Azerbaijan must take tough line on Karabakh exercises - expert

Zerkalo, Baku
4 Aug 04

Azerbaijan must react firmly to the Armenian-sponsored military
exercises that are now under way in Nagornyy Karabakh, military expert
Azad Isazada has stated in an article in the Azerbaijani newspaper
Zerkalo. Ultimately, he added, the conflict can only be resolved by
military means. The following is the text of C. Bayramova's report by
Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 4 August headlined "Azerbaijan must
display firmness over the Karabakh issue" and subheaded "Otherwise our
country risks losing the seized territories forever, says a military
expert":

The start of command staff exercises by the separatist military units
was announced yesterday in Nagornyy Karabakh.

For nine days, the armed formations of the Karabakh separatists will
demonstrate their so-called fighting capacity and ability to
coordinate military action in either offensive or defensive mode. It
should be recalled that Armenian President Robert Kocharyan announced
last month that military exercises by Armenian troops would be held
shortly in the eastern sector.

Naturally, the reaction from Azerbaijani experts to such a
high-profile event was not long in coming. Several of them think that
the Armenians' demonstration of their military might is merely for
publicity purposes and is an attempt of sorts to test the
Azerbaijanis' readiness to resolve the conflict by military means.

The military expert Azad Isazada has spoken on the subject to the
newspaper Zerkalo. He completely agrees that any exercises constitute
a show of force, adding that exhibiting their military capability
indicates yet another attempt by the separatists to display their will
to resist.

"Our country must certainly react in an extremely tough way.
Azerbaijan should present a demand to the other participants in the
exercises, stating that it is intolerable that they are being held on
the territory of Azerbaijan," the expert thinks.

Nevertheless, he pointed out that Armenia is going to hold the
manoeuvres in the sector where shooting has broken out too frequently
over the past few months and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is being
laid. Thus, according to the expert, these actions can be seen as a
lever for Armenian military pressure on the whole South Caucasus.

There is, however, a universally accepted tactic for behaviour when a
hostile side is staging military exercises. The armed forces of
Azerbaijan that are deployed in the region must, therefore, be put on
full alert and the hardware, guns and manpower in their firing
positions must be activated. The expert did not omit to declare that
Azerbaijan should justify these measures by pointing to the fact that
the enemy's military forces were concentrated right by the line of
confrontation in the seized lands.

In reply to the question of whether Robert Kocharyan was using the
military exercises to distract public attention in Armenia, where the
political situation was strained to the utmost, the expert said: "It
seems to me that the aim you describe is unlikely to be achieved
through these exercises. After all, it is external political pressure,
and it has no particular effect on the internal atmosphere within the
country. It may well be, though, that Kocharyan wants to show Armenia
that he has confidence in his forces. It's as though he were saying
that he always has troops to hand to suppress any dissent. He is,
thus, putting psychological pressure on the opposition."

Since he is also a military psychologist, Isazada sketched in a few
pointers as to the possible way in which Azerbaijani and world opinion
might perceive the separatists' holding of exercises in Nagornyy
Karabakh. In his view, the world community would most likely do no
more than utter statements consisting of smooth phrases and well-worn
formulations to the effect that any escalation of the conflict was
unacceptable. As for Azerbaijani society, any show of force by Armenia
gives rise to perfectly justified aggression within it, particularly
among refugees. This, in turn, is accompanied by heightened tension,
which, in his view, could only be relieved by appropriate action by
Azerbaijan's armed forces.

Incidentally, our interviewee is certain that the Karabakh conflict
can only be resolved by military means. In his view, sooner or later
there will be a resumption of hostilities, since any peaceful
resolution would inevitably involve Azerbaijani concessions that
would, in effect, entail the surrender of Karabakh.

"I am well informed about the mood of the generals and the higher
echelons of the Ministry of Defence. There too the view is held that
the conflict will never be resolved by peaceful means - not because
there could be no such solution, but because it simply does not
exist," the expert commented.