Armenian Scud-B missiles, on display at a 2011 military parade in Yerevan.
Armenia is capable of attacking Azerbaijan's oil facilities in case of a war, and that it just finished military exercises practicing that scenario. a top Armenian general has said, speaking to a press conference at the conclusion of the exercises:
“We simulated strikes against both army units and military facilities of the probable enemy and … economic facilities that influence, in one way or another, the military capacity of its armed forces,” said Major-General Artak Davtian, head of the operational department at the Armenian army’s General Staff.
“There would be no strikes on the civilian population, we are not planning or playing out such a war scenario,” he told journalists. “We do not plan any strikes on cities. Our targets are military and economic facilities that are essential to a particular state.”
“In particular, I can stress that we modeled several strikes on oil and gas infrastructures, energy carriers that would affect the economy,” Davtian added in a clear reference to oil-rich Azerbaijan.
The exercises took place from October 1-13. According to Radio Azatutyun:
The two-week “strategic” exercises, which drew to a close at the weekend, took place in undisclosed locations in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in a mostly “command-and-staff” format. According to the Armenian military, they involved over 40,000 troops and thousands of pieces of military hardware. The participating personnel included a record-high number of army reservists.
Azerbaijan, naturally, responded quickly. Spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, Colonel Eldar Sabiroglu:
"Firstly, Azerbaijan’s oil and gas fields are being used jointly with the biggest states and companies. Secondly, Azerbaijan is able to protect its oil and gas fields, all measures needed for missile defense are in the focus of attention.
The enemy should understand that the new missile systems of Azerbaijani Armed Forces can strike any strategic facility of Armenia. Azerbaijan’s development, achievements and increase of defense expenditures have pushed Armenia into desperate situation. Therefore, making such statement, they are trying to reduce the protests of the Armenian people. This is the main aim of the threat."
Davtyan was apparently referring to new missiles unveiled by Armenia last year, upgraded Scuds and Tochka U, which have a range of 300 km, in theory covering much of Azerbaijan.
So they could attack Azerbaijan's oil infrastructure -- but would they? Analysts in Baku tend to downplay the prospect of Armenia's widening a potential war over the disputed province of Nagorno Karabakh to include Azerbaijan proper. I asked Anar Valiyev, a good Azerbaijan analyst, about these most recent statements, and he chalked them up to domestic political posturing. He said that after the Ramil Safarov episode, Armenia is in a bellicose mood, and this statement and the recent opening of the airport in Stepanakaert/Khankendi are both examples of this.
Still, Armenia would have less to lose than Azerbaijan by widening the war, so it wouldn't be surprising.
In related news, the newsletter IMINT and Analysis, which uses open-source satellite imagery to analyze air defense systems and other military developments around the world, notes in its newest edition that Armenia has in the last two years deployed more advanced S-300 air defense systems to within seven kilometers of the de facto border between Armenia and Karabakh. That will allow the systems to cover Karabakh, the newsletter (subscription only) writes:
Deployment of the mobile S-300PS batteries in Syunik province places the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region under the protection of Armenia’s air defense network. Furthermore, the S-300PS enjoys mobility that the S-300PT does not, enabling rapid relocation when required. As such, either S-300PS complex represents a possible occupant for the S-300P complex constructed near Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh, supplementing or replacing extant 2K11 or S-125 batteries in the region. The siting of the S-300PS batteries permits target track assignment from either the Yerevan-based 64N6 battle management radar or a Nagorno- Karabakh-based 36D6 EW radar. Furthermore, the current siting of the S-300PS batteries closes a pre-existing air defense gap, allowing Armenia to deny air travel into the Azeri province of Nakhchivan.
Is that enough to tip the balance of forces into Armenia's favor? We'll probably only find out if the worst comes to pass there.