BAKU: Azerbaijan has “most likely” agreed to host US bases…

Azerbaijan has “most likely” agreed to host US bases, increase troops in Iraq

Zerkalo, Baku
19 Aug 04

The Azerbaijani leadership has probably already decided to contribute
more troops to the Iraqi anti-terror coalition and to agree to the
deployment of US forces in Azerbaijan and is just waiting for the
right moment to reveal this, an article in Baku daily Zerkalo has
said. The deployment of US troops runs the risk of Azerbaijan getting
embroiled in a conflict with Iran, the article said, and also rules
out resolution of the Karabakh conflict by force. “With the appearance
of Americans in Azerbaijan, the danger of becoming a target of Islamic
terrorists will certainly grow… for Islamic terrorists US troops are
like a red rag to a bull,” the article concluded. It saw as advantages
of US troop deployment greater economic development for the region and
integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. According to
the article, Russia is not ready for global confrontation with the USA
and will probably yield on the issue of US troops in Azerbaijan. The
following is an excerpt from Rauf Mirqadirov’s report in Azerbaijani
newspaper Zerkalo on 19 August entitled “Azerbaijan, ally of the USA
forever” and subheaded “But there is another side to the coin”;
subheadings inserted editorially:

Official Baku will soon have to take very tough decisions within the
framework of its participation in the US-led anti-terror
coalition. These decisions, most likely, have already been adopted,
and the Azerbaijani leadership is waiting for a suitable moment to
make them public.

The first decision is about the participation of the Azerbaijani
peacekeeping contingent in the Iraqi coalition forces. To be more
precise, for the time being, we are not talking about participation,
but the expansion of the peacekeeping mission. Azerbaijani officials
have said more than once that the issue of withdrawal of our
peacekeeping mission from Iraq is not on the agenda. Moreover, very
recently Azerbaijan, with other allies in the coalition, issued a
statement that they will not make concessions to terrorists if their
troops are taken hostage.

Azerbaijan has probably decided to deploy US troops

Now we are talking about contributing extra forces to maintaining
security in the elections to be held under the UN aegis. Officially,
Azerbaijan will not make concessions to the leaders of the anti-Iraq
coalition, i.e. the USA and Britain, whose ranks are gradually
thinning, but will build up its military contingent within the
framework of the UN resolution to maintain security in the upcoming
Iraqi presidential elections.

The second important question, on which reliable sources claim a
decision has been adopted, is the deployment of US “mobile forces”, in
essence, military bases, on the territory of Azerbaijan.

[Passage omitted: Russian defence minister’s comment on US

First, I shall try to answer the question on to what extent it was
expedient to participate in the US-led anti-terror coalition, to be
precise, the pros and cons of this step. Most likely, due to the
following reasons, it was the right step.

Azerbaijan itself is a victim of terror. Various terrorist
organizations, first of all, Armenian ones, committed about 40
terrorist acts in Azerbaijan over the last 10 years. Incidentally,
some terrorist acts in Baku were committed by organizations of Islamic

Second, Azerbaijan, being one of the rare Islamic countries oriented
to the West, could not stay aloof from the anti-terrorist
coalition. This step could have seriously undermined Azerbaijan’s
position at international level. Because, none of the Western
countries, even France – an eternal opponent of the USA – did not go
against the establishment of the anti-terror coalition. Simply, there
was a serious difference of opinion regarding the methods used to
combat international terrorism. Therefore, in the existing
circumstances, Azerbaijan could hardly remain beyond the limits of the
anti-terror coalition.

Third, for a certain period, the direct participation of Azerbaijani
troops in peacekeeping and anti-terrorist operations, conducted by
NATO, as a whole and directly by the USA, met the interests of our
country. Our troops acquired invaluable experience, as it was in
Kosovo, in Afghanistan.

[Passage omitted: description of situation in Iraq, Afghanistan]

Azerbaijani troops to become targets of Islamic terrorists

Given these conditions, naturally, any soldier, who is a
representative of the Anglo-American coalition, irrespective of
ethnicity and religion, is an occupier in the eyes of Iraqis,
especially after the abuse of prisoners by troops of those countries.

Thus, all claims that the deployment of Azerbaijani troops during the
presidential elections in places of residence of Shi’is, engulfed in
the uprising, will be conducive to the stabilization of the situation,
does not stand up to criticism. For Shi’is, who most likely will
boycott the upcoming presidential elections if the current conflict is
not resolved, the Azerbaijani troops are not better than others all
together, and maybe, worse. They will be perceived as defectors who
deserted to serve the devil.

Bearing in mind that during the elections, the number of terror acts,
most likely, will soar, then one might suppose that the Azerbaijani
troops too will become “targets” for the terrorists.

The deployment of US troops in Azerbaijan also has its pros and
cons. Let us again start with the pros.

First, Russia is hardly likely to react so sharply to the appearance
of Americans in Azerbaijan, as many analysts suppose. At present,
Russia is not ready for global confrontation with the USA, first of
all, in the economic sphere. Therefore, it will also yield in this
issue at the end, as was the case in many others.

Second, the situation in the region will become extremely clear and
predictable. This is also a very important advantage, i.e. all
conditions will be created to intensify the region’s economic
development and its integration into Euro-Atlantic and European

Now about the cons. First, regrettably, the Americans do not rule out
that Iran is their future target. If all these statements are made in
order to frighten Tehran, then it is another issue. However, if the
Americans start another mess, moreover, on our borders, then
Azerbaijan, irrespective of its wishes, will be dragged into this

Second, the appearance of the US military bases will fully deprive
Azerbaijan of operational space in the settlement of the Karabakh
conflict. In other words, without supreme desire, Azerbaijan will not
have an opportunity even to try to resolve this conflict by force. Now
hardly anybody believes that the USA will allow Azerbaijan to resume
hostilities after its troops have been deployed in our country.

And finally, third, with the appearance of Americans in Azerbaijan,
the danger of becoming a target of Islamic terrorists will certainly
grow. Islamic terrorists do not even hide that they are planning to
strike US allies. And for Islamic terrorists US troops are like a red
rag to a bull.