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Center for National and International Studies
A big war or a charade …?
Facebook these days is dominated by the discussion of the chances of a full-scale war, the political factors behind the recent resumption of hostilities, and conditions necessary for the successful defence of state borders. The decision to relocate the NK “parliament” building in the historical Azerbaijani city Shusha is viewed as direct provocation of war. The FB community shares information from e—media about corruption in the arms deals with Israel published in the Times of Israel, as well as discussing geopolitical imbalance in the Karabagh conflict, with Russia being a military ally of Armenia and the possible role of Turkey as counterbalance. They share news about the first meeting of Fuad Gahramanli with his lawyer after two months of being incommunicado in prison, and keep in the center of attention almost a year without progress in the investigation of the accident of human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev. The investigative journalists continue to disclose the illegal properties of bureaucrats.
FB debate reflects various interpretations of the chances of war and the views of political forces. Ali Karimli assesses the chances of the big war, calling it a political campaign and analyses the expectations of possible war on the part of Putin, Aliyev and Pashinian in his interview with the Azerbaijan Saati. He stresses that the threat is serious as Russia recently sold modern weapons to Armenia, currently conducts 80 thousand troops with military exercises in Northern Caucasus, with participation of the Armenian military which has violated a few times the ceasefire in the Tovuz direction away from Karabagh. Ali Karimli argues that the government if sincere should equip the army with most modern weapons, but there is information about kickbacks not only in deals with Russia but in deals with Israel. It should strengthen the army with special forces, but they are busy repressing the opposition. He urges the authorities to release the “Karabagh rally political prisoners”. Isa Gambar posts the statement by the National Strategic Think Tank, which states that the possibility of war is increasing due to Armenia’s aggressive position, that national democratic forces solidarize with the national army and state and call people to give support to the army. At the same time, it states that in order to win, the government should take real steps towards national unity and partnership with Turkey. The majority suspect the political games of the governments and Russia behind it. Some (like ADR) suggest firing all members of the government who are suspected to be agents of Russia. Others — PFP activists and political commentators like Ramis Yunus — argue that the idea of agents in the government is the official narrative to distract attention from the generally pro-Russian attitude of the country’s president “because he has a Soviet mentality”. Some stress the war rhetoric coinciding with the worsening social-economic situation and argue, that this is an attempt to change the agenda, that Aliyev’s government has never been genuinely patriotic, and that the road to the solution of the Karabagh conflict goes through the change of power. The lawyers stress the illegality of the expropriation of the pick-up cars from their owners in the absence of the declaration of military mobilization or a war, the information about which was spread in the country. Besides that such cars are sold in abundance and the government has resources to buy them, it is illegal to take away the property of citizens. FB users stress that money spent on corruption in the army or on Formula-1 races could be spent with this purpose instead. The issue of a multimillion kickback in the arms deal with Israel has re-emerged in the context of an intensified conversation about the probability of war. The publication in Haaretz newspaper reports $155m transfer of kickback to the account of some Javid Huseynov, the owner of Jetfield Networks registered in New Zealand, and Larkstone, an Estonian firm, for the deal of $1,9bn with Azerbaijan. The activists connect it with the pro-Aliyev publications in the Jerusalem Post, and show that while the government is involved in corrupt arms deals, the Armenians are moving the NK “parliament” to the ethnically cleansed historical Azerbaijani city Shusha. They also explain that kickbacks mean less than the agreed number of weapons received by the Azerbaijani side. FB reports another victim on the front line: junior sergeant Mammadov Elshan Ali Oglu. Osmangizi TV discussed the probability of war under the title “A war or an imitation ?” with a number of military experts. The latter consider that war is inevitable. Previously other experts have drawn attention to the demonstrative militarization of Armenian society. The frequency of raising of the issue of closer cooperation with the Turkish military and Turkish military bases has visibly increased. The activists note and denounce the renewed attacks on independent media and the opposition by the authorities under the slogans of “patriotism” and conclude that it is not possible to resolve the issue with the “traitor” as the head of the Military Headquarters and while torturing the Karabagh veterans. Attention is also drawn to the fact that for weeks the hot water supply was interrupted in the buildings of family accommodation of war veterans and victims, where recently the executive power representatives tried to take down Turkish and Azerbaijani flags raised by them on the rooves. There is evidence relating to cases of forced drafting to the army. The voices against possible manipulation by war are also reflected in debates. The issue of collecting pick-up cars from the population is widely decried and shared by the FB community. One lawyer comments that instead of buying red taxis each worth 120 thousand Manat, private companies earning profits at the expense of budget money had better buy new and modern pick-up cars to equip the army. Some activists consider that aggravation of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations is a reflection of current relations between Russia and Turkey, as Russia does not like the activisation of Turkey in the Caucasus. On the 23rd, late night, the continuous exchange of shelling on the front in the Tovuz direction was reported. Against the background of the spirit of war, FB users report president Aliyev and his vice-president wife observing the beautification of the Baku village Balakhani, taking pictures and trying the figs. Eldar Namazov former advisor to the president Heydar Aliyev comments on the statement of Russian foreign minister Lavrov in his meeting with the Azerbaijan parliamentary speaker Sahiba Gafarova. He argues that Lavrov simply repeated his support for the Madrid principles and step-by-step plan for liberation of the 5 occupied regions, allocation of the peacekeeping forces and restoration of communications at the first stage, and later – liberation of the other two regions. Although Lavrov identified statements of Armenian premier Pashinian as obstacles to the resolution of the conflict, he should have clearly stated that Armenia is not interested in the Russia’s proposals, continues Namazov. The key question, considers Namazov, is if Armenia refuses to execute the UN SC resolutions, and refuses the OSCE proposals, will Russia continue to give her military support? If so, then Armenia will only become more assertive in her position. Eldar Namazov considers that Russia could have had an important role in the solution of the conflict if stating that if Armenia refuses to liberate the occupied territories she cannot rely on military support of Russia, otherwise Russia becomes Armenia’s partner in occupation of Azerbaijan lands. He concludes, that Azerbaijan should not be deceived that Russia supports the step-by-step plan and the main obstacle to the resolution is that Russian continues military support of Armenia in spite of occupation, making war inevitable. In the other interview Namazov argues, that the previous provocation in Tovuz was made by Armenia, as she wanted to involve Russia and CSTO and threaten the strategic energy infrastructure. The second violation of ceasefire most probably is also initiated by Armenia as it coincided with large scale Russian military exercises in the Black and Caspian Seas and Krasnodar regions and can be interpreted as pressure on Azerbaijan. The analyst considers that there might be serious changes in the foreign policy of Azerbaijan: Aliyev refused the space to Russian aircrafts flying to Syria, the statement of official Baku, that the explanation of Sergei Shoigu about military support to Armenia did not satisfy Azerbaijan indicates that Azerbaijan plans to change its foreign policy and security strategy. He suggests that Azerbaijan may build its policy based on the “mirror” principle — similar to Russian bases in Armenian territory, to host Turkish bases on its own territory, or by buying analogue of Iskanders from Pakistan and these steps will help to change the geopolitical balance in the Caucasus. He concludes that due to its unbalanced nature, the post-Soviet geopolitical leadership of Russian has failed. The position of Russia in the Karabagh conflict is the subject of denouncement on the part of leading opposition politicians. FB users discuss the ongoing (until 26th September) military exercises in the South of Russia, where Azerbaijan was invited but refused to participate. Among states participating are Iran, Armenia, Belarus, and Pakistan. The latter’s participation caused surprise among the community, as Pakistan has been the long-term military partner of Azerbaijan.
The topic of the persecution of activists continues. Sevinj Osmangizi TV discusses the issue of delay with investigation of the case of human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev, who was hit by a car almost a year ago, with his son. The family refused the financing of treatment by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in protest at the postponement of the investigation. The meeting of the lawyer Fakhraddin Mehdiyev with his defendant the PFP activist Fuad Gahramanli is reported to have taken place on the 22 September. People share the description of the PFP board member Agil Mahharamli’s 41 day long stay in the prison’s “Tubzone”3 (Specialized Department of Tuberculosis Treatment of Prison System), where he was placed to the punishment room and had dire sanitary conditions. He reported that tortures were even given to the prisoners ill with coronavirus.
FB users continue to report the corruption of bureaucrats and poor governance. They post the information on the NO COMMENT site that the children of the chair of the Supreme Council (Parliament) Vasif Talybov — Seymur and Bahar — are owners of the 110 hectares of the coastal lands in Bilgah (a village near Baku) and that when they bought as a result of illegal deal (the land was sold by municipality although it was a private property of Hajiyeva Sevil), the head of the local government was a relative of Allah Shukur Pashazade, MP Galib Salahzade. The activists share information that in 2019 the State Agency on the Renewable and Alternative resources was eliminated by the decree of the president Aliyev. But it continued to work, although not paying salaries to its employees for months. On the 22nd September 2020 the president by his decree restored the same Agency by removing the word “alternative” from its name. FB shares news that at the opening of new school in the village Orta Mugan in the Saatli region the officials distributed new bags to1st grade pupils. However, after the AZ TV completed its broadcasting, the bags were taken away. They also share the video and ridicule the bureaucrats in the region for flattering the visiting MP from Baku. Some comment with irony, that there are other schools opening, so they apparently need these bags for them too. FB also disclosed a long list of expensive cars which belong to the 23 year old son of the MP deputy speaker Adil Aliyev. The conflicts within the elite continue, as the letter of the head of the ruling party YAP branch of the Academy of Sciences, Ulduz Gurbanova, to the MPs testifies. She calls to denounce the Parliament’s vice speaker Adil Aliyev‘s recent critical and judgemental comments to the press about the president of the Academy of Sciences, ex-head of presidential administration and the “grey cardinal” Ramiz Mehdiyev. The low level of “appointed” MPs and the necessity of dissolving the parliament is asserted both by the young political leaders and experienced activists. Yadigar Sadyghli comments that they claim there are 700 thousand members of the ruling party YAP, and that they have “occupied” 70 seats in the parliament. He asks, with irony, could not they find among all those 70 members any who do get actively involved in politics (unlike Jale Ahmadova) do not congratulate themselves on their timeline (as Ramil Hasan), and write without grammatical mistakes ? FB users comment with irony on the creation of the State Airspace Committee. Other issues include discussion of next year’s state budget, which is calculated based on the oil price of 35 dollars per barrel and expenditures are cut by 1,6 billion Manat.