Posted at 1:42 am Updated at 5:00 am
name : Ilham Aliyev
Age : 61 years
Function : president of Azerbaijan
Distinctive signs : patriotism, power, petrodollars
Why are we talking about that?
Azerbaijan this week regained definitive control of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave in Azeri territory. This operation is the latest chapter in a “frozen” war that has pitted Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists in the Republic of Artsakh since 1990. Since the beginning of the week, 100,000 Armenians have left the area to go into exile in Armenia for fear of “ethnic cleansing.” ”.
Why recover this territory?
Control of Nagorno-Karabakh is an old dream for Ilham Aliev, president of Azerbaijan since 2003. This Armenian enclave, located in the heart of the country, was a thorn in his side.
“Everything is on the (geographic) map,” emphasizes Inna Naroditskaya, a professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, originally from Azerbaijan. It is as if the French city of Lyon is in the middle of Germany…” Aliev is not recognized as a “war merchant,” she adds. But the status of Nagorno-Karabakh was ambiguous and sooner or later this issue would have to be resolved.”
According to Bahruz Samadov, an Azeri journalist based in the Czech Republic, Aliyev’s heightened nationalism is also at the heart of his motivations. “I wouldn’t say it was personal, but it was a form of revenge,” explains Bahruz Samadov, an Azeri journalist based in the Czech Republic. After the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War (2020), he became very patriotic. However, Azeri nationalism has always implied antagonism towards Armenia. »
The impact on your power.
This important victory will likely increase Ilham Aliev’s standing in his own country, if not ensure his posterity. “Right now, his legitimacy and popular support are very high,” Samadov notes. People identify with him. I believe that after that, and for several years, he will use it as a tool to heal the traumas of the Azeri people. »
“It was popular. It is even more so,” Inna Naroditskaya simply sums up.
A well established clan
Ilham Aliev, however, does not need popular support. His regime is well established and is the result of an assumed autocratism. The son of a former KGB agent who reigned in the country between 1969 and 2003 (Heydar Aliev), this former academic, who has long had a reputation as a gambler and casino enthusiast, is regularly accused of violating human rights. . In 2009, he amended the Constitution to make the number of presidential terms unlimited. In 2016, he extended the length of the presidential term from 5 to 7 years. In 2017, he appointed his wife, Mehriban Alieva, an ophthalmologist from a powerful Azerbaijani family, as first vice president. And it is likely that his 26-year-old son Heydar will succeed him. In short, the Aliev clan is not about to disappear.
With billions of dollars in windfall profits from oil (Azerbaijan is a historic producer), Ilham Aliev was able to benefit from rapid economic growth. But the family fortune is a difficult topic to discuss openly in Azerbaijan. Investigations have found traces of companies. offshore linked to the clan. The “Pandora Papers”, published in 2021 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), reveal, for example, that people close to the president carried out opaque real estate transactions in the United Kingdom, including the purchase for $45 million of a office building in his son’s name. Ilham Aliev has always denied accusations of corruption and human rights violations against him.
An international image
Like his father before him, Ilham Aliev is widely courted by Europe, which is counting on Azeri oil and gas to reduce its dependence on Russia. Which would explain the relative silence of Europeans after the invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh. But it is the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who sells him weapons and supports him politically, who he counted on to subdue Armenia. In recent years, he has also attempted to improve his image internationally, using his petrodollars to organize the Formula 1 Grand Prix, Euro football matches and the Eurovision song contest.
Next stop: Nakhichevan?
According to some, the next step for Aliev will be the reopening of the Zangezur corridor. This strategic route, which passes through Armenia, is the only land link between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan, an autonomous republic with an Azeri majority, landlocked between Armenia, Turkey and Iran. “Another file to resolve,” observes M.me Naroditskaya. However, annexation is not for tomorrow, says Bahruz Samadov. “In the short term I do not expect a new conflict. There is already a lot of pressure on Azerbaijan. There may be negotiations. But in the short term, I would be surprised if there was an escalation…”
With Agence France-Presse, OC Media, The Guardianthe BBC, Eurasianet, DW, The world