In his September 11 post, absurdly titled “Armenia has always been the aggressor,” the U.S. Azeris Network’s military analyst Denis Jaffe once again distorts the facts pertaining to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Jaffe’s exaggeration and abuse of the truth does a disservice to The Hill’s readers.

First, Mr. Jaffe points to four United Nations Security Council Resolutions to back up his false claim that Armenia is the aggressor in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. But a reading of these resolutions shows that they make no mention whatsoever of Armenia as an aggressor or occupier, as Jaffe irresponsibly asserts.


Instead, while these resolutions express “serious concern at the deterioration of relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijani Republic and at the tensions between them,” references to control over disputed territory specify “local Armenian forces,” a point lost to Jaffe. These local forces were those of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR), the independent but thus far internationally unrecognized state, cosignatory to the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and an official party to the peace talks until Baku refused to continue negotiations with it in 1998. Though Armenia is a party to the conflict and a guarantor of the NKR’s security, the core problem is between Azerbaijan and the NKR. So when it comes to the meaning of the UN Security Council resolutions, Jaffe is right. We really should not take his word for it.

Second, the NKR’s secession from Soviet Azerbaijan happened not because of Russia, but in spite of Russia’s opposition, even though it was in full accordance with then acting Soviet legislation. Moscow had no determinant effect on the Karabakh War. Indeed, it was post-Soviet Russia that mediated the ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the NKR. Jaffe’s attempt to depict the NKR’s secession from Azerbaijan, and its current state-building efforts, as “Russian-sponsored separatism,” is simply contrary to the facts. It was only a year ago when, during a press conference with Russian President Putin, Azerbaijani President Aliyev announced that he had made arms deals with Russia worth 4 billion dollars. Surely Baku would not make such deals if it was convinced that Moscow was a NKR-sponsor.

Third, Jaffe’s attempt at proving his unfounded charge that Armenia has been “making grave threats against Azerbaijan for many years,” is based on a series of cherry-picked quotations from the very same articles that clearly demonstrate Armenia’s adherence to peace. For example, when Jaffe refers to the November 8, 2012 Wall Street Journal interview, writing, “President Sargsyan said that Armenia would strike Azerbaijan in a ‘disproportionately’ hard way,” he attempts to mislead readers by taking the original sentence totally out of context. It reads: “President Sargsyan said Armenia would strike Azerbaijan only if Nagorno Karabakh or Armenian were attacked, but vowed that Yerevan’s response would be ‘disproportionately’ strong.” 

The analyst does this again in his reference to the November 14, 2010 article published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, when he writes, “Sargsyan said: ‘our strike must be devastating and final this time around.’” Yet, here is the same quoted passage from President Sargsyan, in its entirety: “‘We never wanted war, we were simply compelled to defend our homeland at that time,’ he said, referring to the first Armenian-Azerbaijani [War]. 'We will not attack first now either. But if the moment arrives, if they force us, our strike must be devastating and final this time around.’” Clearly, these are not the words of an aggressor. And clearly, Jaffe’s Nazi reference was completely inappropriate. One only needs to review the bellicose rhetoric of top Azerbaijani officials for evidence of who is actually jeopardizing regional peace.

Fourth, though the U.S. President has utilized his ability to waiver Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act — something granted to him by the Senate in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to allow for the transportation of military hardware through Azerbaijan on route to Afghanistan — Section 907 is still acting legislation: Congress has never revoked the law. This signifies that the U.S. government is still waiting for Azerbaijan to take, as the law states, “demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.” Predictably, Jaffe’s allegation that Section 907 also limits U.S. assistance to Armenia is not true either.

Finally, in his blanket attack on the Armenian lobby, Jaffe seems oblivious to the New York Times investigation published earlier this month, “Azerbaijan and Think Tanks,” which uncovered the government of Azerbaijan’s hiring of lobbying and public relations firms since 2012 to “build relationships with think tanks.”

I would welcome a continued debate with Mr. Jaffe on the Nagorno Karabakh issue, including in the form of a public debate in Washington DC. But let us focus on the facts, not exaggerations and groundless allegations intended to misinform and deepen mistrust between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. 

Dietzen is executive director of Americans for Artsakh.