By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), one of the three political parties represented in government, voiced on Thursday its opposition to the deployment of Armenian military personnel in Iraq sought by President Robert Kocharian.
However, leaders of the pan-Armenian nationalist party, which has branches in some Arab countries, made it clear that they will not press Kocharian to abandon the deployment plans announced more than a year ago.
They said the decision was made by Dashnaktsutyun’s worldwide Bureau and the governing body of its organization in Armenia the previous night. It means that all 11 members of the Dashnaktsutyun faction in parliament will have to vote against the planned dispatch to Iraq of some 50 non-combat troops. The 131-member National Assembly is scheduled to start debating the issue on Friday.
“First of all, we are concerned about the security of our communities [in Arab countries],” a senior Dashnaktsutyun lawmaker, Hrair Karapetian, told RFE/RL, echoing widespread worries about the plight of Iraq’s embattled Armenian community. He also warned that the move could have unspecified negative consequences for Armenia as well.
“On the other hand, we understand all those who will vote for [the deployment],” Karapetian added. “There are arguments in favor of doing that. We have explained this to our allied organizations. Thank God, they understand us too.”
The Armenian parliament, which is controlled by Kocharian, is still likely to permit the dispatch of army doctors, sappers and a transportation unit despite Dashnaktsutyun’s refusal to fall in line. Its standing committee on foreign affairs, incidentally headed by Dashnaktsutyun leader Armen Rustamian, on Thursday voted narrowly to recommend the assembly to endorse Armenia’s largely symbolic participation in the U.S.-led occupation force.
Similar decisions were taken by the parliamentary faction of speaker Artur Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir Party and the People’s Deputy group of independent deputies which number 21 and 16 deputies respectively. The Republican Party (HHK) of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, which boasts the largest faction comprising 40 members, is expected to follow suit on Friday.
The supporters of the Iraq mission may well be joined by eight deputies representing the opposition National Unity Party (AMK). But the parliament’s other opposition force, the Artarutyun bloc, reaffirmed its opposition to Kocharian’s plans.
One of its 14 deputies, Victor Dallakian, said Artarutyun will demand that Friday’s debate is broadcast live on state television and may try to filibuster it. He argued that the issue has not been even discussed by Kocharian’s moribund Security Council of which Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian is the secretary.
“It’s been five years since the Security Council effectively stopped functioning. Decisions [on national security issues] are instead made at casinos,” Dallakian charged, alluding to Sarkisian’s alleged gambling habits.