Friday, March 14, 2008


Ever since independence, Armenia's main asset has been its internal stability. And every external and internal force has threatened to destabilize the country to get its agenda promoted. At every such crisis, brinkmanship has played a role, until sober heads have prevailed to avert a catastrophe. In the aftermath of the February 19 presidential election, those sober heads were not around to be found and the catastrophe took place with unforeseen consequences for long time to come. Indeed Kocharian's government and opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian were at loggerheads, expecting the other party to blink, which was not to happen. At this time, a government-imposed state of emergency has turned into an internal siege for Armenia's population, while an external siege is being configured by outside forces, unfortunately aided by internal desperate voices. A tremendous amount of damage has already been caused by the loss of human lives, but that is only the beginning in a rapidly deteriorating crisis.
As anticipated, Azerbaijan has raised the ante by attacking the Armenian positions in the Martakert region of Karabagh, certainly encouraged and emboldened by the internal turmoil in Armenia. This is a loss of wills across the lines of the ceasefire, and a more dangerous escalation of hostilities may be in the offing, if the war planners in Baku determine that the Armenian government is too weak to retaliate to a major onslaught.
While countries, like Azerbaijan, can get away with murder, because of the oil factor or strategic advantage, Western powers are quick to admonish Armenia with impunity, at the first sign of any infraction. And that may have long-term political and economic impact on the country.
The chorus of external condemnations has already begun, with a spark from none other than the former president and recently-defeated presidential candidate, Levon Ter Petrossian. Indeed, on March 5, an op-ed article signed by the first president appeared in the Washington Post and subsequently circulated in the news media. Of course, no one would like to see a state of emergency imposed in Armenia, crippling the normal course of life, but Ter Petrossian himself must be the last one to complain about it, since in 1990 he was the one who ordered armored cars to crush the demonstrations, following rigged elections. If his actions were justified at that time, what other alternative was left to the present government to calm the situation?
But what is more dangerous is to invite foreign governments to interfere in the internal situation of the country and use their leverage to warn the government against its antidemocratic actions. Besides the political pressures, the most effective ways for the regional or world powers is to use their economic leverage, on which hinges Armenia's lifeline and the future.
The European Union has many grants, but the most significant aid comes from the US through its annual aid package, which is already dwindling from year to year. But what is most dangerous is the Millennium Challenge project, which is contingent upon Armenia's democratic process and economic reform. That is the most effective weapon in the arsenal of the Bush administration, which is significantly delaying to recognize the election results and congratulate the new president.
Ter-Petrossian blames the West for "the deafening silence," all the while criticizing the OSCE observers for approving the election results. He further appeals to the US government by asking a particular action. "What do the people of Armenia expect from the West, and the United States in particular? At the very least, we expect a strong and unequivocal condemnation of the violence that occurred on March 1... This condemnation should accompany a sternwarning..."
Ter-Petrossian's popularity is not in question here, nor would any one try to applaud the emergency role. But what is very serious is to appeal to outside forces, which are looking for any pretext to tighten the noose around Armenia and strangulate it economically. The US and Russia have a confrontational posture in the Southern Caucasus and the Cold War era is returning to that region. Armenia's cordial ties with Russia and economic relations with Iran are not looked upon favorably in Washington, despite the assurances that the US administration "understands" the underlying causes of those relations. When push comes to shove, Armenia's lobbying power in the US may easily be overrun.
Two days later, Ter-Petrossian's request from the US is echoed in a nasty editorial on March 7, in the New York Times, under the heading "Dark Days in Armenia." It is significant to note that Turkey's brutal war against the Kurdish minority, which has caused 40,000 deaths has not yet deserved that kind of characterization in the editorial columns of the Times.
The Times editorial specifically addresses the most vulnerable aspect of the US-Armenian relations: "Armenia, embroiled in a lengthy standoff with neighboring Azerbaijan, is relatively isolated in its own region and especially values its great relations with the United States," according to the editorial. It then talks about inviting the Bush administration to hit where it hurts most: "the main responsibility lies with Armenia's government leaders, and it is to them that the White House must address its protests." And of course we know the nature of these "protests;" to deny beleaguered Armenia economic help. The continuation of the crisis is to no one's advantage and it will damage Armenia irreparably, which had just begun to give signals of economic recovery.
The crisis can only be resolved internally by engaging opposing domestic groups. Any outside interference may only further exacerbate the already tense situation and lead nowhere.
In addition to media orchestration, rallies are being organized on the West Coast to amplify the media furor and to damage Armenia's standing in the political arena. The protests are mainly organized by expatriates, driven mostly by the guilt feeling of having abandoned the homeland. The same masses of expatriates were vehemently against Ter- Petrossian, when he was in power.
It is time to sober up to stop undermining the foundations of Armenia's statehood and denying its population direly needed economic recovery. Armenians seem to be their worst enemies.
By Edmond Azadian, The Armenian Mirror-Spectator Weekly, Published By Adl Eastern District Committee Of Usa And Canada

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