Commentary: Azeris Are Winning the Media War


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Azerbaijan’s political clout is growing in the Caucasus, despite internal dissensions as well as the beatings and jailing of the jour- nalists, because major powers are not interested in those finer matters, unless they became the necessary tools to meddle in the internal affairs of some targeted sovereign countries, marked for regime change.

Currently, Azerbaijan has been elected to the UN Security Council non-permanent membership and in a rotating system, it is presiding over the UN Security Council. If you need to figure out the moral bankruptcy of international politics, you have to watch the war-mongering President Ilham Aliyev, delivering his speech at the UN forum lambasting Armenians as aggressors and occupiers of Azeri territory.

Two major factors have contributed to Azerbaijan’s accession to the Security Council seat, defeating Slovenia: 1) It is reported that between $100 to $140 million were “donated” to developing countries to buy their votes. Islamic countries are regularly brain- washed at Islamic conferences that Christian Armenians have massacred their fellow Muslims in Karabagh, playing the religion card. Most vocal among the Islamic countries is Pakistan, under different administrations (Benazir Bhutto, Pervez Musharraf and the current rulers). They are natural supporters of their Muslim Azeri brothers, never mind that the Karabagh conflict is not a religious issue. Therefore, the Islamic bloc does not need any bribes to sup- port Azerbaijan’s candidacy. 2) Azerbaijan’s newfound friendship with Israel has also helped to rally many Western countries around that country. Azeris are playing an incendiary role in the region, providing their territory to Israel as a launching pad, in preparation for an eventual confrontation with Iran.

Interestingly, no binding resolutions can be adopted at the UN Security Council level on the Karabagh issue, because the co- chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are also part of that body and they are not ready to relinquish their mediator’s role to the UN.

However, Azerbaijan and Turkey will gain a lot of public relations mileage every time they can bring the issue to the UN forum. This poses a very serious challenge to Armenia’s foreign policy establishment. Armenia has seasoned diplomats, beginning with Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, and ending with Garen Nazarian, Armenia’s ambassador to the UN.

Armenia cannot depend too much on world powers, who have demonstrated time and again that Azeri oil is worth more than Armenian blood. Therefore, they have to rely on the limited resources at their disposal.

One may wonder what Diaspora Armenian activism can provide to the Foreign Ministry’s diplomacy. An organized and politicized diaspora can act as the extension of Armenia’s foreign policy establishment. But are we ready, willing and capable of playing

that role? Do we have the political vision to assume such a role? Some introspection, admission of responsibility and guilt, if you

will, are in order here. The Armenian community was informed a long time ago about

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s appearance at the UN. In addition, no one had any doubts what kind of speech he was about to deliver. Only an impressive massive rally at the UN could blunt Aliyev’s message, reverberating in the news media. Our diplomats were already conducting their task, quietly. But Aliyev stood up at that world forum and told his side of the story with- out an effective challenge from “the one-million-strong US Armenian community.”

Who was supposed to take the initiative? Our religious leaders have a good excuse and they cannot get involved in politics; never mind that Aliyev’s politics destroys thousands of khachkars, religious symbols in Nakhichevan with another few hundred houses of worship. Out of thousands of attendants at the Times Square commemoration, a few hundred must have the political motivation to counter Aliyev at the UN. Some of our lobbying groups are locked in other battles and therefore let Aliyev enjoy a free ride at the UN.

That leaves the burden to the Armenian political parties; the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) is split, and whatever the legitimate leadership undertakes on the East Coast, some renegades undermine the initiative, under orders from their Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) bosses.

The ARF led a half-hearted demonstration at the UN head- quarters, probably giving a good laugh to the Azeri delegation. It was reported that only 50 demonstrations showed up with some banners. That was enough for domestic consumption to boast that only the ARF challenged Aliyev’s arrogance, whereas it may have done more damage than good.

If the ARF leadership considered that this was a cause of para- mount importance, they could have invited other groups also to participate, if they were not concerned sharing the glory with them. After all, that party was able to mobilize more than 1,000 demonstrators at the Armenian Embassy in New York to protest the signing of protocols with Turkey. Many more showed up under their leadership in Los Angeles and Beirut to harangue and insult Armenia’s president during that period.

Had no one showed up at the UN, the Azeri delegation could be mystified, thinking that Armenians have a secret formula to counter their onslaught. But the way the community reacted pacified the Azeris that they can dismiss Armenian political power in the US, which demonstrated its quixotic face at the UN.

Perhaps it is not altogether fair to single out the ARF leadership in this case, since the entire community is responsible for the debacle. And after that we cannot play the role of armchair guru, blaming Armenia’s foreign policy establishment battling the Azeri public relations and media onslaught.

As we can see, the Azeris are winning the media war assisted by petrodollars and their friends in higher positions.