, more or less, according to plan.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

Syria

“In 2015, Russia’s intervention in Syria cost an estimated $2.4 million to $4 million a day, according to the Moscow Times and IHS Janes’ estimates. 34 Given the size of Russia’s defense budget ($50 billion that year), the sum might not be significant in and of itself.”

Increased U.S. support to the so-called ‘moderate’ Syrian opposition could perpetuate and intensify a civil war that had begun to wind down, thereby imposing attritional costs on both Russia and Iran.

RAND believes that such support should also reduce the “moderate opposition’s” reliance on the better-armed, more extremist groups and ultimately might improve the willingness and ability of moderate opposition forces to combat the “more extremist elements.” Now, first of all RAND doesn’t even deny that the most of “moderate opposition” is made up of extremists, who are fighting against even more extreme elements.

At the same time, the reality of the situation is this: the US, with all its claims of complete withdrawal from Syria, simply employed the SDF separatist leadership as a tool of sabotaging the peace settlement in Syria, while Washington is looting Syria’s oil fields. US companies exploit Syrian oil resources. Some of the money is used to bankroll the SDF.

The Russian side has repeatedly also claimed that ISIS and ISIS-affiliated fighters were being trained and received improved weaponry in the US-controlled areas of Syria.

Unlike Ukraine, the United States does not have a single actor to aid in the fight in Syria but rather faces a plethora of groups—often with murky affiliations—increasing the chances of weapons falling into the wrong hands.

“Supporting the rebels could run counter to the most prominent objective of the Trump administration’s Middle East foreign policy—fighting radical Islamist terrorism.”

In the highly unlikely event of total success—if Russia were to abandon the Assad government and the opposition were to somehow ‘defeat’ Damascus—the result would be a major geopolitical setback for Moscow but also a major contraction in its foreign commitments and associated expenditures, not to mention a huge responsibility for the United States and its allies to assume.

At the same time, it appears that supporting the “moderate rebels” isn’t proving effective enough and Israel is picking up the slack with targeting various Syrian and alleged Iranian positions in the areas under Damascus’ control.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

Essentially, there were some attempts, but none of them are any significant, since the fight in Syria appears to be too far gone.

Likewise, according to RAND, this course of action might have been viable a few years ago, when the armed opposition was stronger and less radicalized. Under current circumstances, the most that expanded U.S. aid could likely do would be to perpetuate a conflict that has already destabilized an entire region. Russia might be forced to pay a bit more for its Syrian commitment but only at the cost of continued regional turbulence, societal radicalization, and increased civilian casualties and displaced personnel.

Belarus

Belarus is Russia’s neighbour and important ally. It provides a buffer between Russia and major NATO countries and is the initial link in Russia’s ground lines of communication between the mainland and Kaliningrad— the Russian enclave entirely encircled by Lithuania and Poland. Already host to Russian forces, Belarus features prominently in many notional conflicts among the United States, NATO, and Russia.

In a zero-sum world, denying Russia its one and only true ally would be a clear geopolitical and ideological gain for the West. It would bring an end to “Europe’s last dictatorship,” a long-standing U.S. policy goal.

“Starting revolutions is not easy, and the United States lending public support to opposition movements does not guarantee that they will be successful. In 2007, Gallup found that 60 percent of Belarusian respondents believed democracy was important and 47 percent believed it was “somewhat” or “very” important for Belarus to have an active opposition party.”

RAND considered regime change in Belarus as one of the most significant escalations, but the attempts have all but failed, and with Russia actually not having to lift a finger.

Even despite Lukashenko attempt to get some concessions from Russia prior to the protests in the country.

“Promoting regime change in Belarus is one of the most escalatory options considered in this report. Such an effort probably would not succeed and could provoke a strong Russian response, including the possibility of military action. Such a reaction might extend Russia by requiring the nation to commit resources to preserve its grasp over Belarus, thereby provoking the United States and its European allies to respond with harsher sanctions, but the result would be a general deterioration of the security environment in Europe and a setback for U.S. policy.”

Currently, protests in Belarus are still on-going, but they’ve barely achieved any real progress in the regime change agenda. However, the Western/NATO interference in the internal situation in Belarus is an undeniable fact.

Lukashenko may be making some interesting claims regarding Russia, or attempting to play tough in order to get a discount from Moscow on natural gas, or some other commodity, but at the same time is wise enough to continue actively communicating with Russian President Vladimir Putin and remain a formal ally.

Nagorno-Karabah: Armenia and Azerbaijan

The RAND analysis begins with reminding that in 2008, the Georgian-Russian relations with damaged severely, after a few days of war and the resulting South Ossetia and Abkhazia as separate countries.

Russia also plays a key role with Azerbaijan and Armenia, particularly over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ethnically Armenian but geographically located within Azerbaijan, Nagorno- Karabakh’s bid to join the Armenia Soviet Socialist Republic during the latter years of the Soviet Union was denied by the Soviet Politburo because of the risk of encouraging secessionist movements elsewhere.

According to RAND, the United States could extend Russia in the Caucasus in two ways. First, the United States could push for a closer NATO relationship with Georgia and Azerbaijan, likely leading Russia to strengthen its military presence in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Armenia, and southern Russia.

Alternatively, the United States could try to induce Armenia to break with Russia.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

“Increased U.S. involvement in the region could produce additional economic benefits as well. The Caspian Sea remains a key producer of both oil and natural gas. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that there are “48 billion barrels of oil and 292 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves in the Caspian basins. Almost 75 percent of oil reserves and 67 percent of natural gas reserves are located within 100 miles of the coast.”

According to the analysis, resolving Nagorno-Karabakh is likely a prerequisite to Armenia breaking with Russia, but it is unclear precisely how the United States or NATO could resolve the decades-old conflict without privileging one side and antagonizing the other. NATO has encouraged both parties to resolve the conflict through the Minsk Group—led by the Russians.

Currently, the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the six-week war that started on September 27th, 2020 was due to several factors.

Notably, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, as an avid supporter of the West worked to the benefit of what RAND describes and distanced Armenia from Russia with questionable policy.

In turn, Turkey, in support of Azerbaijan saw a chance, prepared and began to largely pull the strings on Baku’s offensive on the region.

Still, Russia managed to somehow salvage the situation for Yerevan, by brokering a peace deal which saw Azerbaijan get what it was supposed to be given under the Minsk Agreements, with the addition of Shusha.

Pashinyan, however, continued blaming Russia, the Armenian population, foreign countries and such for the failure and the gross mismanagement of Armenia’s forces in the war.

Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev presents the war as “gloriously won” but there are some elements which are protesting and claiming that Moscow actually robbed Baku of its “glorious victory.”

There are anti-Russian protests, in a country in which all non-government approved protests are violently stopped.

The US made some claims for peace and so on, as did many Western countries, with France even attempting to somehow mediate the conflict, but only barely.

Paris attempted to prove itself as a valuable ally to Armenia, but in the end, it simply said “we are with you, our Armenian brothers” and all they provided were empty words.

In Armenia, in order for Pashinyan and the pro-Western leadership to remain, political arrests of the opposition began. As such, support for Russia still remains rather low, and it is playing to the measure that RAND outlined in April 2019. In the current conditions, pro-Western forces in the region would continue their efforts to destabilize the region creating chaos near the Russian border and setting conditions for the NATO expansion there.

Central Asia

Russia is part of two economic ventures related to Central Asia: the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative. Russia has benefited from both, although in the case of the former, partners might have been harmed economically. There might be steps the United States and allies could take to reduce Russia’s benefits from both of these.

Engaging more with Central Asia could have modest benefits. Expanding Central Asian connectivity to the rest of the world could reduce that area’s trade with Russia. It must be noted, however, that economic growth within these countries would likely have the opposite effect and increase their trade with Russia because economic size and trade are correlated.

Now, little of this has succeeded in the year. Notably, and not in the vein which RAND describes is that militant activity in Afghanistan, as well as along its borders with the CSTO countries has increased, which Russia sees as a threat.

There are frequent reports of the FSB arresting various terrorist elements that either came from Central Asian republics or were recruited from groups from there. There is little evidence that the US has anything to do with that, but there are some reports that unknown black hawks have been extracting militants from all around, and they’ve resurfaced in northern Afghanistan, after a while.

The US efforts to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and is attempting to counter various projects in the Eurasian Economic Union, which Russia is part of such as the Nord Stream 2, but they are unrelated to Central Asia. In conclusion, regarding this, RAND appears to be a bit far from what’s been carried out, or if such measures are being implemented – they’re not being effective.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

Moldova

Transnistria is a Russian-speaking enclave within Moldova that currently hosts a Russian peacekeeping force and army base.

Officially, Russian policy toward Transnistria is ambiguous. Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept includes only a single, rather inarticulate statement:

Russia strongly advocates a political and diplomatic settlement of conflicts in the post-Soviet space, specifically, Russia works within the existing multilateral negotiating mechanism to find an inclusive solution to the Transnistrian issue, respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutral status of the Republic of Moldova in determining the special status of Transnistria.

The United States could encourage Transnistria’s youth (who, according to some journalistic accounts, might be more pro-West than their elders) to push their pseudo-state to leave the Russian orbit.

Moldovan cooperation in an effort to expel the Russians would not be easy to secure. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon stated, “A NATO office in Chisinau [Moldova’s capital], in a neutral country, is a provocation. I do not want this. I want neither NATO nor this Russia-led [military] alliance as far as armed forces are concerned.”

There’s been very limited movement throughout 2020, but it is likely that activities have been more focused on Belarus, Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, and Moldova has been left for sometime in the near (or far future). The pro-Western presidential candidate, Maia Sandu, won the 2020 election in Moldova, and she’s already promoting the ideal of the need of the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping force from Transnistria. This move sets conditions for the increase of instability.

RAND’s General Recommendations

Extending Russia through geopolitical competition is a fundamentally difficult and dangerous proposition. One might bait Russia into extending its foreign commitments, but only at the risk of serious setbacks to local U.S. partners. Even if such efforts succeeded in generating Russian withdrawals, the result would be the opposite of an extension.

Chaos And Armed Conflicts: U.S. Strategy To Dismantle Russia Is Already Working

Any geopolitical moves to extend Russia would also need to consider other options that (for reasons of length and resources) were not considered here in depth—namely, intensifying NATO’s cooperation with Sweden and Finland, pressuring Russia’s claims in the Arctic, and checking its influence in the Arctic.

Many of these are not exactly spot on, and whether they’re entirely connected to what’s going on comes down to conspiracy theories. However, it is fact that within a year and a half of the publishing, many of these recommendations have been implemented.

There has been a regime change attempt in Belarus, which is still on-going. Armenia and Azerbaijan went to warn for Nagorno-Karabakh, and Russia had to mediate, deploy peacekeepers and further resources, as well as is being accused of both sides for either losing the war for Armenia, or stealing away a bigger victory for Azerbaijan.

Militants are being delivered to South Caucasus, and even families are being relocated there from Syria.

The US and the “moderate rebels” in Syria are still operating, albeit not as actively as before, but Israel is there to provide assistance by bombing Syrian and alleged Iranian targets.

Attempts to spread chaos in Central Asia are apparent, and the FSB continues arresting various extremist elements, but there are likely more who are roaming around and entering the country through various channels.

It is unknown what will happen in Moldova, as of yet, but the trend is alredy seen.

Another thing that could be added is cooperating with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, assisting in the forming of the autonomous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, making pushes to repeat that questionable “success” in other countries such as Montenegro, and more.

Regardless, pressure on Moscow is being exerted from quite a few directions, at the same time, and it is unlikely that under US President Joe Biden this will end. After all, his chosen aides all plan to improve relations with allies, while countering Russia’s spreading influence. Namely in Ukraine, since Biden appears to have a soft spot for the country from which he and his son allegedly funneled billions. Ukraine, and Eastern Ukraine, could also be the best direction from which to target Russia.

Things are still developing on many fronts, and the pieces are yet to fall squarely on the board.

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IRGC RELEASES ALLEGED PHOTO OF AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IN SNIPER’S SIGHTS, IRAN SAYS PRESENCE OF MILITANTS IN KARABAKH UNACCEPTABLE

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IRGC Releases Alleged Photo of Azerbaijani President In Sniper's Sights, Iran Says Presence Of Militants In Karabakh Unacceptable

In a reminder that Iran opposes any further Azerbaijani ambitions in Nagorno-Karabakh and beyond, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) released an interesting photograph.

It shows Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in the sights of an Iranian sniper, while he was visiting the Khodaafarin bridge at the Karabakh-Iran border.

Earlier, on November 16th, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that no changes have occurred in Iran’s northwestern borderlines.

This happened in reference to the peace deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia after several weeks of conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region near the Iranian borders.

Stating that no change has occurred at the borderlines, he stressed that Iran will never accept anything other than what has been announced by the two sides.

Khatibzadeh added that the corridor that has become controversial these days is simply a transit route, the case of which is closely monitored by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

He further said that Iran welcomes any peaceful settlement of the case as it did over the past three decades.

He reiterated that no change has occurred at the Iranian borders and will never occur in the future.

According to Iranian Foreign Ministry knowledge, the Syrian militants must have already left the region, the spokesman said that a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia will benefit the entire region.

The spokesman, however, said Iran will not tolerate presence of any foreign elements in the region.

About killing of Iranian border guards in northwest of the country, Khatibzadeh said Iran’s response to such measures is strong.

A senior advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says there is no place for Syrian militants close to Iran’s northern borders.

“There is no place for Wahhabi and Takfiri terrorists among people of Azerbaijan who are known for their love for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s progeny, and track records of such groups are very bleak,” Ali Akbar Velayati said in an address to a webinar held to discuss Ayatollah Khamenei’s views on the Karabakh region. “The people of Azerbaijan are capable of liberating their land and the presence of Wahhabi terrorists in north of Iran’s borders [with Azerbaijan] will be fruitless.”

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LEADERSHIP OF ARMENIA: HOW TO LOSE TERRITORIES AND SURRENDER INTERESTS FOR DUMMIES

South Front

Armenia is in a deep political crisis after losing the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and signing a peace deal with Azerbaijan. Despite Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s claims that “the loser is only he who thinks himself defeated,” agreeing to the peace deal was in fact the least Armenia could do to salvage a situation which was becoming more untenable for Yerevan with each passing day. In its turn, Azerbaijan, which was on the brink of capturing the largest regional city, Stepanakert, and cutting off the Lachin corridor linking Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh, was forced to accept the de-escalation due to the intervention of Russian diplomacy and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers who are currently taking up positons in Karabakh.

How did the Armenian state manage to lose most of Nagorno-Karabakh? The order of events is here:

  • Back in 2018, a pro-Western coup took place in Armenia, which saw the government fall and Nikol Pashinyan, a Soros-funded ‘democratic’ activist back then, become the leader of the country through mass protests and the arresting of political opponents.
  • Since then, the Pashinyan government has proved one thing – they have no actual authority, as they even had to stage mass riots to attempt to enforce their political plans. The economic, political and military situation in Armenia continued to deteriorate despite the ‘democratic’ pro-Western government in power.
  • One area where the Soros-trained government was quite effective, however, was in spreading anti-Russian hysteria, and for two years Armenia’s main foreign and internal policy has been focused on distancing itself from Russia, which nevertheless continues to be its only real ally and the guarantor of Armenian statehood.

Through all these years, Azerbaijan was actively preparing for a military push to retake the territories of Nagorno-Karabakh, which it had lost during the Karabakh war in 1988-1994. After testing the water on a few separate occasions, the most recent of which took place in July 2020, the Azerbaijani military with support from Turkish military specialists and Turkish-backed Syrian militant groups launched a large-scale military operation in the region on September 27, 2020. The ill-prepared Armenian forces, overwhelmed in the fields of manpower, equipment and firepower, were defeated after about a month and a half of war and as of November 9, Azerbaijan had established full control of the key stronghold of Shusha, which oversees the capital of the Armenian Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh), Stepanakert.

Throughout this losing phase of the war, Armenia tried a very questionable bid at “multipolarity” looking to get help from any direction, all the while not attempting to restore its relations with Moscow.

Essentially, no significant forces, equipment or hardware were actually deployed from Armenia to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh. Whatever forces were present in Karabakh fought, with limited support from “mainland Armenia.” Also, officially, Armenia did not send any of its regular troops to fight. What was there instead of that? Livestreams of Nikol Pashinyan in Facebook and multiple PR statements claiming victorious counter-attacks by Armenian forces.

The lack of any real action was covered by a very wide and loud media campaign calling for other countries to recognize Artsakh as an independent country, hoping that it would happen and that the Armenian government would not need to do anything on its own. Ironically, while Armenia was demanding the world recognize Artsakh as an independent state, it itself as a state made zero steps in this direction. These factors led to Armenia ultimately losing the war.

The peace deal, which was a “very, very difficult decision” as per Pashinyan is a fact, and he’s now struggling to find whom to blame. He’s blaming other officials, other countries for not recognizing Artsakh as an independent country, his own military for not doing enough, and for sure the lack of support from Russia, who came to rescue the Armenians.

It is not known exactly where Pashinyan is now. He fled the government building amid protests demanding his resignation and is now mostly focused on making victorious Facebook livestreams. If patriotic forces do not take power in Armenia and the globalist-controlled government led by Pashinyan or a Pashinyan-like leader remains in power, the destruction of Armenian statehood will continue in the coming years. At some point, this process could become irreversible. As to the remaining part of Artsakh, its security is now guaranteed by the Russian military presence. Therefore, Stepanakert and nearby areas, including the Lachin corridor, just became areas of Russian influence and a further social, political and economic development of the region will not be possible without Russian involvement.

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ARMENIAN-AZERBAIJANI WAR – ONE MONTH AFTER

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Video: Armenian-Azerbaijani War - One Month After - Global Research
Video Here

After a month of war, the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc continues to keep the initiative in the conflict, exploiting its advantage in air power, artillery, military equipment and manpower. The coming days are likely to show whether Ankara and Baku are able to deliver a devastating blow to Armenian forces in Karabakh in the nearest future or not. If Armenian forces repel the attack on Lachin, a vital supply route from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, they will win the opportunity to survive till the moment when the ‘international community’ finally takes some real steps to pressure Turkey and Azerbaijan enough to force them to stop the ongoing advance. If this does not happen, the outcome of the war seems to be predetermined.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani forces continue their advance in the region amid the failed US-sponsored ceasefire regime. Their main goal is Lachin. In fact, they have been already shelling the supply route with rocket launchers and artillery. The distance of 12-14km at which they were located a few days ago already allowed this. Now, reports appear that various Azerbaijani units are at a distance of about 5-8 km from the corridor. Armenian forces are trying to push Azerbaijani troops back, but with little success so far.

The advance is accompanied by numerous Azerbaijan claims that Armenian forces are regularly shelling civilian targets and that the ongoing advance is the way to deter them. Baku reported on the evening of October 27 that at least four civilians had been killed and 10 wounded in Armenian strikes on Goranboy, Tartar and Barda. On the morning of October 28, the Armenians allegedly shelled civilian targets in Tovuz, Gadabay, Dashkesan, and Gubadl.

On the morning of October 28, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that in response to these Armenian violations its forces had eliminated a large number of enemy forces, an “OSA” air-defense system, 3 BM-21 «Grad» rocket launchers, 6 D-30, 5 D-20, and 1 D-44 howitzers, 2 2A36 «Giatsint-B» artillery guns, a 120 mm mortar, a “Konkurs” anti-tank missile and 6 auto vehicles.

On October 27, Azerbaijani sources also released a video allegedly showing the assassination of Lieutenant General Jalal Harutyunyan by a drone strike. Azerbaijani sources claim that he was killed. These reports were denied by the Armenian side, which insisted that the prominent commander was only injured. Nonetheless, the Karabakh leadership appointed Mikael Arzumanyan as the new defense minister of the self-proclaimed republic.

On the evening of October 27 , the Armenian Defense Ministry released a map showing their version of the situation in the contested region. Even according to this map, Armenian forces have lost almost the entire south of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces are close to the Lachin corridor. An interesting fact is that the Armenians still claim that the town of Hadrut is in their hands. According to them, small ‘enemy units’ reach the town, take photos and then run away.

Al-Hadath TV also released a video showing Turkish-backed Syrian militants captured during the clashes. Now, there is not only visual evidence confirming the presence of members of Turkish-backed militant groups in the conflict zone, but also actual Syrian militants in the hands of Armenian forces.

Experts who monitor the internal political situation in Armenia say that in recent days the Soros-grown team of Pashinyan has changed its rhetoric towards a pro-Russian agenda. Many prominent members of the current Pashinyan government and the Prime Minister himself spent the last 10 years pushing a pro-Western agenda. After seizing power as a result of the coup in 2018, they then put much effort into damaging relations with Russia and turned Armenia into a de-facto anti-Russian state. This undermined Armenian regional security and created the conditions needed for an Azerbaijani-Turkish advance in Karabakh. Now, the Pashinyan government tries to rescue itself by employing some ‘pro-Russian rhetoric’. It even reportedly asked second President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan to participate in negotiations with Russia as a member of the Armenian delegation. It should be noted that the persecution of Kocharyan that led to his arrest in June 2019 was among the first steps taken by Pashinyan after he seized power. Kocharyan was only released from prison in late June 2020. Despite these moves in the face of a full military defeat in Karabakh, the core ideology of the Pashinyan government remains the same (anti-Russian, pro-Western and NATO-oriented). Therefore, even if Moscow rescues Armenia in Karabkah, the current Armenian leadership will continue supporting the same anti-Russian policy.

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Azerbaijani-Armenian War: Counter-Offensive In The South And Iranian Factor

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On the evening of October 20, the Armenian Defense Ministry declared that they had launched a large-scale counter-offensive against the advancing Azerbaijani forces in the Khudaferin Reservoir area, in the southern part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenian sources claimed that the attack had caused heavy losses for the ‘enemy’ and had pushed Azerbaijani troops into retreat. Pro-Armenian sources also said that the town of Zangilan had become a ‘trap’ for Azerbaijani troops and that a large group of the ‘enemy forces’ was now being eliminated there.

On October 20, the Armenian Defense Ministry also released photos of a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 combat drone downed in the Nagorno-Karabakh combat zone. This is the second time, that the Armenian side appeared to be able to confirm that the Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc had lost a Bayraktar TB2. On October 19, Armenian sources showed a part of a Bayraktar TB2 optic system claiming that a drone had been downed. These drones are allegedly operated by the Azerbaijani military, but military sources say that drone operations are run with direct help from Turkish specialists.

The claims of Armenian successes in the south were immediately denied by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry. As of October 21, the situation on the ground demonstrates that the Armenian side has not yet been able to really retake initiative in the area.

Just before the Armenian counter-attack, Azerbaijani forces captured the town of Zangilan, and 25 villages in the districts of Zangilan, Jabrayil, and Fuzuli. The total number of various settlements captured by Azerbaijan since the start of the war on September 27 has reached 75.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev also made an address to the nation de-facto claiming that the Armenian military had been devastated and that his country was on the brink of a military victory in Karabakh. According to him, Azerbaijani forces destroyed 241 battle tanks, 50 armoured vehicles, 215 pieces of artillery, 74 multiple launch rocket systems, 58 mortars, 53 anti-tank weapons, 12 air defense systems, including 4 S-300s and 3 TORs, 8 electronic warfare systems, 3 tactical ballistic missiles and 198 trucks, as well as capturing numerous weapons and equipment from the Armenian side.

Indeed, if Armenian forces prove to be unable to organize an active defense, Azerbaijan has every chance of retaking the entire southern part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and even reaching the Armenian border there in the nearest future.

An Israeli-made IAI Harop combat drone belonging to the Azerbaijani Armed Forces was shot down near the city of Parsabad in northern Iran on October 20. The Azerbaijani military uses IAI Harops to target the positions and the equipment of Armenian forces. This is not the first cross-border incident with Iran caused by the ongoing military hostilities in Karabakh. Earlier, Iranian forces already shot down several Azerbaijani drones and reported shells falling inside Iranian territory.

On October 21, the Iranian Army and the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) launched large-scale air defense drills, codenamed Modafe’an-e Aseman-e Velayat 99 (Guardians of Velayat Sky 99). The drills involve the Iranian Army’s air defense units and the Air Force along with the IRGC’s Aerospace Force. Just a few days earlier, the Iranian military deployed additional artillery pieces near to the border with Azerbaijan.

Taking into account that the main direction of the current Azerbaijani advance in Karabakh is along the border with Iran, even a limited Iranian military response to regular ‘accidental’ attacks on its territory and violations of its airspace could create difficulties for Azerbaijani forces. For example, the Iranian decision to shoot down combat drones operating too close to the border could undermine Azerbaijani air dominance in this particular chunk of the frontline.

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AZERBAIJANI FORCES RUSH TO CAPTURE LACHIN CORORIDOR FROM RETREATING ARMENIANS

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The Armenian defense in the southern part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region seems to be collapsing as the advancing Azerbaijani forces are about to reach the strategic Lachin corridor.

On October 23, Azerbaijani troops were filmed near the village of Muradxanlı, which is located in about 15 km from this strategic area. Even if this Azerbaijani unit was just a field recognizance patrol and the main forces of the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc still have to overcome Armenian resistance to reach the area, the fact of the Azerbaijani presence there marks the hard situation on the frontline for the Armenians.

The Lachin corridor is a mountain pass within the de jure borders of Azerbaijan, forming the shortest route between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Republic of Artsakh). The cutting off of Lachin will destroy the remaining hopes of the Armenian side to achieve a military victory in the ongoing war. Meanwhile, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev announced that his forces took full control of the Azerbaijani-Iranian border after capturing the village of Aghband. The Azerbaijani leader also declared that the Armenians lost 21 more settlements in the districts of Zangilan, Fuzuli and Jabrayil.

The Armenian military denies the collapse of its defense lines in the south and claims that Azerbaijani units appearing on video are just sabotage parties. According to the Armenian side, various Azerbaijan troops tried to advance in the western, northern and northwestern directions, but all of these offensive attempts were repelled. The Azerbaijani military allegedly suffered heavy losses.

The Armenian side insists that the towns of Hadrut and Fuzuli are in fact not in the hands of Azerbaijan. It insists that various units of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan penetrate into different settlements in the front-line zone trying to create panic and make selfies there. These groups, according to Armenian media, are very small and often run away from Armenian troops. The optimism of Armenian officials is at least surprising.

According to reports, Armenian troops left the town of Aghband with almost no resistance to the Azerbaijani Armed Forces supported by Turkish specialists and Syrian militants. This move was likely a result of the need to save personnel and keep at least some reserves needed on other parts of the frontline. The defending of the almost surrounded town makes no sense. Nonetheless, videos and photos appearing online indicate that Armenian sabotage groups are also active in the rear of the advancing Azerbaijani forces. In that area, if they have enough supplies and weapons, they would be able to deliver painful blows to the logistical convoys of the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc. It is likely that his activity is a formal pretext behind the statements of the Armenian Ministry of Defense that Azerbaijan has not gained full control of the border with Iran.

Forces of Azerbaijan continue to take control of settlements and villages in the south of Karabakh. Most of them are empty as the locals (ethnic Armenians) know well what fate they could face. It seems that the south of Karabakh is already lost for Armenia.

The Azerbaijani advance along the border with Iran through the relatively flat ground (if one compares it with the rest of Karabakh) appears to be a success. Now the Azerbaijani military and its allies are working to fully secure the border with Iran and set conditions for an operation to capture the Lachin corridor. The ability or inability of Azerbaijan to capture Lachin could become another turning point in the war.

Under the current conditions, it seems that a relatively positive outcome of the conflict for Karabakh forces would be possible in the event of the involvement some third power that would provide them with direct military assistance. Nonetheless, this scenario remains unlikely as long as even Armenia, which for years has been using Karabakh as its own protectorate, is not hurrying up to do so. Some Armenian sources even claim that the Pashinyan government oriented towards the West and NATO has just opted to sell the contested region to Azerbaijan under some formal pretext to remove the unresolved territorial disputes factor and open a way towards the further ‘democratic’ transformation of Armenia that it desires so much.

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Armenian Forces Use Their Last Chance To Turn Tide Of War With Azerbaijan

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The Azerbaijani Armed Forces have been developing their advance on Armenian positions in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. On October 19, they captured 13 more villages in the Jabrayil district. The capturing of Soltanli, Amirvarli, Mashanli, Hasanli, Alikeykhanli, Gumlag, Hajili, Goyarchinveysalli, Niyazgullar, Kechal Mammadli, Shahvalli, Haji Ismayilli and Isagli was personally announced by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Early on October 20, Azerbaijani forces also reached the town of Tumas and engaged Armenian units deployed there. Pro-Azerbaijani sources insist that the town already fell into the hands of Baku.

The country’s defense ministry claims that in the recent clashes Azerbaijani forces destroyed a number of enemy troops, at least 2 T-72 tanks, 2 BM-21 “Grad” MLRS, 1 D-30, 1 D-20 gun-howitzers, and 11 auto vehicles.

On October 19, pro-Armenian sources for the first time provided video evidence that they had shot down at least one of the Bayraktar TB2 combat drones operated by the Azerbaijani military and Turkish specialists.  Meanwhile, the Armenian Defense Ministry claimed that 5 unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down during the evening of that day only.

According to the Armenian side, the total number of Azerbaijani casualties in the war reached 6,259. 195 UAVs, 16 helicopters, 22 military planes, 566 armoured vehicles and 4 multiple rocket launchers of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan were allegedly destroyed. Yerevan claims that the Armenian forces have repelled two powerful attacks in the northern part of Karabakh, while intense fighting has been ongoing in the south. Nonetheless, Armenian military officials avoid confirming the recent Azerbaijani advances and insist that the recent developments are just a part of modern maneuver warfare. By these claims, the political leadership of Armenia tries to hide that the Azerbaijani advance along the Iranian border faced little resistance.

The Azerbaijani progress was mostly complicated by a limited number of mobile Armenian units, which were avoiding a direct confrontation and focusing on ambushes and mine warfare. According to reports, the Armenian side is now reinforcing its positions in the area of the Akari River seeking to prevent the further Azerbaijani advance towards the Armenian state border and the Lachin corridor.

On the other hand, the goal of the Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc is to overcome this resistance and to develop the current momentum to reach the Lachin mountain pass thus threatening to cut off the shortest route between Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh. In the event of success, this would predetermine the Azerbaijani victory in the war. Military hostilities are ongoing amid another round of international diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the situation and return the sides to the negotiating table.President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan declared that they are ready to meet in Moscow. The Azerbaijani leader even said that his country is ready to halt the operation if Armenia demonstrates a constructive approach. Nonetheless, the ‘constructive approach of Armenia’ in the view of Azerbaijan is the full and public surrender of Karabakh. Such an agreement will mark the collapse of the current political leadership of Armenia and is unlikely to be accepted.Therefore, the war will likely continue until the military victory of one of the sides and that side would likely be Azerbaijan.

Baku has already achieved an impressive breakthrough on the frontline if one compares the current situation with local military escalations in the previous years. As to Armenia, it will not likely be able to turn the tide of the conflict if it continues limiting its response to indirect support of forces of the Republic of Artsakh instead of a direct military action to repel the Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc. Clashes of the previous weeks already demonstrated that Baku has an upper hand in the current format of the military standoff in Karabakh. Therefore, if Yerevan really wants to change something, it should change the rules of the game even if this would create additional risks for Armenia itself.

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Intermediate Results And Prospects Of Armenian-Azerbaijani War

South Front

The Armenian-Azerbaijani war, which started on September 27, continues in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region despite international diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the conflict. Offensive operations of Azerbaijani forces continue at the same time as the Azerbaijani government claims that it is committed to the ceasefire regime. The first humanitarian ceasefire entered force in Karabakh on October 10 and collapsed on the next day, while the second one started on October 18 with the same result. The Armenian side also insists that it is committed to the ceasefire while simultaneously conducting counter-attacks against the advancing Azerbaijani forces.

For the Armenian side, the situation is further complicated by the fact that the current Armenian leadership is not ready to (or does not want to) employ all of its means and forces to fight back the Azerbaijani advance. Instead of this, Armenian forces involved in the conflict are limited to those of the Nagorno-Karakbah Republic.

The government of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has so far limited its support to Karabakh to supplying weapons, sending volunteers (instead of regular forces), complaining in the media and calling on other countries to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state, while Armenia itself has made no steps in this direction.

As of October 19, the situation on the frontline demonstrates that the Azerbaijani-Turkish side has been slowly but steadily taking an upper hand in the war. Azerbaijani forces have achieved a series of tactical successes in the northern and southern part of the region, capturing two dozen small towns and villages. The most important of them are Fuzuli, Jabrayl, Hadrut, Madaghis and Talish. Azerbaijani forces also advanced in the direction of the Khudaferin Reservoir.

Over the past few days, especially heavy clashes were taking place near the town of Hadrut, from which Armenian forces withdrew after Azerbaijan took control of the surrounding heights. Fuzuli experienced a similar fate as the Hadrut heights in fact overlook its countryside as well. The Azerbaijani military extensively uses its advantage in air, artillery and manpower. The advance is also supported by militant groups deployed by Turkey from the northwest of Syria, Turkish special forces and specialists (especially in the field of EW operations, intelligence and air domain warfare).

These factors, especially the air dominance, allowed Azerbaijan to deliver notable damage to Armenian forces destroying multiple pieces of their military equipment, destroying fortified positions and manpower. The outdated air defense forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic appeared to be unable to deal with the threat from Azerbaijani military aircraft, while Armenia also seems to be unable to or has no political to will to employ its air defense. Just recently, on October 17, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released a video of strikes on a S-300 system in Armenia.

At the same time, the Azerbaijani military conducts intense strikes on civilian infrastructure in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Despite the public claims of the Azerbaijani leadership that the conflict has no ethnic grounds and that there is no threat to the Armenian population, in fact, Baku seeks to not only dismantle the self-proclaimed Armenian state, but also to remove Armenians from this territory. The Armenian side responds in a similar manner regularly shelling settlements and towns in Azerbaijan. While some of these strikes may be considered as accidental, as Armenian sources claim, the recent strikes on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja with ballistic missiles are for sure not an accident. According to Azerbaijani authorities, 13 civilians were killed and more than 40 others were injured in the attack on the city. The strike was likely conducted with the Soviet R-17 Elbrus tactical ballistic missile complex, which is in service with Karabakh forces.

It is likely that the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc will develop its advance further along the Iranian border aiming for the towns of Qobadli and Zengilan. For Azerbaijan, it will be profitable to extend the frontline because it will allow it to use its advantage in air power and manpower. Meanwhile, the terrain in this part of the region is less complex than that in the center or the north. In the event of success, such an advance will allow Azerbaijan to undermine the entire southern flank of Armenian forces deployed in Stepankert and Shusha. This will also create a threat of cutting off the so-called Lachin corridor, a mountain pass within the de jure borders of Azerbaijan, forming the shortest route between Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh. Another direction of the possible advance is Martakert and Agdam. Nonetheless, in this case, even if Azerbaijani forces achieve a success there, a further advance will be more complicated due to the more complex terrain.

The humanitarian ceasefire announced on October 17 seems like another attempt of the Minsk group, led by France, Russia and the United States, to de-escalate the conflict. Nonetheless, the position of the current Armenian government, which was for years undermining its relations with Russia, and the hardcore posture of Azerbaijan and Turkey that have already felt the flavour of potential military victory will likely not allow the parties involved to find a ‘constructive’ solution of the situation. Thus, Ankara and Baku will continue demanding a full surrender of Armenia over the Karabakh question, which the Armenian government (even if it wants to do so) cannot accept because this will lead to the immediate collapse of the Pashinyan regime and instability inside Armenia itself.

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Israeli Arms Trade, The Lobby and the Meaning of Chosenness

 BY GILAD ATZMON

tehran Times .jpg

Source: https://www.tehrantimes.com/

 “America is willing to sacrifice its young soldiers and national interests and even its economy for Israel,” Gilad Atzmon, who was born in a Jewish family in Israel and grew up in Jerusalem al-Quds, tells the Tehran Times. *
Atzmon, who now lives in Britain, also says, “Israeli pressure groups seem to believe that they are actually more powerful and certainly more important than the American constitution.” 
The following is the text of the interview:

Tehran Times:       Numerous rights bodies have slammed Western countries’ arms trade with Israel. What is your comment?

Gilad Atzmon: For decades, Israel has been selling killing machines to the most oppressive regimes around the world and this shouldn’t be surprising, as Israel itself is at the forefront of the list of oppressive regimes.

 Embarrassed by the Israeli government’s current arming of Azerbaijan in its war with Armenia,  Holocaust scholar Israel W. Charny penned an article for The Times of Israel titled:  Would Israel sell a used drone to a Hitler? Charny admits in his piece that Israel’s conduct is fundamentally unethical. He ends his commentary writing, “to my Armenian colleagues and friends, I can only say that as a Jew and as an Israeli, I am mortified – and angry.”

 I would think that if Israel’s leading genocide historian allows himself to admit in an Israeli nationalist outlet that the Jewish State is profiting from non-ethical arms trade, the rest of us should be entitled to engage with this topic freely and to use every possible platform to denounce Israel or anyone else from profiting from non- ethical practices.

 The issues go well beyond Israel’s arms trade. A few days ago we learned from the Jewish Press about a Bipartisan bill in America that would give Israel a say on Middle East arms sales. The bill “would require the President to consult with the Israeli government to ensure concerns are settled.” If the bill passes, the USA military industrial complex trade would be dependent on Israeli consent.  

Tehran Times:   How great is the influence of the Zionist and Jewish lobbies in the United States and how can this status quo change?

GA: The facts regarding the immense influence of Israel and the Jewish Lobby in the USA and other Western countries have been established for a while. One can refer to The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a detailed study by two of the most influential American social scientists  (Prof. John Mersheimer & Prof. Stephen Walt). Another leading American political scientist admired by a generation of academics who also covered the topic is, of course, Prof James Petras in his book The Power of Israel in the United States.

What can be done about the well documented domination of AIPAC? I would like to believe that the most effective method to approach this topic would be to point squarely at The Lobby and its corrosive impact: this entails pointing the finger at the wars the USA fights on behalf of Israel, the sanctions that the USA mounts for Israel, the fact that America is willing to sacrifice its young soldiers and national interests and even its economy for Israel. Theoretically speaking, American citizens are entitled to voice such criticisms as freedom of speech is enshrined in the first amendment of their constitution. Israeli pressure groups seem to believe that they are actually more powerful and certainly more important than the American constitution. A few months ago we learned that Right wing activists attempted to spread new laws across Republican controlled states that would suppress criticism on public university campuses of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territory.

By now, the USA is practically functioning as a remote and subservient Israeli satellite. I am unable to identify  any genuine political force in the USA that can change this anytime soon. I do not see anyone within American politics who is willing to tackle the matter. But the American people, like the Brits and the French are no fools, they see it all.

Tehran Times:    Though Israel is violating and defying international law on a daily basis, its Western supporters and allies continue to support these actions or at least turn a blind eye to what is taking place. How do you assess this double standard?

GA: In general, it’s a good practice not to overestimate people’s intelligence. But Israel and its Lobby make the opposite mistake; they tend to believe that people are far stupider than they are.

People do see what is going on and the general discomfort with Israel and its lobby is growing rapidly. People do notice Israeli criminality, they also notice their politicians on all levels operating as foreign agents for a criminal state.  Israel and The Lobby interpret this rise of awareness as ‘growing anti-Semitism,’ but this is hyperbole. A general mass awareness has surfaced. The Israelis and The Lobby know that once you see the full picture, you can’t just un-see it. In that respect, Israel is facing a wall of silent resistance and the consequences of this reality are unpredictable.

It is fascinating to observe the tsunami of mass protests that we see within Israel against Netanyahu and institutional corruption. The Israelis, or at least many of them, are also tired of themselves being themselves. It is very possible that in line with Jewish history, it will actually  be the Jews who bring their current empire down. As far as I can tell they are better at that battle than anyone else. 

Tehran Times:       How do the Western countries exploit Human Rights as a tool to apply their policies and how do they politicize Human Rights?

GA: Human rights issues are close to our hearts. We don’t like to see abuse of others, we hate discrimination, we are appalled by racism of any kind. Seemingly, some were clever enough to attach barcodes to these genuine universal and ethical  feelings. As things stand, human rights matters have morphed into a profitable industry. Many human rights campaigns are funded by elements who are themselves dedicated human rights abusers. 

Since the Palestinian struggle is close to my heart it took me little time to find out that while the BDS movement was receiving money from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, BDS changed its goal statement and practically gave up on the Palestinian Right of Return.

In 2012 the BDS National Committee in Ramallah made a crucial change to its goal statement. It changed the wording of its original (June 2005) mission statement from “demanding that Israel end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” to demanding that Israel end “its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967*” My attempt to find out who introduced this change revealed that this new wording first appeared in Omar Barghouti’s 2011 book, ‘BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: the Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights’ (page 6).

It seems that since 2011, The BDS National Committee basically abandoned the most precious Palestinian right—it drifted away from the commitment to land occupied since 1948 and limited its struggle to the liberation of lands occupied in 1967.  Further attempts to clarify who made the change and by what process revealed that this significant change was made in a clandestine manner—it appeared only in English. It has never appeared in Arabic or any other language. It is evident that the change took place behind the backs of the Palestinian people. Despite BDS’ claim to be a ‘civil society’ representing more than 170 Palestinian organizations, Palestinians were totally unaware of the BDS National Committee’s compromise of their mission.  

Further investigation revealed that BDS—like most Palestinian NGOs—was funded by George Soros’ Open Society Institute. In 2013 I was asked to review a book titled Israel/Palestine and the Queer International,by Sarah Schulman. It was Schulman who resolved the mysterious change in the  BDS goal statement. In her search for funding for a young Palestinian Queer USA tour in support of BDS, Schulman wrote  that she was advised to approach George Soros’ Open Society institute. The following account may leave you flabbergasted, as it did me:

“A former ACT UP staffer who worked for the Open Society Institute, George Soros’ foundation, suggested that I file an application there for funding for the tour. When I did so it turned out that the person on the other end had known me from when we both attended Hunter [College] High School in New York in the 1970s. He forwarded the application to the institutes’s office in Amman, Jordan, and I had an amazing one-hour conversation with Hanan Rabani, its director of the Women’s and Gender program for the Middle East region. Hanan told me that this tour would give great visibility to autonomous queer organizations in the region. That it would inspire queer Arabs—especially in Egypt and Iran…for that reason, she said, funding for the tour should come from the Amman office” (Israel/Palestine and the Queer Internationalby Sarah Schulman p. 108).

Here is clear and embarrassing evidence of a crude intervention made by George Soros’ institute in an attempt to shape Arab and Islamic culture and political life. We also learn about the manner in which Soros’ Open Society Institute introduces gay and queer politics to the region. Apparently money for a tour promoting Palestine and BDS is traveling from Soros’ Open Society to Jordan and then back to the USA with the hope that such a manoeuvre would “inspire” gays in Iran.

This makes it clear why  BDS had “good reason” to remain silent regarding its funding sources. After all, being funded directly or indirectly by a liberal Zionist philanthropist, a man who also funds the openly Zionist JStreet and was invested in Israeli companies in the West Bank, is indeed embarrassing. But the meaning of it is rather devastating. The discourse of the solidarity of the oppressed is shaped by the sensitivities of the oppressor who funds the movement of the oppressed. We see this in the Palestine solidarity movement, we saw the same thing in Occupy Wall Street and currently in some segments of BLM activity. Instead of genuinely caring for the oppressed, Human rights and solidarity movements often morph into policing forces that dedicate themselves to controlling the so-called opposition.

The case of the language of BDS has a good ending. Though Omar Barghouti didn’t change the words printed in his book where he bluntly compromised on occupied land demands on behalf of the Palestinian people. The BDS movement eventually changed its goal statement once again. It now resembles the original 2005 statement opposing occupation of ALL Arab Land.  

Tehran Times:      Why doesn’t Israel accept the idea of a nuclear-free zone in the region?

GA: The real meaning of thinking yourself chosen is in attributing a unique sense of impunity to yourself and to no one else. In real politics this means that your Jewish State is the only nuclear power in the region, your Air Force is the only one to fly F-35s, your army is not committed to any recognized ethical standards, your military industry trades with the darkest regimes around. Try to imagine a world where everyone believes themselves to be chosen.

  • In the Interview the Iranian outlet refers to me as “a Jewish political activist.” I wrote to the Tehran Times and pointed out that I am neither an activist nor I am a Jew. However, by the time I posted this article, my request is yet to make any impact.

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Azerbaijani Successes In Karbakh Conflict Come Together With War Crimes

South Front

The Azerbaijani Armed Forces have been developing their advance on Armenian positions in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. As in the previous several days, the main clashes are taking place in the southern part of Karabakh.

As of October 16, Azerbaijani forces finally took full control of the town of Hadrat and started an operation to push the remaining Armenian units out of the town’s surroundings. Despite this, Armenian forces still conduct regular counter-attacks attempting to force the Azerbaijani military to retreat from their recently captured positions.

Azerbaijani troops also seized the villages of Arish in the Fuzuli district, Doshulu in the Jabrayil district and the villages of Edishe, Dudukchi, Edilli and Chiraguz in the Khojavend district. Earlier this week, Azerbaijan captured Garadaghli, Melikjanli, Garakollu, Bulutan, Tagaser, Khatunbulag, Kemertuk and Teke. Thus, Armenian forces lost at least 15 towns and settlements during this week of clashes.

The Azerbaijani side employs its advantage in artillery and air power. Azerbaijani special forces also conducted several raids in the rear of Armenian positions in the south of Karabakh trying to create chaos there.

The town of Fuzuli, which for the previous days remained in the contested area, is now about to fall in the full control of Azerbaijan. If Armenian forces are not able to gain back the initiative, this will become the inevitable.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan announced that the Armenians tried to recapture several positions taken by Azerbaijani forces, but these attacks were repelled. According to Baku, a large number of Armenian forces, including two T-72 battle tanks, a Tor-M2KM surface-to-air missile system, four BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, a D-20 howitzer, a D-30 howitzer, and two D-1 howitzers, as well as several vehicles and UAVs were eliminated.

On the morning of October 15, videos filmed in the area of Hadrut appeared online showing how Azerbaijani troops had captured two Armenian fighters, one of them was an old man (he does not even seem to be able to hold arms), then tied them with Armenian flags and had them killed. A few hours after, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released a statement claiming that Armenians share in social media some ‘fake videos’ that are ‘not related’ to the Karabakh conflict.

Earlier, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and top Turkish officials repeatedly claimed that the Azerbaijani advance on Nagorno-Karabakh poses no threat to the Armenian population there. Nonetheless, actions like on the aforementioned videos as well as almost no reports about captured Armenian soldiers demonstrate that in fact the conflict creates a real threat of ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population in Karabakh the areas captured by Azerbaijan. In its own turn, the Armenian Defense Ministry claims that despite some ‘tactical retreats’, its forces have been successfully repelling Azerbaijani attacks.

This just week only, the Armenian side claimed that its forces had shot down 3 SU-25 warplanes and multiple UAVs of Azerbaijan. Dozens of Azerbaijani armoured vehicles and hundreds of troops were also allegedly eliminated. Nonetheless, photo and video evidence from the ground demonstrates that in fact Armenian forces are on retreat and are now trying to regroup and prevent further advances of Azerbaijan into the contested region.

Taking into account the current complex diplomatic situation in the region, the Azerbaijani military has all chances to continue its active offensive operations until the start of winter. After this, Baku will likely temporarily halt the military phase of its push to capture Karabakh and return to the negotiating table to force Armenia to surrender the region. If this does not happen, the Azerbaijani advance will likely be resumed in the spring of 2021.

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Damascus and Moscow Facing the Siege… Economy First! دمشق وموسكو بمواجهة الحصار.. الاقتصاد أولاً!

October 16, 2020 Arabi Souri

Russian Military Presence in Syria - Hmeimim Airbase - Moscow - Damascus

Moscow and Damascus realize after five years of the Russian presence in Syria that if Russia leaves its political and military position in Syria, the consequences will be very dangerous for the region.

Dima Nassif, director of Al-Mayadeen office in Damascus, wrote (source in Arabic) the following piece for the Lebanese news channel about the latest developments in the Russian – Syrian relations in light of the latest visit of the Russian top delegation to Damascus followed by a Syrian delegation visit to Moscow:

The visit of the Syrian Minister of Presidential Affairs to Moscow at the head of an economic delegation, a few days ago, may have slipped from media circulation, despite its close connection with the completion of the Russian-Syrian talks or agreements that were reached during the recent visit of the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Borisov and the Russian delegation. It is possible to build on it to launch a Russian-Syrian partnership paper to confront sanctions, including the US ‘Caesar Act‘.

The crowding of readings and interpretations of the visit of the Russian delegation and the presence of Sergey Lavrov after eight years to Damascus can be interpreted as just a temporary Russian economic bargaining – to cross the psychological barrier left by the American pressure on Moscow, to prevent the return of the political process to Geneva, and to exert Russian internal pressure by a current opposing the policy of Putin in Syria – that final understandings must be reached on the Constitutional Committee before the Syrian presidential elections in June 2021.

This visit, as the results confirm, is no further than full support for the Syrian state politically and economically, as it does not come under the heading of Russian initiatives to barter or compromise Damascus’s positions on the political process, the liberation of Idlib, or even eastern Syria. Lavrov’s presence in Damascus was against the backdrop of the “Caesar Act”, not Astana or any other address.

Among the deficiencies of some in Moscow against Damascus are its rigid positions in the face of Russian proposals, which calls for flexibility in negotiations on the part of the Syrian side, and the easing of some formalities that may be interpreted in the way that the Syrian leadership does not wish to cooperate or make any progress in the political process before the elections, repeating the phrase that there is no agreement without agreeing on everything.

On the other hand, Damascus believes that the political process should be based on a long-term strategy, to avoid the traps that Turkey might place through its groups within the opposition delegation, as President Al-Assad spoke in his recent meetings to Russian media.

Columns of cars crowded in front of petrol stations in Syrian cities two months ago did not allow to feel Russian support to alleviate the consequences of the “Caesar Act” and its impact. Then came the huge losses in forest fires and agricultural lands in the countrysides of Lattakia, Homs, Tartous, and Hama, this was quickly seized by the American embassy in Damascus, calling on the Syrian government to protect its citizens, in a naive attempt and unprofessional rhetoric, to test its ability to incite the incubating environment (of the Syrian state), as Caesar (Act) promised in the folds of its goals, without an American understanding of the peculiarity of this environment, which has stood its positions throughout the war, despite all the living and security pressures on its lives.

Moscow, and with it Damascus, after five years of the Russian presence in Syria, are aware that the consequences of Russia leaving its political and military position in Syria will be very dangerous for the region, as the Russian presence aims to ensure security and make the world order more just and balanced, as President Al-Assad said. Ankara’s transfer of the militants from the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda groups to the Azerbaijan front, and before it to Libya, is only the first sign of the expansion of the Turkish project in the region after its failure in Syria, and it is the basis of Moscow’s involvement in the Syrian war, and will not allow its transfer to its own walls.

Intercontinental Wars – Part 2: The Counterattack

Intercontinental Wars – Part 3 The Open Confrontation

https://www.syrianews.cc/intercontinental-wars-part-3-the-open-confrontation/embed/#?secret=F3H13Q3E96

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ديمة ناصيف 

المصدر: الميادين نت

13 تشرين اول 14:02

تدرك موسكو ومعها دمشق بعد 5 سنوات على الوجود الروسي في سوريا، بأنه إذا ما غادرت روسيا موقعها السياسي والعسكري في سوريا فإن التبعات ستكون خطرة جداً على المنطقة.

تدرك موسكو ومعها دمشق بأنه إذا ما غادرت روسيا موقعها السياسي والعسكري فإن التبعات ستكون خطرة جداً على المنطقة
تدرك موسكو ومعها دمشق بأنه إذا ما غادرت روسيا موقعها السياسي والعسكري فإن التبعات ستكون خطرة جداً على المنطقة

قد تكون زيارة وزير شؤون الرئاسة السورية إلى موسكو على رأس وفد اقتصادي، قبل أيام، قد مرَّت بعيداً من التداول الإعلامي، رغم ارتباطها الوثيق باستكمال المحادثات أو الاتفاقيات الروسية السورية، التي تمّ التوصل إليها خلال زيارة نائب رئيس الحكومة الروسية بوريسوف الأخيرة والوفد الروسي، وبات من الممكن البناء عليها لإطلاق ورقة شراكة روسية سورية لمواجهة العقوبات، بما فيها قانون “قيصر” الأميركي.

ازدحام القراءات والتأويلات لزيارة الوفد الروسي وحضور سيرغي لافروف بعد 8 سنوات إلى دمشق، يمكن تفسيره بأنه مجرد مساومة اقتصادية روسية مؤقتة – لعبور الحاجز النفسي الذي خلّفه الضغط الأميركي على موسكو، ومنع إعادة العملية السياسية إلى جنيف، وممارسة ضغط داخلي روسي من قبل تيار يعارض سياسة بوتين في سوريا – بوجوب التوصل إلى تفاهمات نهائية حول اللجنة الدستورية قبل الانتخابات الرئاسية السورية في حزيران/يونيو 2021.

هذه الزيارة، كما تؤكد النتائج، ليست أبعد من دعم كامل للدولة السورية سياسياً واقتصادياً، فهي لا تندرج تحت عنوان مبادرات روسية تقايض أو تساوم مواقف دمشق حول العملية السياسية أو تحرير إدلب أو حتى الشرق السوري. كان حضور لافروف في دمشق على خلفية قانون “قيصر”، وليس أستانة أو أي عنوان آخر.

ومن مآخذ البعض في موسكو على دمشق، مواقفها المتصلّبة في وجه الطروحات الروسية، ما يستدعي إبداء مرونة في التفاوض من جانب الطرف السوري، والتخفف من بعض الشكليات التي قد تُفسَّر على نحو أن القيادة السورية لا ترغب في التعاون أو إنجاز أي تقدم على صعيد العملية السياسية قبل الانتخابات، وترديد عبارة أن لا اتفاق من دون الاتفاق على كل شيء.

في المقابل، ترى دمشق أن العملية السياسية يجب أن تكون مبنية على استراتيجية مرحلية طويلة الأمد، لتجنب أفخاخ قد تضعها تركيا من خلال مجموعاتها داخل وفد المعارضة، كما تحدث الرئيس الأسد في لقاءاته الأخيرة إلى وسائل إعلام روسية.

ولم تسمح أرتال السيارات المزدحمة أمام محطات الوقود في المدن السورية منذ شهرين بتلمّس الدعم الروسي للتخفيف من تبعات “قيصر” ووطأته، ثم جاءت الخسائر الهائلة في حرائق الأحراج والأراضي الزراعية في أرياف اللاذقية وحمص وطرطوس وحماة، الأمر الذي تلقفته السفارة الأميركية في دمشق سريعاً، لتدعو الحكومة السورية إلى حماية مواطنيها، في محاولة ساذجة وخطاب غير محترف، لاختبار قدرتها على تأليب البيئة الحاضنة، كما وعد “قيصر” في طيات أهدافه، من دون فهم أميركيّ لخصوصية هذه البيئة التي ثبتت على مواقفها طيلة الحرب، رغم كل الضغوطات المعيشية والأمنية على حياتها. 

تدرك موسكو، ومعها دمشق، بعد 5 سنوات على الوجود الروسي في سوريا، أن تبعات مغادرة روسيا موقعها السياسي والعسكري في سوريا ستكون خطيرة جداً على المنطقة، فالتواجد الروسي يهدف إلى ضمان الأمن، وجعل النظام العالمي أكثر عدلاً وتوازناً، كما قال الرئيس الأسد. إنّ نقل أنقرة للمسلحين من المجموعات الإخوانية والقاعدية إلى جبهة أذربيجان، وقبلها ليبيا، ليس إلا أولى ملامح توسع المشروع التركي في الإقليم بعد فشله في سوريا، وهو أساس انخراط موسكو في الحرب السورية، ولن تسمح بانتقاله إلى أسوارها.

تركيا «وحيدةً» في حرب قره باغ

الأخبار

السبت 17 تشرين الأول 2020

تركيا «وحيدةً» في حرب قره باغ

توازياً مع استمرار المعارك بين أرمينيا وأذربيجان، بعد فشل الهدنة في وضع حدٍّ للاقتتال الدائر حول إقليم ناغورنو قره باغ الانفصالي، تبدو تركيا ميّالة إلى التصعيد ضدّ روسيا. وإن كانت الأخيرة لا تزال، منذ انطلاق جولة الاقتتال هذه، تحافظ على مسافة أمان مِن طرفَي الأزمة، فهيَ دشّنت، يوم أمس، مناورات عسكرية في بحر قزوين شمال باكو، تصرّ على أنها ليست موجّهة ضدّ أيّ طرفمنذ انطلاق جولة الاقتتال الأخيرة بين أرمينيا وأذربيجان في السابع والعشرين من الشهر الماضي، سعّرت أنقرة، باصطفافها إلى جانب باكو، الحرب الدائرة بين الجارتَين للسيطرة على إقليم ناغورنو قره باغ، في ظلّ مواقف دولية جديدة بدأت تتكشّف، وتشير إلى تصعيد تركي – روسي متضادّ، لاقته الولايات المتحدة على الطرف الآخر، حين انتقدت دور حليفتها الأطلسية في هذا الصراع، آملةً أن تتمكّن أرمينيا من «الدفاع عن نفسها» في وجه جارتها الأذربيجانية.

ومع استمرار المعارك بين القوات الأرمينية والأذربيجانية، بعد أسبوع مِن توقيع وزيرَي خارجية البلدين اتفاق هدنة برعايةٍ روسية، عَدّته الأخيرة مقدّمة لإطلاق محادثات «سلام» ترغب تركيا في أن تمثِّل «حلّاً نهائياً» لهذا الملفّ المتفجّر. غير أن المصالح المتضاربة حالت دون تطبيق بند وقف إطلاق النار، ما دفع روسيا إلى بدء تدريبات عسكرية في بحر قزوين، تصرّ على أنها ليست موجّهة ضدّ أيٍّ من دول الجوار. وتَجري المناورات العسكرية شمال شبه جزيرة أبشرون الأذربيجانية حيث تقع باكو، وتشمل إطلاق صواريخ ونيران مدفعية، ومشاركة ستّ سفن وسبع طائرات وأكثر من 400 جندي، بحسب بيان لوزارة الدفاع الروسية، أكد أن «الأنشطة… لا تشكل أيّ تهديد ولا تفرض قيوداً على الأنشطة الاقتصادية للدول المطلّة على قزوين».

إعلانٌ ما لبث أن ردّ عليه الرئيس التركي، رجب طيب إردوغان، إذ سعى إلى شرح موقفه «المبدئي» من الصراع حول قره باغ، بالقول إن بلاده لم ولن تعترف بضمّ روسيا غير المشروع لشبه جزيرة القرم الأوكرانية إلى أراضيها، مؤكداً في مؤتمر صحافي مشترك عقده، أمس، مع نظيره الأوكراني فولوديمير زيلينسكي، في إسطنبول، أن بلاده تعتبر أوكرانيا دولة محوريّة لضمان الاستقرار والأمن والسلام والازدهار في المنطقة. كذلك، أكد إردوغان أن أنقرة ستواصل دعم سيادة أوكرانيا ووحدة أراضيها، بما فيها القرم.

يبدو أن واشنطن بدأت تصطفّ بوضوح إلى جانب يريفان


في هذا الوقت، يبدو أن واشنطن التي شدّدت، منذ انطلاق المعارك، على ضرورة إيجاد «حلّ دبلوماسي» يجنّب أرمينيا وأذربيجان حرباً طاحنة، بدأت تصطفّ إلى جانب يريفان. ذلك ما بيّنته تصريحات وزير الخارجية الأميركي، مايك بومبيو، الذي أعرب عن أمله في أن تتمكّن أرمينيا من «الدفاع عن نفسها» في وجه أذربيجان، في ما بدا أنه مساندة لأحد قطبَي النزاع الدائر في منطقة ناغورنو قره باغ. وقال بومبيو في حديث إلى إذاعة محلية في ولاية جورجيا الأميركية: «نأمل أن يتمكّن الأرمينيّون من أن يدافعوا عن أنفسهم في وجه ما يقوم به الأذربيجانيون»، مجدّداً الدعوة إلى احترام وقف إطلاق النار و«المباحثات السلمية» لوضع حدّ للصراع. تصريحاتٌ جاءت بعدما أعرب الدبلوماسي الأميركي عن أسفه إزاء شروع تركيا في «دعم أذربيجان»، ودعا الأفرقاء الدوليين إلى عدم التدخل في المنطقة وتجنّب «تأجيج الاضطرابات» في «برميل بارود». وهو ما تساوق أيضاً مع إعلان وزارة الخارجية الأميركية أن الولايات المتحدة عبّرت لمستويات رفيعة في الحكومة التركية عن عدم قبولها حيازة أنقرة أنظمة أسلحة روسية مثل «إس-400»، وحذّرت من «عواقب وخيمة محتملة» لعلاقتها الأمنية مع تركيا في حال إقدامها على تفعيل النظام المذكور. وقالت الناطقة باسم الوزارة، مورغان أورتاغوس، في بيان: «إذا تأكَّد ذلك… سندين بأشدّ العبارات اختبار إطلاق صاروخ من منظومة إس-400 باعتباره لا يتّسق مع مسؤوليات تركيا كعضو في حلف شمال الأطلسي وكشريك استراتيجي للولايات المتحدة».

War In Karabakh: Turkish Proxies Are Allegedly Too Scared To Fight Armenians

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October 15, 2020

About 1,000 members of Syrian militant groups deployed by Turkey to support the Azerbaijani advance in the Nagorno-Karabakh region have laid down their arms and refused to participate in hostilities, Armenian media outlets and military-affiliated sources claimed. They insist that Syrian militants were just used as cannon fodder and did not receive their promised money. According to sources loyal to the Syrian opposition, the number of Turkish proxies that died in the war with Armenia has exceeded 110.

Earlier, reports appeared from Syrian sources, claiming that about 400 members of Turkish-backed militant groups deployed in Syria’s northwest had refused to go to Azerbaijan. At least 16 of them were arrested by the so-called Hamza Division for complaining too much and for leaking information to the public.

Meanwhile, the Armenian Defense Ministry released an updated claim on alleged Azerbaijani casualties since the start of the war on September 27. According to this, Azerbaijani forces have lost 5,489 personnel, 541 armoured vehicles, 4 TOS multiple rocket launchers, 19 military planes, 16 helicopters and 176 UAVs. During the last few days, the Armenian military specified, Azerbaijan has lost 3 UAVs, 20 armored vehicles, a plane and has suffered 350 casualties.

Nonetheless, the aforementioned claims did not allow the Armenian military to regain the initiative from the advancing Azerbaijani forces and even the country’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in his recent national address, admitted that the situation on the frontline is complicated and that the Armenians had retreated from positions in the south and north.

“For 18 days of the war, our heroic troops retreated to the south and north,” Pashinyan said. According to him, Azerbaijani troops also changed their tactics “trying to create confusion in the rear with sabotage groups.” Pashinyan also claimed that “A number of countries with the possibility of strategic deterrence did not properly assess the danger, continuing to consider the issue in the context of the Karabakh conflict and believing that territories in exchange for peace is a solution that can save the situation.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that in 2018, Azerbaijan had in the course of negotiations demanded that Armenia give up the seven regions of Nagorno-Karabakh in exchange for peace. According to him, Baku refused to consider the issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh as not being part of Azerbaijan.

“In the negotiation process, Azerbaijan has reached the point when it has put a demand for the Armenian people to give up their rights, return five of the seven regions, present specific deadlines for the surrender of the remaining two regions, any status of Nagorno-Karabakh must be determined within Azerbaijan. In addition, the clarification of the status should not have been linked to the process of handing over the territories. The territories were to be surrendered in exchange for peace,” Pashinyan said.

In their turn, the Azerbaijani side remains determined that all of the contested region should be immediately returned to its control and the Armenian Republic of Arstakh there dismantled de-facto employing a military option to achieve this goal.

As of October 15, the Azerbaijani military continued delivering intense artillery and air strikes on Armenian positions across the entire contact line and advancing in the areas of Hadrat and Fuzuli. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that his forces had captured the villages of Garadaghli, Khatunbulag, Garakollu in the Fuzuli district, and Bulutan, Melikjanli, Kemertuk, Teke and Tagaser in the Khojavend district.

Azerbaijani forces have also been trying to fully isolate the town of Hadrut in order to finally turn into reality their earlier claim that it’s under their full control. They also tried to advance on the town of Fuzuli and even reached it, but the attack was repelled by the Armenians. On the other hand, Baku regularly accuses Armenia of ceasefire violations and claims that all its actions are just a response to Armenian aggression.

The humanitarian ceasefire reached by the sides earlier in October helped to stop offensive operations only on distinct parts of the frontline and the war is raging at almost full force in the northern part of Karabakh.

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War in Nagorno-Karabakh Is a Gamechanger in Russian-Turkish Relations

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research, October 17, 2020

After Turkey downed a Russian jet operating in Syria in late 2015, there was a major risk that the Syrian War could explode into a greater conflict between the two Eurasian countries. The Turkish attack resulted in the death of two Russian servicemen and relations between Moscow and Ankara were again tested in December 2016 when Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated by off-duty police officer Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted the explanation from his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the assassination was not ordered by the state, Nordic Monitor has published compelling evidence that Altıntaş had strong connections to the so-called Turkish deep state. Despite these major setbacks in Russian-Turkish relations, by the end of 2017 the two countries signed a $2.5 billion agreement for Turkey to acquire the Russian-made S-400 air defence system, considered the most sophisticated of its kind in the world.

As is well-known, this deal resulted in tense relations between Turkey and its NATO allies, and many speculated that with Russian encouragement Ankara would eventually leave the Atlantic Alliance. It is highly unlikely that Turkey will ever leave NATO willingly or be ejected from the organization. Turkey, as a key country connecting East and West and controlling Straits linking the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, knows that it is one of the most important geostrategic countries in the world and can afford to leverage both NATO and Russia to advance its own ambitions.

The Russian-Turkish partnership has seen Ankara acquire the S-400 system, Russia has a critical part in the construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, and cooperation on significantly reducing conflict in Syria. However, it now appears that Moscow is becoming increasingly frustrated and antagonized by Ankara’s constant escalation of hostilities across Russia’s southern flank and/or areas of interest. Despite Russia and Turkey cooperating in Syria, they support opposing sides in Libya, but this is not considered a major issue between them, or at least not enough to change the course of their bilateral relations. However, the war in Artsakh, or more commonly known as Nagorno-Karabakh, has exposed the fragility of relations between Moscow and Ankara.

Artsakh, despite being an integral part of the Armenian homeland for over 2,500 years and always maintaining an overwhelmingly Armenian majority population, was assigned to the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic in the early 1920’s. However, in 1989 Armenians in Artsakh demanded unification with the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. This demand was ultimately rejected by Moscow. However, the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 sparked a war in Artsakh. The Armenians achieved a decisive victory in 1994 and the Republic of Artsakh emerged, although it is still internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan.Turkey and Syria Are at War Without a Declaration of War

The OSCE Minsk Group, comprising of France, Russia and the U.S., is the foremost international body attempting to end the decades-long conflict between the de facto independent Republic of Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Although minor wars and skirmishes have been commonplace since 1994, the current war is the most serious escalation, especially when considering the internationalization of the conflict because of Turkey’s transfer of special forces, military advisers, and more importantly, Syrian jihadist mercenaries.

Many within the Syrian government and military have expressed frustration that Russia effectively prevented a Syrian Army offensive at the beginning of the year to liberate more areas of Idlib from Turkish-backed jihadist rule. It is likely that Moscow’s push for a ceasefire in Idlib was to appease Turkey in the hope that it would slowly de-escalate and eventually withdraw from Syria. However, Erdoğan used the lull in the fighting in Idlib to transfer Syrian jihadist mercenaries to fight in Libya. These militants fight on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood Government of National Accords based in Tripoli. They are in opposition to the Libyan National Army, which is based in Tobruk and has ties to Russia.

The transfer of Syrian militants to Libya certainly concerned Moscow, but Libya is not as geopolitically crucial for Russia. However, the transfer of Syrian militants to Azerbaijan brings various terrorists and mujahideen forces right to the very doorstep of Russia in the South Caucasus. Whereas Syrian militants in Idlib and Libya were no real threat to Russia directly, bringing such forces can now easily put them in direct contact with Islamist terrorists based in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia in Russia’s Caucasus region.

This will likely be a gamechanger in Russian-Turkish relations.

Moscow’s reaction to Turkey transferring Syrian terrorists to Azerbaijan is beginning to reveal itself. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow “has never considered Turkey as a strategic ally” and emphasized that Russian military observers should be placed on the line of contact between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Although Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev repeatedly calls for Turkey to be involved in the Minsk Group or in negotiations, Russia has continually blocked Ankara from being involved in any negotiations.

Russia’s frustration with Turkey can even be felt in the East Mediterranean now. As recently as September 5, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova angered many Greeks when she urged states to be “guided by common sense and take into consideration the geographical peculiarities of a region” when discussing Turkey’s illegal claims against Greece in the East Mediterranean. Zakharova effectively adopted Turkey’s arguments that if Athens enacts its international legal right to extend its territorial waters from six nautical miles to 12, then the Aegean will effectively become a “Greek lake,” and therefore the Turks believe “common sense” has to prevail over this “geographical peculiarity.”

However, only yesterday, it appeared that Moscow now indirectly supports Greece’s position in the East Mediterranean, with the Russian Embassy in Athens tweeting that “Russia’s position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council is the starting point. We consider the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea the ‘cornerstone’ of international maritime agreements. The Convention explicitly provides for the sovereign right of all States to have territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles and sets out the principles and methods for delimiting the [Exclusive Economic Zone]. This also applies to the Mediterranean.”

It was also announced yesterday that Lavrov will be making a working visit to Greece on October 28. Russia’s repositioning on the East Mediterranean issue by firmly supporting a states’ right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles as permitted by international law, something that Turkey has said would be a “reason for war” if Greece enacts its legal right, is likely part of its retaliation against Erdoğan’s transfer of Syrian terrorists to the doorstep of Dagestan. Although Moscow tolerated Erdoğan’s aggression in Syria, Iraq and Libya, by threatening war on Armenia, a Collective Security Treaty Organization member state, and transferring militants to the border of Dagestan, Turkey has overstepped Russia’s patience and this can be considered a gamechanger in their bilateral relations.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

Short Armenia vs Azerbaijan war update

Short Armenia vs Azerbaijan war update

October 15, 2020

The Saker

As was predicted by many, in spite of the agreement signed in Moscow, thing on the ground in the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan  have escalated: the Armenians have claimed that Azeri drones have attacked Armenian tactical ballistic missiles on Armenian soil and the Azeris have confirmed this, saying that this was both a warning and a preemptive attack to protect Azeri civilians.

Bottom line is this: Azerbaijan has now officially attacked Armenian soil (as opposed to Karabakh soil) and Armenia now has the right to appeal to the CSTO.  So far, the Armenians have not done so, but now they can and, I believe, probably will do so.

Another interesting development is that the USA has accused Turkey of being involved in this war.  This means that by now all three countries Russia, France and the USA are now declaring that the Turks (and or their “good terrorist” proxies from Syria) are involved.  Aliev is outraged and accused everybody of lying.

Finally, Azeri and Turkish outlets have claimed the Kurds are now fighting on the Armenian side.  However, there have been no verifiable sources for this probably false rumor.

As for the Armenian leader Pashinian, he has accused Aliev of being “Hitler”.

What does all this mean?

Well, for one thing, it was inevitable that the very first ceasefire agreement would be broken.  In such situations, they typically are.

The real risk now is that Russia will have to intervene.  There are three most likely scenarios for such an intervention:

Peacekeeping operation: that would only be possible if all sides to the conflict agree to such an operation.  At this point in time, this is still unlikely, but that could change fairly quickly.  However, Russia will only send peacekeepers if the parties agree on a long term political solution to this conflict.  Right now, they prefer fighting down to the last bullet, but this will soon change for both parties.

Peacemaking operation: for this to happen, the UNSC should agree to give a mandate to Russia under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.  While it appears that Turkey currently has no backer in the UNSC, the US and UK hate for everything and anything Russian will probably secure a double veto (with a possible French veto to boot!) just to avoid Russia succeeding at anything, including bringing peace to the region.

CSTO military intervention: in other words, Russia would strike at Azeri forces and assets to stop the Azeri aggression on Armenia.  This is something Russia absolutely will avoid, if at all possible since Russia has absolutely no desire to destroy her excellent partnership with Azerbaijan and her very tenuous and unstable partnership with Turkey (say, in Syria).

It is obvious what Russia will do next: using overt and covert means, she will try to affect the situation on the ground in such a way as to basically force both sides to agree to a Russia-led peacekeeping operation.

The main problem right now is Erdogan who is spending most of his time making inflammatory statements and who is demanding that Turkey be included in any negotiations.  The way the Turks want this is to have Turkey negotiate on behalf of Azerbaijan and Russia negotiate on behalf of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.  So far, Russia has categorically refused this option.

So where do we go from here?

Well, things are probably going to get worse before they get better.  Either that, or they will get worse before they get MUCH worse.  I hope for the first option, but if Turkey and/or Azerbaijan continue to strike at Armenia or if Armenia recognizes “Artsakh” then all bets are off.  We better pray that cool heads prevail on both sides and that Russia can make Erdogan an offer he won’t be able to refuse.  For example, the Russians might declare that the Russian contingent in Armenia will now protect the Armenian airspace with Russian air defense systems (ground or air based).  If, for no apparent reason, Azeri and/or Turkish start falling out of the skies, Erdogan might reconsider.

We shall soon find out.

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Turkey Allied with Azerbaijan Against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, October 15, 2020

Months of planning preceed preemptive wars.

Since July, Turkish and Azeri troops participated in joint air and ground military exercise.

Most often these type drills are defensive. They’re conducted to prepare for possible attacks on the territory of participating nations.

Azeris launched war on Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK below), its campaign for control of the enclave backed and likely encouraged by Ankara.

The same likely holds for the US and UK, supporting the agenda of one country over another and their own interests.

Most often when conflicts erupt, their fingerprints are all over them, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Why would the US and Britain support Turkey over Armenia? One reason could be to draw Moscow into the conflict.

Along with Russia and four other regional countries, Armenia is a Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) state.

If the territory of any CSTO member state is attacked by a foreign power, other alliance members are obligated to provide military support.

NK is not Armenian territory, so conflict there doesn’t require other CSTO countries to aid Yerevan militarily.

Turkey is a NATO member.

Despite uneasy relations between Ankara and the West, notably the US and UK, alliance Article 4 calls for members to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any” is threatened.

Article 5 considers an armed attack (real or otherwise) against one or more members, an attack against all. Collective self-defense is called for.

Based on what’s now known, Turkey helped Azerbaijan prepare for preemptive war on Armenia in NK.

Preparation included training, supplying Baku with heavy weapons, providing command and control involvement, along with deploying jihadist fighters to aid Azeri troops.

If Turkish commanders are harmed by ongoing fighting, accidentally or otherwise, Ankara could retaliate against Armenia militarily.

Azerbaijan borders Russia. Iran borders Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The US and maybe Britain would very much like to draw Iran into the NK conflict.

If fighting spills into its territory, its forces might respond in self-defense, giving the US and UK a pretext to terror-bomb Iranian targets.

On Wednesday, Armenia’s Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijan of striking military equipment in its territory.

Saying Armenian forces reserve the right to respond in kind against an Azeri military facility risks expanding conflict to the territory of both countries.

Under this scenario, Russia could get involved to defend its CSTO partnered state — potentially drawing the US, UK, and other NATO countries into the conflict, Turkey as well more directly.

The above is a nightmarish scenario Moscow and Tehran very much want avoided.

During a Wednesday interview on the NK conflict, I was asked what more can Russia do resolve it.

Major differences between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the one hand, Yerevan and Ankara on the other, are longstanding.

Resolving them to halt fighting might be beyond the diplomatic skills of any negotiator.

I responded to the question, saying Sergey Lavrov’s strategy may be to keep talking to his counterparts and leadership of both warring sides — in person as much as possible, otherwise by phone, urging a halt in fighting.

Protracted conflict in NK assures losers, not winners, he understands.

With Turkish help, Azeri forces could gain an advantage over Armenia’s military.

Baku perhaps could drive Yerevan out of NK partially or entirely.

If fighting continues for weeks or months, mass slaughter and destruction in the enclave will leave no prize for either side to claim.

The prevailing side, if things turn out this way, will have countless numbers of corpses to bury and likely billions of dollars needed for reconstruction.

On Wednesday, Lavrov proposed deploying Russian peacekeepers to monitor things along the line of control in NK.

He clarified his proposal, saying “not even peacekeepers (should participate in the verification mechanism), but military observers that would be sufficient.”

“We believe that it would be perfectly correct if these were our military observers, but the final word should be with the sides (of the conflict).”

“Of course, we proceed from the fact that both Yerevan and Baku will take into account our amicable relations, relations of strategic partnership.”

Stressing his country’s close ties to Turkey, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said Baku, Yerevan, and Ankara would have to agree on Russia’s involvement this way.

On October 14, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Azerbaijan wants total control of NK, calling the situation on the ground “very difficult.”

He claimed Baku and Ankara do not want “to stop their aggression.”

NK defense forces accused Azerbaijan of “violat(ing) the humanitarian truce, targeting peaceful settlements,” adding:

“In addition to shelling the city of Martakert, the enemy (Baku) also employed air force (warplanes) in the northeastern direction.”

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry accused Armenia of shelling the town of Tartar, causing at least seven casualties.

It’s unclear if they’e civilians or military personnel.

Lavrov criticized Turkey’s involvement in the fighting.

Calling a military solution unacceptable, he said “(w)e do not agree with the position voiced by Turkey, that was also expressed several times by (Azeri) President Aliyev,” adding:

“It is not a secret that we cannot agree with a statement that a military solution to the conflict is permissible.”

International Committee of the Red Cross director for Eurasia Martin Scheupp called on both sides to halt fighting.

“We project that at least tens of thousands of people across the region will need support over the next few months,” he stressed, adding:

“Civilians are dying or suffering life-changing injuries.”

“Homes, businesses and once-busy streets are being reduced to rubble.”

“The elderly and babies are among those forced to spend hours in unheated basements or to leave their homes for safety.”

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu spoke to his Armenian and Azeri counterparts, urging them to observe ceasefire.

Conflict is in its third week with no signs of either side backing down.

Russia continues trying to get them to halt fighting and discuss differences diplomatically.

Ceasefire agreed to by their foreign ministers in Moscow didn’t take hold.

On Tuesday, Armenia’s Defense Ministry said Azeri forces launched attacks in “three to four directions, and battles continued throughout the day.”

“Particularly intense fighting occurred in the northern sector.”

“It was probably among the most difficult battles in this war.”

Fighting could continue for weeks if Russia’s best efforts fail to get both sides to observe ceasefire agreed to last Friday.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2020

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