BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It seems we can’t get a long, solid run of good news for Armenians because often bad news intervenes, or, even “good” news has its “bad” aspects.
When the hacking group “Anonymous” messed up Turkey’s internet functioning a few weeks ago, I was certainly pleased. It was especially good news that Anonymous said it took that action because of Turkey’s support of IS/Daesh and, that more actions would follow if that support does not cease. Now, to make a comment that might get me in trouble, if Anonymous wants more ideas as to what aspects of Turkey’s doings need to be hacked or exposed (Wikileaks style), they’re more than welcome to contact me. If this were some personal electronic communication, it would have been followed by “lol” or the winking emoji, omnipresent cyber-indicators of chuckles and impishness. This was not the first cyber-attack on Turkey. It had taken a hit back on March 31 of 2015, when more than half its population was denied access to electricity for twelve hours! One article I read attributed this to Iran. Another insinuated that Anonymous was responsible. It turns out the 2008 Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline explosion in Turkey was orchestrated via computer, too. In that case, blame is being laid at Russia’s feet, though investigators are not certain of that. The particularly good news in that case is the cost to SOCAR (Azerbaijan’s oil company) of a billion dollars in lost revenue.
Ongoing, draining, news from the frontlines with Azerbaijan are the deaths of Armenian soldiers, very often from sniper attacks. This bad news is relevant for more than just its tragic quality. See below.
Saudi Arabia’s ongoing insanity of supporting IS/Daesh (while simultaneously waging war on hapless Yemen) is causing serious harm to the Armenian community of Syria. This in turn saps some of our resources and attention which would otherwise be focused on Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Add to this the very visible execution of a Shiite cleric raising tensions with Iran, and you have a rising level of tension in the whole region bordering Armenia.
Of course Turkey’s seven-month onslaught against the PKK right on Armenia’s doorstep is no small matter either. Couple this with an opinion that Azeris who are well trained and speak Armenian might attempt infiltrations to effect terrorist attacks, and you see the potential for mayhem in the sliver of our homeland that is actually under Armenian governance.
On the US-Turkey-IS/Daesh front, Seymour Hersh’s exposé about the U.S. military subtly assisting Syria’s Assad to fight IS/Daesh provides a glimmer of hope since it shows that at least some sectors of the U.S. government understand reality. This is in contrast with the White House’s stubborn support for Ankara, despite the latter’s no-longer-hidden support for IS/Daesh and its needless re-initiation and escalation of hostilities with the PKK. What drives Obama to this madness of supporting the murderous Erdoğan? Is it a fear of the establishment of a Kurdish state for the first time in history? If so, why is that development so worrisome, fearsome, to some sector(s) of the D.C. foreign policy establishment? Where does that leave Armenians and our rightful demands and hope for the actualization of President Wilson’s arbitral award?
But the most twisted of all good/bad news emanates from Azerbaijan. Baku is taking a lot of hits. On the domestic front, its brutal and very authoritarian policies have engendered much resentment in its populace. Repression of its minorities, in line with Turkey’s approach to Turkifying anyone living within its borders, have produced discontent among those segments of the population. Now, with consumer prices spiraling upwards, disturbances are hitting the streets. This economic aspect stems, broadly, from mismanagement and corruption, but more immediately from the drop in oil prices. That has stressed the country’s economy, reduced its reserves, impacted its banks, and generally, the government’s ability to “buy” civic peace by affording some segment of the population the benefits of the oil and gas that is pumped out of the ground. It doesn’t help that during the 10-year period of 2004-2013, an illicit capital outflow of $95 billion took place, that’s 22.2 percent of Azerbaijan’s GDP* (gross domestic product, a measure of the size of a country’s economy) for the same period. Imagine, illegally losing a fifth of your country’s potential into a few crooks’ pockets! And, with Iran about to legally reenter the oil markets, the already depressed price of that commodity is likely to decrease further, meaning even less money flowing into Azerbaijan’s coffers.
These sources of instability are threats to Aliyev’s regime, and it comes as no surprise that tensions and deaths along the line of contact with Armenian forces are elevated to levels unseen since the establishment of the 1994 ceasefire. Thus, while it is certainly pleasing that Armenians’ most energetic current foe is suffering, it is simultaneously very worrisome. Starting a war as a distraction from his own failings is not something that a petty tyrant such as Aliyev would not do. He may even take that step knowing that he would lose more territories to Armenian forces. It would buy him time by stoking anti-Armenian sentiments among the Turks (Azeris) of Azerbaijan, as he hopes for a resurgence in oil prices that would allow him to once again buy domestic “peace” or while he and his crooked cohort effect their escape, likely to Turkey (who else would accept such perfidious people?).
Let’s hope, and more importantly, work for, a long period of unmitigated, unadulterated, good news for Armenians all over the world.
* For comparison, the equivalent figures for the Republic of Armenia are $9.8 billion and 11.7 percent.