Why Azerbaijan’s war rhetoric should worry the world

Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant. Image credit — Masis Post

The thesis of a potential Armenian attack on the Mingachevir dam is actively circulated among the Azerbaijani propaganda machine, as a part of the “Şeytan Ermənistan” image they are trying to craft.

To create an image of a country, and a nation, that has no respect for the human life, and is willing to commit such an act of terror against the people of Azerbaijan.

This propaganda sometimes even leaks into Armenian nationalist circles — and each time it faces fierce debate on the ethics of war and the concept of a war crime.

Mingachevir reservoir and dam. Image credit — Nasa Earth Observatory

And, considering the fact that the Pashinyan government is so often criticized by nationalists for humanizing the people of Azerbaijan, and for its constructive approach to solving conflicts, I have every reason to believe they understand that such an act, even if it was possible, would harm not the Azerbaijani armed forces and infrastructure, but the civilian population, and create an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in the region. It would result in thousands of meaningless deaths and millions of dollars in property damage.

And seeing how Armenians have seen their share of humanitarian catastrophes, one should expect more compassion from us.

In short, Armenia is not the terrorist state that Azerbaijani government propaganda paints us to be.

But the Azerbaijani fear-mongering does not stop on that. They also circulate the antithesis of this threat — attacking the Metsamor nuclear power plant in Armenia.

And it would be bad enough if only unofficial and fringe groups circulated this theory.

Back in 2014, then-speaker of MOD of Armenia Artsrun Hovhannisyan wrote on Vaghif Daryakhli’s appointment as speaker of MOD of Azerbaijan:

But today, hours after the resignation of Elmar Mamedyarov — Azerbaijan’s minister of foreign affairs — Vaghif Daryakhli has threatened to strike at the Metsamor power plant.

At this point in time, this threat isn’t even remotely realistic. Armenia has sufficient anti-air defense in the Ararat valley to stop most attacks on the nuclear power plant, and even if Azerbaijan succeeded, the fallout would mostly be carried to Turkey — Azerbiajan’s strategic ally — as well as poison the Araks river— and then flow to the Nakhijevan region of Azerbaijan, and eventually return to Azerbaijan itself, as Araks falls into river Kura.

The location of Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant. Image credit — Google Maps.

Legally, such an act against a civilian nuclear power plant would be persecuted under International Humanitarian Law, AP1 articles 48–56, and other regulations.

But such a threat, coming from a high-ranking military official, is very problematic.

It shows the values that Azerbaijani government wants to promote among their population: disregard for civilian life and international law, justification for acts of terror against peaceful populace.

This is not a new threat; it has been circulating both by government and independent agents at least since 2008.

When you read about “bilateral hostile rhetoric” remember this: Armenian government is criticized by nationalists for humanizing the enemy. Azerbaijani government tells their citizens they are ready to blow up a nuclear power plant.

Many Armenians responded to the recent mass demonstrations in Baku with horror and disbelief. Not because protesters chanted “death to Armenians”. But because we knew such careless violations of social distancing and other safety measures would result in a surge of COVID-19 infections in the region. The pandemic is larger than Armenia and Azerbaijan, it has already claimed 20 times more lives than the whole Karabakh war. It is supposed to be a time of solidarity and cooperation, yet here we are, among ruins and artillery fire, listening to threats to blow up a nuclear power plant.

And the official Baku needs to answer for this.



Writer and columnist based in Yerevan, Armenia

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