south front for tuesday

Azerbaijani-Turkish Alliance Is Taking Upper Hand In War With Armenia
South Front, Oct 5 2020

Azerbaijan is slowly but steadily gaining an upper hand in the war with Armenia for the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. As of Oct 5, the Azerbaijani military, supported by Turkish military advisers, specialists and intelligence, captured the towns of Jabrayil, Mataghis and Talysh after heavy clashes with Armenian forces. Azerbaijani sources also report the control over multiple villages including Ashagi Abdulrahmanli, Mehdili, Chakhirli, Ashagi Maralyan, Sheybey and Kuyjagh. On the other hand, the Armenian side confirmed that it lost ‘some positions’ but did not provide details claiming that the situation on the frontline has been rapidly changing. Stepanakert, the capital of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, other populated areas and civilian targets in the region have become a target of regular rocket, artillery and drone strikes. The Azerbaijani military extensively uses cluster munitions, heavy artillery, rocket launchers and even Israeli LORA theater quasi-ballistic missiles while simultaneously accusing Armenia of intentionally striking civilian targets in Azerbaijan. For example, on Oct 4, the government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic announced that Armenian forces had destroyed the military air base near Azerbaijan’s Ganja. This air base, according to the Armenian side, hosted F-16 fighter jets from Turkey. Azerbaijan indirectly confirmed the incident but insisted that Armenian strikes hit Ganja city only. In its own turn, the Armenian military denounced the Azerbaijani claim saying that only the military base that was hit.

In the comments from Oct 4, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev claimed that Azerbaijani forces are “chasing” Armenians like “dogs” and demanded the full withdrawal of Armenian forces, the Armenian recognition of Karabakh as a sovereign Azerbaijani territory and an official apology from Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to the Azerbaijani nation. On top of this, Aliyev emphasized that a military solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh question is on the table and criticized 28 years of unsuccessful negotiations. In his remarks, Aliyev apparently cosplayed Turkish neo-Ottomanist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that over the past years has been used to employ rhetoric of this kind and provide a hard power-based realpolitik in the Greater Middle East. Turkey is a natural strategic ally of Azerbaijan and extensively backs it in its war with Armenia. A day earlier, on Oct 3, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan made his own address regarding the war saying that Nagorno-Karabakh has been fighting against “an Azerbaijani-Turkish terrorist attack, the volume and scale of which is unprecedented.” He said that the Azerbaijani operation is controlled by “150 high-level Turkish military officers,” and claimed that the end of the current conflict can only be victory on the Armenian side. As for now, it does not look that this forecast is realistic.

The ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani war has likely become the first military conflict of such a scale between two state actors of a comparable power. After the first week of war, it was already clear that the final number of casualties will be counted in the thousands. While so far the Azerbaijani side has not demonstrated any miracles in ground warfare, it has once again demonstrated a successful employment of the concept of the wide-scale usage of unmanned aerial vehicles: reconnaissance, aerial targets, loitering munitions and drones carrying bombs and missiles. This allows the Azerbaijani side, with an apparent help from Turkey, to successfully detect, uncover and strike Armenian artillery and fortified positions. Regardless the reality of Armenian claims about the supposed usage of Turkish F-16 jets to cover the employed UAVs, the Azerbaijani side has gained full control over the air dimension.

In its own turn, Armenia had time to conduct extensive engineering work preparing a wide network of fortified positions across the region. This allows Armenian forces to keep their positions in many areas despite the air dominance of Azerbaijan. Up to 80% of casualties on both sides are a result of rocket, artillery or air strikes. Nonetheless, forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republics and Armenian units (which Erevan calls ‘volunteers’) are an underdog in the event of a large-scale prolonged conflict with the Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc, even if Armenia openly enters the conflict. Therefore, the outcome of the war will significantly depend on the ability of Azerbaijan (with help from Turkey and its mercenaries/militants) to use its air and numerical advantage to develop the advance and make some gains while the regional diplomatic situation allows this. The balance of power could also change if some third party would intervene in the conflict to put an end to the violence. Such an action could become a response to some irrefutable evidence of ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population in the areas of Azerbaijan or the increasing deployment of members of various Middle Eastern terrorist groups to the region.

Battle “Between Life And Death”. Armenian PM Calls On Reservists To Return Back To Army
South Front, Oct 5 2020

On Oct 5, the Armenian leadership finally admitted that the situation on the frontline in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, where Azerbaijani forces have been advancing since Sep 27, is ‘complicated’ and called on reservists to return back to the Armed Forces, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on the servicemen demobilized a year ago to rejoin the armed forces. He said via his Facebook page:

In some areas, the Karabakh Defense Army confidently controls the situation, in some areas the situation is very difficult. I do not hide it. Our legislation does not allow them to be mobilized even in wartime, but I urge you to mobilize. You should know that this is a struggle for the right to life. Otherwise, we will be subjected to genocide.

The prime minister said that he was calling them not to a simple service, but to the battle “between life and death.” Pashinyan also declared that he is confident in the Armenian victory. The mobilization of personnel showcases the real situation in which the Pashinyan government appeared amid the developing war with Azerbaijan. Nonetheless, it should be noted that fresh troops only, without modern weapons, experienced commanders and instructors, will not be able to turn the tide of the conflict. In the worst case scenario, this may just increase casualties of the Armenian side. The press secretary of the President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic also confirmed that Armenian forces retreated in several areas. According to him, this was done to avoid additional casualties and inflict additional damage to Azerbaijani forces. President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian said that perhaps Armenia will have no other alternative besides recognizing the Republic of Artsakh and openly providing support to it. Despite the heavy presence of Armenian forces in Karabakh and the fact that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is deeply integrated in Armenia, for all this years, the Armenian leadership has not made steps to recognize it as an independent state or as a part of Armenia. Such actions have not been initiated even after the start of the open war with Azerbaijan in the region on Sep 27.

On top of this, it should be noted that the modern Armenia is a parliamentary republic and most of political power is concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan. The Pashinyan group is well-known for its pro-Western and anti-Russian position, that became the main reason of the weakening position of Armenia in the region that crated conditions for the Azerbaijani-Turkish push in Karabakh. Even in these conditions, the Pashinyan government continues providing a ‘strange war policy’ making no needed steps and limiting the Armenian military response in the face of the military defeat from the hands of Azerbaijan and Turkey. According to local sources and experts, this posture is a result of the need to keep conditions in which the modern Armenian leadership will be able to continue providing its anti-Russian course. As to the help from the so-called West, expectedly, nobody is hurrying up to protect the Armenias from the threat of ethnic cleansing in Karabakh.

Turkey And Azerbaijan Setting Up Diplomatic Ground For Securing Desired Victory In War With Armenia
South Front, Oct 5 2020

On Oct 5, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces continued conducting artillery and drone strikes on Armenian military positions and towns and cities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Meanwhile, they are consolidating their recent gains in the region and preparing for a new advance. The Azerbaijani military released photos showing military equipment captured from Armenian forces. At least a part of these equipment is located in the area of Qyicaq, to the east from the town of Jebrayil:

Expecting further advances by Azerbaijani forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan and Turkey have already intensified their diplomatic offensive in order to set conditions for the international recognition of the expected results of the Azerbaijani-Armenian war that has all chances to lead to the Armenian retreat from the region. On Oct 5, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that Turkey should participate in the settlement process in the recent conflict at the Azerbaijan-Armenia front line. He said:

Turkey, with its strong position in the international community, should participate in the solution process in Karabakh. Armenians are living in Azerbaijan. We have no problem with the Armenian people. The Armenian people are the hostages of their own power.

The Azerbaijani President added that they will live together in the Upper-Karabakh when the Armenian ‘occupation’ is over. Nonetheless, the evidence from the ground shows a different situation that in the event of the Azerbaijani military victory will likely lead to the ethnic cleansing of the local Armenian population. Meanwhile, Cavusoglu participated in a joint news conference with Stoltenberg in Ankara. He accused Armenia of targering civilians and slammed the Minsk group appraoch towards the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Cavusoglu urged all sides, particularly NATO, to call on Armenia to withdraw from Azerbaijani territories. He emphasized that Turkey supports its ‘Western friends’ over the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia. So, NATO should show a similar approach towards Azerbaijan. He said:

Otherwise, this problem cannot be solved. Azerbaijani lands have been under occupation for 30 years, so why don’t we say to Armenia “withdraw from Azerbaijani lands” when it comes to the Armenia-Azerbaijan issue?

Israel Considering Halting Drone Sales To Azerbaijan, Canada Suspends Sales of Drone Parts To Turkey
South Front, Oct 6 2020

As fighting continues between Armenia and Azerbaijan, an Israeli official has stated that the country may halt further weapons sales to Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Canada has announced that it is halting sales of drone parts to Turkey while it reviews evidence that the parts are being used by drones deployed by Azerbaijan to attack Armenian positions. Last week, Armenia recalled its ambassador to Israel, Armen Smbatyan, for consultations and to protest the sale of Israeli-made weapons, including drones, to Azerbaijan. The drones have been used with devastating effect against Armenian forces. Following the consultations, the Armenian ambassador stated that Israel may halt commercial weapon sales to Azerbaijan. Smbatyan told the Armenian news site Factor:

In two or three days, they seem to be on the way to stopping the supply of weapons.

He added that he had received a verbal promise that this would occur. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it would not comment on the Armenian ambassador’s statements or on Jerusalem’s export policy with regard to military products. While Israel has strong ties with both counties and has sought to maintain the appearance of neutrality in the conflict, it receives 40% of its oil supplies from Azerbaijan, making its ties with that country particularly important. Fuad Akhundov, a media spokesman in the administration of the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, told The JPost that any reports that sales would be halted were ‘fake news’ and he praised the close relations between his country and Israel. “Israel is our partner,” as part of that partnership Azerbaijan had contracts with Israel to purchase military hardware, but Akhundov claimed that the contracts only dealt with the sale of military hardware and did not involve other participation in the conflict. The drone sales “have included ThunderB the surveillance drone manufactured by Israel’s BlueBird Aero Systems company and the Hermes 900, produced by another Israeli company, Elbit Systems, used for reconnaissance and communication relay.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other on Monday of attacking civilian areas on the ninth day of fighting, which broke out on Sep 27. Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous area that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law but which is inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians. Fighting intensified over the weekend, and a ceasefire appears unlikely in the immediate future. In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev said Azeri forces were advancing and retaking areas that they lost to Armenia in the early 1990s. He demanded that Armenia set a timetable for withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories, and said Azerbaijan would continue with its military offensive until that happened. He said:

Azerbaijan has one condition, and that is the liberation of its territories. Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan.

In a related development, Canada announced that it has suspended the export of some drone technology to Turkey while it investigates allegations the equipment is being used by Azerbaijan’s military against Armenian forces, a senior official said on Monday. Project Ploughshares, a Canadian arms control group, says video of air strikes released by Baku indicates the drones were equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, a subsidiary of L3Harris Technologies Inc based in Canada. Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced:

In line with Canada’s robust export control regime and due to the ongoing hostilities, I have suspended the relevant export permits to Turkey, so as to allow time to further assess the situation.

The Globe and Mail reported that L3 Harris Wescam received permission earlier this year to ship seven of the targeting systems to Turkish drone-maker Baykar. Turkey has been a key ally of Azerbaijan in the conflict, and the drones have had an important role in the latter’s offensive military operations. Separately, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he had asked Champagne to travel to Europe “to discuss with our allies the developments in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, particularly in Nagorno-Karabakh.” While a reduction in the ongoing sales of drones to Azerbaijan would be a welcome development for Armenia, which is heavily outnumbered and outgunned, it will not significantly alter the overall balance of forces in the short term. It also remains to be seen whether Israel is willing to jeopardize its until now excellent relations with Azerbaijan, its major source of oil.

Armenian-Azerbaijani(Turkish) War Shows No Prospects For Ceasefire
South Front, Oct 6 2020

Fierce clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continue in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, where Azerbaijan seeks to dismantle the Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (a unrecognized independent state affiliated with Armenia). The Azerbaijani military gained the air dominance and exploiting the numerical superiority and advantage in heavy weapons continue developing their offensive. As of October 6, the Azerbaijani military captured three more villages from Armenian forces in the Jabrayil district in the southern part of the contested region.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev personally announced that “Azerbaijan’s Army liberated the villages of Shikhali Agali, Sarijali, and Mezre in the Jabrayil district and several strategic heights in various directions. Successful operation of our glorious Army is ongoing. Karabakh is Azerbaijan!

Earlier, the Azerbaijani leadership claimed that Amrenian forces lost the settlements of Karkhulu, Shukurbeyli, Cherekan, Dashkasan, Horovlu, Mahmudlu, Jafarabad, Yuxari Maralyan and Dejal, also in the Jabrayil district. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry also provided some fresh details regarding the alleged losses of the Armenian side. The defense ministry said on Oct 6 morning:

During the battles in various directions of the front, 2 MLRS BM-21 Grad of the Armenian army were destroyed. The multiple launch rocket systems BM-21 Grad, standing at the firing positions of the 41st Artillery Regiment, were destroyed by a strike of the Azerbaijani army. Moreover, D-20 howitzers and their combat crews, standing at the firing position of the 42nd Artillery Regiment, were destroyed by precise fire from our units.

Armenian positions, weapons and equipment captured by Azerbaijani forces:

Azerbaijani and Turkish diplomats continue insisting that Armenia has been conducting strikes on civilian targets inside Azerbaijan. One of the key propaganda narratives of the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc is that the Azerbaijani push to capture Karabakh is needed to ‘protect civilians.’ The expected ethnic cleansing of Armenians in the event of the Azerbaijani military victory is being presented by them as ‘Armenian propaganda.’ On Oct 6, Cavusoglu once again claimed that alleged Armenian attacks on civilian settlements are crime against humanity, showing their desperation. The foreign minister also criticized OSCE Minsk Group saying that Azerbaijan is a ‘victim’ and can’t be grouped in with occupying Armenian forces. The Turkish side also emphasized that Ankara is ready to provide Baku any support that it needs. Actions of Turkey and Azrebaijan in the public diplomatic sphere demonstrate that they are already almost sure in their military victory and have been working to set a diplomatic ground to secure the gains. On Oct 5, RUFUS released a joint statement calling for the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region:

Lavrov, Le Drian, and Pompeo, representing the Co-Chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, condemn in the strongest terms the unprecedented and dangerous escalation of violence in and outside of the Nagorno-Karabakh zone. The Ministers stress unconditionally that recent attacks allegedly targeting civilian centers, both along the Line of Contact and on the territories of Azerbaijan and Armenia outside the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, and the disproportionate nature of such attacks constitute an unacceptable threat to the stability of the region. Recalling the Oct 1 statement of the Heads of State of the three Co-Chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, the Ministers call once again upon the conflicting parties to accept an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The Co-Chairing countries are determined to exercise fully their mandate, entrusted to them by the OSCE and the international community, with the contribution of the Minsk Group capitals. As such, they will firmly continue to advance their engagement with the sides, and urge them to commit now to resuming the settlement process on the basis of existing core principles and relevant international documents well-known by both parties.

This statement was in fact rejected by Azerbaijan and Turkey. Meanwhile, the official Armenian propaganda is trying to paint a different picture of the situation. On Oct 6 morning, the Armenian Unified Infocenter of the Armenian Defense Ministry released a statement saying that Azerbaijani forces continue suffering large-scale losses in the conflict. In the period from Sep 27 to Oct 6, Azerbaijani forces allegedly lost 3,454 soldiers, 379 battle tanks, 4 rocket launchers, 17 military planes, 16 helicopters and 126 unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Defense Ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic claimed that Armenian forces have achieved some ‘position gains’ in the battle against Azerbaijan. An example of the military propaganda of the Armenian Defense Ministry (Google translation from Armenian):

Heroic episodes of tank battles: On Oct 2, during the enemy’s attack on the defense zone of the AO, the battery commander, Captain Gegham Martikovich Martirosyan, correctly assessing the situation and the direction of the attack, hit seven enemy tanks with an error-free shot, forcing them to retreat in panic. On Oct 2, during an enemy attack on the AO defense zone, the squadron commander, junior sergeant Sahak Vrezhovich Mkhitaryan shot down two tanks, and junior sergeant of the same squadron Ashot Yesayan shot down two tanks and two wheeled vehicles. The precise shots of the military personnel caused panic among the enemy and forced him to abandon the advance. On Oct 2, in the defense zone of the AO during the enemy attack, Major Ayaser Kamoevich Dallakyan shot down two advanced tanks that stormed a tank column and, catching the enemy by surprise, prevented the advance of the tank unit.

Nonetheless, the lack of video evidence indicates that the situation is in fact much worse than the Armenian military wants to admit. Photos and videos recently released by Armenian sources in social media were mostly focused on Azerbaijani strikes on civilian targets, including the city of Stepanakert. Journalists operating on the Armenian side of the frontline are now mostly in the area of Stepanakert.

RUPTLY shows the destruction in the city of Stepanakert:

Armenian official media and ‘activists’ are now raging and crying demanding Russia to intervene in the Nagorno-Karabakh standoff on the side of Armenian forces. Among the main narratives is the claim that Russia should do this because Armenian is a part of the CSTO. The issue is that the CSTO pact could be activated only if Armenian sovereign territory comes under attack. The Nagorno-Karabakh region is not a part of Armenia even according to the official Armenian law itself. Erevan has made zero steps to initiate the recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state or a part of Armenia. Instead, the modern Armenian government has been consistently undermining its defense and political ties with Russia. On the other hand, Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin warned on October 6 that members of Middle Eastern terrorist groups, including HTS, are being deployed to the Karabakh conflict zone. Naryshkin said:

According to the information available for the SVR, mercenaries from the international terrorist organizations fighting in the Middle East, in particular, Jabhat al-Nusra, Firkat Hamza, Sultan Murad, as well as extremist Kurdish groups, are actively moving into the conflict zone. Hundreds and even thousands of radicals hope to make money on the new Karabakh war. We have no doubt that, with the assistance of the international community, the parties to the conflict will eventually stop using force and sit down at the negotiating table. However, we cannot but be concerned that the Transcaucasia could become a new springboard for international terrorist organizations, from where militants can subsequently infiltrate into states adjacent to Azerbaijan and Armenia, including Russia.

Contrary to the Armenian propaganda, the presence of radical militant groups in Karabakh is the factor that will not be ignored by Russia. If the situation continues developing in this direction, Russia will likely consider employing more active measures to prevent attempts to turn Karabakh into the new terrorist hotbed.


  1. lobro
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    there should be a global legislation stipulating that every international weapons sale is strictly contingent on deployment of the said weapons solely by the purchaser against the seller.

    keep it in the family.

  2. Doug Colwell
    Posted October 7, 2020 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    A reasonable proposition. Often happens anyway over a longer time scale.

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