By Markar Melkonian


On December 8, Armenia’s Constitutional Court ruled that President Kocharyan’s plan to deploy troops to Iraq does not conflict with the basic law of the Republic. The Court’s ruling is misguided, but the damage has been done. The Court has given its green light, and now the danger of an Armenian deployment is imminent.


Green Lighting a Debacle:

From the perspective of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, the Court’s ruling is indefensible. Chapter One, Article 9 of the Constitution reads: “The foreign policy of the Republic of Armenia shall be conducted in accordance with the norms of international law, with the aim of establishing good neighborly and mutually beneficial relations with all states.” Leaders of many of the member states of the United Nations, including Canada and Mexico, have concluded that participation in the occupation of Iraq is not compatible with the norms of international law. Moreover, the deployment of Armenian troops to Iraq is incompatible with the aim of establishing good neighborly relations with any Arab state except Kuwait and the quisling regime in Baghdad.

The President of Armenia has portrayed the deployment as a way to improve Armenia’s ties with Europe. But this claim, too, is indefensible. Most of the more prosperous and democratic countries of Europe, led by France and Germany, oppose the Bush Administration’s war and refuse to join the Coalition. At the same time, erstwhile Coalition members are looking for a way out. The Netherlands announced o n November 12 that 1350 Dutch troops would leave Iraq in March 2005, despite U.S. and British pressure for them to remain longer. Hungary, a member of the Coalition contingent under Polish Command, has announced that it will withdraw its 300 troops from Iraq in early 2005, and Bulgaria has announced that it too will reduce its troop presence in Iraq. Indeed, even Poland--the leader of the multi-national command under which Armenian troops would serve--has announced its intention of reducing its troop presence soon, and withdrawing from Iraq entirely before the end of the coming year. (A CNN report of October 4, 2004 begins with the line: “Poland may reduce its commitment of forces to the war in Iraq by 40 percent by January 2005 and have all its troops out by the end of that year, Polish officials said Monday.”)

Armenia’s Constitutional Court, then, has provided legal cover to send troops into a war that members of “the Coalition of the Willing” are trying desperately to leave. Joining the Coalition might boost Armenia’s relations with Rwanda, El Salvador, Palau, and other vulnerable vassals of Washington, but it will further distance Armenia from the heart of Europe.

The deployment proposal, furthermore, is incompatible with the aim of establishing mutually beneficial relations with Armenia’s two most important neighbors, Russia and Iran. The Russians have repeatedly disparaged Kocharyan’s deployment plan. Responding to Russian objections, the Deputy Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly was quoted on the day of the Court ruling as stating that “their [the Russians’] conduct in the international arena does not encourage free and independent decision-making on the part of Armenia.” When it comes to Moscow, it seems, Armenia suddenly wants “a free and independent foreign policy.” The situation would be laughable if it weren’t so potentially tragic: If the last century of Armenian history has taught us anything, it has taught us that a choice between Russia and the United States is no choice at all. If the Bush Administration insists on pressing the point, then it is clear which way Armenia must go.

The Bush Administration is threatening “regime change” in Iran. Any country that helps Bush to “stabilize” Iraq is effectively strengthening Washington’s hand against the Islamic Republic and encouraging further aggression against Armenia’s most helpful neighbor. By participating in the Coalition from the beginning, Georgia and Azerbaijan have set themselves against Russia and Iran—two of the most influential countries in the southern Caucasus. Armenia has an opportunity to distinguish itself as a reliable ally of Russia and Iran. If leaders in Yerevan fail to seize this opportunity, they risk setting the stage for costly diplomatic defeats down the line, including further isolation on the issue of self-determination in Nagorno-Karabagh.

Loopy Rationales for Deployment:

In addition, the deployment would endanger Iraq’s 25,000 Armenians. Even members of the Constitutional Court have acknowledged this as a likely consequence of the deployment. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on December 8 that one of the Constitutional Court judges, Kim Balayan, “wondered if the planned deployment could put the lives of Iraqi Armenians at greater risk.”

In l ate October, Armenia’s Deputy Defense Minister dismissed this objection by posing what he presumably thought was a rhetorical question, and then answering it: “Do you think that there are no Georgian or Azerbaijani communities in Iraq? Of course there are. But both Azerbaijan and Georgia think of increasing their presence in Iraq.” Surely Armenia’s Deputy Defense Minister should know that Iraq has no Georgian or Azerbaijani communities. Georgia and Azerbaijan have far less to lose by participating in the occupation of Iraq than does Armenia.

In response to these concerns, Armenia’s Defense Minister has said that Iraqi Armenians “will be insecure regardless of Armenian military presence in Iraq.” This is a revealing remark. Ninety years ago, Iraqis opened their doors to Armenian genocide survivors, and since then, Iraqi Armenians have lived in friendship and security with their fellow Iraqis, Muslims and Christians, Arabs and Kurds. No one was attacking the Armenian community in Iraq until the second President Bush launched America’s second war against the country. In view of the record, then, the Defense Minister’s statement amounts to an admission by the most vocal proponent of the deployment that George W. Bush’s war and occupation have placed 25,000 Iraqi Armenians in peril. For Armenia to participate in the deployment would amount to Yerevan rewarding Bush for endangering the lives and the future of the Armenian community in Iraq.

Bush’s apologists in Yerevan continue to portray the deployment as a “humanitarian” mission aimed at “stabilizing” Iraq. But the occupation of Iraq has destabilized the country, fomenting murderous sectarian strife that did not exist before 2003. Coalition forces have set Kurds against Arabs, and Sunnis against Shiites. The occupiers continue to kill civilians, desecrate mosques, destroy and invade homes, and torture and humiliate detainees in the most disgusting manner. Meanwhile, robberies, kidnappings, and extortion proliferate, and a small number of insurgents have bombed churches and Shiite mosques. Supporters of the resistance repeatedly denounce these attacks, but lawlessness prevails in Iraq to such an extent that no one is able to stop them.

The occupation is fomenting terrible violence. The sooner it is brought to an end, the sooner a semblance of stability will return to Iraq. Armenia can help stabilize Iraq by refusing to participate in the Coalition, thereby refusing to help prolong the occupation.

In an interview published on December 8, Armenia’s Minister of Defense stated that he “simply see[s] no connection” between the announced deployment of Armenian troops in Iraq and the increased danger and insecurity of the Armenians there. Iraqi Armenians, however, most assuredly do see a connection. Their representatives, their benevolent and cultural organizations, and their spiritual leaders have repeatedly implored Armenia’s President and its National Assembly, through letters, petitions, and emissaries, not to deploy. A Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty report of November 11, 2004, summarized the obvious: “Iraqi Armenians Link Explosion Near Armenian Church in Baghdad to Armenia's Intention to Send troops to Iraq.” Another international press report quoted an Iraqi Armenian community leader who warned that “if Armenian troops arrive in Iraq, the attacks on Iraqi Armenians will intensify.”

At the Edge of a Steep, Slippery Slope:

An Armenian deployment in Iraq might have even more disastrous long-term repercussions. One of Armenia’s closest regional allies, the Syrian Arab Republic, is in the crosshairs of influential neoconservatives in Washington. Syria, it will be recalled, was a member of the Operation Desert Storm coalition. We now see how the Bush family expresses its gratitude towards its “coalition partners.” There is a lesson here for Armenia.

The Syrian Arab Republic has been a place of refuge for thousands of Christians fleeing Iraq. Will Armenia help set the stage for these refugees to be uprooted yet again? Are leaders in Yerevan prepared to take the next step, to help “stabilize” Syria if the neoconservatives in Washington get their way yet again? It is as true of George W. Bush as it was of Adolph Hitler: To appease an aggressor is to invite further aggression.

Day by day, the Iraqi resistance is growing. This raises another question for the politicians in Yerevan: Are they prepared to help occupation forces kill, imprison, and torture Iraqi Armenians who take up arms to defend their country and their homes against the occupiers?

Armenia’s Constitutional Court has failed in its duty to ensure that “the orders and decrees of the President of the Republic and the resolutions of Government are in conformity with the Constitution.” It would have been nice if the Constitutional Court had at least shown as much concern for the security of Armenia as they have demonstrated obedience to George W. Bush. But it seems that even this is asking for too much these days.

Leaders in Yerevan stand at the edge of a slippery and very steep slope. Thanks to the Constitutional Court’s ill-advised ruling, the decision is now in the hands of the National Assembly. That is, if in fact there is any decision at all to be made in Yerevan that has not already been made in Crawford, Texas.

* * *

Popular pressure is the only hope for derailing this deployment. Please take a moment to urge the National Assembly to be brave in the face of intimidation, and to stay focused on the interests of Armenia and the Armenian people. Please send a message to:

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia


On the “TO:” dropdown menu, click on “Foreign Relations.”

You might also send a message to:

The Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, Washington DC:



Explain that you oppose the proposed deployment of Armenian troops to Iraq. Remind them that such a deployment will adversely affect Armenia’s relations with its neighbors, especially Russia and Iran, and that it will isolate Armenia from its long-standing friends in the Arab countries. Remind them, too, that the deployment could precipitate bloodshed and a mass exodus of Armenians from their country, Iraq.


(This message was sent out as an email blast on December 14, 2004.)


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