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.

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.

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.

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.

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)