If not the UN, who will Investigate the PKK’s Involvement in Nagorno-Karabakh?
“Alarm,” “mercenaries,” and “little prospect of accountability” screamed the self-declared experts of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries just prior to the signing of a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan last month.
As we have come to expect from intergovernmental bodies, no evidence is too thin to make them pause before issuing a press release condemning it. Instead, they declared that “reports indicate that Turkey engaged in large-scale recruitment and transfer of Syrian men to Azerbaijan through armed factions, some of which are affiliated with the Syrian National Army” – without, of course, citing any of their sources. Fortunately, since they issued their missive, actual evidence has come to light contradicting their narrative.
The evidence is a recording intercepted by Azerbaijani security services of members of the PKK – the Kurdish separatist group designated by the United States, the UK, and most European countries as a terrorist group – were in Nagorno-Karabakh, bought and paid for by Armenia.
The recording (hosted on the Azerbaijani State Security Service website and made accessible via English subtitles) makes for grim listening. You hear them complain about pay and conditions, how it was not fair that Azerbaijan was winning, the horrible weather – and even their wish they had never come to help the Armenians at all.
It makes for quite a change to have some genuine evidence of the use of illegal mercenaries in a conflict. It’s just a pity that the UN cannot find the time to condemn the real thing – along with supporting evidence – and rather than only bring themselves to act as an echo chamber for “reports” and “allegations” spun by others which they can barely be bothered to check for veracity.
Sadly, this is all too familiar to me. As the first senior anti-terrorism officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq, I have watched and been at the forefront of the evolution of modern warfare in the digital era. Today, war is fought with information – disinformation to be more precise – as much as it is with guns and bombs. Social media platforms are the new battleground. In a world of fake news, a man trained to use video editing software can be as valuable a military asset as a man trained to fire a rifle. What is our defense against this new breed of soldier? We must examine the evidence. We must look at the facts.
It is no secret that the two leading global pioneers and most adept practitioners of this very modern brand of warfare are Russia and Iran. Much of the Western world has in recent decades been playing catch-up with these two actors, whose skillful disinformation campaigns have successfully served to obfuscate, confuse and distract from their nefarious international activities – everything from assassinations on foreign soil to full-blown military invasions.
Moreover, Russia and Iran remain key players in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict when both are financial and military backers of Armenia and its separatist proxies. Armenia is a close military ally of Russia and houses one of Russia’s main regional military bases. Iran, meanwhile, is opposed to Azerbaijan because one-third of Iran itself is ethnic Azeri – and it was that minority within Iran who first took to the streets calling for democracy during the Arab Spring. Small wonder that in this conflict Armenia is backed, funded, and armed by Iranian Mullahs.
Just as Russia and Iran can step into the void created by decades of Armenian economic collapse, so too do the Armenian Diaspora and their lobby groups in Washington – which is where the real power lies – step in where there is a lack of political leadership and governance in Armenia itself.
Sadly, in today’s era of ultra-fast and accessible information, it is no longer surprising that reporters do not check their facts as rigorously as they used to. It’s understandable that journalists – with whom the Armenia diaspora lobby have formed such a close bond – do not want to investigate. But for a supposedly neutral organization such as the UN to fall into the same trap makes clear just how serious the problem is. Armenia allegedly once again turning to hired guns, terrorists, and mercenaries in Nagorno-Karabakh – as it has done many times before – poses a very real threat to the fragile peace that has been achieved in the Caucasus, the implications of which are global. Countries that value liberty, peace, and international law must take action. They can start by carefully evaluating the evidence and the facts.