By Aram Hovakimiants
Nov 29 2010

YEREVAN, November 29 - A US demarche dispatched to the Republic
of Armenia in the waning hours of the Bush administration alleged a
transfer of arms to Iran and their subsequent use in Iraq, a diplomatic
cable uncovered by WikiLeaks site on November 28 reveal.

The diplomatic cable - dispatched from the Department of State
headquarters in Washington to the American Embassy in Yerevan at 9:58
pm on December 24, 2008 - contained a letter from Deputy Secretary
of State John Negroponte addressed to President Serge Sarkisian.

The letter made reference to a transfer of arms from Armenia to Iran
and alleged that those weapons were later used in insurgent attacks in
Iraq and resulted in deaths of US military personnel. Negroponte made
a perfunctory reference to US efforts to promote common interests such
as an "agreement in Nagorno Karabakh and normalization of Armenia's
relations with Turkey," and proceeded to threaten sanctions against

Negroponte listed several conditions for averting imposition of US
sanctions against Armenia, including reforms of the Armenian export
control regime and its harmonization with the EU. Negroponte also
requested that each point of entry into Armenia be equipped with
Armenian teams "dedicated to detecting and interdicting dual-use
commodities and other contraband."

Further, Negroponte requested that Armenia "periodically accepts
unannounced visits by US experts to assess the work of the teams."

The language of the ultimatum - it cannot be described in other terms
- is uncharacteristic of State Department diplomatic correspondence,
and can be assumed to have been generated in one of myriad agencies
engaged in US homeland security efforts.

Equally unusual is the form of the letter, which was to be delivered
by the American Embassy in Yerevan. In diplomatic practice, heads of
states receive correspondence from their counterparts, or foreign
ministers and ambassadors accredited to the head of state from his
or her colleague. It is therefore unusual that a US deputy secretary
of state would address a letter to a foreign president, especially
since Secretary Rice was not away and signed the cable from Washington.

But a letter from Secretary Rice or President Bush would have required
an extensive political vetting by the State Department and National
Security Council staff. It is unlikely that the contentious and loaded
content of the Negroponte letter would have survived a political,
legal, and factual background check.

The request for 'unannounced' visits by US teams to check on the
Armenian border controls, in particular, is a direct affront of
Armenia's sovereignty. Moreover, the Armenian-Iranian border is under
a dual control of the Armenian border, customs, and export control
officials and the Russian border guards, a fact US Government and all
observers of Armenia are aware of. Further, the US has been helping
Armenia to strengthen the export control regime for over a decade,
including provision of equipment that has been placed at those
entry points.

Given this context, the Christmas Eve timing of the demarche and its
lack of high-level political signature could mean that the Negroponte
letter has not been cleared properly, and several layers of State
Department bureaucracy either ignored the content, or advanced them
with a personal agenda in mind.

Alternatively, it could be a "file-closer," a letter containing demands
that the drafter knew would be rejected or could not be satisfied. The
purpose of the request, in this scenario, is to provide cover for
the bureaucrats or political operatives who advanced the notion
of arms transfers from the Republic of Armenia to Iran during the
Bush administration. Once a serious allegation is put forward by the
national security staff, it has to be acted upon. Having delivered the
ultimatum to Armenia, the political hacks secured themselves against
future criticism of lack of action on the alleged arms transfer.

It is too early to assess the reaction of US and Armenian officials.

Perhaps subsequent publications by WikiLeaks will shed more light
into this matter. But analysis of news from Armenia in 2009-2010
does not suggest a high-level follow up to those allegations and
their investigation.

It is now impossible to go after Negroponte to inquire about
the reasons of the December 2008 ultimatum to the Republic of
Armenia. But he will likely be offered a position in the future
Republican administrations - and confirmation hearings should look
into that episode.

From: A. Papazian