In an interview with the website Modern.az, Vafa Guluzade, a former advisor to the president of Azerbaijan, spoke about Azerbaijan’s capabilities to seize Nagorno-Karabakh and acknowledged that for Baku, “cooperation with al-Qaeda may be its best hope.”
Baku has made use of al-Qaeda before, during the Azerbaijani-Karabakh War of 1991-1994. Azerbaijan’s leaders employed the services of 1500 Afghan mujahideen and a force of mercenaries led by Shamil Basayev for the war against the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Documents, letters and photographs belonging to the Afghan mujahedin were found after the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army defeated them in 1993. According to a November 14, 1999 Associated Press report, one of Osama bin Laden’s associates claimed that Bin Laden himself led the mujahedin in at least two battles against Nagorno-Karabakh.
In September 2009, 34-year-old Sibel Edmonds, an FBI translator born in Turkey, said that bin Laden fighters were moved from from East Turkestan “into Kyrgyzstan, from Kyrgyzstan to Azerbaijan, from Azerbaijan some of them were being channeled to Chechnya, some of them were being channeled to Bosnia. People and weapons went one way, drugs came back....”
Azerbaijan used the al-Qaeda terrorist organization as one of its main regional central bases for organizing terrorist acts around the world. Considering that the Baku authorities are in full control of Azerbaijan, al-Qaeda obviously could not operate in the country without their approval. In 2001, the US Congressional Research Service issued a report stating that al-Qaeda had established a base in Azerbaijan as part of its terrorist network. Ibrahim Eydarus, whom the FBI arrested in 1998 for the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, headed the Azerbaijani branch of al-Qaeda from 1995-1997. Another terrorist, Radi el Haj, who was convicted in a New York court of committing acts of terrorism — US embassy bombings — admitted that he had previously been in Baku, where an organization was registered through which funds for terrorist attacks were funneled. US intelligence intercepted phone calls by al-Qaeda representatives from Baku to Kenya and Tanzania while preparations for carrying out the terrorist acts were being made and attacks carried out. Al-Qaeda representatives in Baku sent a fax ordering the bombing of the American Embassy in Kenya. Under US pressure, Azerbaijan in 2009 made a show of eliminating nine terrorist organizations linked to al-Qaeda, but they were only a small part of the extensive and influential terrorist network in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani officials regularly make revanchist statements demanding the return to Azerbaijan of various regions of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh in its entirety. Their territorial demands for Armenian lands, which the Baku authorities call “Western Azerbaijan,” are growing. The archaic nature of the unfounded territorial claims against Azerbaijan is reminiscent of the absurd demands by al-Qaeda leaders that Spain withdraw its troops from South and Central Spain (the areas of Toledo, Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz, Valencia, Zaragoza), and give more than half of Spain to the Moors. They made similar demands on Portugal for Algarve; on Italy for Sicily, Sardinia and Calabria; on Greece for Crete; and on France for Languedoc.
Azerbaijan’s efforts to claim all of the historical monuments in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and other neighboring countries sounds very much like al-Qaeda’s inventions about American history. An article by Alexander Ignatenko in the December 15, 2010 edition of the Independent Gazette — Religion cites a statement typical of this kind of thinking about America’s pre-Columbian history: “The ruins of mosques and minarets with carvings of Quran verses have been found in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada... In Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico there are remnants of madrassas that once existed there.” That is very reminiscent, often literally, of the fantasies cooked up by Azeri propagandists and falsifiers of history.
Official Baku is threatening to shoot down civilian aircraft flying into Stepanakert — Nagorno Karabakh’s capital. In 2011, Civil Aviation Director Arif Mammadov, said, “Azerbaijan may destroy planes intending to land at the airport.” A number of Azerbaijani MPs and non-governmental organizations have urged that the first civilian aircraft going in for a landing at the new airport in Stepanakert be shot down. These terrorist appeals are a challenge not just to Nagorno-Karabakh, but to the entire international community. The US ambassador to Azerbaijan and Armenia has strongly condemned Baku’s terrorist threats to shoot down civilian aircraft in Nagorno-Karabakh, describing them as totally unacceptable.
On May 11, 2012, Armenia’s Ambassador to the UN, Karen Nazaryan, accused Azerbaijan of having links with international terrorist groups. He expressed deep concern that international organizations distinctly say that Azerbaijan territory is freely used by various terrorist and radical religious groups who consider the country a convenient and safe area for their activities. He also said these groups are engaged in the illegal movement of people, weapons and money, which is why the international community continues to sound the alarm about Azerbaijan’s failure to stop them. Nazaryan stressed that there is a well-documented close relationship between Azerbaijani authorities and the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups that carried out the terrorist intervention in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s.
Ruben Zargaryan holds a Candidate of Science (History) Degree and is an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This article was written expressly for New Eastern Outlook.