Some news reports about the ongoing hostilities by outlets such as the BBC and Reuters contain unconfirmed sources about Syrian fighters in Azerbaijan. During the previous major outbreak of violence, in April 2016, Armenia made claims about ISIS recruits in Azerbaijan. Pashinyan himself voiced the information about Muslim radicals walking in the streets of Baku and demanding the closure of stores selling alcohol. The term “fake news” gets thrown about casually these days, but in this case, it is entirely appropriate. Despite being fully debunked, parts of the Western media, in my view, having predisposed Orientalist stereotypes against Azerbaijan, which eases the lobbying efforts of Armenian ultranationalists.
In fact, Azerbaijan, even with its democracy deficit, is a country with strong secular traditions that has prosecuted Islamic radicals to the full extent of the law, imprisoned ISIS fighters, supported U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and assisted Western intelligence agencies in eradicating terrorism. Frankly, today’s Azerbaijan is a Muslim country as much as The Netherlands is a Christian one. The Armenian lobby groups in Washington, such as the Armenian National Committee of America and their recruits on the Capitol Hill, including several sitting Congressmen and Senators, do a big disservice to U.S. national interests by advancing the narrow xenophobic and extremist agenda of one ethnic group.