● Arthur Khachikyan
Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This show was recorded on October 23, 2022.
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Here are the major topics we’ll touch on today:
● Monitors in Armenia
● Russia-West Rivalry in the South Caucasus
● Armenian-Iranian relations
● Israeli-Lebanese Maritime Agreement
● Lebanese Presidential Elections
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Dr. Arthur Khachikyan, who is an International Relations expert from Stanford University, specializing in Intervention. He currently teaches at the Russian Armenian University in Yerevan.
Yeghia Tashjian, who is a regional analyst and researcher based in Beirut, with expertise in China, Iran and the Persian Gulf. Tashjian is Associate Fellow at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and a part-time instructor in International Affairs at the American University for Science and Technology.
A couple of weeks ago we were talking with Benyamin Poghosyan, and in his scenarios for securing the safety of Armenia, he recommended that Armenia needs to negotiate for indefinite, or at least prolonged, monitoring missions, CSTO troops, or whoever’s able to cause a dampening of Azerbaijan’s attacks on our borders.
It seems that Armenia is indeed negotiating for international monitors, EU, OSCE, CSTO, any presence, even civilian missions, at this stage of the negotiations with Azerbaijan, with Aliyev’s deadline of Dec. 2022 to get an agreement signed, looming on the horizon. We are explicitly avoiding calling the process with Azerbaijan a “peace agreement” because there can be no peace signed with a gun pointed to your head, no matter what Pashinyan wants to call it.
We all know the checkered history of peacekeeping and monitoring missions under different auspices, whether it is UN, NATO, OSCE or EU. Yet, some people are really excited about a limited 2-months monitoring mission from the EU, composed of several dozen civilian monitors.
● What is Armenia's goal with EU monitors?
● What lessons can the international community and Armenia draw from past successes and failures of international monitoring missions?
We just heard the news towards the end of the week that the OSCE is sending a needs assessment team
● Will this result in OSCE monitors on the ground too?
As if the EU and OSCE are not enough, the CSTO says it will meet soon and sending monitors to Armenia is one of the recommendations of their fact-finding team. In Astana president Putin said that Armenia, holding the presidency of the CSTO in 2022, should convene a CSTO security council meeting and request the troops it needs on its borders. This hasn’t happened for months.
● What is the hold up? Did they have an offer of monitors much earlier than the EU, that was ignored by Armenia?
Macron stated that Russia conspired with Turkey against Armenia. You could also hear it in US official statements including:
● State dept briefings: Vedant Patel (State Dept) said “The entire region should be concerned” about Russia/Iran cooperation.
● Pallone, whom I called “friend of Armenians”, said essentially Russia has no future in the caucasus and that Armenia has to accept an autonomous status for Artsakh that was existent in Soviet times, in an interview on H1.
Experts have warned that lack of cooperation or outright rivalry between the West and Russia in our region is against Armenia’s interests. Yet at first glance it seems that’s where we’re headed. The animosity between the West and Russia and Iran is coming off loud and clear.
In terms of the Artsakh conflict, it appears that the West has collectively recognized the sovereignty of Azerbaijan over Artsakh, even with Macron wavering on the status of Artsakh. The Russian proposal is only a tad bit less discouraging. The Russians offer a very similar “peace plan” (what in reality is a clear capitulation) but with the status of Artsakh to be decided at a future date, without any clear prescription of when and how, and what happens in the meantime.
● Will Armenia be forced to choose sides? Can it afford to play the “complimentarism” card?
● Which way is the Pashinyan government learning?
Ararat Mirzoyan recently said that “unexpected third countries” are supporting Azerbaijan’s interpretation of the Nov. 9 statement, many interpreting it as an obvious accusation at Russia.
● What do you think about this statement? How important is Armenia’s sovereignty, with Soviet borders, to the West and Russia?
In the past month, Iran has fully activated its diplomacy, as well as its military in the northern direction. It appears that the aftershock of Armenia’s losses in the 44-day war have awakened Iran to its own present disadvantageous positions, vis-à-vis its traditional competitors, as well as enemies; and that includes Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, as well as the west, the US and the EU. We can even include Israel in this list, due to the worrisome defense cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan.
At every summit, or conference, Iran has reiterated its redline about keeping the Iran-Armenia border intact through all geopolitical changes. And most recently, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp, the IRGC, has begun conducting massive military exercises in the northern direction; reportedly the exercises point at readiness to invade Azerbaijan, Nakhichevan, and defend Armenian borders deep into its territory.
● What are the stakes for Iran, in the South Caucasus, specifically through Armenia?
● Are western observers on Armenia’s eastern borders, whether they are the EU civilian monitoring group, or some OSCE mission, a threat to Iran’s security interests? How?
This past week, Iran opened its consulate in Kapan, in Armenia’s southern Syunik province. The foreign ministers of both countries were present and emphasized the close relations between the two countries, with Iran’s FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian saying that Armenia’s security was Iran's own security.
Iran’s newly appointed consul general in Kapan, Morteza Abedin Varamin, added that “we will not officially recognize any change in internationally recognized borders of Armenia.” He further stated, “don’t worry, I am in Kapan”.
Iran has also announced a number of economic investments in Armenia, including a manufacturing line for auto exports to the Eurasian Economic Union.
● Are Iran’s interests primarily driven by geopolitics, or economic interests? Is Iran protecting its North-South economic corridor, or Armenia?
● Would Iran go to war for Armenia’s territorial integrity?
In the past week, defense minister Suren Papikyan paid a long visit to India. After Armenia’s near quarter billion dollar purchase of Indian weaponry, including MLRS and surface to air missiles, and other weaponry, Armenia is considering further purchases. Papikyan also attended a Defense Expo in New Delhi. This week reports also came out that Armenia is considering buying Iranian drones, which are proving their value in battle for Russia in Ukraine.
● After decades of the Armenian military being armed by Russia, why is Armenia now shopping in India and Iran?
● Many western countries have already slapped sanctions on the Iranian drone manufacturer, and the rest are sure to follow. In light of this news, how should Armenia proceed? Can it afford to anger the West by buying Iranian drones? Is the current government capable of taking a risk if needed?
After the 44-day war, there were complaints by Pashinyan that some Russian weaponry “worked only in 10% capacity”. More recently Pashinyan has made side swipes at Russia, insinuating that they had been paid for weaponry which they were not delivering.
● What is the common thread in these issues, and what do they mean?
In a response to the reports that Armenia may be purchasing Iranian drones, the newly installed Iran consul in Kapan, Morteza Abedin Varamin said that “Armenia will never need offensive weapons”.
● What does that mean?
● What is Armenia’s vision for, and perceived role in, the region?
● Is this a win-win for both countries, and what’s the outlook for economic benefits for Lebanon?
On Thursday this week, the Lebanese parliament again failed to elect a new president, and Michel Aoun’s term ends on October 31.
● What the state of presidential politics in Lebanon?
● What are the stakes for the Lebanese-Armenian community?
That was our Week in Review and we hope you found it helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube, Follow us on Twitter, and Like our Facebook page.
Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we thank you for listening. Stay well, we’ll be back next week.
Arthur Khachikyan, Yeghia Tashijian, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, India, Military cooperation, Iran drones, MLRS, Missiles, South Caucasus, EU Monitoring Mission, OSCE Mission, CSTO peacekeepers, Observers, Lebanon, Maritime Agreement, Turkey, Russia, Corridors, Peace Negotiations, UNIFIL, Israel, Michel Aoun, Emmanuel Macron, Abdollahian, Frank Pallone, Ukraine, Ukraine War, North-South Corridor