BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
The U.S. Department of State announced on Oct.25, 2020 with great fanfare the third attempted ceasefire in the Artsakh war in as many weeks. The first two ceasefires were violated by Azerbaijan and Turkey within minutes of going into effect. The new ceasefire announcement was made after the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan flew to Washington, D.C. and separately met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Oct. 23, 2020.
This latest “humanitarian ceasefire” went into effect on Monday, Oct. 26, at 8 a.m., local time. Unfortunately, the third ceasefire was also violated within minutes by Azerbaijan and Turkey. This indicates that Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Jihadist mercenaries from Syria have no intention to stop the war until they cleanse Artsakh of its Armenian population which is exactly what President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly announced. Armenia and Artsakh, with a population of a little over three million, are fighting against the combined forces of Azerbaijan and Turkey with a total population of over 90 million. This is a battle of David versus Goliath. It also means that the powerful Azerbaijani military, armed to its teeth with billions of dollars of modern weaponry from Israel and Russia, is unable to fight its battles without relying on the Turkish military and Islamist mercenaries. Even with their combined forces, Azerbaijan and Turkey have been unable to overrun Artsakh after a month-long battle!
In recent weeks, Pres. Trump has mentioned Armenians three times in his speeches during campaign rallies in Nevada, Ohio and New Hampshire. He made complimentary statements about Armenians, but words are meaningless unless they are followed up with action. All Trump has to do is pick up the phone and call his buddy Erdogan and tell him to stop supporting Azerbaijan and withdraw the terrorists it recruited and transferred to Azerbaijan. Instead, Trump has done what is in his personal interest which primarily includes getting reelected on Nov. 3 by appealing to Armenian-American voters.
Besides military action, there are other fronts in which Armenians and Azeris are battling each other. In the United States, several resolutions have been submitted to the House of Representatives and the Senate to recognize the independence of Artsakh and ban the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan and Turkey. Similar steps have been taken by Armenian communities in Canada, France and Australia, among others. There have also been mass protests by Armenian communities in cities throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.
Armenian-Americans and elected officials pressured various lobbying firms hired by Azerbaijan and Turkey to stop their propaganda efforts. Last week, Mercury Public Affairs announced that it terminated its lobbying contract with Turkey. Mercury has represented Turkey since 2013. In February of this year, Mercury signed a contract for $1 million to represent the Turkish Embassy. The Los Angeles City Council had urged Mercury to end its contract with Turkey or it will no longer do any business with the firm. A similar announcement was made by the Los Angeles Community College District.
DLA Piper, another major lobbying firm, informed the U.S. Justice Department that it no longer represents Azerbaijan Railways. The Livingston Group also ended its lobbying for Azerbaijan on Oct. 13. The BGR lobbying firm withdrew from representing Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR, according to AHVAL News.
Armenia on the other hand has never hired lobbying or public relations firms. The rare example was the Armenian government signing a lobbying contract with the law firm of Alston & Bird (associated with former Senator Bob Dole) for $10,000 from Sept. 15 to Oct. 14, 2020. It is not known if that contract was extended. While hiring lobbying or public relations firms is always helpful, the Armenian community is not as dependent on them since they are politically active and rely on their own organizations in Washington, such as the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of America. On the other hand, Azerbaijan and Turkey are obligated to spend millions of dollars for lobbying to try and misrepresent their dirty laundry as clean.
Another aspect of the misinformation war is the one waged in the pages of newspapers and social media in various countries. The Azeri government pays a fortune each year to hired pens to besmirch Armenia and glorify the dictatorship of Azerbaijan. The other front is the social media. Whenever, a prominent American or European announces its public stand in favor of Armenia, a horde of Azeris and their paid agents hound those individuals and pressure them to retract their statements.
There have been several reports in recent days that Azeri troops are wearing the uniforms of Armenian soldiers apparently to create confusion in the battlefield. In one such battle, it was discovered that 40 Azeri soldiers’ bodies were found in Armenian uniform. In my opinion, this practice, rather than confusing Armenians, will result in Azeris shooting their own soldiers by mistaking them for Armenians.
The Armenian government should file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) about the barbaric behavior of Azeri soldiers. In one video, two Armenian prisoners of war are shot dead by Azeri soldiers. In another, the head of a dead Armenian soldier is cut off by Azeri soldiers. In a third gruesome video, Azeri soldiers are seen skinning an Armenian soldier while he is still alive. These are clear cases of war crimes. Azerbaijan should be condemned by the ICC and bear responsibility for these inhuman actions. In addition, Azerbaijan uses cluster bombs which are prohibited by international humanitarian law. Moreover, Azerbaijan has fired on a daily basis thousands of missiles on civilians throughout Artsakh cities and villages. Azerbaijan has also destroyed hundreds of Armenian houses, schools and churches. These are blatant war crimes. Azerbaijan should pay a heavy price for its barbaric behavior.
On the positive side, 10 million Armenians worldwide have been united as never before. Every Armenian realizes that this is an existential struggle. Turkey and Azerbaijan intend to commit a second genocide against Armenians. So far, Armenians have raised the unprecedented sum of $150 million and millions more in humanitarian aid. The only thing missing is for an Armenian billionaire to make a billion dollar donation to support the survival of Armenia and Artsakh. After all, it costs Armenia $30 million a day to meet its security needs.