WSJ: Turkish-Backed Syrian Fighters Join Armenian-Azeri Conflict

Oct. 14, 2020: The Wall Street Journal

Hundreds of Syrian mercenaries allied with Turkey have flowed into Nagorno-Karabakh, further straining relations between Ankara and Moscow.

An article in The Wall Street Journal dated October 14, 2020, says that Turkish-backed mercenaries are being transferred from the Middle East to Azerbaijan to participate in military operations in Karabakh.

A well-known American newspaper also presented an interview with one of the members of the Syrian opposition mercenary group, whose members were also transferred to Karabakh with his assistance:

Testimony of a Syrian “rebel”

[su_pullquote]A Syrian rebel involved in deployments said fighters had been traveling there since mid-September—before the latest round of clashes—in groups of up to 100 at a time. Another Syrian with ties to the rebel groups also estimated hundreds had gone. Dozens have also returned, alarmed by the fierce fighting, that person said.[/su_pullquote]

Turkey’s Role

Turkey organized two weeks of land and aerial military drills in Azerbaijan after the July skirmishes and supplied the Azeri government with attack drones, according to Turkish officials. Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, has said the Turkish aircraft has given his country’s military an edge in the Nagorno-Karabakh fighting.

Turkey has enlisted Syrian fighters to advance its foreign-policy objectives before. Earlier this year, Ankara sent about 5,000 Syrian fighters to support the internationally recognized government in Libya’s civil war, according to a June report released by the U.S. Defense Department.

The Syrian rebel, who has been charged with preparing spreadsheets of men enlisting to go to Nagorno-Karabakh, said many were lured by monthly salaries of up to $2,000—a significant sum in the war-wrecked economy of Syria.

“Going to Libya or to Azerbaijan has become a normal thing,” said the fighter, who added that he briefly considered signing up himself because he struggles to support his family.

“People no longer care who they are fighting with or against, now all they ask about is the money,” he said. “Wherever there is money they will go.”

The rebel, who said he was waiting to be deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh, plans to cross from Syria into Turkey, where he said chartered flights transport the fighters to Azerbaijan.

One Syrian who has long worked with the rebel groups and who has been in direct contact with two Syrian men fighting in Azerbaijan said he has been told that casualties among the Syrian fighters are rising fast.

“They say it’s hell,” said the man, who added that as many as 200 have already asked to return. “Those who have gone there and not been killed or injured in some way are the exception. Some of the fighters already want to come back.”

Arabic-speaking fighters in Azerbaijani uniform seen near Karabakh frontline.
Institute of Armenian Studies;

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