A ‘Wedge’ Between Azerbaijan and Israel is an Armenian Pipe Dream

February 7, 2018

3 min read

Most frequently with the utmost in bellicose tenor, decrying the recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by President Donald Trump has become a favored pastime for anyone or body with resentment or alternately, hatred, against the U.S., President Trump, personally or Israel.

Recently, in an analysis of Armenian foreign policy, published in a Jan. 9 op-eds in Modern Diplomacy, former vice-minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Arman Navasardyan, showed quite clearly that Armenia scores a trifecta in this regard.

According to Navasardyan, Armenian foreign policy sees the recognition of Jerusalem as instigating “new additional tensions throughout the region,” and proceeds to offer a remedying prescription. Among his recommendations the deployment of “all pan-Armenian state and non-state means to drive a wedge in the Azerbaijani-Israeli relations.”

Given the decades-long Armenian territorial conflict against Azerbaijan over Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, it is not surprising for an Armenian commentator to take an anti-Azerbaijan position. However, this particular proposal merits a deeper look into the geopolitical undertones and realities.

Navasardyan, also an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, serves at Yerevan’s Russian-Armenian University, where he is the head of the Department of World Politics and International Relations.

The very existence of a “Russian-Armenian University” is just one manifestation of the puppet-puppeteer relationship between Yerevan and Moscow. According to countless experts in the geopolitical and diplomatic worlds, Armenia is, arguably, the least sovereign of the post-Soviet states. Replete with Russian military bases, troops, and weapons, Russian and Armenian leaders have stated outright that they “coordinate” their foreign policy.

It is with more than a grain of salt, then, that readers should take Navasardyan’s pro-Russia, anti-U.S. analysis, in which he asserts that “Washington is losing its position and influence in the Arab world. It is not fond of the behavior of the alliance Russia-Turkey-Iran so much that the White House seems even not to notice certain serious disagreements within this alliance.”

Navasardyan conveniently substitutes Turkey for his own country, Armenia, in the triumvirate with Russia and Iran. Indeed, it is the Iran-Russia-Armenia nexus that represents the more prominent—not to mention, threatening—alliance in the region. Armenia’s vassal-like “coordination” with its Russian overlord means supporting the nuclear deal that handed more than $100 billion in sanctions relief to Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor to terror and the source of instability throughout the Middle East—including in Syria, where Russia works with Iran to support tyrant Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war.

The Russian-Armenian coordination also supports Iran’s ambition to create a Shi’a “land bridge” from Tehran to Beirut in order to seize control of Israel’s northern neighbors, a prospect that the  Israeli government considers its greatest current security threat.

Given Armenia’s role in this geopolitical landscape, it is laughable when Navasardyan asserts, regarding Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, that the “alterations in the situation around Israel can’t become an obstacle in the process of regulating and developing Armenian-Israeli relations.”

Navasardyan is just one of the Armenian media commentators who wax poetic on prospects for warmer Israeli-Armenian ties, most recently following Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s visit to Jerusalem last November. Yet while putting on its charm offensive for the Israelis, Armenia is supporting regional dynamics that threaten Israel. Contrary to Navasardyan’s pie-in-the-sky narrative, it is Yerevan’s pro-Iran stance that hinders Armenian-Israeli relations—it has nothing to do with U.S. recognition of Jerusalem.

Armenia not only threatens Israel on the security front by participating in the nexus with Russia and Iran but also on the diplomatic front through calls—like the one issued by Navasardyan—to drive a “wedge” between Israel and its strongest Muslim-majority ally: Azerbaijan.

Israel and Azerbaijan have showcased an unprecedented blueprint for interfaith and intercultural tolerance since they embarked on a deep bilateral relationship in 1992. The countries have extensive diplomatic, economic, and security ties, including Israeli sales of close to $5 billion in defense equipment to Azerbaijan, as well as Jerusalem’s importation of an estimated 40 percent of its oil from Baku.

This historic bond is not limited to the two governments—it exists on a much deeper level between the Azerbaijani and Jewish people. While a majority of Armenians believe that a host of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are “probably true,” anti-Semitism has not been a problem in Azerbaijan, historically and presently. Azerbaijan’s “Mountain Jews” have lived in peace and prosperity in the Caucasus region since the 5th century A.D. During a trip to Azerbaijan in 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the country as “an example of what relations can be and should be between Muslims and Jews everywhere.”

Take Netanyahu’s word—not Navasardyan’s insidious and far-fetched proposition. The Azerbaijani-Israeli relationship is far too strong for any fair-minded observer of the region to entertain Navasardyan’s musings on a “wedge.” But that won’t stop him and other Armenian commentators from floating their fantasies.

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