By Khajag Mgrdichian
For most Armenian political and intellectual circles–the blockade forced on Armenia by Turkey–and the fact–that the Armenian-Turkish border still remains closed–are proof of Turkey’s antagonistic attitude–if not outright animosity towards Armenia and the Armenian people. This much is undeniable. Aside from the economic consequences of the blockade–in the realm of international relations–the lack of formal diplomatic ties along with the decision to implement a blockade can easily be construed as an act of war–a casus belli. Therefore–to ask Turkey to normalize relations with Armenia by opening the borders may be received as an attempt to end the present belligerent policy. It is not by chance–that the speech delivered at an Armenian Assembly gathering by the Assistant to the Secretary of State–Daniel Fried was received with applause–when he stated: "Now we hope–but also anticipate–that a solution on Nagorno-Karabagh will result in an open border with Turkey–which is a consistent goal on our agenda with Ankara. From Yerevan–I went to Ankara and I made this point with the Turkish government that we want the border open–and we want it open as soon as possible."
So far–high-ranking American officials–succeeding ambassadors–the last of whom–John Evans–have declared–that in the light of the existing blockade–they approach with understanding Armenia’s special relationship with Iran.
In regards to the importance of relations with Iran–a similar opinion is expressed in a document titled "Strategic Defense Guidelines of the Republic of Armenia," which reads: "In conditions of an economic-transportation blockade–from the point-of-view of neutralizing Armenia’s isolation–Iran’s significance becomes more salient as a country securing an essential strategic road to Asia and the Middle East for Armenia."
However–it is clear–that intent on the encirclement of Iran–the United States has partially completed that aim with its military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan–the mistrust of the Gulf’s Arab states towards Iran and the stress in Azerbaijan-Iran relations. Daniel Fried has said in Baku–that the danger to the security of Azerbaijan does not come from Armenia–it comes from other countries (referring to Iran). Fried justifies American aid to Azerbaijan–saying–"Our security cooperation with and assistance to Azerbaijan is meant to improve Azerbaijan’s posture against those threats–not against Armenia."
Iran’s encirclement could be completed by reversing the progress of her relationship with Armenia. However–that progress cannot be justifiably slowed down–as long as the Turkish-Azeri blockade of Armenia continues. It is by lifting that blockade–that Armenia’s special relationship with Iran may become not only unjustifiable–as far as the United States is concerned–but objectionable–as well.
According to Fried–the United States follows with considerable apprehension Armenia’s energy ties with Iran. According to him–America–as in the case of other Caucasus countries–tries to find alternate sources of fuel for Armenia. Therefore–it is clear–that the increasing interest–shown recently by the United States on the matter of the opening of the Armenia-Turkey border–is motivated by a desire to end the State Department’s present tolerance of the Armenia-Iran’special relationship–by securing other accessible sources of energy for Armenia’s needs.
In political terms–US efforts to encircle Iran are understandable. However–US attempts to replace the present Armenia-Iran relations with those of Armenia-Turkey–denotes a failure to grasp the historical context of existing Armenian-Turkish relations. For Armenia–what is being dealt with here is not a simple act of shutting the back door and opening the front one. More than just political–both relationships have strategic ramifications. Opening the borders does not nullify the Turkish threats to the security of the Armenian people and state. Furthermore–it jeopardizes the Armenian quest for justice and reparations for the genocide committed by Turkey. In sum–the issue is not one of replacing the 10 cubic meters of natural gas being pumped from Iran with an equal amount from Turkey or Azerbaijan; those relationships are not as simple as the spokesmen of the US State Department’s foreign policy would make us believe.
Most worrisome of all–however–is the danger of having Armenian circles–that may be lured and end up swallowing–hook–line–and sinker–these simplistic notions concerning the complex relationships discussed above.
Translated by Tatul Sonentz