Blog Archives

VIDEO: A Master Plan? Russo-Azeri Strategy for Armenian Pacification

FAIRLAWN, NEW JERSEY – On Wednesday, June 30, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) hosted a webinar with expert analysts Lilit Gevorgyan and Armen Kharazian, entitled “A Master Plan? Russo-Azeri Strategy for Armenian Pacification.”

The analysts discusses the shifting sands of Armenia’s defense architecture, the logic and driving factors of Russia’s realignment with Azerbaijani state-building and economic regional initiatives, the foundation and impact of a shared Russo-Azeri vision that is unfolding in real time to achieve far-reaching objectives, continued Russian and Azeri challenges to post-war sovereignty in Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia, and much more.

This event was co-sponsored by the following organizations: Ararat-Eskijian Museum Armenian Bar Association; Armenian Democratic Liberal Party/Ramgavars; Armenian Network of America-Greater NY; Daughters of Vartan-Sahaganoush Otyag; Justice Armenia; Knights of Vartan-Bakradouny Lodge; National Association for Armenian Studies and Research NAASR / Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Lecture Series on Contemporary Armenian Issues; and St. Leon Armenian Church.

Turkish Group Hacked Joe Biden’s Website to Undermine His Presidential Election

A group calling itself RootAyyıldız hacked Joe Biden’s presidential campaign website

By Harut Sassounian
Syndicated Columnist

While it was widely publicized that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, very little was reported about similar meddling by Turkey.

The U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) released on March 15, 2021 a declassified report which confirmed Turkish hackers’ cyber-attack in the 2020 election on Joe Biden’s campaign website, to support President Donald Trump.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone, given the warm personal relationship between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Trump. Erdogan made weekly phone calls to the White House securing President Trump’s agreement on many pro-Turkish issues. Erdogan was certain that Biden would not be as accommodating as Trump.

Abdullah Bozkurt, a dissident Turkish investigative journalist living in Stockholm, Sweden, confirmed the Turkish hacking scheme by publishing the details in the Nordic Monitor on March 25, 2021.

The NIC disclosed that the Turkish group RootAyyıldız hacked the Biden-Harris presidential campaign website in October and November 2020. “Hackers promoting Turkish nationalist themes breached and defaced a website previously established for a candidate in the U.S. presidential campaign, according to US cybersecurity press,” the NIC reported.

“The Turkish hackers posted a nationalist and Islamist message that by and large repeated the narrative often promoted by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials in Turkey, led by President Erdogan,” Bozkurt wrote.

The Hackers placed on the Biden-Harris website the photos of President Erdogan and Sultan Abdulhamid II, named Red Sultan because of the massacres of 300,000 Armenians from 1894 to 1896.

“The hackers identified themselves as ‘Turkish Muslim Defacer’ and emphasized that they follow the Turkish president, described as ‘Reis’ (Chief) in the posted message, and are on the path of a Turkish Islamist jihadist campaign to dominate the world. The opposition political parties were alleged to have been supported by the US, and the hackers warned of further consequences if the U.S. did not leave Turkey alone,” reported Bozkurt.

Here is the translation of the Turkish hackers’ message left on the Biden-Harris website:

“We made the ablution [used here as a means to clean oneself to get ready to be a martyr in jihad] before and set out on a journey, we said our own funeral prayer, we sharpened our blade for our brother. We made our pledge to the Great Sultan [late Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, an authoritarian ruler revered by Islamist circles in Turkey]. We will kill for Reis [Chief — President Erdogan] anybody who sets their eyes on our [Turkish-Islamic] cause.

“Damn those who live for money and fame, greetings to those who live for the Islamic cause. From here, I warn the U.S.-backed, so-called [opposition] political parties like the CHP [main opposition Republican People’s Party], HDP [pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party] and the Iyi [conservative/nationalist Good] Party.

“We’ll be your nightmare if you don’t take your hands off my [Turkish] state, my nation. We will make you afraid of walking in the street [in shame] by revealing your most private conversations.

“RootAyyıldız is not a group or organization but a patriot who fights alone. We hail anybody who fights for Turk and Islam. May Allah be our help. We do not use social media. Don’t be fooled by fake accounts.”

The hackers wrote under the photo of Erdogan and Abdulhamid II: “We are the ones who stopped the tanks with our bare hands on the night of July 15 [2016 failed coup]. We are those who killed death that night. We have been waiting for Archers’ Hill for 15 centuries [a reference to a scene in the Battle of Uhud fought by the Muslim Prophet Muhammad]! We are the keepers of that red [Turkish] flag that will never abandon its shadow on us.” Archers’ Hill is frequently mentioned by Erdogan in his campaign rallies.

Bozkurt added: “RootAyyıldız is believed to have connections to elements of the Turkish government, specifically with intelligence agency MIT and the police department. Its attacks on foreign governments, entities and individuals have coincided with the growing noise among Turkish officials who leveled harsh criticism and threats against such foreign governments, entities and individuals.”

Bozkurt ended his article revealing that the Turkish hackers group RootAyyıldız “also targeted the Greek government and institutions during the heightened tension between the two countries in August 2020. The official website of the Bihar Education Department in India was hacked in August 2019 by RootAyyıldız, which posted messages in praise of Pakistan and Islam. In October 2020, the group hacked the Armenian Football Federation’s website during the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and posted messages in support of Azerbaijan.”

In a separate article by the Reuters news agency, titled: “Hackers acting in Turkey’s interests believed to be behind recent cyberattacks,” Turkish hackers attacked at least 30 organizations, including Albanian, Cypriot and Greek government email services, the website of the national security advisor of Iraq, embassies and security services as well as companies and other groups.

“The attacks involve intercepting internet traffic to victim websites, potentially enabling hackers to obtain illicit access to the networks of government bodies and other organizations,” Reuters wrote.

“According to two British officials and one U.S. official, the activity bears the hallmarks of a state-backed cyber espionage operation conducted to advance Turkish interests,” Reuters wrote.

These hacking efforts by the Turkish government-linked group are yet another example of the violation of international laws and conventions by Turkey.

Assembly Action Alert: Urge Congress to Sign the Letter to Biden Administration in Support of Closer US-Armenia Relations

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) is urging Armenian Americans to contact their Representative to ask them to sign a letter to the Biden administration to support a closer relationship between the United States and Armenia, and to send emergency aid to Artsakh.

Addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the letter is currently gathering signatures in an effort spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

The full text of the letter is below:

Hon. Antony Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Hon. Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1300 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretaries Blinken and Austin:

As members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, we write to offer our congratulations on your recent confirmations and to share a list of our bipartisan priorities we hope to work together on during the 117th Congress.

One of the most pressing issues for the Caucus and for the future of American foreign policy in the South Caucasus region is the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). As you are aware, Azerbaijani and Turkish forces initiated an unprovoked attack on September 27, 2020, leading to six weeks of devastating fighting that killed an estimated 5,000 people and forced more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee from the Karabakh region. Azerbaijani forces were able to make rapid advances into the region with the aid of Turkish-backed foreign mercenaries, many alleged to have ties to internationally recognized terrorist groups, Bayraktar drones that utilize American components and technology, and heavy weaponry including the illegal use of cluster and white phosphorus munitions.

With the rising risk of a mass atrocity against thousands of Armenian civilians, Armenia agreed to a peace agreement brokered by Russia on November 10. This agreement brought an end to the fierce combat, but it has done little to address the immediate and significant problems of feeding, sheltering, and ensuring the safety of thousands of displaced families during the COVID-19 pandemic. In violation of the ceasefire, Azerbaijan also refuses to free dozens of Armenian prisoners of war and apprehended civilians, which illustrates how this agreement fails to address the structural issues that have caused uncertainty and fueled the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for decades. There remain several important issues that must be resolved and many critical questions that must be answered before a binding and durable peace settlement can be reached.

First, the terms laid out in the current ceasefire are untenable for Artsakh’s long-term security and stability in the region. The United States cannot allow Russia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan to solely dictate and dominate the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. While we have seen some reengagement in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group process, we believe more must be done to pursue an enduring settlement based on the fundamental right to self-determination. We appreciate the response Secretary Blinken gave during his confirmation hearing to this end, stating that he will “reinvigorate U.S. engagement to find a permanent settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that protects the security of Nagorno-Karabakh and helps to ensure another war does not break out.”

In negotiations, our diplomats must insist that any future settlement supported by the United States will provide the people of Artsakh with the ability to reconstruct their communities and rebuild their lives without fear of further bloodshed. This should include significant U.S. commitments to provide an urgently needed humanitarian aid and assistance package for the people of Artsakh. The international community, including the United States, also has an important role to play by finally recognizing the right to self-determination for the people of Artsakh and their role as a legitimate negotiating party in resolving this conflict. Absent this recognition, they will continue to face the threat of displacement by Azerbaijani and Turkish forces without any option for formal redress.

Another important component of ensuring lasting peace in the region is to hold destabilizing actors accountable. There is significant evidence that Azerbaijani and Turkish forces planned the invasion in the buildup to the September 27 assault on Nagorno-Karabakh. This evidence includes the stockpiling of armaments, including drones that killed many innocent civilians during the conflict, the July 2020 provocations by Azerbaijani troops in Armenia’s Tavush province, and several instances of large-scale joint military exercises near the Armenian border that foreshadowed the coming attacks. The United States and other international actors failed to acknowledge these warning signs and take necessary steps to prevent the sharp and unprovoked escalation of violence.

Actions that could have been taken at the time to halt Azerbaijani and Turkish aggressions included threatening sanctions on high-ranking officials from those countries and withholding aid, including ending the waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act and ceasing further military assistance through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program. We are encouraged by Secretary Blinken’s response during the confirmation process on this subject as well.

Similarly, the United States must reassess our policy toward Turkey. Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s regime reaps the rewards of the chaos he has sown in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, the Middle East, and the South Caucasus. His deliberate destabilizing behavior, which includes the installation of Russian made anti-aircraft missiles over the threat of sanction by the United States, demands a swift and decisive correction. We must learn from the failures of an appeasement policy used by past administrations toward Turkey and use every available diplomatic and economic tool to penalize these bad actors for their aggressions and abhorrent human rights abuses. If we do not act, we risk the likelihood that the Erdogan regime will trigger an ever-expanding zone of conflict.

Finally, the United States should seek to strengthen our strategic relationship with Armenia, a young democracy that has been shaken by last year’s events and the resulting uncertainty they have caused. We urge you to identify ways we can provide additional economic assistance to Armenia to support its democracy and development as well as respond to the significant number of displaced people who have fled the conflict in Artsakh. We also request that your Administration identify ways in which our economic, cultural, and other ties to Armenia can be improved to benefit Armenia and the large Armenian American diaspora in the United States. Those steps should include the formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by President Biden on April 24, following in the footsteps of both the House and Senate who passed resolutions recognizing the fact of the Genocide during the 116th Congress.

Thank you for attention to these important matters. We stand ready to work with you to craft a policy in the South Caucasus region that is consistent with U.S. national security, universal principles of human rights, and our democratic values. Our hope is to further discuss these issues with you and your teams at the earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress

GUS M. BILIRAKIS
Member of Congress

JACKIE SPEIER
Member of Congress

DAVID G. VALADAO
Member of Congress

ADAM B. SCHIFF
Member of Congress