U.S. Intelligence Chief Says Karabakh Conflict Risks Escalation in 2016
By Danielle Saroyan
Armenian Agenda Associate Editor
On February 9, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. said the Nagorno Karabakh conflict risks escalation in 2016.
“Baku’s sustained military buildup coupled with declining economic conditions in Azerbaijan are raising the potential that the conflict will escalate in 2016,” Clapper told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. “Azerbaijan’s aversion to publicly relinquishing its claim to Nagorno Karabakh proper and Armenia’s reluctance to give up territory it controls will continue to complicate a peaceful resolution,” he said.
Clapper made this comment in his testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing titled “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” Other topics discussed were global threats such as terrorism and transnational organized crime, as well as regional threats in areas including the Caucasus and Central Asia.
In his statement, Clapper said tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh remained high throughout 2015. According to a report by the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly (HCA) Vanadzor Office, there have been 39 incidents between January and September 2015 which led to 54 casualties of military servicemen from the Armenia Armed Forces and Nagorno Karabakh Defense Army. In the findings, 31 of the 54 deaths were caused by Azerbaijan cease-fire violations.
Over 54,000 cease-fire violations committed by Azerbaijan on the Line of Contact occurred from 2014 through 2015, with an estimated total of 1 million shots fired.
Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny recently submitted testimony to a Helsinki Commission hearing highlighting these violations, including Azerbaijan’s attacks on a kindergarten in Armenia’s Tavush region. “The targeting of innocent civilians and children must end,” stated Ardouny.
Rising tension in Nagorno Karabakh continues to escalate. An Armenian soldier was fatally wounded on January 9, and a 53-year-old shepherd from a village in the Martuni District in Karabakh was killed last week, both by Azerbaijan snipers.
Photo Caption (L-R): Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. testifies as Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart looks on during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about worldwide threats on February 9, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)