In continuation of our previous blog entry titled 'Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan - more to the story than meets the eye,' trouble in the Karabakh region erupting yet again, let us study the issue a bit deeper with a historical wrap up.
Armenia which refers to Nagorno Karabakh as "Artsakh" claims the bluff that it was historically Armenian land in 9 B.C., a similar hoax as Palestine belonging to the European Ashkenazis masquerading as "Semites." Nagorno Karabakh, currently occupied by Armenia, has been part and parcel of Azerbaijan since recorded history. On December 1989 NK was annexed to Armenia by Armenian authorities. In January 1990, USSR Constitution of Acts declared the annexation illegal, done without the consent of Azerbaijan.
Subsequently, Armenians began massacres and terrorist activities against Azerbaijanis. Between late 1991 and early 1992, the conflict entered its military stage, Armenia starting military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh with external military support.
On September 24, 1991 Armenian military attacked several villages in Karabakh region displaying utmost of cruelty killing and expelling Azerbaijanis from their homes. The most terrible armed violence and genocide by Armenians took place in the town of Khojaly, NK, late 1991.
Khojaly was blocked by Armenian authorities, closing all roads, destroying communication lines and cutting off power supplies. Late February 1992, a large contingent of Armenian forces attacked Khojaly and completely destroyed the town, known in history as the Khojaly massacre or Khojaly tragedy.
It was mass murder killing hundreds (if not thousands) of Azerbaijanis residing in Khojaly. Killings and persecution of Azerbaijanis went on and in 1994 Iran mediated a ceasefire which came too little, too late. Until then more than 25% of the province of Nagorno Karabakh had been occupied by the Armenians.
Azerbaijan-Iran-Armenia relations and how it involves Israel
You might see occasional stories from secular sources in Syria portraying Azerbaijan as "an ally" or "friend" of Israel in the Azerbaijan-Armenia episode that reignited in August-September 2020 t with claims that Israel has been using drones in Nagorno Karabakh against Armenia. A simple scrutiny reveals the inaccuracy of these puff-pieces that suppress history and background facts. This portrayal isn't what it's meant to convey at face value. One of the top selective-presentation sites for such generalizations is Al Masdar News based in Beirut.
It basically revolves around Iranian international relations and some observing governments adjusting their stance accordingly but not to the extent of altering their official geopolitical blueprint. Moreover, the apprehension is at a political level of policy makers rather than majority of the common public.
Azerbaijan, a Muslim state of nearly 10 million, is predominantly Shiia. Some 85% are Shiia Muslims while 15% Sunnis. There have been lots of reports on Iran trying to step up Shiia influence in Azerbaijan through the Azeri Shiia Muslims. That made Baku quite wary, fearing it as a prelude to a 1979-style uprising in Iran. However, recently since the start of the Syrian war, Baku has been more relaxed with Iran to assist in neutralizing the Salafist climate in Azerbaijan as many Sunni Azeris began leaving for Syria to join the foreign terrorist network against the Syrian government. Consequently, at the moment reportedly there are more than 20 Shiia religious schools in Azerbaijan controlled by Iran. This has again become a matter of concern for the secularist segments of Azerbaijan and the government is now considering banning the observation of Ashura, an idea silently criticized by Iran. Since almost three decades, Baku and Tehran have been discreetly nervous of each other despite Azerbaijan being largely Shiia. While the powerful circles in Baku fear Iran's religious influence in Azerbaijan, Tehran fears Baku's secular influence in its Azeri population in the province of Azerbaijan, northern Iran. Furthermore, Tehran's friendly ties with Armenia hasn't helped to improve Iran's relations with Azerbaijan. Reason behind cool Iranian-Armenian ties is basically a continuation of ancient and medieval influences. In fact, Armenia was part of Persia until early 1800s (as was Azerbaijan) when it was occupied by the Russian monarch. Armenians are one of the minority groups in Iran with several old Armenian churches and monasteries located within Iranian territory as tourist sites. Tourism between the two countries has been thriving for years. Early 2018, Baku also accused Tehran of spying on Azerbaijan through the IRGC and Hashd al-Shabi of Iraq. At the same time, just as many Azeri officials also fear the Sunni-turned-Salafist circles of Azerbaijan visiting Syria and Iraq to join the foreign terrorist factions. According to some unconfirmed reports, Tehran has also attempted to establish cordial ties with the occupying regime in Nagorno Karabakh.
Coming to matters between Israel, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Israel has diplomatic ties with both similar to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. However, most Israeli analysts deny that Israel supports Azerbaijan against Armenia over the Karabakh issue. They have confirmed Israel's neutrality. While relations between Israel and Armenia have undoubtedly gone through a calm phase of moderate deterioration, relations between Israel and Azerbaijan have remained the same. Israel's deterioration with Armenia is on grounds of Armenia's close ties with Iran, but that has never prompted TelAviv to supply Azerbaijan with weapons and drones to fight the Armenian occupation in Nagorno Karabakh as claimed by Al Masdar News.
But despite the exclusion of the accusation of Israel 's military assistance to Azerbaijan against Armenia, there are a few non-military issues that often lead to the misleading idea that Israel "supports" Azerbaijan against Armenia in the Karabakh conflict. To begin with, Armenian officials and people adamantly state their desire to promote ties with Israel, welcomed by Benyamin Netanyahu. Israel is a recipient of Azerbaijani oil at competitive prices. Then again, they say the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan is larger than the one in Armenia which is utilized for keeping an eye on Iran. Baku's permission for letting TelAviv enjoy this privilege is perhaps a backlash over Iran's cool relations with Armenia.
The presumption that "Israel does not recognize the Armenian genocide" of 1915 is another misleading concept. Israel hasn't officially called it a "genocide" just as the USA hasn't, but Israeli officials are fully supportive of the practice of lending credence to Armenia and the old myth that Armenians suffered "brutal" treatment at the hands of the Ottomans. There have been many Israeli leaders and officials who have publicly said "yes" to the so-called Armenian genocide throughout Israeli history but the Zionist state, like many Western states, has not officially showed the green light primarily for the convenience of maintaining cordial trade links. In 2015 during the centennial commemoration when most Western governments pressed hard to recognize the incident as a "genocide," Israel enthusiastically joined the chorus. An Israel lawmaker named Nachman Shai stated "in foreign policy there are interests as well as values. In this case values should trump interest. As Jews we recognize it" drawing parallels between "Armenian genocide and Holocaust." Highlighting that notion, the patriarch of the Armenian orthodox church in Israel, Aris Shrivanian, said "we the Armenians and the Jewish people have suffered the same fate, the Armenian genocide has served as a predecessor of the Jewish Holocaust." Based on the same argument, Iran's stance of recognizing the Armenian "genocide" can be interpreted as a common standpoint between Iran and the West including Israel. Yet that would be a misleading expression on a wider sphere.
Overall, it's not a hassle-free story as the global political arena is far from clean. But concerning our discussion point here, there hasn't been any military involvement of Israel with Azerbaijan against Armenia nor of a military aggression by Armenia assisted by Iran against Azerbaijan. Despite weapons purchases according to past agreements from certain Western arms dealers including Israel and Armenia's ongoing arms purchase from Iran used against the Azeris in NK, Azerbaijan and Armenia are fighting the Armenian occupation of Nagorno Karabakh independently.
Last but not least, involving this episode it's vital for Iran to promote much greater neutrality concerning its relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia. Until the 1990s and later, Iran was unofficially but definitely supportive of Armenia over the Karabakh issue, leaving the door open on the rebound for Azerbaijan to get closer to Iran's rivals.