Chisinau Forum III: David Shahnazaryan – In the current global insecurity the war by accident becomes a real threat

Oct. 7, 2019

David Shahnazaryan, former head of secret services, former ambassador, political and civic activist (Armenia)

First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the organizers of this event – for creating an opportunity for us to participate and to speak in these discussions. Although I disagree with some of what has been said here, communicating with such a bright audience is certainly helpful and enjoyable.

It was said here that English is the language of empire. First, let’s understand what empire is. Former geographical empires are no longer relevant today. In my humble opinion, an empire is a country that exports energy – political, economic, technological, and military energy. If we look at the notion of empire from this point of view, there are three empires in the world now. The United States is a political, military, economic and technological empire, Russia is a political and military empire, while China in an economic, technological and political empire. It is obvious that we live now in a multi-polar world.

As for globalization, I would like to stress that I am neither globalist nor anti-globalist. I think that there are both positive and negative in globalization. At present, one of the most dangerous outcomes of globalization is the globalization of danger, threat, and unpredictability. Today, virtually all the countries across Eurasia and not only, experience what we call lack of security.

The main reason is that the system of international security, the European security system that was created in the aftermath of World War II, the so-called Yalta and Potsdam security system, stopped operating long time ago. And so far we have not seen any serious tendencies towards creating any other system that would replace it.

Today we live in a world where a friend of your friend can be your enemy, and a friend of your enemy can be your friend as well. We live in an extremely explosive world.

The previous speakers have touched upon the situation in Iran. I am not going to analyze the current situation in and around Iran, but would like to focus on a set of concerns.

I just would like to present some considerations in view of the dangerous developments around the Islamic Republic, as Washington and Tehran remain locked in the ongoing standoff with no end in sight.

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Despite some recent positive trends and moves, which have reduced the risk of a possible military action against Iran, the situation around the Islamic Republic remains quite explosive. U.S. attempts to put together a new coalition of nations to counter what it sees as a renewed maritime threat from Iran, the deployment of warships in the Persian Gulf, the seizure of oil tankers and destruction of military drones have created a situation, when hostilities are more likely to be triggered by the so-called ‘war by accident’, rather than by a political decision of one of the major involved parties.

Given the large number of key players and stakeholders in this process, involving both public and non-public actors, it is not ruled out that one of the players may attempt to provoke a hostility that could be portrayed as ‘war by accident’.

In case of the worst possible scenario – if hostilities and war break out – it is obvious that ground operation against Iran is practically impossible, first of all, because of geography – we mean mountain ranges along some of its border, deserts in the East, swamps in the South and Turkey in the East that would not let US troops use its land to invade Iran.

But it is also evident that the geography of the military operation theater would expand significantly across the region. Military operations may embrace countries that would be involved in war inadvertently. As a result, the number of nations involved in hostilities would increase dramatically and the hostilities would extend throughout the Middle East- from Syria to the UAE, from Iran to Saudi Arabia, and so on.

In the event of hostilities against Iran, it is more than likely that it would take Tehran from four to six months to develop a nuclear weapon. Some experts are tending to consider the situation around the Islamic Republic to be much more complicated than the Caribbean Crisis, saying the latter involved two parties only and it was much easier for them to seek a way out, while in the case of Iran, as already mentioned, the evident and non-evident key actors are many.

It is more than obvious that in the event of hostilities or war, it would be impossible to calculate all the scenarios, but one thing is clear: massive airstrikes against Iran would trigger a large influx of refugees from that country. Most likely, Turkey would close its borders, and those flows would head north to the borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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This would pose a serious threat not only to Armenia and Azerbaijan but also to Russia. Some Russian military experts have already argued that Russia would have to increase and consolidate the number of its frontier troops on the Armenia-Iran border, take also control of Azerbaijan-Iran border, as well as the actual border between Nagorno-Karabakh and Iran.

In the event of such developments, it may be difficult for Azerbaijan to sit on different geopolitical chairs at the same time and official Baku would be more likely to allow Russia to take control of its border with Iran (including its exclave Nakhichevan) as the large flow of refugees would become a source of serious domestic political instability.

The hostilities against Iran would produce no winners, neither military nor political. All would lose. But there is no doubt that Russia would get the biggest political dividends and maybe China as well. Possible hostilities against Iran would greatly enhance Russia’s role and none other than Moscow could assume the part of a mediator. China might also show assistance to Moscow.

The Russia-Iran relations are already acquiring strategic allied qualities. As evidence, we can point out the recently signed agreement on expanded military cooperation between Iran and Russia. Iran is pursuing closer ties with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The sides are completing a set of procedures necessary for the entry into force of an interim agreement establishing a free trade zone between Iran and the EEU, which is to begin operating staring October 27, 2019.

Given Turkey’s growing multilateral cooperation with Russia, it is safe to say that the Moscow-Ankara-Tehran triangle will become decisive, with Russia gaining significant influence in it. This trilateral cooperation may have a different meaning and impact, also in a variety of processes in a much larger region.

Back to the negative manifestations of globalization, there is one concern I would like to share with you – it is the spreading globalization of new values.Particularly in my country, Armenia, there are processes underway that are extremely dangerous to our statehood. A Western organization has a huge influence on the incumbent Armenian government, runs a large network of NGOs, which are  actually weakening our  statehood, and openly protect those who commit terrorist acts. Let me be clear what organization  I am talking about – it is  the Open Society Foundations or the Soros Foundation, which is acting against the Armenian statehood, against Nagorno-Karabakh, seeking to weaken our armed forces.

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A terrorist attack was carried out in Yerevan against a police station in July 2016 by a terrorist group, who took hostages and killed three police officers. After the change of power in 2018, the members of that group were not only acquitted but also established a political party.

These problems are of vital importance to Armenia because if Georgia is Georgia even without Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Ukraine is Ukraine even without Crimea, Donbassand Lugansk, the Republic of Armenia will be in danger of losing its statehood without the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The activities of the aforementioned organization are primarily directed against Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the end, I would like to add that there is no doubt that a new international security system can only be created through negotiations. Now, in the time of hybrid wars, diplomacy seems to have been pushed backwards.

think that a new international security system could be created only through  cooperation by Russia, the United States and China. I think we should all, with our modest means, promote this idea that the world has no other way than to create a new security system.

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