BY ARA PAPIAN
I agree with the opinion expressed many times that, when it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), the policies which Ilham Aliyev follows are based largely on domestic factors. Ilham, as his father, belongs to that school of politicians for which only power is sacrosanct, bringing about possibilities of pocketing immense sums with such status. Accordingly, it is from this perspective that one must examine the possibility of Aliev unleashing war on the Artsakh front.
Any war comprises of serious and unpredictable consequences for the authorities in power. Ilham Aliyev, I believe, has not forgotten that power has changed hands in Azerbaijan as a result of military defeat in Artsakh. Does Aliyev currently have any guarantees of bringing the Armenian side to its knees through a war? I am convinced that that is not the case. What is more, the probability that Azerbaijan would have more territorial losses in a war is much greater.
Let us also try to understand at what cost Azerbaijan would gain a hypothetical victory over Artsakh. If we go so far as to imagine the impossible, say, that the Azerbaijani armed forces manage to destroy the Armenian army (something which cannot occur with regards to an army entrenched in defensive positions) and get rid of all the Armenians of Artsakh (it is a reality that this war is not just between two armies, but also between two peoples), what would be the situation in Azerbaijan then? Adding to the tens of thousands of those killed in the war, Azerbaijan would find itself at the edge of utter economic collapse.
As a state, Azerbaijan survives today solely due to the export of oil and natural gas. It is through their sale that Azerbaijan arms itself now and regularly swaggers against Artsakh and Armenia. That is, oil wells, oil and gas pipelines and other such infrastructure are objects of strategic importance and consequently legitimate targets. Is it not evident that, at the very first hours of the war, there shall remain but smoking metal scrap where they used to be?
It is also important to emphasise that Azerbaijan cannot carry out similar counter-measures, as the Armenian economy, even with all its shortcomings, is incomparably less vulnerable, since we do not have two or three structures whose destruction would result in the cessation of our exports, and thus 90% of our actual income.
Besides which, Aliyev has to answer not just to his own people, but to all the foreign companies that have made immense investments in this sphere and of which many have not yet broken even. What does Aliyev need a war for? The Emir of Baku is quite content by himself, milking the mineral wealth of an entire country and keeping the majority of the people of that country, the legal owners of the vast wealth of that country, in extreme poverty. Aliyev uses fanatic anti-Armenianism in order to sustain his stolen power and to maintain his stolen wealth.
Aliyev is a straight-up thief – those who rob power are robbers still – and so his heart is always in straits. Consequentially, although I find war highly improbable, it still cannot be completely ruled out. In tense situations, wars may also arise by themselves. However, as a planned political move, I believe that Aliyev would go for such an adventure (there would be no other word for it) in one case alone, that is, when Aliyev’s own standing in Azerbaijan be so weakened, that it would be difficult to ensure the possibility for Aliyev to yet again acquire power through cheating and falsifications. That is to say, one must view all political developments of the Emirate of Baku through the perspective of maintaining the Aliyevs’ wealth and position. When war remains the sole path for Ilham Aliyev to maintain his hold on power, he will go for it.
However, as there is almost no real opposition currently in Azerbaijan, I do not think that the Emir feels directly threatened by anyone. Ilham Aliyev is not himself interested in either the victory or even the defeat of the Azerbaijani army today. People are unforgiving towards defeated emirs in the Orient; at the same time, nothing is as dangerous for a tyrant of the Orient as the soldiers and general of a victorious army.