Unable to Adapt: How the US Ruined Its Purpose in the South Caucasus Peace System

Unable to Adapt: How the US Ruined Its Purpose in the South Caucasus Peace System

Through its shortsighted steps, the Biden administration has broken its chance to be an impartial “mediator” in the peace course of action in between Azerbaijan and Armenia. As a final result, Washington’s approach to aid talks amongst the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in January 2024 has unsuccessful.

Specific injury to US relations with Azerbaijan was triggered by a report of the United States Fee on Worldwide Spiritual Flexibility (USCIRF), which designed groundless accusations from Baku. The USCIRF recommended the State Department incorporate Azerbaijan on its Exclusive Look at List for engaging or tolerating extreme violations of spiritual independence. Former Armenian lobbyist Danielle Ashbahian was involved in compiling the report, and it had the backing of Iranian-supported Shia extremists, whose intention is to set up a theocracy in Azerbaijan. Following terror attacks from the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran in January 2023 and the assassination endeavor towards Azerbaijani MP Fazil Mustafa in Baku, some of these Shia extremists have been arrested and held legally accountable on sound proof of them performing for Iran.

In addition, the report also states that Armenian spiritual sites in Azerbaijan are supposedly in danger but fails to provide a solitary piece of evidence to again the claim. The report is mixed with politics and attempts to condemn Azerbaijan’s restoration of its sovereignty around the territories previously occupied by Armenia.  Even so, the subsequent motion by the State Office to increase Azerbaijan to the Particular View Record nations around the world additional strained US-Azerbaijan relations, in spite of the pay a visit to of Ambassador O’Brien to Baku and his constructive posts on X (Twitter). This took place when Washington was hoping to arrange Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks and seemed to have corrected its mistaken solution toward Azerbaijan.

What Went Improper With the Condition Department’s Ambiguous “Mediation” System?

The shortsighted method by the Biden administration started off in 2021 when they took above the White House. Despite the fact that Azerbaijan liberated its lands and changed the standing quo (which had been favoured and supported by the United States, France and Russia in just the former Minsk Group for decades), the US administration and Secretary of State Blinken’s deputies continued to talk in unrealistic and out-of-date phrases, totally rejecting the newly designed geopolitical realities on the floor. It was distinct next the 2020 Next Karabakh War that Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would not be compromised. The Armenian minority of Karabakh was provided a opportunity to reintegrate into Azerbaijan easily in five many years.

This meant that terms these as “status” or the Minsk Team mediation format that preserved the earlier position quo were ambiguous and harmful. Nonetheless, Blinken’s deputy Karen Donfried, US South Caucasus adviser Philip Reeker and the US embassy to Armenia continued to use this language. The US situation of insisting on the structure of the lifeless Minsk Group, even with the point that in 2022 Russia and the West were in geopolitical battle in Ukraine, was also a indication of shortsightedness about the new realities that had emerged adhering to Azerbaijan’s victory in 2020. The then US ambassador to Yerevan Lynne Tracy reported in official remarks that the so-referred to as standing problem and conflict in Karabakh is not fixed, whilst the US embassy in Azerbaijan remained silent. This disregarded the geopolitical realities on the ground, building rigidity and sending a message to Azerbaijan that the United States is not a reliable “mediator”. It also gave wrong hope to Armenian nationalist circles that they must carry on their territorial claims. Immediately after realising the impossibility of reviving and reusing the out-of-date Minsk Group geopolitical system, the United States replaced or paraphrased the term “status”, a legacy of the Minsk Team, with the synonymous “rights and security of the Karabakh Armenians” and an “international mechanism” to assure them. As soon as yet again, the United States experimented with to get the very same outdated approach by shifting “status” to “ rights and security” and Minsk Team to an “international mechanism”, which ended up unacceptable to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan regularly explained that the Armenian minority ought to reintegrate into Azerbaijani culture and get citizenship, and their rights would be ensured according to the Azerbaijani Constitution as perfectly as international commitments that Azerbaijan has taken pertaining to ethnic minorities on its land.

The United States has never urged or termed on Armenia to withdraw its troops from Azerbaijani lands, even however Armenia’s failure around a few yrs to withdraw its troops from Karabakh as for each the joint trilateral statement and everyday illegal things to do by the Armenia- and Russia-backed Armenian irredentists within Karabakh designed an synthetic impediment to peace. Azerbaijan had always created it distinct that if Armenia would not comply with the trilateral arrangement and withdraw its forces from Karabakh, Azerbaijan would have to enforce the arrangement.

The Condition Office and Secretary Blinken individually fetishized the problem of Armenians currently being capable to use Azerbaijan’s Lachin highway with no any checks whatsoever. This was a blow to Azerbaijan’s sovereign rights to regulate its possess borders and curb unlawful weapons transportation and other smuggling from Armenia into Karabakh, even more harmful the US stance as a just or unbiased mediator in the approach.

When Azerbaijan compelled Armenia’s armed forces and the unlawful irredentist regime to disarm through area anti-terror actions on 19 September 2023, Secretary Blinken at the time once more condemned Azerbaijan’s suitable to perform an anti-terror procedure on its individual land and re-establish Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh. In a information conference on 22 September 2023, when asked whether the United States recognises Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in excess of Karabakh, Blinken evaded the question. Coupled with the several refusals of US embassy officers to stop by the liberated Azerbaijani city of Shusha, the United States has certain the whole of Azerbaijani modern society that it does not respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, inspite of the point that Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan recognises that sovereignty.

Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Ambassador James O’Brien additional harmed US prospects as a mediator when he explained to US senators that high degree visits to Azerbaijan have been cancelled until a peace settlement is signed. In influence the ambassador was denying Azerbaijan’s inalienable ideal as a sovereign country to place an stop to the gray zone and illegal armed presence on its very own territory. As a subject of actuality, Secretary Blinken experimented with to proper the oversight produced by his deputy Ambassador O’Brien by producing a phone and inquiring President Aliyev to take him in December. In the phone dialogue, President Aliyev clearly outlined Azerbaijan’s stance and rejected all the groundless accusations produced by Ambassador O’Brien. He reported that Azerbaijan reciprocates the US decision by refusing higher level visits from the US. President Aliyev acknowledged Blinken’s ask for that O’Brien be allowed to pay a visit to Azerbaijan on the issue that the ban on senior Azerbaijani officials visiting the United states will be lifted.

The United States has ruined its place in the South Caucasus area by means of its sick encouraged and special desire-driven Armenia-centric procedures and steps. Azerbaijan has important regional significance: it gives the only access outdoors Russian or Iranian manage to Central Asia it’s the only nation bordering each US adversaries Russia and Iran it plays a crucial part in containing the expansionist insurance policies of Iran in the South Caucasus it has a strong alliance with NATO member Turkey, forming a counterweight in the area to the malign Russia-Iran pursuits it has a essential strategic purpose in Europe’s vitality protection it has a sturdy strategic partnership with Israel, and performs an essential part in the East-West, Center Corridor. All these factors must be taken into account. Armenia, which is perfectly built-in into the Russia-led political/navy and economic institutions, are not able to be a substitute for Azerbaijan in Washington’s regional insurance policies. The United States should really, hence, reconsider its plan methods and right its strategic errors.

The US watch of the South Caucasus as a geopolitical playground for an extension of the war in Ukraine has done a lot more hurt to its standing in the location. The idea that the United States needs to expel Russia from the South Caucasus does not bear close evaluation. To start with, Armenia is continuing to aid Russia circumvent sanctions and purchase Western created semiconductor chips through its properly organised re-export system. Nonetheless, the United States and EU tolerate this and do not place sanctions on Armenia. Second, the United States is aware of that Russia is in the South Caucasus solely many thanks to Armenia. Russia has two military services bases in Armenia, controls Armenia’s border via its border guards, has an built-in joint air defence and manage system, controls the large greater part of the Armenian economic system, provides pure gasoline and electricity, runs the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant and owns the railways. Armenia is politically, economically and militarily integrated into the Russia-led security and economic institutions. Even so, the Biden administration mysteriously thinks that it can expel Russia from the region by putting illogical force on Azerbaijan and Turkey. Just before Azerbaijan’s regional anti-terrorist procedure the US special representative Louis Bono and the EU’s agent for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar participated in a mystery assembly with a Russian official in which they urged Russia to reduce Azerbaijan from creating its sovereignty over Karabakh and to violate Azerbaijan’s borders by making it possible for Armenian/French vehicles to enter Karabakh.

The Part of the Zangezur Corridor in Regional Peace

In 2009 the State Division experimented with to aid the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border via the Zurich agreements without having getting Azerbaijan’s passions into account and ignoring the purpose of Azerbaijan in the location. While Turkey was underneath huge stress from the United States to open its borders and delink the problem from the occupation of Azerbaijani land, it refused to do so, dealing a blow to the US options.

The customers of the Obama/Biden administration who are now foremost the Point out Office, such as Secretary of Point out Anthony Blinken, should be acquainted with the case. The then Secretary of Condition Hillary Clinton individually tried using and failed to push by the Zurich Protocols. And today when Azerbaijan has liberated its lands and is the major country in the South Caucasus, and Turkey has solid strategic autonomy within NATO, the Point out Department is but once more failing to realize the realities on the ground i.e. that the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border is conditional on development in the peace system and Armenia’s opening of the Zangezur Corridor. (As part of the trilateral statement, it is Armenia’s obligation to apply an unimpeded transport url in between mainland Azerbaijan and the Nakchchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan.) The Condition Department is repeating its error, failing to grasp the truth that Turkey-Armenia normalisation is conditional on Armenia’s makes an attempt to access peace and open up the Zangezur Corridor. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated repeatedly that Turkey will not normalise relations with Armenia with no Azerbaijan’s blessing and approval.

Armenia has been dragging its feet for around three years, not honouring its obligations and building tensions in the location. Sadly, the United States is involved in this, as it strangely sees an opportunity to inflict a so-named strategic defeat on Russia in Armenia as element of its broader Ukraine plan. Nonetheless, this creates a significant threat to peace and steadiness in the South Caucasus. The United States really should abandon its shortsighted strategy and urge Armenia to Okay the opening of the Zangezur Corridor for its individual economic improvement, peace, security and normalisation in the region. The argument that Armenia, inspired by the United States, does not want to make it possible for Russia to be certain the Zangezur Corridor’s protection does not bear closer examination: Russian border guards presently management Armenia’s condition borders including, in individual, Armenian’s southern border with Iran along which the Zangezur Corridor should move. The argument that it will constrain Armenia’s sovereignty is ridiculous, because Russia has had a potent armed service existence in Armenia for decades.

In other text, if Armenia with the encouragement of the United States needs to expel the Russian navy, then why is not Yerevan doing so? Why does Armenia continue being a member of the Russia-led armed service and economic unions? Does the Point out Department consider that this sort of absurd geopolitical activity in the location will advantage Armenia? The United States really should accurate this harmful geopolitical try to convey the vicious wrestle about Ukraine into the South Caucasus, or at the very least preserve it within Armenia, not at the price of Azerbaijan’s nationwide passions or on its land. On the other hand a great deal Washington attempts to blackmail Baku through its European subordinates these as the EU, France and Germany, Azerbaijan will not allow for it to take place. Azerbaijan did not give up its countrywide passions when its lands were below occupation and it will not do so now possibly.

Whilst Azerbaijan and Turkey launch construction of a railway from Kars to Nakhchivan, and an different street and rail route linking Azerbaijan’s mainland to Nakhchivan with bridges above the Araz River and sections in Iranian territory, Armenia is continuing to squander its possibility to integrate into regional trade and projects by the Zangezur Corridor. This challenges leaving Armenia as a useless finish region in the area, bypassed by significant regional or international initiatives. James O’Brien famously and arrogantly claimed that the US will not permit Azerbaijan to build this route by way of Iran. He need to have persuaded Armenia to fulfill its obligation and get the job done on the Zangezur Corridor if Washington actually preferred the route not to pass through Iran.

How the United states Can Suitable Its Shortsighted Solution and Obtain Self-confidence

As the new US Ambassador Mark Libby starts his occupation in Baku, the United States desires to reset its relations with Azerbaijan by sending Ambassador Libby to go to the liberated Azerbaijani cities of Shusha and Khankendi. Overtly expressing US aid for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, defending the legal rights of the Azerbaijani minority expelled from Armenia and urging the Karabakh Armenian minority to settle for the Azerbaijani reintegration mechanism would set the US again on observe to be a well balanced mediator. In addition, letters by US officers to Azerbaijan’s president or formal statements by the US State Office need to unequivocally and evidently point out solid US assistance for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, just as they do for Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and funnily adequate Armenia. President Biden mentions powerful US support for their territorial integrity and sovereignty, whereas he never ever mentions US assist for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, just its independence and sovereignty.

US officers will have to prevent spreading phony news and concern mongering about an alleged Azerbaijani offensive versus Armenia. They ought to stop placing the interests of radical Armenian foyer groups these kinds of as ANCA over US nationwide pursuits when it comes to the South Caucasus. They must repeal the unjust Segment 907 that restricts US aid to, and more a short while ago trade with, Azerbaijan and is an impediment to US countrywide pursuits in the area. They need to be ready to offer US-made weapons to Azerbaijan, thereby supporting it to improve its position vis-a-vis Iran and Russia as effectively as global terrorism. If they do this and are completely ready to explore subjects of mutual issue in a friendly atmosphere, the US can increase its situation in the South Caucasus and enhance its ties with Azerbaijan.

[Photo by the White House, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

Rufat Ahmadzada is a graduate of City, University of London. His exploration space handles the South Caucasus and Iran. The views expressed in this short article are these of the creator and do not always replicate TGP’s editorial stance.

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