Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Breaks Down, Azerbaijan Lobbies DC; Pompeo’s Proposed “Asian NATO” Idea Falls Flat

A ceasefire brokered by Russia over the weekend that was to allow time for both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to collect the dead and exchange prisoners, broke down almost immediately. Within 24 hours, heavy shelling was reported in civilian areas. Fighting has continued on into the beginning of this week. Antiwar.com reported the following:

The ceasefire fell apart on Sunday, and Azerbaijan said it shelled an Armenian regiment after an attack on Ganja, a city deep inside Azerbaijan’s territory. Armenia denied attacking Ganja.

Accusations continued on Monday. Baku accused Armenian forces of launching attacks inside Nagorno-Karabakh and shelling areas inside Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh said Azerbaijan directed a “large number of forces” to Hudrut, a town in the south of the enclave, and reported “large-scale hostilities.”

Nagorno-Karabakh said on Monday that 45 more of its servicemen were killed, bringing its total military deaths to 525 since the clashes broke out on September 27th.

Follow-up reporting by AP on Tuesday stated:

The reported death toll in clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has reached about 600, with officials reporting more military and civilian deaths as the fighting continues despite a cease-fire announced over the weekend.

Nagorno-Karabakh military officials said Tuesday that 16 more of their servicemen have been killed in fighting, bringinhe total number of dead among military members to 532 since Sept. 27, when the fighting started. Azerbaijan hasn’t disclosed its military losses, and the overall toll is likely to be much higher with both sides regularly claiming to have inflicted significant military casualties on one another.

Azerbaijani authorities said 42 civilians have been killed on their side in over two weeks. Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman Artak Beglaryan late Monday reported at least 31 civilian deaths in the breakaway region. Hundreds more have been wounded….

….On Tuesday, Azerbaijani officials have once again accused Armenian forces of shelling some of its regions, and Nagorno-Karabakh officials said Azerbaijan launched “large-scale military operations” along the front line.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has employed multiple professional PR firms to lobby for its interests in Washington DC, including pushing the characterization of Armenia as the aggressor in the current flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to reporting from Barbara Boland in The American Conservative:

While oil-rich Azerbaijan’s lobbying slowed after 2016 due to the collapse of its currency, Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) documents reveal a flurry of recent activity aimed at convincing Washington elites that Armenia is the aggressor and that the U.S. should favor Azerbaijan in the conflict.

When American lobbying and public relations firms are hired by foreign countries, they are legally required to register their clients with the Justice Department under FARA. They are also required to provide a list of the activities they undertake on behalf of the foreign country.

Azerbaijan’s hired K Street guns are distributing what are euphemistically referred to in FARA documents as “informational materials.” These materials could be more accurately described as propaganda. The documents distributed on Capitol Hill highlight Armenia’s “provocative actions,” its “illegal” role in the conflict, that Armenia allegedly “kills Azerbaijani civilians, including children,” and how “Armenia’s leaders have been actively undermining the ongoing peace process.”

The documents lobbyists distribute on Capitol Hill make some incredulous claims: that “Armenia has long been involved with Middle Eastern terrorism,” that “Azerbaijan has been consistent in urging substantive and result-oriented negotiations in order to achieve a breakthrough in the conflict,” and that “Turkey is not directly involved and is not a party to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.”

Read the full article here.

For some interesting background on the historical complexities behind the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, read Nagorno-Karabakh’s Myth of Ancient Hatreds here and The Fighting Between Armenia and Azerbaijan Has Halted – But a Deep-Rooted Conflict Remains here. Pepe Escobar provides his take on things at Asia Times.

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In late August, Washington floated the idea of trying to cement a NATO-style alliance in Asia against China consisting of the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India – a group of nations currently known as “the Quad.” The aspiration of an Asian NATO was mentioned publicly by Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun:

“It is a reality that the Indo-Pacific region is actually lacking in strong multilateral structures. They don’t have anything of the fortitude of NATO or the European Union,” Biegun said. “There is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalize a structure like this.”

However, a meeting of the Quad members last week seemed to put the kibosh on that idea:

A meeting in Tokyo of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad” — the United States, India, Japan, and Australia — ended without a joint communique or no mention of an earlier proposal by Washington that it might be time to expand their group into a more formal security alliance akin to NATO

This is a blow to the Trump administration, which is looking to shore up its support for what it sees as a growing cold war against China.

Read the full write-up by Jason Ditz here.

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