Azerbaijani black market: Where do the western weapons go?

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KYIV, BM, ($1=27.00 Ukrainian Hryvnia) – The U.S. President Joe Biden prolonged the moratorium on prohibition of deliveries to Azerbaijan of the military equipment and the weapon at the end of April. Previously Baku could not benefit from the opportunity of purchasing of armament from Washington according to the Section 907 amendment of the Freedom Support Act of the U.S. Congress, which was accepted in 1992 and completely banned any kind of direct United States aid with arms supplies to Azerbaijan.

However introduction of the moratorium on prohibition of deliveries of armament to Azerbaijan in 2002 allowed the American corporations to sell the weapon directly to Baku. Only the decision of the US Secretary of State, based on incontestable proofs of use of the American weapon by Azerbaijan for the purpose of development of the conflictogenic situation in the region or initiation of aggression against Armenia, can freeze cooperation of Baku and Washington in the military sphere. Referring to the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s words, exports of arms to Baku are also necessary for support of efforts of Washington to counter the international terrorism.

Meanwhile a number of eminent experts and politicians are skeptical about the appropriateness of the step of the White House, indicating the need for establishing legislative measures setting severe restrictions on armament supplies to Azerbaijan, and not only for the USA, but also for other NATO allies. In particular, Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, criticized the decision of the United States Presidential Administration to prolong the moratorium. In his view, receiving regular military aid from the USA or the countries of the European Union, the Azerbaijani authorities not only conceal that it will be sent to war with Armenia for Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), but also deliberately omit the fact that the part of armament is subsequently sold to the third countries, terrorists or on the black market.

This is certainly not an unreasonable approach. Much evidence incriminating Azerbaijan in illicit trafficking in weapons in the black market were already made public. For example, Baku as a part of regular military exercises in 2017 showed the Czech MLRS RM-70, – multiple launch rocket systems which Azerbaijan could not simply have under the laws in force in the Czech Republic confirmed with statements of Czech officials. At that time Armenia was already blaring about the appearing of these military assets in Nagorno-Karabakh, and nevertheless the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic officially declared an impossibility of such transaction. As a result, the point of view about its smuggling origin began to prevail among military experts.

Besides, many analysts reasonably suspect Baku of resupplying of arms and ammunition of ISIL militants in Syria and other hot zones. For example, the investigation by the Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhiyeva was published in the Bulgarian newspaper «Trud». With the reference to the confidential data obtained by group of the hackers acting under the name of «Anonymous Bulgaria» the facts of participation of the Azerbaijani state-owned airline «Silk Way Airlines» in deliveries of armament to Saudi Arabia, and from there to the pro-Saudi forces in Yemen, to jihadists in Syria, and also to Mali, Burkina Faso and Afghanistan, were made public. At the same time it turned out that suppliers and arms manufacturers were the «VMZ» and «Transmobile» companies from Bulgaria, «Yugoimport» from Serbia and «CIHAZ» from Azerbaijan.

It is noteworthy that even the independent Azerbaijani analysts resisting to authoritarian regime of the president Ilham Aliyev adhere to the similar point of view. So, according to the messages of «Timeturk» news agency, Azerbaijanis form the isolated part of the militarized «Makhmut» group which participates in military operations against troops of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Experts noted that most of the weapons fall straight into hands of fighters of ISIL through formations of this sort, and also not without the help of the Turkish financial institutions, and afterwards emerge worldwide.

Consequently, there is the reasonable question whether the USA need such laws which legalize supplies of armament to authoritarian regimes. Daniel Larison, the American historian, and also the editor and the weekly observer of the analytical «Antiwar» website is convinced that the US do not need it. He called upon Washington to start elaborating the legal mechanism which will allow to ban deliveries of arms of NATO to Azerbaijan. According to Larison, military support to Baku from the White House posed a real threat of jeopardizing the stability in the Caucasus, and stopping to promote development of scales of this threat is the least that the USA can do.

So, if the USA and the European countries really want to justify the commitment to protection of human rights in foreign policy and counter the international terrorism, they should begin with reforming of the legislation system, and in particular, with the termination of any military aid to Azerbaijan. At the same time the preconditions for reconceptualizing this postulate were already formed among the experts and political communities of the USA and Europe.

The Karabakh transit or how weapons falls into hands of Islamists

At the end of June independent journalists of information portal «Arms Watch» have published video shot in the Syrian province of Idlib, where terrorists from «Tahrir al-Sham» group fired at positions of government troops of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. This video frame could get lost easily among tens of other video records coming from the warring country, but there is one circumstance. It is visible that fighters use modern arms, including the American and Turkish antitank missile weapons and small arms on a propaganda video clip.

This circumstance has caused rough reaction of military experts who have been surprised with availability at Islamists of impressive volumes of expensive arms of the western production. At the same time the Syrian military have published several photos of similar types of the ammunition withdrawn from extremists for the last several months in Idlib. Moreover analysts have noted that antitank missiles are quite difficult in use and demand special certification that, in turn, indicates participation of foreign patrons of the Syrian jihadists group in direct deliveries of sensitive types of weapon to a zone of conflict. But only uncontrollable to Bashar al-Assad’s troops the route in Idlib passes through border of the northern neighbor – Turkey.

Ankara was included in reports of monitoring missions more than once as the side directly supporting fighters «Tahrir al-Sham». However until recently Turkish patrons nevertheless did not risk to use during military operations against government troops the latest NATO «military toys». Really the odious Turkish leader Recep Erdogan has individually decided to raise rates in the Syrian game or others are involved in a regional situation, and what about Karabakh?

The same fighting groups from «Tahrir al-Sham» took part in the 44-day military conflict between the Armenian military formations in the territory of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Azerbaijani armed forces supported by Turkey. Recruited by the Turkish emissaries in Idlibe, they for a «modest» payment in $2000 have gone to Karabakh to help Azerbaijan with fight against «gentiles». According to the oppositional organization «The Syrian Observatory on Human Rights» located in London, among the Syrian mercenaries enlisted by Turkey there were also fighters who battled for «The Islamic state» and the jihadist groups connected with «Al-Qaeda».

The military analyst Michael Coffman, the head of the Russian programs of the non-governmental research center CNA in Washington, believes that Azerbaijan aimed to minimize own losses. Elisabeth Tsurkov from the Center of global policy in Washington, having interrogated several tens Syrians participating in the conflict, she agrees that those were used as «gun meat», especially in the south of military operations.

However most of ordinary mercenaries have not received the promised money, but terrorists nevertheless were not left without a peculiar gesture of a gratitude from the employers. Following a saying «give a man fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for life», to fighters not only have allowed to return freely to Syria through the territory of Turkey, but also have allowed to take away with themselves the weapon given for war with Armenians among which several antitank missile weapons for certain could «worm way». And on an accidental combination of circumstances, victorious completion of the Karabakh conflict has matched growth of a quantity of the recorded facts of hit of the latest samples of arms in Idlib.

There are no doubts that the Turkish authorities together with Azerbaijan throw down thus a challenge to all world community, openly exploiting jihadists. Baku will hardly manage to be washed from the shadow cast on its reputation from cooperation with terrorists for the sake of achievement of the goal of a conquest of Nagorno-Karabakh. And partners of Turkey in North Atlantic alliance in turn should think of expediency of further military and technical cooperation with Ankara, especially against signing in the middle of June of the Azerbaijani-Turkish agreement on military cooperation expanding access of Baku to modern arms of NATO. Who knows against whom it can be used already tomorrow.

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