The War on Armenia Threatens American Interests | Opinion
- Original Publication can be found here: https://www.newsweek.com/war-armenia-threatens-american-interests-opinion-1537581
Islamist aggression and expansion into the lands of a Christian people shouldn't be a 21st century reality, but it is. Making matters worse, the aggressors in today's conflict receive U.S. foreign aid. It's time for the U.S. to respond to Azerbaijan and Turkey's assault on Armenians.
Hundreds of people, including civilians, have been killed as the second week of heavy clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan potentially turns into a third. The war is over disputed territory widely called the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, but known as the Republic of Artsakh to its Armenian defenders.
The Republic of Artsakh is almost totally Armenian, about 99 percent. Part of the oldest Christian state in the world, it remains a front line against encroaching Islamism. A war over the land has been officially ongoing since the fall of the Soviet Union, but a 1994 ceasefire deal maintained a relative standstill until major escalations from Azerbaijan on September 27. Thomas de Waal, an expert on the region, has identified Azerbaijan as the aggressor in this most recent flare up.
Armenia has also called out Turkey, a strategic NATO partner for the U.S., for leading much of the onslaught. Turkey's reported actions are consistent with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's effort to build a neo-Ottoman empire, leading offenses against Kurds in their territories as well as Greeks in the Aegean and Cyprus.
Turkey is reportedly aiding Azerbaijan's assault with armed drones and by recruiting the same Syrian "moderate rebels" that former president Barack Obama employed to take down the Syrian government. As those hired fighters failed their mission to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, they are in desperate need for a paid opportunity to prove themselves.
Think of it. Those "moderate rebel" Islamists who received U.S. weaponry just a few short years ago are now involved in the violent takeover of a Christian community of more than 150,000 people.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean the U.S. government or military should be called upon to clean up the mess. There's a good chance direct intervention would only make things worse.
However, an America First geopolitical outlook must never underestimate the United States' immense economic power, including the ability to impose trade sanctions, to punish or ward off bad behavior in the South Caucasus as well as from Turkey.
Journalists and local inhabitants stand on October 8, 2020 inside the damaged Ghazanchetsots (Holy Saviour) Cathedral in the historic city of Shusha, some 15 kilometers from the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh province's capital Stepanakert, that was hit by a bomb during fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.
After all, how could Turkey's and Azerbaijan's actions against Armenia serve any strategic benefit to the U.S.? The war is an unnecessary foreign adventure that apparently the U.S. is expected to support or at least smooth out in the fiery end.
In addition to the indirect assistance and lobbying the U.S. does on behalf of Turkey at the international level, that country receives about $153 million from the American taxpayer in the form of foreign aid. Azerbaijan gets around $14 million. Keeping those dollars home would be the easiest thing to do first.
Beyond that, Turkey's membership in NATO should be up for removal. It's already been talked about in Congress for over a year.
If the U.S. doesn't bring enough pressure to bear on Turkey and Azerbaijan to end their hostilities, there is clearly no reason to continue aiding them or even keeping a strategic partnership. There is no current U.S. interest worth risking the destruction of an ancient Christian civilization, and it's difficult to fathom how there ever could be one.
There is a U.S. interest in preserving Christian peoples in the Middle East. The establishment foreign policy that unfortunately still lingers in the background of the Trump administration disregarded that national interest in favor of endless wars in the region.
In Iraq, Islamism grew at the expense of some 1.5 million Iraqi Christians, many of whom are no longer there. The subsequent destruction of Christian churches and sites in Iraq and Syria was painful to watch. The threats to U.S. national security only grew as a result.
Armenians have already lost much of their Christian cultural heritage to the Soviet Union, and before that to the Turks during the Armenian genocide. In the Republic of Artsakh, a few sites remain, including a monastery dating back to the 4th century. To protect what's left, the U.S. should officially recognize Artsakh, as the Armenians have no ambition or desire to conquer beyond its borders.
The U.S. shouldn't be expected to police the world, but it must do right by the American taxpayers who are footing the bill for billions of dollars in foreign aid, not to mention generating the nation's economic power. An America First foreign policy must continue to eclipse the status quo foreign policy, and a great first step would be to stop all indirect assistance of those destroying Armenia's Christian civilization.