Israel Selling Weapons To Azerbaijan Fuels Possibility Of New War


16.10.2008 16:43 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ A dangerous pattern is emerging in the Caucasus
with new reports that Israel is continuing to sell advanced military
armaments to Azerbaijan, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, said
Jirair Haratunian, former Chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America
Board of Directors, in a column entitled "Dangerous Endorsement: More
Israeli Military Arms sold to Azeris as Jewish lobby backs Azerbaijan,"
the Assembly told PanARMENIAN.Net.

The commentary continues, "These military sales are an incendiary fuse
in a volatile South Caucasus where a startled world just witnessed
a short bloody war between Russia and Georgia and where Moscow’s
recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has
altered the geopolitical landscape in the region, perhaps permanently.

Ironically, Israelis who condemn Iran and Syria for arming Hamas
and Hezbullah have now become serious arms merchants selling an
array of offensive weapons to Azerbaijan. They sell these arms at a
time when Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, has repeatedly
threatened to recapture Nagorno Karabakh by military force. Moreover,
there are more than military sales binding Israel to Azerbaijan
these days. On October 2, an Azeri journal, DAY AZ, published an
interview with Joseph Shagal, a deputy in the Israeli Knesset and
chairman of the Israel-Azerbaijan Inter-Parliamentary Group, who said,
"Both economic associations and military alliances are possible with
such a partner as Azerbaijan." Shagal asserted that arms sales by
Israel are strictly controlled by the government. He then added,
"Israel will never supply arms to a country if this can affect the
security of neighboring states." This man has apparently been deaf to
Aliyev’s many bellicose threats to reignite war with Nagorno Karabakh.

As these developments have become public, one obvious question arises:
Has the Bush Administration been complicit in these Israeli arms sales
or just acquiescent? In either case, the result is the same. Admittedly
the U.S. has issued tepid cautions against the use of force in the
Caucasus, but these have not worked. Proof is the failed Georgian
military episode in South Ossetia that upset regional stability and
created fears of a new Cold War. What is required now is a resolute
and unambiguous declaration that the United States opposes any new
arms race in the Caucasus region and will oppose the use of force in
unresolved conflicts. However, neither Vice President Richard Cheney
nor Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte made such a statement
during their back-to-back visits to Baku in September.

Unfortunately, Israel’s growing economic ties and military support
of Azerbaijan have now been followed by promises from the American
Jewish Committee (AJC) to lobby for Azerbaijan. This commitment was
announced in Baku by David Harris, AJC’s Chairman, who visited there at
the invitation of Azeri President Ilhan Aliyev. With unashamed praise
for upholding religious freedom, Harris said: "Religious tolerance
in Azerbaijan is a model for the entire world." Harris is either
unaware or callous about Azerbaijan’s murderous pogroms of Armenians
in Sumgait and Baku during the days when the Soviet Union was in the
process of imploding. And he is apparently ignorant about the more
recent cultural felony committed in Julfa by Azerbaijan’s military
in which they destroyed hundreds of Khachkars, intricately-carved
tombstones, in an Armenian cemetery that dates back to medieval times.

Harris went further. He said, "The AJC has long appreciated the
importance of Azerbaijan as a true friend of the United States
and Israel." He told reporters that he had discussed the Nagorno
Karabakh issue at length and, in particular, the negotiating role of
the OSCE’s Minsk Group. He promised to urge the United States to pay
more attention "to improve the OSCE Minsk Group’s mission." In light
of Harris’s unabashed bias towards Baku, this promise will have to be
carefully monitored. Finally, Harris paid tribute to his hosts with
these words, "We have valued this opportunity to learn more about this
strong ally in a challenging and critical region. We look forward to
sharing our views about Azerbaijan’s key role when we return to the
United States."

Thus, we witness a disturbing combination of arms sales to Azerbaijan,
possible military ties with Israel, and vocal support for Baku by AJC,
one of the largest and most influential Jewish advocacy groups in
America. These developments are scarcely known or understood by the
rank and file of the Jewish community. They are unaware of the way in
which the intrusion of Israel and the AJC into the volatile region of
the Caucasus heightens the possibility of war. They don’t realize that
only a fragile ceasefire line separates Azeri and Armenian military
forces and that arming and encouraging a saber rattling leader in
Azerbaijan only fuels the possibility of a new war."

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