AND IN OTHER NEWS: A Rift With Russia?

Social media has reflected the fast and furious changes happening in Armenian geopolitics, including an unprecedented rift with Russia, upcoming joint army exercises with the United States, and world leaders demanding an end to the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh. With its genocidal intent against Nagorno-Karabakh widely reported, one of its senior diplomats conceded a genocide against the Armenian population could occur.

Ambassador Elchin Amirbayov, who serves as Special Envoy for President Ilham Aliyev and Assistant to First Lady/Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva, is promoting what amounts to an idea of “self-genocide”, that if Armenians do not capitulate exactly as demanded they will have no one to blame if Azerbaijan responds genocidally. Despite their criticism of first prosecutor for the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo’s assessment that the criteria for genocide have been met in Karabakh, it seems they actually agree with him that it could very well occur.

If you haven’t been following Armenian geopolitics for even a week, you’ve missed a lot. The confusion was aptly summed up in the tweet above.

Armenia made a groundbreaking geopolitical move, one at least a year or more in the making, when Prime Minister Pashinyan declared past Armenia’s reliance on Russia for security “a strategic error”.

This was quickly followed by an announcement that Armenia would, for the first time, send humanitarian aid to support Ukraine…

And that First Lady Anna Hakobyan would take part in a summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen hosted by Ukrainian President Zelensky’s wife Olena. Besides appearing in a panel with Mrs. Zelenksa, Ms. Hakobyan was also photographed meeting President Zelensky.

This rapid repositioning was quickly followed by the announcement that Armenia-US joint peacekeeping exercises will take place in the coming days. This is a huge shift because Armenia is still a member of Russia’s CSTO alliance, intended as a counterweight to NATO. Armenia has not been shy about its desire to leave CSTO, or as it puts it, “CSTO has left us”. Now, a drill with a leading NATO member…

Rewinding a few days, a figure no less than Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo personally led an aid convoy to the Lachin Corridor but was refused entrance. In the days to come, even countries that had been rather passive about the situation, like Germany, became much more active.

France has long been outspoken about its support for the humanitarian rights of Armenians. Germany has been a far less enthusiastic partner. The country has centuries-long ties with Turkey, including an active pro-Erdogan German-Turkish population. German politician turned president of the European Commission Ursula von der Layen has become notorious for her gas deal with Azerbaijan which many see as the reason the petrostate has become so emboldened to strangle the people of Karabakh. Yet this statement by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and others including Chairman of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee Michael Roth are completely unambiguous that Azerbaijan must cease and desist immediately.

Despite the gravity of the situation, Azerbaijan seems to consider the blockade a “game”. In response to the French aid convoy, Azerbaijan finally decided to send a convoy of its own with about a day’s worth of wheat. Some Azerbaijani outlets even declared that if the wheat was not accepted by the population, it would be forced inside militarily, confirming the expectation that this “aid” was merely part of Azerbaijan’s subjugation plan.

Former Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Ken Roth brought attention to an Economist article about the humanitarian disaster. Anyone who questions why Azerbaijan’s offer of a small bit of wheat is so insulting and insidious clearly is missing out on the full context of how they’ve created and maintained this situation in the first place. Offering a pittance in bad faith just so they can use its rejection to further deny they caused any crisis to begin with demonstrates the banality of evil.

Even humanitarian organizations are having their names dragged through the mud by Azerbaijan, which has co-opted its own branch of the Red Cross/Red Crescent organization as another arm of government propaganda. Alleged Red Crescent “humanitarians” attempting to deliver wheat from Azerbaijan to Nagorno-Karabakh were revealed to be the very same actors who posed as ‘eco-protesters’ for months, and some of those protesters were similarly revealed as members of the Azerbaijani military and special forces. They have made a complete mockery of the entire notion of humanitarian aid.

One of the most dramatic signs of the blockade story breaking into the mainstream news was the fact it was covered by the BBC. The BBC and the United Kingdom in general have long been criticized for their extremely close ties to Turkey and Azerbaijan, to the point that it still doesn’t even recognize the Armenian Genocide, and yet even it could not ignore the story. The two interviews, which can both be seen from the tweet above and its quote tweet, and who was consulted is also instructive as to the nature of this “debate” in its own way. From the Armenian point of view, Serj Tankian and Ocampo set out the great danger being faced by the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, while representing the Azerbaijani side was a “journalist” from the hyper-racist news outlet which is known for its wildly hateful style against Armenians, who was propped up by a paid lawyer/lobbyist Rodney Dixon. It is worth noting how presenter Christian Fraser was clearly well-informed on the issue and did an admirable job asking probing questions in the face of the erroneous propaganda voiced by the Azerbaijani representatives.

Gripping accounts of the humanitarian crisis were also published in the New York Times and CNN.

While the ongoing humanitarian disaster has been of primary concern, in the background have been repeated threats from Azerbaijan to attack Armenia yet again. In recent days Azerbaijani troops have been seen massing on the borders of both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, as a mood of war has been celebrated throughout Azerbaijan.

The various military vehicles headed towards the border had an upside-down letter A on them, in the same way Russian military vehicles were seen with the now-infamous letter Z headed towards Ukraine. Speculation has been rampant among both Armenians and Azerbaijanis as to the exact meaning of the symbol. Despite no clear public explanation as to its meaning, it was quickly adopted throughout society, even being incorporated by numerous public institutions and media outlets into their logos and online presence.

Such a sudden society-wide movement without clear explanation has all the hallmarks of a campaign instituted from the top-down, as is typical in Aliyev’s autocracy. Commentary on social media have noted how if Azerbaijan does launch a new war, nobody can say they didn’t warn the world, and yet the statements and actions of global leaders seem entirely inadequate in the face of Azerbaijan’s naked aggression.

Even Turkish politician ethnic Azerbaijani Sinan Ogan, who was seen as having helped put President Erdogan over the top in his recent electoral victory, issued a statement with the upside-A making a strange claim about the city of Stepanakert (which they call Khankendi). The version of the upside-down A with the Azerbaijani flag planted in the middle is the form which suggests it means conquering Syunik, with the triangular shape resembling the region. It is worth pointing out that this posturing imitating the fascist Russian “Z” symbol more than implies Azerbaijan’s intention for war against Armenia. After all, what use is putting such a loaded symbol on one’s military vehicles and inserting it throughout society if there is no intention to follow up on its meaning? Now keep in mind United States soldiers are currently arriving in Armenia at this same exact time Azerbaijan appears to be moving to invade. There are numerous moving pieces on this chess board and they are moving at a dizzying rate.

As Kim Kardashian has perhaps managed to bring global awareness to the Armenian Genocide more than any other person, her periodic bringing of attention to Armenian issues has played a vital role in amplifying the message. Over the past weeks, Armenians in California have demonstrated outside of her home asking her to bring attention to the blockade, and finally the message has gotten through.

In that time, the situation has moved beyond just a blockade but the real fear of genocide and extermination, not just in Nagorno-Karabakh but as indicated by the Azerbaijani war drums in Armenia as well. Kardashian used her voice to call to the very top, President Biden, echoing testimony from Ocampo at a congressional hearing just a day prior that a lack of action or further aid granted to Azerbaijan could be qualified as the United States aiding in genocide.

Statements about the situation continue to ricochet around the world from global leaders. In this case, the High Representative for EU Foreign Affairs called on September 9 for an immediate opening of the Lachin Corridor. While Azerbaijan continues to push for use of the “Aghdam road” instead, and some past statements made reference to it as a possible solution, this latest one makes it clear it is not an alternative to Lachin. With the resignation of Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan, the leadership struck a compromise of sorts which would allow a truck of Russian aid to enter Nagorno-Karabakh on the Aghdam road with a simultaneous opening of the Lachin road. However, Aliyev’s notoriously duplicitous assistant Hikmet Hajiyev both informed Politico and Reuters that the roads were open, which they dutifully reported as fact, but in actuality the Russian truck was halted at the city of Barda in Azerbaijan while it was declared Lachin would not be opened. Azerbaijan has been sowing utter confusion and managed to get desperately needed positive PR for “opening” the corridor, even though no such thing happened.

US officials tweeted the next morning on September 10 both making references to a false parity between the Lachin and Aghdam routes, with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken making an indirect reference to it, while USAID Administrator Samantha Power naming it directly in tandem with Lachin. The situation is hopelessly muddied at the moment, and rewarding Azerbaijan by elevating its “Aghdam Road” as an option is only rewarding its consistently cynical unreliable behavior towards people it considers its own citizens.

Once again, amid all the bad news we seek to leave you with a positive item. After his appearance earlier this year on PBS’s “Finding Your Roots” regarding the story of his genocide-survivor great-grandmother, actor Joe Manganiello has been publicly embracing his Armenian heritage. He recently showed off his new ink designed by an Armenia-based calligrapher.

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