Thursday, March 3, 2011

The International Crisis Group and Partisanship

by David Davidian

On February 8, 2011 the International Crisis Group published a Policy Briefing, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Preventing War ( It is basically an update from earlier ICG briefs that have intimidated untrained readers into concluding that war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is inevitable without an immediate final settlement. The ICG stated, on page 1, that the best settlement is to agree on the basic principles, “first outlined by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2005”. The ICG states that the current status quo is not in the interest of Azerbaijan, yet the ICG recommends, on page 2 “Armenia and the de-facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities should cease supporting activities that make the status quo more intolerable for Azerbaijan...” The ICG puts the burden of conflict settlement squarely on the shoulders of Armenians. This makes the ICG as partisan today as it was in 2007.

In November 2007, the ICG recommended in Nagorno-Karabakh: Risking War (,,ICG,,AZE,,473c101e2,0.html), the “withdrawal of Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh forces from all occupied territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh, with special modalities for Kelbajar and Lachin” as well as “The de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities should end support for settlement of occupied territories with Armenians” and “Azerbaijan should allow Karabakh Azeris to elect the head of their community and make a concerted effort to increase transparency and reduce corruption so that oil revenues are used to benefit all citizens, particularly internally displaced persons (IDPs)”. (see pages i-ii).

On page 4 of the 2011 brief, the ICG claimed, “The Armenian front-line units that came under attack [June 18-19, 2010] reportedly “panicked” and initially fled, producing some concern among military officials in Yerevan that their troops’ training and combat experience may not be as superior as often claimed. 14”. This claim appeared odd and moreover, the reference provided looked bogus. The ICG needed to explain.

The following email was sent to the International Crisis Group on February 9, 2011.

Subject: Request for References: Europe Briefing N°60, 8 February 2011
From: “David Davidian”
Date: Wed, February 9, 2011 9:15 am
Dear International Crisis Group,
I have two short informational questions regarding a report you published yesterday.
In report: Europe Briefing N°60, 8 February 2011, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Preventing War, you made a reference on page 4:
“The Armenian front-line units that came under attack reportedly ‘panicked’ and initially fled, producing some concern among military officials in Yerevan that their troops’ training and combat experience may not be as superior as often claimed.14
and footnote 14 states: “14 Crisis Group interview, military analyst, Yerevan, November, 2010.”
However, I cannot find this reference on the ICG site after extensive searching. Can you provide a link to reference 14?
Also, you noted on page 1: “…the country’s [Azerbaijan] oil revenues are projected to decline after 2014.” Can you provide a reference for this claim as well.
Thank you for your time and effort,
David Davidian
There has been no response to this request. A reference for a 2014 oil declination claim on page 1 but was used as a control case. Actually, this 2014 oil claim is made again later in the brief and there it is referenced with footnote 98.

The ICG should provide clarity when using references in their policy briefs, considering they provided 152 of them in a 16-body page publication. A reference that cannot be located or clarified calls into doubt the author's intent and questions the entire report. Even high school term papers are required to have verifiable references. It would be interesting to examine the entire ICG brief, but the effort would only reinforce the partisanship exhibited by the ICG.

The ICG is engaging in tactics generally associated with psychological warfare. The function of their latest brief is crafted to pressure Armenian and “de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities” to accept the deal proposed by mediators. The ICG's analysis and recommendations are clearly not convincing at the expert level, however, the ICG's target is really the unsuspecting general public.

Azerbaijani and Turkish English language media apparently had no issues with the ICG 2011 brief, as they merely quoted directly from the ICG. See a sampling:

In particular, note an article -- apparently worthy of being published in the Turkish Sunday's Zaman -- by Sabine Freizer, the Europe Program Director at the International Crisis Group. See:

David Davidian is a Sr System Architect at a major IT firm engaged in technical intelligence analysis. He manages the US office of