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Nagorno-Karabakh: How did Azerbaijan conquer Armenia?

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Azerbaijan’s 44 day offensive abruptly reshaped a decades-long, WWI-like trench warfare over Nagorno-Karabakh, an impoverished, breakaway area that’s inside Azerbaijan’s borders however run by ethnic Armenians.

For the reason that mid-Nineteen Nineties, when the battle over Nagorno-Karabakh killed greater than 30,000 folks and displaced as much as 1,000,000, the battle has lengthy been written off as one of many world’s “frozen”, unsolvable political stalemates wherein resource-poor Armenia gave the impression to be punching effectively above its political and army weight.

However not this time.

The victory value Azerbaijan the lives of virtually 2,800 troopers, dozens of Azerbaijani civilians, and billions of {dollars} spent on weaponry.

However in accordance with the Moscow-brokered peace deal inked in November, it acquired again strategic swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh, together with seven districts across the mountainous area that was populated by ethnic Azeris however grew to become a no-man’s land dotted with ghost cities and minefields.

How did Azerbaijan handle to triumph?

“It was a technological victory,” Alexey Malashenko, a Moscow-based political skilled, informed Al Jazeera.

Azerbaijan positioned its bets on subtle, dear weapons and new ways battle-tested within the Center East, whereas their foes relied on previous Russian-made arms and out of date stratagems they mastered within the Nineteen Nineties, analysts say.

Armenia-backed troops moved round in massive teams or in vehicles, their trenches had been vast, however not deep, their artillery was barely disguised and stayed put for days, changing into a straightforward goal for air raids.

Their weapons had been hopelessly dated, their fighter jets didn’t fly a single sortie, and their Russian-made Osa and Strela anti-aircraft missile programs had been powerless in opposition to Baku’s most deadly battlefield improve – unmanned aerial automobiles (UAVs), popularly often known as drones.

“Apparently, Nagorno-Karabakh’s army didn’t comply with the regional wars of the 2010s that had been going down of their neighbourhood,” in Syria and Iraq, researcher Nikolay Mitrokhin of Germany’s Bremen College informed Al Jazeera.

Their technical and tactical disadvantages had been apparent from dozens of movies the Azerbaijani army shot from drones that focused these massive teams, jam-packed vehicles, shallow trenches and uncovered artillery.

The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone is pictured on December 16, 2019 at Gecitkale army airbase close to Famagusta within the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) [Birol Bebek/AFP]

Azerbaijan used Turkish Bayraktar TB2 fight drones that carry laser-guided bombs and have been battle-tested in Syria and Lybia; Israeli reconnaissance and patrol Heron and Hermes UAVs, and, lastly, “kamikaze” Orbiter drones additionally made in Israel.

Reconnaissance drones helped intention artillery hearth that compelled the Armenians to retreat.

“It explains the gradual motion of the Azerbaijani military and its losses that will have been a lot larger in case of traditional assaults in mountainous areas,” Pavel Luzin, a defence analyst with the Jamestown Basis, a think-tank in Washington, DC, informed Al Jazeera.

Ethnic Armenian troopers watch army automobiles of the Russian peacekeeping forces driving alongside a street in Lachin within the area of Nagorno-Karabakh on November 13, 2020 [Stringer/Reuters]

Swarms of fight and kamikaze drones pin-pointedly struck tanks, missile programs, artillery, trenches and troops, reaching not simply army superiority, but additionally “demoralising” the Armenians, he stated.

Luzin, different observers and Armenian officers claimed the drones had been operated from Turkey – the best way most US drones flying over Iraq and Syria are operated from army bases close to Las Vegas.

Armenian officers and Western media additionally purported that Turkey deployed hundreds of “mercenaries” recruited in pro-Ankara areas of Syria. Azerbaijan and Turkey denied the claims.

A parade, protests and veiled threats

This was the first military parade in historical past that celebrated one ex-Soviet republic’s victory over one other ex-Soviet republic. It was additionally a mixed present of drive, new arms and a fledgling army alliance.

The ceremonial step of some 3,000 troopers toting assault rifles echoed by the central streets of Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital and a Caspian port of three million, as tens of hundreds of spectators, some carrying face masks, cheered, snapped pictures on their cell phones and chanted the nationwide anthem.

A small contingent of elite Turkish commandos adopted.

A deafening flock of army jets flew over them releasing smoke within the colors of the Azerbaijani flag. Dozens of Russian-made tanks and missile programs, Turkish-made armed-personnel carriers, Belarusian-made anti-tank missiles, and, in fact, the Israeli and Turkish drones, had been displayed in the course of the December 10 parade.

A lot older, broken tanks and missile programs captured from Armenia had been pushed by on lengthy platforms as the gang booed.

Beaming Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan noticed the parade from a podium.

Presidents Erdogan of Turkey and Aliyev of Azerbaijan greet folks throughout a army parade to mark victory within the Nagorno-Karabakh battle, in Baku, Azerbaijan, on December 10, 2020 [Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via Reuters]

In his speech, Aliyev lambasted Armenia for expelling ethnic Azeris who lived in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven districts round it.

“A whole bunch of hundreds of Azerbaijanis who lived on the time [in what is now] the Republic of Armenia have been expelled from their lands,” Aliyev stated. “Our folks have for hundreds of years lived in these lands.”

He then issued a veiled menace to proceed the warfare by calling three Armenian areas, together with the capital, Yerevan, “traditionally Azeri lands”.

Erdogan additionally seemed triumphant – and echoed Aliyev’s phrases.

“The 30 years-old injustice is over. Our assist to Azerbaijan will proceed,” he stated.

However will it?

Some observers predict the 2 leaders, who’ve completely different backgrounds and political objectives, could fall out.

Erdogan is a non secular college graduate who advocates the ideology of pan-Turkism, a unity of Turkic-speaking ethnic teams and nations in Turkey, northern Iran, ex-Soviet Central Asia and components of Russia.

Aliyev, whose father and presidential predecessor Heydar was a high officer within the Soviet KGB, graduated from a prestigious diplomatic college in Moscow – and doesn’t need Azerbaijanis to be handled as “second-rate ‘Turks’,” analyst Malashenko stated.

“It’s a radical mistake to assume that Azerbaijan will turn out to be Turkey’s again yard,” he stated.

Three days after the parade, Aliyev praised one other helmsman whose assist, he stated, was essential in Azerbaijan’s victory.

“If it wasn’t for President Putin’s interference and efforts, the state of affairs would have been completely different right now,” Aliyev informed a bunch of European officers in Baku.

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