Armenian attack on the United States

Mon 31 Jan 2011 05:28 GMT | 09:28 Local Time

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By Yusif Babanli, Co-founder of US Azeris Network and board member of Azerbaijani American Council.

Armenia attacking the United States? Well, not quite. At least, not directly. However, the actions undertaken by the Armenian leadership have caused a direct physical attack on American troops resulting in US casualties.
 
In a recently Wikileaks uncovered diplomatic cable from December 24, 2008, the State Department condemned the leadership of Republic of Armenia, enclosing the letter of Deputy Secretary Negroponte describing how the United States military recovered guns from the Shiite insurgency funded by Iran and traced them to an arms deal between two Bulgarian manufacturers “Vazovski Mashinostroitelnye Zavodi” and “Arsenal”, and the government of Armenia. The purchase of 1,000 Bulgaria-made anti-tank RPG-22s and 260 heavy machine guns took place in January 2003, when the incumbent President of Armenian, Serzh Sarkissian (then the Minister of Defence), facilitated the procurement and transfer of weapons to Iran. The transaction for the transfer of the weapons which were immediately flown to Iran upon arrival from Bulgaria to Yerevan, was done between the government-owned company “Zao Veber” and an Iranian arms dealer Abbas Abdi Asjerd through an Armenian bank. Due to existing sanctions on Iran, before the deal was made, Sarkissian gave his personal assurances and guarantees to the Bulgarian manufacturers that the weapons were destined to remain in Armenia.
 
According to Der Spiegel, these weapons which ended up in the hands of Shiite insurgents in Iraq eventually led to American casualties including one known victim, killed during the RPG ambush on January 31, 2008 and at least 10 wounded at other times, although the casualty count caused by this arms transfer is likely to be higher due to the fact that these specific weapons continue to be recovered by the US military from the insurgents in Iraq.

As reported by Global Security, the leading military news source, the only RPG attack on US troops on January 31, 2008 which caused a loss of life, took place in eastern Baghdad. The information about the ambush was confirmed in a February 4, 2008 press release No. 0091-08 of the Department of Defense which announced the death of the Sgt. Matthew Francis Straughter, 27 of St. Charles, MO during patrol in eastern Baghdad as a result of a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) attack on the US military convoy. Sgt. Straughter was assigned to the 1138th Engineer Company, 35th Engineer Brigade , Missouri National Guard from Fort Leonard Wood, MO. He was a day short of his 28th birthday when his life was taken away in an ambush facilitated by the Armenia-Iran arms deal. Coming from a patriotic American family, Sgt Straughter was a combat engineer specialist station in Iraq since July 2007. He was survived by his wife and five children.

Perhaps, the eastern Baghdad RPG attack on January 31, 2008 was the first known instance where a US soldier lost his life and the weapon used to kill him was recovered at the same time, tracing the evidence to the specific source, which subsequently may have triggered an adequate reaction from the US authorities.

In addition to the letter of concern by the Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte to President Sarkissian, he was also confronted with the information by Secretary Condoleeza Rice in late 2008, however the Armenian leader denied any involvement of the Armenian side whatsoever. After concerns were raised by other US diplomats such as Deputy Assistant Matthew Bryza, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried, the State Department sent an expert team to Yerevan to present the solid evidence proving the involvement of Armenian leadership in the arms transfer to Iran. U.S. Ambassador Donald Mahley, the acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Threat Reduction and Export Control and his team were in Yerevan on January 14, 2009 meeting President Sarkissian and Minister of National Security Gorik Hakobian.
 
The documentary evidence presented by the US expert team indicated that the US military personnel investigated the markings and lot numbers on the weapons recovered from the Shiite insurgent groups in Iraq attacking US forces and demonstrated that they matched the production specifics of 1,000 RPG-22s and machine guns sold by Bulgarian firms to Armenia. The evidence suggested that the weapons from this deal were recovered by the coalition forces from April 2006 to June 2008. Apart from the weapons recovered from insurgents during the attack on January 31, 2008 which left one American soldier dead and three wounded, the US military discovered an arms cache in Baghdad on February 15, 2008 belonging to Iran-backed Hizbullah Brigades, 6 RPGs out of which were traced to the January 2003 Armenian-Iranian arms deal. Furthermore, two RPG lunch tubes recovered from March 2008 attack on US troops also led to the infamous deal. Presented with detailed information on the arms purchase including an end-user agreement signed by Sarkissian, invoices and serial numbers of weapons, and in view of mounting pressure to sanction Armenia, both Sarkissian and Hakobian acknowledged the role of Armenian government in transferring the weapons to Iran and promised to strengthen the export controls.

Armenia is the largest per capita US financial aid receiver in the world. Since 1992, it received over $2 billion. In addition to Republic of Armenia, US financial assistance is also provided to separatist puppet regime in Nagorno-Karabakh, an integral part of Azerbaijan annexed as a result of Armenian aggression and ethnic cleansing in 1991-1994. As Wikileaks reveal, the US government considered sanctions against and ceasing all aid to Armenia and even brought the issue before the Congress. In a meeting with Sarkissian, Ambassador Mahley reiterated that the US law required to sanction entities of countries facilitating arms transfers to Iran. However, to repetitive assurances from President Sarkissian, the sanctions were most likely reconsidered and waived.

Sarkissian who signed an end-user agreement with the Bulgarian firms for the purchase of the very weapons that ended up killing US troops in Iraq had already given guarantees and subsequently broke them immediately after the deal was signed. Furthermore, in a recent interview to “EkhoMoskvi”, he refuted all of the information about the arms deal once again. What guarantees can one have to be confident that President Sarkissian will not break the agreement again? Do the US taxpayers need another Wikileaks release to be convinced that the commitment of Armenia to US-Armenia relations is not as genuine as is claimed and that the tax money are actually funding the government which facilitates the purchase of arms and killing of US troops? These questions are yet to be answered. Maybe they never will.

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