The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

October 05, 2021

Sides are forming around the Iran vs Azerbaijan squabble. But this fight is not about ethnicity, religion or tribe – it is mainly about who gets to forge the region’s new transportation routes.

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

The Iran-Azerbaijan standoff is a contest for the region’s transportation corridors

The last thing the complex, work-in-progress drive towards Eurasian integration needs at this stage is this messy affair between Iran and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.

Let’s start with the Conquerors of Khaybar – the largest Iranian military exercise in two decades held on its northwestern border with Azerbaijan.

Among the deployed Iranian military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units there are some serious players, such as the 21st Tabriz Infantry Division, the IRGC Ashura 31 battalion, the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade and an array of missile systems, including the Fateh-313 and Zulfiqar ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 700 kilometers.

The official explanation is that the drills are a warning to enemies plotting anything against the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei pointedly tweeted that “those who are under the illusion of relying on others, think that they can provide their own security, should know that they will soon take a slap, they will regret this.”

The message was unmistakable: this was about Azerbaijan relying on Turkey and especially Israel for its security, and about Tel Aviv instrumentalizing Baku for an intel drive leading to interference in northern Iran.

Further elaboration by Iranian experts went as far as Israel eventually using military bases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iranian nuclear installations.

The reaction to the Iranian military exercise so far is a predictable Turkey–Azerbaijani response: they are conducting a joint drill in Nakhchivan throughout this week.

But were Iran’s concerns off the mark? A close security collaboration between Baku and Tel Aviv has been developing for years now. Azerbaijan today possesses Israeli drones and is cozy with both the CIA and the Turkish military. Throw in the recent trilateral military drills involving Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan – these are developments bound to raise alarm bells in Tehran.

Baku, of course, spins it in a different manner: Our partnerships are not aimed at third countries.

So, essentially, while Tehran accuses Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev of making life easy for Takfiri terrorists and Zionists, Baku accuses Tehran of blindly supporting Armenia. Yes, the ghosts of the recent Karabakh war are all over the place.

As a matter of national security, Tehran simply cannot tolerate Israeli companies involved in the reconstruction of regions won in the war near the Iranian border: Fuzuli, Jabrayil, and Zangilan.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian has tried to play it diplomatically: “Geopolitical issues around our borders are important for us. Azerbaijan is a dear neighbor to Iran and that’s why we don’t want it to be trapped between foreign terrorists who are turning their soil into a hotbed.”

As if this was not complicated enough, the heart of the matter – as with all things in Eurasia – actually revolves around economic connectivity.

An interconnected mess

Baku’s geoeconomic dreams are hefty: the capital city aims to position itself at the key crossroads of two of the most important Eurasian corridors: North-South and East-West.

And that’s where the Zangezur Corridor comes in – arguably essential for Baku to predominate over Iran’s East-West connectivity routes.

The corridor is intended to connect western Azerbaijan to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic via Armenia, with roads and railways passing through the Zangezur region.

Zangezur is also essential for Iran to connect itself with Armenia, Russia, and further on down the road, to Europe.

China and India will also rely on Zangezur for trade, as the corridor provides a significant shortcut in distance. Considering large Asian cargo ships cannot sail the Caspian Sea, they usually waste precious weeks just to reach Russia.

An extra problem is that Baku has recently started harassing Iranian truckers in transit through these new annexed regions on their way to Armenia.

It didn’t have to be this way. This detailed essay shows how Azerbaijan and Iran are linked by “deep historical, cultural, religious, and ethno-linguistic ties,” and how the four northwestern Iranian provinces – Gilan, Ardabil, East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan – have “common geographical borders with both the main part of Azerbaijan and its exclave, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic; they also have deep and close commonalities based on Islam and Shiism, as well as sharing the Azerbaijani culture and language. All this has provided the ground for closeness between the citizens of the regions on both sides of the border.”

During the Rouhani years, relations with Aliyev were actually quite good, including the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia and Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Turkey trilateral cooperation.

A key connectivity at play ahead is the project of linking the Qazvin‑Rasht‑Astara railway in Iran to Azerbaijan: that’s part of the all-important International North‑South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

Geoeconomically, Azerbaijan is essential for the main railway that will eventually run from India to Russia. No only that; the Iran‑Azerbaijan‑Russia trilateral cooperation opens a direct road for Iran to fully connect with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

In an optimal scenario, Baku can even help Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman to connect to Georgian ports in the Black Sea.

The West is oblivious to the fact that virtually all sections of the INSTC are already working. Take, for instance, the exquisitely named Astara‑Astara railway connecting Iranian and Azerbaijani cities that share the same name. Or the Rasht‑Qazvin railway.

But then one important 130km stretch from Astara to Rasht, which is on the southern shore of the Caspian and is close to the Iranian–Azeri border, has not been built. The reason? Trump-era sanctions. That’s a graphic example of how much, in real-life practical terms, rides on a successful conclusion of the JCPOA talks in Vienna.

Who owns Zangezur?

Iran is positioned in a somewhat tricky patch along the southern periphery of the South Caucasus. The three major players in that hood are of course Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Iran borders the former Armenian – now Azeri – regions adjacent to Karabakh, including Zangilan, Jabrayil and Fuzuli.

It was clear that Iran’s flexibility on its northern border would be tied to the outcome of the Second Karabakh War. The northwestern border was a source of major concern, affecting the provinces of Ardabil and eastern Azerbaijan – which makes Tehran’s official position of supporting Azerbaijani over Armenian claims all the more confusing.

It is essential to remember that even in the Karabakh crisis in the early 1990s, Tehran recognized Nagorno‑Karabakh and the regions surrounding it as integral parts of Azerbaijan.

While both the CIA and Mossad appear oblivious to this recent regional history, it will never deter them from jumping into the fray to play Baku and Tehran against each other.

An extra complicating factor is that Zangezur is also mouth-watering from Ankara’s vantage point.

Arguably, Turkey’s neo-Ottoman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who never shies away from an opportunity to expands his Turkic-Muslim strategic depth, is looking to use the Azeri connection in Zangezur to reach the Caspian, then Turkmenistan, all the way to Xinjiang, the Uyghur Muslim populated western territory of China. This, in theory, could become a sort of Turkish Silk Road bypassing Iran – with the ominous possibility of also being used as a rat line to export Takfiris from Idlib all the way to Afghanistan.

Tehran, meanwhile, is totally INSTC-driven, focusing on two railway lines to be rehabilitated and upgraded from the Soviet era. One is South-North, from Jolfa connecting to Nakhchivan and then onwards to Yerevan and Tblisi. The other is West-East, again from Jolfa to Nakhchivan, crossing southern Armenia, mainland Azerbaijan, all the way to Baku and then onward to Russia.

And there’s the rub. The Azeris interpret the tripartite document resolving the Karabakh war as giving them the right to establish the Zangezur corridor. The Armenians for their part dispute exactly which ‘corridor’ applies to each particular region. Before they clear up these ambiguities, all those elaborate Iranian and Tukish connectivity plans are effectively suspended.

The fact, though, remains that Azerbaijan is geoeconomically bound to become a key crossroads of trans-regional connectivity as soon as Armenia unblocks the construction of these transport corridors.

So which ‘win-win’ is it?

Will diplomacy win in the South Caucasus? It must. The problem is both Baku and Tehran frame it in terms of exercising their sovereignty – and don’t seem particularly predisposed to offer concessions.

Meanwhile, the usual suspects are having a ball exploiting those differences. War, though, is out of the question, either between Azerbaijan and Armenia or between Azerbaijan and Iran. Tehran is more than aware that in this case both Ankara and Tel Aviv would support Baku. It is easy to see who would profit from it.

As recently as April, in a conference in Baku, Aliyev stressed that “Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran share the same approach to regional cooperation. The main area of concentration now is transportation, because it’s a situation which is called ‘win‑win.’ Everybody wins from that.”

And that brings us to the fact that if the current stalemate persists, the top victim will be the INSTC. In fact, everyone loses in terms of Eurasian integration, including India and Russia.

The Pakistan angle, floated by a few in hush-hush mode, is completely far-fetched. There’s no evidence Tehran would be supporting an anti-Taliban drive in Afghanistan just to undermine Pakistan’s ties with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The Russia–China strategic partnership looks at the current South Caucasus juncture as unnecessary trouble, especially after the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. This badly hurts their complementary Eurasian integration strategies – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

INSTC could, of course, go the trans-Caspian way and cut off Azerbaijan altogether. This is not likely though. China’s reaction, once again, will be the deciding factor. There could be more emphasis on the Persian corridor – from Xinjiang, via Pakistan and Afghanistan, to Iran. Or Beijing could equally bet on both East-West corridors, that is, bet on both Azerbaijan and Iran.

The bottom line is that neither Moscow nor Beijing wants this to fester. There will be serious diplomatic moves ahead, as they both know the only ones to profit will be the usual NATO-centric suspects, and the losers will be all the players who are seriously invested in Eurasian integration.

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Imam Khamenei Urges Regional States to Prevent Foreign Intervention

 October 4, 2021

Imam Khamenei Urges Regional States to Prevent Foreign Intervention

By Staff, Agencies

Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said the interference of foreign actors in the region is a source of discord and damage, calling on the regional states to follow the example of Iran for power and rationality.

Imam Khamenei praised Iran’s armed forces in a virtual address to a ceremony held for graduates of military academies in Tehran Sunday, calling them “a defensive shield in the true sense of the word against the hard threats of the external and internal enemies.”

His Eminence’s remarks came after Iran’s Army held military exercises on its northwestern border, with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian stating that Tehran “does not tolerate the Zionist regime’s activity against its national security”, referring to the Zionist entity’s relations with neighboring Azerbaijan.

“The interference of foreigners in the region is a source of discord and damage. All issues and incidents must be resolved without foreign interference and the countries of the region should follow the example of Iran and the armed forces of the Islamic Republic for power and rationality,” His Eminence said.      

Imam Khamenei said regional armies can provide security in the region, adding that some states should not allow foreign armies to intervene or have a military presence in the region to protect their own interests.

“The events that are taking place in the northwest of Iran in some neighboring countries should be resolved with the same logic of avoiding giving permission to the presence of foreigners,” His Eminence noted.

“The armed forces of our dear country always act with power combined with rationality, and this rationality should be a model for other countries and a factor in solving the existing problems, and everyone should know that whoever digs a pit for his brothers shall fall therein first,” he added.

Imam Khamenei described security as the “basic infrastructure of all necessary activities” for Iran’s development, saying it is important to achieve security without relying on foreigners.

His Eminence noted that while security is something normal for the Iranian nation, many countries – even in Europe – have a problem to achieve it, citing a recent spat between France and an emerging Anglo alliance over building submarines after Australia cancelled apparently under US pressure a $56 billion contract with Paris and awarded it to American and British companies.

“Some Europeans called the US action a stab in the back and in a way said that Europe should ensure its security independently without relying on NATO and in fact on America,” he said, referring to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s remarks in an interview. 

“When European countries feel having a deficiency in achieving lasting security because of their reliance on the United States, which is not opposed to Europe, the comeuppance of other countries that have placed their armed forces under the control of the United States and other foreigners is clear,” His Eminence said.

To provide security by relying on foreign powers is just an “illusion”, Imam Khamenei said.

“Those who suffer from this illusion will soon get slapped because the direct or indirect interference of foreigners in the security, war and peace of any country is a catastrophic disaster.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution touched on the disgraceful withdrawal of well-armed US troops from Afghanistan in August, saying it was an example in pretension of power which proved hollow.

“Those Hollywood images of the US military and countries like it are just a show because their true nature is what was seen in Afghanistan,” Imam Khamenei said.

“The Americans launched a military campaign against Afghanistan 20 years ago to overthrow the Taliban and during this long occupation, they committed many massacres and atrocities and caused great damage, but after all the material and human costs, they handed over the government to the Taliban and withdraw – a fact that is a lesson for all countries.”

Imam Khamenei also touched on the hatred of the East Asian people for the US military, saying “the Americans are hated by nations wherever they intervene.”

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran… “Israel” is on the Line

 ARABI SOURI 

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran -Israel is on the Line

Tel Aviv is not satisfied with this role and its effective military, intelligence, media, and economic presence in Azerbaijan, but it seeks to expand the scope of this influence in the Caucasus region through its presence in Georgia, which is also close to Iran.

The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

Relations between Iran and Azerbaijan are experiencing coolness and sometimes noticeable tension, due to mutual accusations by officials of the two countries, led by President Ilham Aliyev, who spoke of “the incursion of Iranian military vehicles into Azerbaijani territory, during Iranian military maneuvers near the common border,” which was denied by the spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh.

Apathy and tension appeared during the Azerbaijani-Armenian war last year, when information spoke of extensive and intensive Israeli support for the Azerbaijani army, along with Turkish support, which contributed to the victory achieved by the Azerbaijani army.

This victory, to which Tel Aviv contributed by selling Baku drones and spy technology operating via Israeli satellites, was a sufficient reason for further coordination and cooperation between the two ‘countries,’ where the press information talked about Israel establishing bases and radar stations near the border with Iran to monitor Iranian military movements and to monitor Iranian missiles if they are launched towards “Israel”, meanwhile, Israeli companies are working on establishing agricultural and industrial projects similar to the system of Jewish settlements in southern Azerbaijan, 50 km from the border with Iran.

This disturbs Tehran, which sees this Israeli presence, in its various military and intelligence forms, as a threat to its national security, especially with the information that talks about the role of the Mossad in provoking the nationalist sentiments of the Azerbaijani citizens of Iran, who live near the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan, who number about thirty million, compared to eight million, the population of Azerbaijan.

This Israeli provocation is accompanied by some Turkish nationalist circles inciting the Azeris of Iran, given that they are of Turkish origin, noting that at least 90% of them are Shiites, and their loyalty is to the Iranian state, while the citizens of Azerbaijan are 80% of them Shiites, and they do not hide their discomfort, rather, they are concerned about provocative statements in the Azerbaijani media and talk about Israeli conspiracy from their lands against Iran.

Some Turkish nationalist circles had launched a media campaign against Iran during the Karabakh war, and talked about Iranian military support for Armenia during this war, in an attempt to provoke the nationalist feeling of the Azeris, while the Turkish-backed Azerbaijani authorities continue to obstruct the passage of Iranian trains and trucks transporting Azerbaijani and Russian goods arriving in Iran through the Caspian Sea on their way to Armenia, without that bothering President Ilham Aliyev, who is proud of his close relations with Tel Aviv, some influential Jewish businessmen in Baku, including Leonid Tayrov, Leonid Goldstein, Talman Ismailov and Aras Aglararv, who have Azerbaijani, Israeli and Russian citizenship, and some of them are American, and they all have close relations with influential Russian Jews in Moscow.

They play an influential role in developing relations between Azerbaijan and “Israel” in all fields, the most important of which are military and intelligence, as Tel Aviv sells one billion dollars annually in arms and military equipment to Azerbaijan. They also mediate between Tel Aviv and Ankara, as is the case with Ukrainian President Zalensky, who is also a Jew, and has a close relationship with “Israel” and the Jewish lobby organizations in America. In one of his leaked speeches, President Aliyev admitted the depth of the relationship with Tel Aviv, and said, “Eighty percent of the relations between the two ‘countries’ are underground,” meaning that they are hidden.

Turkey and Russia.. Central Asia after Afghanistan?

Azerbaijan covers 60% of Israel’s need for oil, which reaches the Turkish port of Ceyhan by pipelines and is transported to the Haifa port by oil tankers, whose owners are said to be the son of (Turkish) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the son of former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

Tel Aviv is not satisfied with this role and its effective military, intelligence, media, and economic presence in Azerbaijan, but it seeks to expand the scope of this influence in the Caucasus region through its presence in Georgia, which is also close to Iran, the biggest concern of Tel Aviv, which was benefiting from its extensive intelligence presence in Afghanistan During the American occupation there. The information talks about Tel Aviv’s efforts to establish Israeli espionage stations in Georgia, whose goal is to monitor Iranian military movements and eavesdrop on Iranian communications, which is the task carried out by the American Koracik base in southeastern Turkey, and its main task is to inform Tel Aviv as soon as any Iranian missile is launched towards “Israel” so that the Iron Dome can confront it before it enters Palestinian airspace.

The information also speaks of Israeli and Turkish efforts to achieve reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, to contribute to the formation of a new bloc in the Caucasus region that might target Iran, and even Russia, which together seek to confront such a move.

It seems clear that this bothers Moscow, especially after the establishment of Turkish military bases in Azerbaijan, and Ankara’s efforts to develop its relations with Georgia, and its continued refusal to the Crimean annexation to Russia, and its continued development of military relations with Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania, which are the countries bordering the Black Sea, this disturbs Moscow, which is watching the movements of Tel Aviv and Ankara, separately, in the Islamic republics of Central Asia, Russia’s backyard, and the neighbors of Iran and Afghanistan together!

And the last bet remains on the developments of the next stage, and the prospects for Turkish policy in the future after the last Sochi summit and all its details are directly or indirectly related to the calculations of “Israel” in the region, and its main target is undoubtedly Iran, which has obstructed and impeded its projects in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the Gulf, and other places in the world!

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No Place for ‘Israel’ in Iran’s Neighboring Countries – IRG

September 30, 2021

No Place for ‘Israel’ in Iran’s Neighboring Countries - IRG

By Staff, Agencies

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard [IRG] Ground Force warned the neighbors not to allow the Zionist regime to use their soil as a safe haven, saying the neighboring governments themselves know why Iran holds war games at border areas.

Speaking to reporters in the western city of Sanandaj on Wednesday, Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said the Islamic Republic would by no means tolerate the territories of neighbors turning into “a safe haven and a base for the presence and anti-security activities of the fake Zionist regime.”

Without naming the Republic of Azerbaijan, whose president has voiced concern about the Iranian military exercises near the common border, the IRG general said, “We cannot accept that some countries would make unreal and provocative comments about the enhancement of preparedness of the Islamic Republic’s combat units under the influence of third countries and would harm our activities.”

“The neighboring governments are aware more than anyone else of the reasons for Iran’s war games,” he added.

In an apparent criticism of the Azerbaijan Republic whose military employed ‘Israeli’-made attack drones during the recent war with Armenia, General Pakpour said the neighbors of Iran are expected to prevent a stranger like the Zionist regime from using their soil for its evil and criminal purposes.

“There’s no doubt that the Zionist regime helps and supports certain regional countries with the purpose of creating disagreements and rift among Muslim nations,” he stated.

The commander warned that any trouble in the international boundaries of countries will definitely create new conflicts and tensions, especially if such problems are created to serve the ‘Israeli’ regime’s objectives.

“We will never allow the soil of a country in our neighborhood to become the source and base of creation and spread of such troubles,” he stressed.

Describing efforts to prevent any change in the frontiers of the neighboring states as a serious policy of the Islamic Republic, the commander said, “We deem any geopolitical change in the region disruptive to our domestic security and have always declared it as a red line. Accordingly, it is natural that we won’t remain indifferent to it.”

NEW HORRIFYING FOOTAGE EMERGES AS EVACUATION FROM KABUL RESUMES (VIDEOS, 18+)

 17.08.2021

New Horrifying Footage Emerges As Evacuation From Kabul Resumes (Videos, 18+)
This photo taken on May 8, 2018, shows people arriving at the domestic terminal of the Hamid Karzai International Airport of Kabul. (Photo by Dominique FAGET / AFP) (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

The evacuation of foreign and local civilians continues in Afghanistan that came under the Taliban’s control on August 15th. Flights from the Kabul Airport were resumed day after they were suspended due to the crowd of people invading the airport.

According to a White House representative, Kabul airport has resumed receiving and sending flights, including civilian ones.

At least 3 aircraft of U.S. Air Force returned from Kabul on August 17:

  • USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III MOOSE52/04-4134 
  • USAF Lockheed Martin AC-130J Ghostrider RCH1028/04-4134
  • USMC Lockheed Martin KC-130J Hercules CREEP57/168072
New Horrifying Footage Emerges As Evacuation From Kabul Resumes (Videos, 18+)

Last night, specialists of the Special Air Service of the French Armed Forces arrived to Kabul on board of Airbus A400M.

New Horrifying Footage Emerges As Evacuation From Kabul Resumes (Videos, 18+)

New Horrifying Footage Emerges As Evacuation From Kabul Resumes (Videos, 18+)

Germany also sent its military to Kabul. However, the first German military aircraft that landed in Kabul last night has evacuated only seven people due to chaos at the airport.

Germany has the second-largest military contingent in Afghanistan. According to the recent claims by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany must urgently evacuate up to 10,000 people, including thousands of German-Afghan dual nationals as well as rights activists, lawyers and locals who worked with foreign bodies.

The A400M transport aircraft landed in Kabul on August 16th, bringing German soldiers to secure the evacuation. When leaving, it took only seven people who were lucky to be on-site.

“We have a very chaotic, dangerous and complex situation at the airport,” Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told. “We had very little time, so we only took on board people who were on-site.”

German citizens could not get into the airport without protection from German soldiers, a foreign ministry spokesperson claimed.

Germany is currently waiting for US permission to fly its second aircraft to Kabul. It is expected to take off from Uzbekistan soon.

At the same time, footage allegedly showing the evacuation of Chinese citizens was shared online. Beijing reportedly evacuated its citizens in July.

The evacuation was recently resumed despite the ongoing chaos at the airport. According to the available footage, the Taliban control the passage into the airport, as people continue to arrive, some of them climbing the wall, trying to enter the territory of the airport.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that Azerbaijani peacekeepers stationed in Afghanistan continued to serve at the Kabul International Airport, together with Turkish forces. They are performing tasks to ensure security in the sector assigned to them.

“The peacekeeping unit of the Azerbaijani army consisting of 120 people, together with the Turkish forces, continues to fulfill its duties to ensure the security of the airport,” the message reads.

However, even once people enter the territory, they are not secured. They are wounded in crowds. The U.S. forces are making warning shots on a regular basis.

Locals have fun riding military aircraft during the take off:

Unfortunately, this led to bad consequences.At least two people fell from the aircraft on August 16. The following video shows a man who tied himself to the fuselage of an aircraft. Highly likely he did not reach the destination.

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Turkey and Russia.. Central Asia after Afghanistan?

 ARABI SOURI 

Turkey and Russia Central Asia after Afghanistan

Ankara sees the American withdrawal from Afghanistan as its valuable opportunity to gain several footholds in this country neighboring the Central Asian republics of Turkish origin.

The following is the English translation from Arabic of the latest article by Turkish career journalist Husni Mahali he published in the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news site Al-Mayadeen Net:

With the approach of the complete American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the competition intensified between Turkey and each of Russia, Iran, and other countries, with the aim of gaining more positions, not only in this country but through it in Central Asia in general as well. With the “Taliban” movement controlling more areas, and the Afghan forces fleeing en masse, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahman, and assured him of his country’s support for him in the face of possible developments in the Afghan crisis, after thousands of Afghan soldiers sought refuge in this neighboring country.

Last Tuesday, the Russian army announced the readiness of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems at the Russian base in Tajikistan, which in turn does not hide its concern about the possibility of an explosion in the security situation in Afghanistan, which may be exploited by the various jihadist groups, which some of them are present in Idlib and other areas of Syria, under the protection of Turkey, which prevents President Putin from any action that directly targets these groups.

President Putin also made a second phone call to his Uzbek counterpart Shaukat Mir Daif and discussed with him the details of coordination and joint cooperation to confront possible developments in Afghanistan.

In turn, Foreign Minister Lavrov said, “The main problem is the growing threat of terrorist attacks because the Taliban is behaving more aggressively. Also, the terrorist organization ISIS is strengthening its presence in the northern parts of Afghanistan near the border with Russia’s allies.”

And the Russian security announced the thwarting of many terrorist attacks planned by the militants of the Islamist “Tahrir Party”, which is mainly active in the autonomous republics within the borders of the Russian Federation, whose population is mostly Muslims, and their number exceeds 20 million.

Iran – which has a common border with Afghanistan with a length of 936 km, Pakistan with a length of 909 km, and Turkmenistan with a length of 992 km – are closely watching the Afghan developments, given the direct relationship of the matter to Iran’s national security. Last Tuesday, Tehran hosted a meeting between representatives of the “Taliban” and the Afghan government, in an attempt to achieve peaceful reconciliation between the two parties after the US withdrawal at the end of next month.

In turn, Ankara sees this withdrawal as its valuable opportunity to gain several footholds in this country neighboring the Central Asian republics of Turkish origin, namely Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan at the end of last month, in a new attempt by Ankara to develop military relations with these two countries, and later with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, all of which constitute the backyard of Russia, which President Erdogan has previously challenged in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Lithuania.

He also challenged it by lighting the green light for Atlantic maneuvers which included the British and Dutch provocations in the Black Sea, which Washington, with the support of Ankara, wants to turn into an Atlantic basin after the annexation of Georgia and Ukraine to the alliance. NATO membership mainly includes Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria, which overlook the Black Sea, while Turkey controls the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, which connect the Black Sea to both the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean.

Ankara signed several military cooperation agreements with Bulgaria and Romania and then sold its drones to Lithuania, Ukraine, Albania, and Azerbaijan, which achieved quick victories in their war with the Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region thanks to Turkish support.

The information then spoke of Turkey’s efforts to establish several military bases in Azerbaijan, including a base near the Caspian Sea (also overlooked by Iran), which is rich in oil and gas. This may constitute a new and dangerous crisis between Ankara and Moscow, which previously expressed its dismay and rejection of Turkish bases in Azerbaijan in general, which President Erdogan will not care about, who did not care about Russian threats in Syria and Libya, and continued to implement what he had previously planned on the road back to the dreams of the Ottoman Empire.

This (Ottoman) empire had many reasons for entering into 16 fierce wars with the Russian Empire, of which it was defeated in 11. Many see President Putin as the heir of this empire, as Erdogan sees himself as the heir to the Ottoman Empire and its Islamist caliphate, which may make the possible Turkish dialogue, coordination, and cooperation with Kabul after the Taliban control it much easier, even if Turkey is the only Muslim country within NATO that has occupied Afghanistan under the leadership of the United States in 2001. After his meeting with President Biden, on the 14th of last month in Brussels, Erdogan announced that Turkey is ready to send additional forces to Afghanistan to protect the security of Kabul Airport and international facilities, which will be contributed by his ally, Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar, who played and still is, an important role in the American reconciliation with the “Taliban”.

Al-Jazeera was the mouthpiece of the Taliban during its war with the “Great Satan” America, at a time when Osama bin Laden sent his tapes exclusively to the aforementioned channel before and after the American occupation and until his death in May 2011, that is, after the emergence of ISIS, and “Al-Nusra” in Syria and Iraq, which are the arenas for America and its new allies to settle scores with the resistance countries and for “Israel”.

All this explains the new US military position in Jordan, adjacent to Syria, Iraq, and “Israel”, after Washington transferred some of its forces from Qatar, where the Al-Udeid base is still located, which is the most important US base in the region. This base was and will remain, the headquarters of the Central Command of the US Air Force in the Middle East, and it houses 100 warplanes used by US forces against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

In all cases, and whatever the result of the Turkish moves in Afghanistan, through it in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and all the countries that overlook them or close to them, it has become clear that the Turkish President was, and will remain, a source of concern for President Putin, especially if Ankara succeeds in its relationship with the Taliban. Everyone was surprised by its (Taliban) agreement with President Erdogan, who declared himself “the protector of Islam and Muslims.”

In turn, the Taliban leaders, with Qatari mediation, might consider cooperating with him, especially if he proves his authority in the Central Asian republics of Turkish origin, an authority that the late President Turgut Ozal sought after fall and disintegration of the Soviet Union. Erdogan sees himself as Ozal’s successor and before him Adnan Menderes, who made Turkey “a fish on American hook” for the period 1950-1960.

Erdogan and others did not ignore the strategic location of Afghanistan, which is rich in gold, iron, cobalt, copper, uranium, and rare minerals, including niobium and molybdenum, which are invested by Chinese companies that control the extraction and export of most of the world’s rare minerals everyone needs in sensitive industries, including warplanes and missiles.

In the end, the bet remains on the possible policies of the Taliban. If they remain on their approach as they were 20 years ago, history will repeat itself, and everyone will return to their interests in the extremist Islamist movements that have become more famous for their brutality after the so-called “Arab Spring,” especially in Syria. Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and the extension of these countries in Africa, the Middle East, Bahrain, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and the Gulf region.

Erdogan has proven that he has a long experience in all of them after he succeeded in establishing and developing distinguished relations with all Islamist movements, both political and armed, many of whose leaders had previously been present and fought in Afghanistan. These leaders had a relationship with “Al-Qaeda”, and later “Taliban”, which seems clear that, with its next actions, it will decide the fate and future of Afghanistan, and all its neighboring countries as well, most of which are within the borders of Russia’s backyard.

This may be the “hidden satanic” reason for Washington’s decision to withdraw, which wants Russia to afflict Afghanistan again as it afflicted it during the Soviet occupation, and Turkey was at the time on the neutral, but this time it will be a direct party, as is the case on many fronts, which it proved with the transfer of mercenaries from Syria to Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. Now, some expect it to transfer their likes to Afghanistan, which is what America might do by transferring what it has of ISIS detainees in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan!

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مناورة الأميركيّ بداعش من الدوحة حتى البلطيق

05/07/2021

 محمد صادق الحسيني

بعد سحبهم منظومات الدفاع الجويّ من السعودية وغيرها من دول الخليج الفارسيّ… تقول الأنباء الواردة من الدوحة إن الاميركيين قاموا في الأسابيع القليلة الماضية وصولاً الى بداية الشهر الحالي بإخلاء قاعدة السيليّة الضخمة هناك، ونقل معداتها الأساسية الى شمال غرب الاردن.

متابعون يقولون إنّ وجهة هذا الانسحاب هي ميناء حيفا ومن ثم الأراضي الأميركية باعتبار أن الخطة هي الانسحاب الشامل للقوات الأميركيّة من المنطقة، وإن كان ثمة من يقول انها قد تستخدم في إطار الدفاع عن الكيان الصهيوني الذي بات مهدداً بالزوال في أية حرب مقبلة، لكن ذلك ضعيف في ظل احجام الاميركي الجديد عن الدخول في حروب كبرى حتى لو كانت دفاعاً عن ربيبته..!

والمعروف أن السيلية كانت تضم مئات الدبابات والعربات المدرعة، إضافة الى معدات ثقيلة اخرى كانت واشنطن تخزنها في القاعدة المذكورة بمثابة مقر ارتكاز لوجيستي لقواتها، مقابل أي هجوم محتمل، غالباً ما يُقصد به إيران البتة.

من جانب آخر قامت واشنطن كما تقول التقارير الواردة من كابول والدوحة بنقل نحو ٥٠ ألف شخص بين مترجم ومرشد مع عائلاتهم ممن كانوا يعملون مع القوات الأميركية المحتلة قبل إتمام انسحابها، الى الدوحة، وهم الذين باتوا بمثابة العديد المطلوبين ليعملوا في إطار ما يسميه الأميركيون بـ «مكتب التنسيق» التابع للقيادة الوسطى والذي مقرّه قاعدة العيديد في الدوحة.

المصادر المتابعة لعمليات أميركا للمناورة بقوات داعش الإرهابية منذ هزيمتها على يد الجنرال قاسم سليماني في كل من العراق وسورية تقول إنّ واشنطن التي تعمل منذ نحو سنتين على نشر قوات ما تبقى من داعش في آسيا الوسطى وأفغانستان، من خلال خط نقل جوي لم ينقطع، قررت استخدام مكتب التنسيق هذا لغرض الإشراف الفعلي على هذه العملية المستمرة منذ ذلك الوقت والتي ستزداد فاعليتها اكثر في المدى القريب والمتوسط بناء على خطة واشنطن البديلة للانسحاب من أفغانستان، والتي تؤكد التقارير بأنها تهدف لتطويق الروس شمالاً، ومشاغلة الصينيين شرقاً، ومحاولة زعزعة الأمن القومي الإيراني غرباً.

وفي هذا السياق، تؤكد المصادر نفسها بأن نحو 20 الى 30 ألف داعشي تم نقلهم الى دول البلطيق أيضاً، أي بمحاذاة الحدود الروسية شمالاً، ولم يبق أمام الاطلسي لتطويق الروس بالكامل بالحشد المعادي عملياً إلا «الجيب» البلاروسي أو روسيا البيضاء، الذي يشبّهه البعض بمنطقة «القصير» – على الحدود اللبنانية السورية – على الحدود الأطلسية مع الروس الذي لا يزال متحالفاً مع موسكو، وذلك بعد انتقال أوكرانيا من ضفة المعسكر الروسي الى ضفة الأطلسي.

وهذه الخطة الأميركية هي التي سبق ان وضعناها في اطار «الجلاء الأميركي تحت النار» أي انسحابهم المتدرج من منطقتنا، والاستعاضة عن ذلك بالحروب بالوكالة، وإثارة الفتن العرقية والمذهبية انطلاقاً من آسيا الوسطى.

والهدف دائماً منع تقدّم «النفوذ» الإيراني ومشاغلته، ومحاصرة الروسي عند حدوده الجنوبية الرخوة من أذربييجان حتى قرقيزيا، وسد منافذ الصين عند الحدود الشمالية الشرقية مع افغانستان.

من هنا تأتي أهمية التعاون الاستراتيجي بين روسيا وإيران والصين ومحاولاتهم الحثيثة لانتزاع باكستان من ربقة تحالف الوهابية والإمبريالية الأميركية المتغلغلين في نسيج نظامه السياسي.

صعود عمران خان الى السلطة في اسلام آباد ساهم كثيراً ولا يزال في هذه النقلة التي يأمل تحققها ثلاثي الشرق الصاعد.

حيث من المعلوم أن الرجل بدأ يعاني من ضغوط أميركية هائلة بعد أن رفض رفضاً قاطعاً أية قواعد أميركية على أراضيه او مياهه مما جعل أحد اهداف الخطة الاميركية الجديدة هو زعزعة الحدود الأفغانية الباكستانية في منطقة وزيرستان.

يبقى الإيرانيون الذين ينظرون أيضاً بقلق مما يجري في افغانستان وفي المنطقة الآسيوية المذكورة لكنهم محصنون جيداً على ما يبدو تجاه هذا الخطر سواء بقوات رديفة عالية التدريب وصديقة وحليفة لهم من الهزارة الشيعة، أو حتى من الطاجيك والأوزبك السنة طبعاً من كابول حتى مزار شريف، إضافة الى فتح قنوات تعاون جدية من جانب الحكومة الإيرانية مع الطالبان الذين يسيطرون على مساحات شاسعة من البلاد والذين باتوا غير الطالبان القديمة المعادية لجيرانها، كما تقول المصادر المتابعة..!

لذلك ترجّح المصادر المطلعة أن تكون إيران بمثابة بيضة القبان في الدفاع عن أفغانستان التي تتشكل من جديد على وقع الانسحاب الأميركي منها رغم مشروع الأميركان الآنف الذكر.

صحيح ان اميركا تنسحب الآن من افغانستان مهزومة، لكن انسحابها بات مواكباً بمشروع مريب ومخادع يريد ان يحول افغانسان الجديدة ومحيطها الى حقل ألغام تنفجر فيه مجموعات داعش الإرهابية التي لا يزال الأميركي يناور بها من افريقيا حتى أقاصي آسيا رغم خسارته لكل معاركه بها في السنوات الأخيرة.

المصادر المواكبة لهذه التحركات تقول بان دراية الإيرانيين وقدراتهم وتحالفاتهم واطلاعهم الدقيق على هذه الساحة الجديدة المفتوحة على احتمالات صراع عالمي جديد يمكن أن تكون بمثابة خشبة الخلاص لروسيا التي لا تزال تراهن على ترويض التركي العثماني الجديد لحاجتها إليه في اكثر من ساحة وميدان!

وتؤكد أن هذا السيناريو الاميركي الجديد سيكون مصيره الفشل الحتمي أيضاً، لأن واشنطن يبدو عليها انها لم تأخذ الدروس الكافية من هزائمها عند بوابات مدن العرب وعواصمهم المقاومة، بانتظار أن ترى هزائم اكثر ايلاماً عند بوابات مدن العجم وبلداتهم التي سبق أن هزمت السوفيات وأسياد المحتلين الجدد أي الإنجليز الخبثاء، حيث لم يبق منهم سوى طبيب ليروي حكاية مقاومة بلاد النور لقوى الظلام (افغانستان كان اسمها قديماً نورستان)..!

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله.

هل بدأ أردوغان بالتراجع؟

التعليق السياسي

خلال قمة حلف الأطلسي نفش الرئيس التركي رجب أردوغان ريشه الطاووسي، بصفته الجهة الوحيدة التي تتجرأ على تحمّل مسؤولية التمركز في مطار كابول بعد انسحاب القوات الأميركية والأطلسية منها، وعلى نشر جنوده في قاعدة عسكرية في أذربيجان بدلاً من قاعدة أميركية قيد الإغلاق، حافظاً ماء وجه الحلف، طالباً ثمناً لذلك طي صفحة شرائه للصواريخ الروسية أس أس 400، والتغاضي عن مماطلته بالانسحاب من ليبيا.

بالتوازي ظن أردوغان أنه سيلتقي بالرئيس الروسي بالريش الطاووسي ذاته باعتباره أنقذ صفقة صواريخ أس أس 400 من الضغوط الأميركية وكان وفياً لها، آملا بأن يكون الثمن مباركة روسية لنشر قوات تركية يفترض أنها صديقة لروسيا مكان القوات الأميركية العدوة في أفغانستان وأذربيجان.

فوجئ أردوغان بموقف لافت لحركة طالبان ينذره بمعاملة قواته كقوات احتلال إذا وصلت لمطار كابول للحلول مكان القوات الأميركية، وتلاه موقف روسي واضح على لسان الرئيس بوتين أن موسكو لن تتسامح مع نشر جنود تابعين لحلف الأطلسي في دول على حدودها كأفغانستان وأذربيجان، بمعزل عن هوية الدولة المعنيّة العضو في الناتو وعلاقتها بروسيا، وبعدها صدرت مواقف روسية تربط أي حل في أفغانستان بتلاقي دول الجوار، خصوصاً إيران وباكستان، من دون الإشارة الى تركيا.

بالأمس وبشكل مفاجئ خرجت قناة الجزيرة بحوار مع رئيس لجنة الشؤون الخارجية في البرلمان التركي، للتحدث عن ملفات السياسة الخارجية، فقال إن التوجّه للانتشار في أفغانستان لا يزال قيد النقاش، ويجب أن يحظى بموافقة مسبقة من الأطراف المحلية ومن دول الجوار، ثم تحدّث عن التوجّه الى أذربيجان فقال إن ذلك يجب أن يحظى بموافقة روسيا جارة أذربيجان وشريكة تركيا في العديد من الملفات، وأشاد بالحاجة لصواريخ أس أس 400، ملمحاً إلى أن مثل هذه الخطوات عند بلوغها مرحلة متقدّمة تحتاج موافقة من البرلمان.

في العديد من الدول يتم اللجوء للموافقة البرلمانية كذريعة للتهرّب من مسؤولية مواقف تتسبب بالإحراج للحكومة. وهذا ما فعلته باكستان يوم شكلت السعودية للتحالف للحرب على اليمن ووضعت اسم باكستان ضمن التحالف فعلقت باكستان بإعلان تمسكها بالتحالف مع السعودية مشيرة الى أن أية مشاركة لها في تحالف عسكري تحتاج إلى موافقة البرلمان، والإحراج الكبير اليوم هو في كيفية تراجع أردوغان عن التزامات قدمها للرئيس الأميركي جو بايدن، ويبدو أن الطريق للتراجع بدأ بإحالة الأمر إلى حجة الحاجة لموافقة البرلمان، بعدما صارت التحذيرات الروسية واضحة.

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

ERD3211

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

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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

South Front

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

South Front

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

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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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