Analysis & Commentary
April 30, 2021
Race relations, post-conflict process further disrupted by Armenian genocide recognition politics, ANCA calls for FREEDOM Act Section 907 sanctions to be enforced
In April, U.S. President Biden chose to recognize the pogroms of the early 20th century South Caucasus as the Armenian genocide, taking an official position on an issue that previous administrations had chosen to remain politically neutral about. The events of the Armenian ethnic cleansing and massacres of the late 19th century and early 20th century were not defined politically by previous U.S. presidents to remain diplomatic with regards to an era in history that has since been charged with hyper-partisan rhetoric.
With an official position named, the Armenian National Committee of America has sought to make its demands of the new administration. The ANCA argues that the Biden administration must enforce Section 907 sanctions against Azerbaijan which would prevent the U.S. from sending any foreign aid to the Turkic counterpart. ANCA argues that, unless the Biden administration is to enforce Section 907, Azerbaijan will “complete the crimes of genocide.”
In this roundtable of professionals, Khojaly was remembered. The Azerbaijani community of America has called on the United States for equal recognition of this massacre. Speakers included Khojaly survivor Yasemen Hesenova. The events of Khojaly 1992 are contemporary with the controversial Section 907, as the ANCA continues to put max pressure on the Biden campaign to meet the partisan demands that follow his recognition of the Anatolian Armenians of 1915.
It should be noted that, during the events known commonly as the Armenian genocide, several other ethnic groups of the Ottoman-Tsarist political theater in the South Caucasus World War I era were also the target of ethnically driven pogroms. In the years of World War I, and the decades that followed into World War 2, The Young Turks targeted Armenian demographics, and likewise, the Armenian Dashnaks targeted members of the Azerbaijani, Meskhetian Turks, and Mountain Jewish communities.
The Armenian rhetoric surrounding its conflict with Azerbaijan has been driven by race-related politics since the fall of the Soviet Union. Racial disputes and a lumping of Azerbaijanis with the Armenian-Ottoman Turkish conflict of the early 20th century fueled in part the ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis from the borderlands of Armenia that are adjacent to the Karabakh, a displacement that gradually saw an approximate 700,000 Azerbaijanis internally displaced through Karabakh and across the nation. Read a survivor’s account of this history here.
Asbarez highlighted the Armenian political rhetoric with regards to Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act:
“The ANCA has long held that Administrations – Democratic and Republican – should refrain from waiving Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, a statute prohibiting U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan until “the President determines, and so reports to the Congress, that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The ANCA has also called upon Congress to roll back its Section 907 waiver authority, requiring Azerbaijan to meet the original terms of this law to be eligible for U.S. assistance.”
The cites CBC. Tv interview (Russian language. English transcript coming soon)
The continued demands of the ANCA to enforce Section 907 and to petition the Biden administration to act on behalf of the lobby’s interests come during the fragile post-conflict developments. Azerbaijan, in November, liberated UN-recognized lands within its sovereignty in the Karabakh. The nation works to repatriate these liberated territories but must deal with the consequences of wartime excessive landmine distributions. Within the definition of the rhetoric, Azerbaijani “blockades and use of force” against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh could be interpreted as Azerbaijani national defense measures and establishment of military outposts in the liberated territory of the Karabakh. A U.S. politicized stance in this theater would likely serve to increase pressures between the United States and NATO-member Turkey, a neighbor of both states, and a strong ally of Azerbaijan.
Likewise, the potential for U.S. action on Section 907, in response to demands of the ANCA lobby, holds the potential to increase heated conflict rhetoric between the two nations, and their national diasporas. Section 907 is a controversial American policy in the South Caucasus. Enacted in 1992, the sanction motion was enforced contemporary with the Khojaly massacre, in which Armenian forces, under the leadership of ASALA’s Monte Melkonian, California-born Armenina nationalism fighter, massacred the citizens of the Khojaly township.
Under the diplomatic efforts of former administrations, this section was waived, but the ANCA demands (see March to Justice) that to take Biden’s statements seriously, the U.S. must now do more than talk. In a recent interview with CBC.tv Azerbaijan, political analysts discussed how this was essentially “opening Pandora’s box” as demands will increase under the new recognition. The discussion was weighed in the balance of appointing Samantha Power to the USAID leadership.