south front for friday

Neo-Ottoman Nights Of Armenian-Azerbaijani War
South Front, Oct 29 2020

Turkish Sultan-in-Chief Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come up with a justification for the deployment of Syrian militants to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone to support the war against Armenia. According to him, at least 2,000 fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are supporting Armenian forces there. During the meeting with the ruling Justice and Development Party parliamentary group, Erdogan claimed that during the phone call with Putin he allegedly told him:

We have identified, through intelligence sources, that there are some 2,000 PKK terrorists fighting for Armenia at the moment for $600. Mr President said he was not aware of that. I have told Putin that if our red lines are crossed, we would not hesitate to take action.

Apparently, these non-existent PKK and YPG members in Karabakh are to justify direct Turkish involvement in the conflict on the side of Azerbaijan and somehow neutralize the mounting evidence showing Turkish-backed al-Qaeda-linked militants moving to Karabakh. Meanwhile, the Armenian side revealed radar data confirming the involvement of the Turkish Air Force in the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The released tracks show that Turkish warplanes deployed in Azerbaijan provide air cover for Bayraktar TB2 drones striking Armenian positions, while the Turkish aerial command post circulating in Turkish airspace, near the conflict zone, coordinates the entire aerial operation. The entire operation, according to Armenia, was planned and carried out with the deep involvement of Turkish military specialists. Under the pressure of evidence, the Azerbaijani side has already admitted the presence of Turkish specialists and military equipment on its territory. The last step towards reality would be to confirm that they are involved in combat.

On Oct 28-29, forces of the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc were conducting intensive strikes on Shushi and Stepanakert, the largest towns in Nagorno-Karabakh. Several airstrikes even hit the maternity section of the hospital in Stepanakert. Some sources even speculated that these strikes were delivered by F-16 warplanes. On the other hand, the Armenian side demonstrated that it is not much better and shelled the Azerbaijani town of Barda killing at least 21 people and wounding 70 others. The Turkish-Azerbaijani shelling of settlements and towns in Nagorno-Karabakh is a logical result of its attempt to remove Armenians from the region. Therefore, their strikes are aimed not only at military targets, but also at civilian ones in order to displace the local population. Meanwhile, the Armenian retaliation in a similar manner rarely has real military goals, rather it helps Ankara and Baku to gain some ‘evidence’ to confirm its propaganda narrative about ‘Armenian terrorism’. Moreover, these actions of the sides contribute to the further escalation of the conflict and undermine any weak hopes for escalation via diplomatic channels.

On Oct 29, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that it continues combat operations in the Khojavend, Fizuli, and Gubadli directions of the front calling its offensive ‘retaliatory measures’ to contain Armenian ceasefire violations. According to Baku, the Armenians lost two T-72 tanks, two BM-21 “Grad” MLRS, 14 different types of howitzers, and 6 auto vehicles in recent clashes. Earlier, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that his forces had captured 13 more settlements in the districts of Zangilan, Fuzuli, Jabrayil and Gubadli. In their turn, the Armenian military claimed that it has repelled an Azerbaijani attack in the direction of the towns of Kapan and Meghri in southern Armenia inflicting numerous casualties on the ‘enemy.’ Armenian forces are also counter-attacking in the district of the Gubadli, aiming to retake the district center. However, this attack reportedly was repelled. As of Oct 29, Armenian forces have contained Azerbaijani attempts to reach and fully cut off the Lachin corridor linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Nonetheless, the situation in the area remains instable and the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc still continues its offensive operations in this direction.

Both Armenia & Azerbaijan Claimed Advance In Nagorno-Karabakh
South Front, Oct 30 2020

On Oct 30, Azerbaijani forces resumed their advance in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and captured more settlements. In a statement, Aliyev announced that Azerbaijani forces had captured the following settlements:
Khudaverdili, Gurbantapa, Shahvaladli and Khubyarli of Jabrayil district;
Aladin, Vejnali of Zangilan district;
Kavdadig, Mamar and Mollali of Gubadli district;
Meanwhile, Armenian forces continue to push back. In the last 24 hours, a number of villages east of Karin Tak were reportedly recaptured from Azerbaijani troops. The Ministry of Defense of Armenia claims that Azerbaijan has lost 232 drones, 16 helicopters, 25 warplanes, 649 military vehicles, 6 heavy rocket launchers and 6,914 service members since the outbreak of the battle in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sep 27.

The fierce resistance of Armenian forces slowed down Azerbaijani troops in the last few days. The cashes are largely limited to Nagorno-Karabakh’s southeastern part. The Azerbaijani military is relying on its heavy fire power, advanced weapon systems and the support of hundreds of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries. Armenian forces on the other side are fighting on their own.

How Close Is Too Close? Russia Admits Concern Over Militants In South Caucasus
South Front, Oct 30 2020

The Russian Foreign Ministry does not deny the danger of mercenaries from Syria and Libya participating in the battles in Nagorno-Karabakh “infiltrating” into Russia. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said in an interview with RIA Novosti:

It is certainly impossible to deny such a danger. There are no trifles in the fight against terrorism. It is important to analyze any risks, including potential ones, to work ahead of the curve. Russian law enforcement agencies are closely monitoring the situation and, as they say,” keep their finger on the pulse.

The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, Sergei Naryshkin, previously stated that, according to available information, mercenaries from international terrorist organizations fighting in the Middle East are actively pulling into the conflict zone, and they are being deployed in the thousands. Earlier, Oleg Siromolotov had a meeting with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Armenia to the Russian Federation Vardan Toghanyan. The parties exchanged views in the context of the ongoing escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. the press release stated:

The inadmissibility of the transfer of militants of illegal armed groups from a number of countries of the Middle East and North Africa to the region and the need for immediate withdrawal of those militants from the region were highlighted.

According to available information, thousands of militants are being sent to Azerbaijan from Turkey. The trip reportedly 3 months and the salary is $2k/month, while the trip to Libya lasts 6 months and the salary is $1.5k/month. Earlier, Putin in a telephone conversation with Erdogan had expressed concern about the involvement of militants in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Russian President and the Turkish president also discussed developments in Syria and Libya over the phone. Both Azerbaijan and Turkey are aware that Armenia’s policy in the last few years doesn’t make it easy for Russia to step in and assist Yerevan. Despite the agreement for mutual defense, Russia will not move in to assist the Nikol Pashniyan government, and especially in a region that Armenia itself doesn’t recognize as independent, and it’s a sort of limbo. However, as mentioned above, Russia sees the presence of militants in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the wider South Caucasus as a red line, which could warrant it moving in, so that the situation doesn’t deteriorate further. After all, Moscow has already gone through two Chechen wars against al-Qaeda (as its an open secret that its supporters were quite active).

The endeavor to combat terrorism and contain the potential threat of it spreading towards Russia were also one of the main reasons why it began its campaign in Syria, after it was invited by President Bashar al-Assad’s government. As such, Azerbaijan and Turkey are more than enough to effectively capture the entire Nagorno-Karabakh, and it is puzzling why they’re undermining their own chances by deploying more militants to the region. And there’s several speculations for the reason: It could be that Ankara and Baku have trusted the Neo-Ottoman propaganda too far, and Turkey has become too used to using “cannon fodder” on the battlefield. The obvious examples are Syria and Libya. Ankara could be interested in further expansion towards Russia’s North Caucasus, and using Syrian-based proxy groups is also a part of this plan. How this will work out? Only time will tell. Regardless, currently, it appears that Baku and Ankara are on the edge of prompting Russia to take part, and it is to be seen whether they will go too far.

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