In an analytical article published by al Monitor, Turkish analyst Metin Gorkan asked whether the Azerbaijani-Armenian confrontations would turn into a broad regional conflict, stressing that the course of the conflict’s development is decisive in this multi-player region rich in energy resources.
In his reading of recent developments, Gorkan enumerated 5 main factors of confrontation:
- Azerbaijan and Armenia acquire new military capabilities, especially with regard to drones, indirect fire, intelligence, surveillance, and others.
- Significant changes occurred in terms of energy policies in the Southern Caucasus.
- The Azerbaijani and Armenian governments came under pressure from economic problems and their need to distract their people.
- The rise in popularity of nationalist and populist tendencies in Azerbaijan and Armenia, which is why Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan adopted more escalatory positions.
- Moscow seems to be looking for an opportunity to weaken the Pashinyan government, which is considered less friendly with Moscow compared to the Armenian administrations of its predecessor.
With regard to the field situation, Gorkan recalled the confrontations that took place in April 2016 and last July, indicating that they lasted for days before Moscow intervened.
In this context, Gorkan was surprised by the timid Russian position this time, indicating that the Kremlin does not seem willing to bring both Aliyev and Pashinyan to the negotiating table.
Gorkan, who confirmed that the Azerbaijani army was in an offensive position, warned that the rugged terrain and winter weather conditions were in the interest of the Armenian forces.
“The Azerbaijani army opens new fronts in an effort to force the Armenian forces to disperse,” Gorkan added.
For their part, the Armenians take advantage of their defensive position to shower the Azerbaijani forces with rocket-propelled grenades and rockets in order to slow and confuse them.
Meanwhile, explosive drones – a new element on the battlefield – are hunting very valuable targets.
In addition, Gorkan referred to the absence of the air force, despite Armenia’s claim that a Turkish F-16 plane shot down its Su-25, commenting: “In the absence of warplanes and attack helicopters, the Azerbaijani army failed to support its forces.
The wild closely and thus accelerate the pace of its progress”.
With regard to ballistic missiles, Gorkan spoke of the absence of signs indicating the possibility of the two parties working on using them.
Note that Armenia possesses Russian Iskander ballistic missiles (with a range of 280 km), and as for Azerbaijan’s arsenal, it includes Israeli “Lora” missiles (with a range of 300 km).
Based on the political data, Gorkan ruled out the use of ballistic missiles by Azerbaijan and Armenia without Russia’s approval, considering that the move to deploy warplanes and ballistic missiles is a prelude to the outbreak of a conventional war.
Accordingly, Gorkan emphasized that two vital factors distinguish the Azerbaijani-Armenian confrontations in comparison with previous ones:
The drones: Azerbaijan uses Turkish “TB2” and “Kargu-2” explosive drones, which would change the nature of the clashes in the Caucasus.
It appears that Armenia has been hit hard by the drone attacks.
The heat of the information war and the role of social media: The Azeris are trying to show their strength by publishing clips of the strikes of the drones on social media, while the Armenian propaganda focuses on mainly “misleading” reports, with the aim of pleading with Russian and Western support.
Based on the foregoing, Gorkan suggested that the confrontations between the two countries would end within a week, after the occurrence of external intervention, for the following two reasons:
The Caucasus region is Russia’s back garden, and Moscow wants to prevent NATO from exploiting a regional dispute to enter it.
Therefore, Russia has an interest in preventing the clashes from reaching the level of a conventional military confrontation.
Turkey and Iran are in the grip of economic crises and wish to avoid the repercussions of a regional war, including security costs, immigration and postponement of regional political and commercial initiatives.
Turkey is also keen to ensure the continuity of energy supplies from the Caspian Sea basin.
Turkey warns that its relationship with Russia in Syria and Libya will be affected, the reality that calls for keeping the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the level of light battles of distraction.
In the same context, Gorkan expected that the winter weather conditions and rugged terrain would limit the expansion of military operations, adding that the economic conditions in both Azerbaijan and Armenia would prevent them from entering into a conventional military confrontation.
Contrary to previous times, Gorkan warned that the front fronts “may not completely calm down this time,” concluding: “The possibility of a prolonged war of attrition, interspersed with low-intensity rounds of conflict and proxy war, and a war of marches and information cannot be ruled out”.