Azerbaijan — not Armenia — is the threat-maker in the Karabakh conflict

Denis Jaffe’s August 20, 2014 blog post, “Armenia threatens Azerbaijan with missiles,” misinterprets the recent exchange between Armenian President Serge Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijan is the real aggressor in this conflict.

Jaffe’s misrepresentation of Sargsyan’s August 11 quotation about “the capacities and abilities of the Armenian Armed Forces” was, in fact, Armenia's response to the August 8 statement by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense that warned: “our Army, targeting Armenia with missiles, is ready to fulfill even the order of destroying Armenia’s capital, Yerevan.” Armenia’s president was not threatening Azerbaijan; he was adequately responding to Azerbaijan’s threats, most recently displayed in Azerbaijani President Aliyev’s anti-Armenian militaristic diatribe on Twitter. What President Sargsyan did was send a signal that Baku’s military aggression would not be unanswered.

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Furthermore, Jaffe’s unwarranted charge that Armenia is “circumventing the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)” has no bearing, since Armenia is not even a partner to that association. And Jaffe makes another unsupported allegation about Armenia’s violation of The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC). Jaffe claims access to sensitive information by alleging — while citing no reliable source — that Armenia violates the HCOC by not  providing pre-launch notifications on its ballistic missiles, or submitting an annual declaration of its ballistic missile policies. Yet, this unfounded charge is suspect, since, as a rule, such information can only be obtained from the HCOC’s Immediate Central Contact by governments, and is not made available to non-governmental analysts, such as Mr. Jaffe.

While he inflates Armenia’s arms control record with unsubstantiated claims, Jaffe turns a blind eye to Azerbaijan’s violations of international law and its irresponsible behavior. Since 2007, Baku has ignored the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe by grossly exceeding the Treaty’s Limited Equipment (TLE) — battle tanks and artillery systems. According to a report by the U.S. State Department, “as of January 1, 2013, Azerbaijan declared equipment totals that exceeded its overall limits by over 390 pieces of TLE [Treaty Limited Equipment] (over 160 tanks and about 230 artillery pieces in excess of Azerbaijan’s limits).”

As the U.S. Azeri Network’s analyst, Jaffe should be aware that the U.S. Congress, State Department and Pentagon have not been silent about Armenia and Azerbaijan, as he opined in his piece. Since 1992, Congress has upheld Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which forbids any direct U.S. aid to Azerbaijan’s government due to the latter’s aggressive policy and continuing blockade of Armenia and Artsakh. On August 15, the State Department called on the Azerbaijani Government “to conduct a full and transparent investigation” into the death of Armenian Karen Petrosyan while in Azerbaijani captivity. And recent news reports reveal that the Pentagon refused an Azerbaijani offer to purchase U.S. military equipment, citing the ongoing Karabakh conflict.

Baku’s irresponsible domestic and international behavior impedes a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict, and undermines peace and security in the South Caucasus.

Dietzen is executive director of Americans for Artsakh.

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