Simultaneously, NATO has been pushing into the region.  Georgia, Azerbaijan, and to some extent even the ex-Soviet republics on the other side of the Caspian Sea, are on the path to joining NATO.  Russia was already upset that, following the Cold War, NATO had absorbed the former Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe.  NATO is now attempting, in effect, to do the same thing on Russia’s southern border. Russia fears that it will eventually be virtually surrounded by NATO.  As a result, we have Cold War II: The U.S. and NATO are trying to push into the Caucasus and Central Asia, while Russia is trying to keep them out.

MZ: Why is Israel interested in the Caucasus, and what role is that country playing? Why are Israel and the pro-Israel lobby dead set against recognition of the Armenian genocide by the U.S. Congress?

DB: Israel is interested in getting some of the oil and gas that flow out of the Caspian Sea region.  That is, from countries such as Azerbaijan, oil and gas flow west through Georgia, and then on to Turkey and other countries, possibly including Israel.  After all, the U.S. and Turkey, which are important players in these pipelines, are obviously also very friendly with Israel.  Israel also welcomes all non-Arab supplies of energy since they would make its Western allies less dependent on Arab oil and gas. And Israel has long had what it calls its Periphery Policy.  Historically, Israel has not had good relations with its Arab neighbors. Therefore, to serve as counterweights, Israel befriends those countries further away, especially Muslim countries that aren’t necessarily sympathetic to Israel’s Arab neighbors or Palestinians.  Azerbaijan, the only Muslim nation in the Caucasus, and some Muslim nations to the east, such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, are such countries.  Fortuitously for Israel, they also possess significant deposits of gas and oil.

For decades, Israel and Turkey have had very good relations, mainly because they have a common ally, the U.S., and common adversaries, namely Arab nations.  In the 1990’s, Israel and Turkey signed a number of military, economic, and political agreements that solidified their relationship.  Even before that, but particularly after that, Turkey felt that it did not have sufficient lobbying muscle in Washington.  So the Turks asked Israel to convince some of the pro-Israel lobby-the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and others-to serve as advocates for Turkey. The Jewish lobby groups agreed. So these groups, as part of their deal with Turkey, deny or call into question the Armenian genocide and work to prevent U.S. acknowledgement of that genocide.  These groups won’t tolerate anyone questioning of the Holocaust, and yet hypocritically work against acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide. Interestingly, for the last 2 years, Armenian Americans have exposed the ADL’s hypocrisy. In Massachusetts, for example, fourteen cities severed ties with an anti-bias program sponsored by the ADL because of the latter’s hypocritical and anti-Armenian stance (see NoPlaceForDenial.com). Armenians are determined to challenge genocide denial whenever it occurs.

MZ: Is there a problem with the way the mainstream media has been covering Armenian issues?

DB: Yes. The mainstream media have several problems.  First, they know very little about the Caucasus or Armenians.   Reporters tend, therefore, to copy each other and repeat clichés and falsehoods-such as that Armenia and Turkey are on the verge of a historic “reconciliation.”   Media also tend to accept at face value the propaganda issued by Western governments whose interest in the Caucasus is-let’s be frank-not “reconciliation,” democracy, or human rights, but rather self-interested economic, political, and military political penetration of the Caucasus.

Turkey has about 30 times more people and territory, and 50 times more Gross Domestic Product, than Armenia. The power differential is enormous.  Turkey has infinitely more allies in Western media, governments, think tanks, and multi-national corporations-and knows how to use them.  Commentators who have a vested interest in touting Turkey for their own political and even financial reasons have particularly come out of the woodwork to deride legitimate Armenian demands.  But we rarely hear commentators speak of how a small country that has been the victim of genocide, that has had most of its territory stripped from it, and that has been blockaded by the denier of that genocide-Turkey-is being threatened by that very same unrepentant denier.  Mainstream media largely fail to appreciate the foregoing facts.  Hopefully, Mickey, this interview will help the media and your readers understand the issues and the region a bit better.

David Boyajian can be reached at [email protected]