By Ruzanna Stepanian
The opposition Artarutyun (Justice) bloc believes that the planned deployment of Armenian non-combat troops in Iraq is fraught with serious security risks and is therefore against it, one of its leaders said on Thursday.
“Sending a medical, humanitarian or any other Armenian contingent to Iraq is dangerous for the security of the Republic of Armenia as well as Iraq’s Armenian population,” Victor Dallakian told reporters. He said this is the official position of all nine parties making up Armenia’s largest opposition alliance.
One of those groups, the Democratic Party, issued a special statement earlier this month denouncing Yerevan’s plans to assist in the international efforts to restore law and order in the Middle Eastern nation with about 50 military doctors, demining experts and truck drivers. Another Artarutyun leader, former Defense Minister Vazgen Manukian, has also spoken out against the deployment, saying it would put at risk the lives of thousands of Iraqi Armenians without contributing much to the U.S.-led “coalition of the willing.”
Serious misgivings have also been voiced by two senior Armenian army generals. They have likewise argued that it could provoke retaliatory attacks on members of Iraq’s ethnic Armenian community by Islamist insurgents. The latter have already kidnapped and killed scores of foreigners from countries involved in Washington’s war effort in one way or another.
The Armenian government, however, seems determined to press ahead with the dispatch of the troops to southern central Iraq administered by a Polish-led division. A relevant security agreement was signed during President Robert Kocharian’s visit to Poland this month.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian defended the decision on Wednesday, saying that Armenia’s involvement in Iraq will have a “humanitarian” character. “Armenia has made it clear from the beginning that it is not prepared to have any armed presence in Iraq,” he said. “We have always said that we would like to have a humanitarian contribution to Iraq’s reconstruction.”
(Photolur photo: Victor Dallakian.)