Armenian News Network / Groong

Review & Outlook - 06/26/2017

The New Geopolitical Map of the Near East

Armenian News Network / Groong
June 26, 2017

By Grigor Hakobyan


As the dramatic events unfold in the Middle East a new map of the Near
East is beginning to emerge. A new country is about to take stage in
the region; a clash between major powers is about to break loose in
Syria; and a new strategic realignment of regional powers and their
corresponding super powers is taking shape while others are exiting
the region. In the meantime, a rift is emerging between the US and its
European allies over many issues including global warming, economic
relations and security within Europe and around the European continent.
How will these changes impact Armenia and what role can it play in the
big picture that is unfolding in the Near East? What is most likely to
happen and is Armenia ready for what is coming within the next
twenty-four to thirty-six months?


The past ten years in the Near East could be characterized as a
struggle between nation states trying to hold on to their national
territories and destructive global influences such as Islamic
Extremism that swept the region with much violence and bloodshed.
Successive public revolts against oppressive regimes in the Middle
East were followed by the emergence of radical groups motivated by
religion, to end all forms of national government in the region and by
substituting them with a religious one in the name of an Islamic
Caliphate. Some countries in the Middle East ended up in long and
protracted civil wars that haven't run their course yet. Different
ethnic groups, religious denominations and tribes began to vie for
political power and economic wealth left behind by the crumbled
regimes in Libya and Yemen, while Syria saw a reversal of fortunes
after military interventions by Russia, Iran and its Lebanese and
Iraqi proxies in the ongoing civil war there.

Meanwhile Kurdish groups saw an opening to rise up in pursuit of their
own nation state. As such, various Kurdish factions took control of
different territories making up parts of Iraq and Syria to claim as
their own and established de facto Kurdish statelets across the
region. As millions of refugees poured across the border fleeing the
bloody carnage in the Middle East thus overwhelming welfare based
economies of Europe a new Kurdish state is waiting emerge.
Establishment of new American bases on territories under Kurdish
control, continuous American support for the emergence of a new
Kurdish state in parts of Syria and Iraq, and increasingly declining
relationship between Turkey and US/NATO allies is pointing towards an
exceedingly decreasing importance of Turkey for the security of NATO
and the US.


Turkey's overtures toward Russia and Iran while extreme pressure is
being exerted upon the civil society and democratic institutions in
Turkey further undermines Turkey's credibility as a democratic state
and pushes the country further away from joining the EU. The recent
violence near Turkey's embassy in Washington DC where Erdogan's
security teams violently assaulted American citizens on American soil
peacefully protesting Erdogan's visit to the US has further undermined
Turkey's "peaceful and democratic" credentials as well as lead the US
Congress, State Department and defense officials to question Turkey's
real aspirations on the global stage and reevaluate the strategic
relationship between the US and Turkey. The emergency of a large
Kurdish state spanning territories of Iraq and Syria with pro-American
orientation has a good chance of putting the final nail in the coffin
of Turkey's perceived strategic value to the US and its NATO allies.

The recent crisis between Qatar and other states of Gulf Cooperation
Council further complicates the geopolitical situation in the region
and promises more violence, destruction and mass emigration from the
region. The rift between Qatar and other sheikdoms of the Middle East
is causing a major realignment of regional powers not foreseen before.
We see an emergence of a loose and conflict-ridden alliance between
Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar and Turkey on one hand and
US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and others on the
other. In the meantime Australia is exiting the region while Europe is
gradually heading toward the exit also. Growing differences of opinion
between the US and EU over issues ranging from climate change to
economic sanctions against Russia, conflicting policies over refugees
and immigration is pushing western civilization apart.

Recent Israeli attacks against government forces in Syria and US
engagement of aerial combat vehicles of Syria and Iran has further
escalated the situation in the region and pushed the major powers
involved in the Syrian conflict towards the brink of major war. The
chances for a major miscalculation leading towards a regional
conflagration in the Middle East between rival regional powers and
distant powers behind them has become more imminent than anytime
before. Undesired presence of Turkish forces in Syria around the
Kurdish populated areas of Aleppo province, and shipment of military
personnel and equipment to Qatar thus directly challenging Saudi
Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and other Saudi aligned sheikdoms has
inflamed the egos of all parties involved leading up to a dangerous
game of chicken where either side can easily miscalculate the
intentions of the other, thus ending up in a devastating war that no
one intended to start in the first place.


After de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in light
of chaos taking place in the Middle East, the world's attention is
being drawn to this particular place in the world. Major power blocks
seemed to be preparing for a major clash that will redraw the borders
of many countries in the region and shift alliances of various parties
involved. Subsequently a breakout of another round of major hostilities
between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces is dangerously looming on the
horizon.  Since the last break out of hostilities in 2016 Azerbaijan
has replenished its losses with new shipments of tanks, armored
vehicles, missiles and artillery pieces acquired from Russia, Israel,
Pakistan and Turkey. Furthermore, the Azerbaijani leadership has
filled its military ranks with hundreds of Turkish officers and
commando troops serving in the capacity of "military advisers". Yet as
the Four Day War of April 2016 has shown, Turkish "military advisers"
constituted the tip of the spear that led the advance of the
Azerbaijani war machine against Armenian positions along the Line of

A similar situation is bound to unfold once again as the Azerbaijani
leadership continues to reject a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Large scale military drills taking place along the Line of Contact in
Artsakh and Nakhichevan autonomous region was observed to work out the
details of a combined Azerbaijani-Turkish military assault against the
republics of Armenia and Artsakh.  According to various media reports
more than twenty thousand troops are taking part in these exercises. A
type of "Shock and Awe" military strategy is being tested out to be
utilized against the Armenian forces in the war about to come. The
impression is that the next round of warfare will entail shelling and
tank assaults from Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan autonomous region towards
the Ararat Valley and nearby towns and villages which are less than an
hour away from Yerevan, Armenia's capital. Such a breakout of
hostilities may be timed to occur within the same time frame that
major powers are going clash in the Middle East, if not sooner.

The third war scenario discussed in my previous article, In
Anticipation of Another War, appears to be making its way to Armenia's
borders. Perhaps only a rapid and very destructive preemptive strike
by Armenian forces against significant concentrations of Azerbaijani
troops and military equipment along the Kur River would be capable to
avert the next round of Azerbaijani military aggression against the
Republics of Armenia and Artsakh. Starting a small war to prevent a
bigger war from unfolding may be necessary to deter Aliyev's regime
from unleashing it. Under such scenario Armenian forces would be
required to totally eliminate Azerbaijan's means of communication such
as radio and satellite communication equipment, strategic strike
weapons such as Pakistani made ballistic missiles, military airfields
and mobile artillery units within the vicinity of Armenia's borders
with Nakhichevan and those positioned along the Line of Contact in
Artsakh. A ground based offensive may not be necessary to meet this
objective but a significant blow against Azerbaijani strategic assets
would be necessary to prevent them from starting another war in the


In most likelihood another major war between Armenian and Azerbaijani
forces is not needed to meet any of the strategic objectives for any
major powers wrestling over control of Middle East. A war of this
magnitude has the potential to involve major countries surrounding the
region such as Russia, Iran and Turkey. Furthermore, this type of
escalation will jeopardize the deliveries of oil and gas to foreign
markets outside of the region not to mention that it will annihilate
Azerbaijan's oil and gas infrastructure. Furthermore, under conditions
of major warfare a loss of yet another Azerbaijani town of strategic
importance such as Yevlakh will sever Azerbaijan's road and railroad
links with the outside world and stop any cargo traffic across the

According to some publicly available strategic estimates, delivering
significant damage to Azerbaijan's Mingechaur Dam will flood the
plains along the Kur River destroying a large number of Azerbaijani
military installations, towns and villages thus forcing tens of
thousands of civilians to abandon their homes and move towards
Azerbaijan's heartland. An expected inflow of such a large number of
internal refugees will further strain the available public resources
causing conflicts with local residents and other ethnic minorities who
may not be willing to share their wealth with them. The political
insecurity of Aliyev's regime and constant warmongering exhibited by
Azerbaijan's military echelons of power leave no other option for the
Armenian military but to seek effective ways of deterring the coming
war and forcing Aliyev's regime to negotiate a peaceful resolution of
the conflict that will not undermine the security of Armenian people
in the region.

Grigor Hakobyan is an independent political analyst residing in
Phoenix, AZ, and a former ANCA Fellow in Washington D.C. He is the
founder of a virtual think tank called Ararat Institute for Near Eastern
Studies. He was also a freelance writer for the Central Asia-Caucasus
Institute of John Hopkins University and has interned in Congress for Rep.
Brad Sherman, researching ethnic conflicts and terrorism in Russia,
Caucasus and Central Asia. Grigor also completed an internship at the
International Center for Terrorism Studies of the Potomac Institute for
Policy Studies where he researched international terrorist networks
operating in the Caucasus and Central Asia, preparing congressional
briefings for the Director of ICTS on WMDs. Grigor holds a B.A. in
Political Science from Arizona State University.

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