Russia’s motivation behind its brokering of a Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal was, simply put, to prevent Turkey from establishing a stronger presence in an area Russia has long considered to be its vulnerable southern flank. The six week-long conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia brought Turkish and Russian material, and diplomatic support to their respective allies. Turkey backed Azerbaijan’s military offensive and was active in undermining mediation efforts throughout the conflict. Russia supported Armenia with similar determination. It even sponsored two of the three temporary ceasefires that had been agreed upon during the conflict, only to be broken and disregarded hours later.
The deal went into effect Monday at 1600 hours Eastern Standard Time. Under the terms of the deal, Azerbaijan will hold onto the areas of Nagorno-Karabakh that it captured during the conflict. Armenia will vacate these areas, as well as adjacent ones over the next 2-3 weeks. 1,900 Russian peacekeepers will be deployed along the new boundaries, and to patrol the Lachin Corridor, which connects the Karabakh capital city of Stepanakert to Armenia. Turkey will also take part in the peacekeeping process, but in a limited role that will not include combat soldiers being deployed on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh. The terms of the agreement will also include an exchange of war prisoners, and the resumption of economic and transportation ties between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The peace deal is a clear victory for Azerbaijan, and a defeat for Armenia. In Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, there is a mood of celebration and relief. The signing of the deal marks a successful conclusion to a decades-long fight. In Armenia, the mood was quite different. Unrest has broken out in Yerveran, the Armenian capital. Throngs of protesters stormed government offices, and the parliament building on Monday night. But on Tuesday morning, the frustration and anger seemed to have passed. The streets were quiet and calm. The crowds that took part in the unrest believed the fighting should’ve continued on in spite of the circumstances. Armenian leaders believed otherwise.
For better or worse, the fighting has ended and peace has returned to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Thursday’s agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations is attracting its fair share of backlash in the Middle East. Predictably, Iran is not too thrilled with the deal. On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered a speech in which he called the move an act of betrayal by the UAE. “They [the UAE] better be mindful. They have committed a huge mistake, a treacherous act,” he said. The remarks caused the UAE government to summon the Iran’s charge d’affaires in Abu Dhabi. The UAE foreign ministry called Rouhani’s speech “unacceptable and inflammatory and had serious implications for security and stability in the Gulf region”. Iran was also reminded of its obligation to protect the UAE diplomatic mission in Tehran. Considering Iran’s history of encouraging protests in front of the embassies and missions of its neighbors in Tehran when their policies go against Iranian interests, the move was smart.
Iran has had a difficult August. The Israel-UAE deal is only the latest heartburn for the regime. Tehran was already dealing with an uncertain future for Hezbollah in Lebanon following the Beirut explosion, a still unsolved string of fires and explosions at energy and nuclear sites inside of Iran, the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country, and the prospect of deeper economic sanctions looming in the future. After a US resolution to extend the arms embargo on Iran was defeated at the UN on Friday President Trump has vowed there will be snapback sanctions. The exact mechanism for bringing the snapback into play is being contested. The European Union claims since the US unilaterally removed itself from the JCPOA it does not have the power to bring about snapback sanctions. Washington claims otherwise. Either way, the Trump administration does have the power to levy even stricter sanctions on Iran, and pressure friendly nations to do the same.
Iran will be on the radar for the next couple of weeks at least so I suggest keeping an eye on news coming out of the Persian Gulf region.
Sometimes the people know better. That’s the political rallying cry across the globe in 2016. The populations of many nation-states around the world have grown quite dissatisfied with the way their respective governments are doing their job lately. We saw it in Germany when voters made their displeasure with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies known. It was evident in the United Kingdom during the Brexit referendum which passed by a comfortable margin. And of course, we are seeing it here in the United States with the emergence of anti-establishment presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Now add Colombia to the list. On Sunday, the Colombian people narrowly rejected a peace deal that would have ended the conflict between the Colombian government and FARC, the largest rebel group in the country. The rejection came as a surprise to many observers and politicians, especially considering that recent polls indicated the deal would meet approval by a large margin. The results of the referendum will prove to be a defeat and embarrassment for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. After long periods of negotiating, Santos and FARC finally reached an agreement. It was the terms of the agreement, though, that left a bad taste in the mouths of many Colombians.
The conflict between the government and FARC has been raging for 52 years. During this time the insurgent group has committed countless killings and kidnappings across the country. The scars of FARC attacks are embedded in the Columbian landscape and in the hearts and minds of its citizens. Under the peace deal, most FARC members would have received amnesty. A slim majority of Colombians felt this made the agreement to lenient and lacking justice.
What happens next remains to be seen. Neither side desires a return to the fighting that has been going on for over a half-century. Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Lodono will likely go back to the negotiating table to hammer out a new peace deal that the Colombian people will find acceptable. The cease-fire that was put in place during the previous round of negotiations will remain in place for the short term.
In any case, the people of Colombia have been heard and now it is the responsibility of their leaders to craft a peace deal that is acceptable to them.