Early on September 19, Azerbaijan’s president set in motion a lightning-fast military plan months in the making that would redraw the geopolitical map and avenge an ignominious defeat suffered by his father some 30 years before.
In power for two decades and with one successful war already under his belt, President Ilham Aliyev had often spoken of returning the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh enclave to Azerbaijan’s full control after its ethnic Armenian inhabitants broke from Baku’s rule in the early 1990s.
Now, a confluence of factors had convinced Aliyev, 61, that the time was right, Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Britain, told Reuters.
“History takes turns and zigzags,” Suleymanov said. “We could not do this earlier and it would probably not be a good idea to do it later.”
“The stars aligned for certain reasons and President Aliyev saw the alignment,” said Suleymanov, who previously worked in Aliyev’s office.
Prominent among these “stars” was the new inability or unwillingness of Russia, the West, or Armenia to intervene to protect Nagorno-Karabakh. The self-governed enclave had 10,000 fighters at its disposal according to Azerbaijan, whose own army – estimated at over 120,000-strong by Western experts – dwarfed it.
In conversations with Reuters, two senior officials and a source who has worked with Aliyev underscored that the decision to take back the breakaway region took shape over months as diplomatic realities shifted.