YERASKH (AEI.org) — For most people, Yeraskh is just a rest stop on the road between Yerevan and southern Armenia. For those who look, however, the signs of conflict in the South Caucasus are evident. Less than 200 yards after the road ends is the border of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani military posts overlook the town. Mount Ararat, long part of Armenia until the Turkish-led Armenian Genocide ethnically cleansed the region, dominates the horizon to the West. The Turkish frontier is just four miles away. Just a mile or so further is Iran’s border. Just outside of town, a berm interspersed with bunkers built in the early 1990s rises between the road and the Azerbaijani border to protect drivers from Azerbaijani snipers. A Russian flag flaps in the wind at a memorial just a few hundred feet from the road where, just over two and a half years ago, an Azerbaijani soldier shot down a Russian helicopter on the last day of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War.
I drove through Yeraskh just hours after Azerbaijan fired upon a vehicle carrying two Indian employees of a US-funded metallurgy company in the town. The attack was unprovoked.
It also highlights two realities. The first is that, contrary to the State Department’s certification that Azerbaijan has foresworn military action to resolve its dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, it continues to use its military to terrorize.
The second is that Azerbaijan may use the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute as an excuse, but its target is Armenia proper. Yeraskh is Armenia proper, officially disputed by no other country. I continued along the road to Jermuk, an Armenian spa town dominated by a ski resort and natural spring, whose mineral-rich waters allegedly have healing properties. In September 2022, Azerbaijani forces launched a surprise attack on the town using drones, artillery, and sniper fire. The town is an economic hub, but has no military base nor is it in disputed territory. Despite this, Azerbaijan continues to occupy over 23 square miles on the town’s outskirts, putting most townsmen and visitors under imminent threat of sniper fire.
The State Department may tweet that it is “deeply concerned” but its words are meaningless and its actions increasingly in contravention of US law that prohibits allowing military assistance to Azerbaijan so long as Azerbaijan harbors military ambitions.
With Azerbaijan now attacking American interests within the sovereign territory of Armenia, it is now time for the Biden administration to revoke the waiver on Section 907 and immediately cease all military and other non-humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan. Anything less would be an affront to Congress and will suggest President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are uninterested in defending American interests, American lives, or abiding by American law. To respond with rhetoric alone would also set back peace by convincing Azerbaijan that it faces no real consequences for continued aggression.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East.