"Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has generally been seen in Washington as one of Eurasia’s frozen conflicts'"

"Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has generally been seen in Washington as one of Eurasia’s frozen conflicts'"

Azeri.Today interviews Perry Cammack, expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry.

- Mr. Cammack, do you think Trump’s impeachment is possible? If not, why?

- The multiple investigations into President Donald Trump clearly threaten to consume his presidency. The most serious, led by Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI, is looking into whether there was coordination or even collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia and whether there was an attempt to obstruct the earlier phases of the investigation through the firing of Mr. Mueller’s successor as FBI director, James Comey.
Will President Trump be impeached? It is impossible to know. But it should be emphasized that impeachment is both a legal process and a political one. Much will depend on the findings of the Mueller and other investigations, but even more so, on the political calculations of Congress. As long as Republicans control Capitol Hill, it is difficult to imagine Congress drafting what are called “articles of impeachment.” But if President Trump remains unpopular – his public approval rating has dropped below 40 percent – and Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January 2019, then an impeachment process is a very real possibility.

- Many experts accuse Americans of seeding instability and chaos in the Middle Eastern region. And what do you think about it? Who should be blamed? What do Americans want to see in the Middle East?

- There is no single cause to the chaos and instability in the Middle East. Part of the explanation lies in the tremendous domestic pressures occurring throughout the Arab world. Arab social contracts have historically been based on authoritarian bargains and the easy flow of energy revenues. Citizens were told to keep their heads down and stay out of politics in return for government handouts and jobs. The result was corruption, authoritarianism, sectarianism, and ultimately extremism. These social contracts are collapsing across the region, and in places like Libya and Syria, the result is state failure.

But of course, the American experience in the Middle East has not been a pleasant one, especially since the September 11 attacks against New York and Washington in 2011. The decision of the second Bush administration to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein was a tragic one that made all of these negative trends even worse.

Thus, the rise of the Islamic State (or Daesh) is the result both of local factors – the catastrophic failures of governance and accountability for decades in both Syria and Iraq – and global ones – collapse of energy prices, a series of regional rivalries, such as the Saudi-Iran conflict, and the unleashing of jihadist forces which was exacerbated by the 2003 American invasion of Iraq.

- It is becoming increasingly difficult to combat DEASH-they are in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Afghanistan. Moreover, they arrange terrorist acts in Russia and in Europe. How can the world community eradicate the ISIL militants? What are your expectations from the future steps of DEASH?

- Ultimately, ISIL will only be defeated when its religious ideology ceases to appeal to angry, disenfranchised youth and when its members become convinced that defeat is inevitable. The military campaign against ISIL in Syria, and especially against Iraq is making significant progress. ISIL’s so-called caliphate is slowly be strangulated.This is good news, but it will not be enough to defeat the organization, which is already seeking to adapt itself into a virtual caliphate. Over the long run, I think al-Qaeda may end up being a more enduring threat than ISIL, though the two organizations have both proved to be adaptable and resilient. I’m not sure it will be possible to ever fully eradicate terrorism, but I do hope that over the next several years the threat posed by the Islamic State will begin to recede, especially after it loses its physical space.

- Do you think ISIL poses a serious threat to the countries of the South Caucasus - Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia? Is there any serious cause for concern?

- For whatever reason, Daesh has been less active in the South Caucasus than in other regions, especially in comparison with places like Dagestan in the North Caucasus. Wherever there is political turmoil, conflict, and groups of socially-alienated Muslim youth, then yes, there is some possibility that ISIL will hold some appeal at the margins of society. Russian officials have warned that 2,000 to 3,000 Russian citizens have joined ISIL, which could also pose some risk to the South Caucasus.
As I mentioned, I hope the threat of ISIS will begin recede over the next several years. But the next six to twelve months could be key as ISIS tries to find new footholds to compensate for the loss of its main bases of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. It stands to reason that the South Caucasus region might be an area where ISIL could seek to make inroads. I hope governments will be vigilant to this possibility.

- What do you know about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? How will the US-Azerbaijan relations develop under Trump?

- The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has generally been seen in Washington as one of Eurasia’s frozen – and frankly, mostly forgotten – conflicts. The United States has a long-term interest in seeing the conflict resolved, but the sudden outbreak of fighting in April 2016 was a reminder of how serious the situation remains.

Given Azerbaijan’s strategic location and energy wealth, US-Azerbaijani relations are important for Washington. But I think we also have to be realistic that President Trump has very limited foreign policy expertise and leads a White House that is in crisis. This means that the attention available for senior White House officials will be limited except for the most pressing global crises, such as the North Korean nuclear program, ISIS and the Syrian civil war, and so forth.

However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has some knowledge of and experience with Azerbaijan given his previous career as the chief executive of ExxonMobil. So perhaps there are opportunities for the career professionals at the State Department to devote sufficient attention to the South Caucasus region, to the U.S.-Azerbaijani relationship and to the Nagorno-Kharabakh conflict.

Seymur Mammadov
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