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"Ethnic espionage”: Armenian Assembly of America

A number of controversial reports about the Armenian Assembly of America have appeared in the media of late. REGNUM has asked Armenian political scientist Igor Muradyan for comments.

“No doubt that the reports have serious grounds. You can turn down some arguments — for the authors seem to be somewhat under-informed about the developments — but certainly it is high time to call a spade a spade. First of all, you should take into account the continuing political struggle in Armenia and view the stance of the Armenian Assembly of America also in this light.”

I don't think that ethnic NGOs enjoy full independence in the US, but the point is that the Armenian Assembly of America is more than dependent. Even more, the Assembly is functionally dependent. The Assembly directors and employees don’t just look down on Armenia's political class and leaders, they look down on them with disdain. Given a whole range of serious political problems of Armenia, the Assembly is focused on the problem of its relations with Robert Kocharyan. Kocharyan has proved not very much convenient a partner for them, just because the Assembly directors are unable to consult, instruct and contact him in private on the phone. One cannot but agree with the opinion that the Assembly is facing a crisis of genre.

First, as an instrument of another state it is very much unwanted in the politics in Armenia. Second, the scope of the Assembly's lobbying has come to its limits — for within the limits of its tasks the US policy in the region is quite conforming to Armenia's interests. And so, the Assembly is forced to search for new domains. Quite enough has been said about this in the internet and so I'd better just remind some facts.

In 2001 the Assembly's board decreed “to fight Armenian nationalism.” This implies suppression of any instance of patriotism, especially over the Karabakh problem and Armenian-Turkish relations. The Assembly is discriminating towards Armenian political parties, NGOs, politicians and experts.

The employees and friends of the Assembly were set to carry out reconnaissance in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh Republic. We know at least six citizens of Armenia and one resident of NKR whom they tried to recruit for information gathering. The above activities envisaged the following directions:

Gathering information on the state of the armed forces of Armenia, including armaments, information on senior officers, on the import of military hardware (invoice numbers, payment terms, transportation routes), receiving analytical notes on the fighting capacity of the Armenian army, information and assessment of typical conflicts inside the military command, the concerns and plans of different groups in the military circles; gathering information on the leaders and activists of political parties, the mass media and political leaders of Armenia, including economic interests, ties with foreign countries.

For example, the Assembly wanted detailed information on the economic interests of Defense Minister Serzh Sargsyan in Russia, the possibilities for discrediting him and the military command for economic or other motives. Armenian citizens were shown video pictures of Armenia's military equipment and some military commanders, photos of senior officers. Some of the videos and photos had apparently been made from a very long distance. Special interest was given to possible news about the import of air defense units, first of all, C-300, on plans to develop military aviation, on possible purchases. They were even interested in such non secret information as the parameters of dynamic steel on tanks. They paid visits to Nagorno Karabakh — formal and informal — they visited military units, talked with military commanders. The talk was friendly and candid, but they got no sensations — just stupid and thoughtless things. One NKR officer told an Assembly agent in a friendly manner — “You guys are all but profies or you cook like that in your country — you better learn a bit.”

One of the authors has already mentioned the interest of the Assembly in the military intelligence of Armenia. As a matter of fact, one of the “recruited” young experts in Yerevan says that the Assembly is very much interested in the personality of B.Azoyan. The Assembly believes the exposure of the director of the military intelligence to be one of its exploits. Exposed were quite banal facts — there reportedly are proofs that the military intelligence of Armenia works in “the American direction.”

Visitors from the Assembly have never much cared for political figures in Armenia. They did care for analytical community, individual experts. The experts were mostly very young and initially very much eager to provide Assembly people with some information. But soon they were told to supply information relating to the national security of Armenia. These activities covered also the Armenian Embassy in the US. It is a certainty that there were at least two information leaks from the office of the military attaché. Also using documents from the attaché’s table was repeatedly (and as if accidentally) the military attaché of Belarus. So, it takes one no big effort to carry out such activity. Let's just hope that the military attaché of Armenia may have no interesting information.

Mass media directors are also of interest. Of interest was, for example, the dossier of the editor of Aravot daily Aram Abrahamyan, especially his personal incomes and their sources. Very much of interest was the personality of the well-known Alexander Haroutyunyuan (if I am not mistaken, he is now the director of the public television) and so on and so forth. It seems that the whole political class of Armenia is being computerized.

Of certain interest is the impression I got personally from such contacts. Strange but true: Assembly representatives get openly malicious and bilious over the fact that the Armenian armed forces are highly capable of discharging many combat operations on their own. Would they be more comfortable if the army of their “historical homeland” had other characteristics and was like the armies of some other states? Altogether incompetent the Assembly representatives were as much annoyed to know that Armenia is not a perishing country and is successfully developing economically.

The National Security Service and the Defense Ministry of Armenia are perfectly informed of the activities of the Assembly and have relevant directives on hand. For example, the top military command are strictly forbidden to have meetings with their Assembly counterparts.

But no less worthy of mentioning is the fact that the Assembly representatives are not the only ones to take a special interest in their “historical homeland.” Obviously having their definite interests in Armenia and specialization is also the Armenian community of Washington DC. For example, some Richard Kirakosyan, generally known as analyst or political scientist or someone else, has offered an Armenian citizen closely cooperating with the “Caucasian (Yerevan) Center of Iranian Studies” $10,000 for information on Iran — absolutely definitely saying that this service was ordered by CIA.

I guess not everything is so dangerous for our country – as I do believe that the US is our friend who knows that only Armenia can be a strategic partner in the region (“small Israel” or “Big Armenia”). The Armenian society continues being modestly silent that the US strategy is one of the major factors of our security, if not something more. But somebody wants to be “more Catholic than the Pope is.” These are people for whom ethnicity is their profession. So it is time to hang a sign “Look Out! Ethnic Espionage.” In the meantime, we better remember that our compatriots abroad are overwhelmingly citizens of other states and are obliged to express their interests. We are still far from being a “world nation.” We have yet a long way to go. And young vain analysts and political analysts better keep in mind that our country is an active actor in the regional and global politics, with quite a big interest given to it."

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