Revelations that U.S. officials charged Armenia in 2008 with supplying Iran with weapons later used to kill U.S. troops in Iraq were "enormously troubling," said Rep. Adam Schiff, who has been a staunch supporter of Congress officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The charges were described in a cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Yerevan that also showed Americans considered sanctions against Armenia and demanded that leaders there impose greater controls on the movement of weapons.
U.S. and Armenian officials declined to discuss the diplomatic cable, part of a cache of 250,000 documents being made public by the website WikiLeaks. Advocates for strong ties between the United States and Armenia said they hoped and expected the memo would not harm relations between the two nations.
Nonetheless, Schiff, a congressional leader who has long advocated for deeper U.S.-Armenia ties, said the allegation in the published cable "is enormously troubling."
According to the Dec. 24, 2008, memo in the cable, then-Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte sent a strongly worded letter to Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.
Americans alleged that high-level Armenian officials "facilitated Iran's purchase of rockets and machine guns" in 2003. Four years later, some of the weapons were recovered from a site in Iraq where Shia militants killed one U.S. soldier and wounded six others, according to the cable.
"We value our positive relationship with your government as we explore a range of shared interests, especially an agreement on Nagorno Karabakh and normalization of Armenia's relations with Turkey," Negroponte wrote. "At the same time, we are dismayed by a serious and, indeed, deadly arms re-export case."
Officials declined to comment on the memo or whether Armenia acceded to demands for improved security. However, advocates for Armenia in the United States noted that the U.S. never imposed sanctions.
"No sanctions on aid or trade or anything else were put in place," Aram Hamparian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said. "That is the real test of the relationship."
Hamparian is among the advocates for a congressional resolution, introduced by Schiff, condemning the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915 — an act of Congress that has faltered under pressure from Turkey.
Hamparian said he doubted the cable would affect the fate of the legislation.
"I would hope that there is nobody in the U.S. government who would hold a human rights issue such as the Armenian Genocide resolution hostage," he said.
Van Krikorian, a spokesman for the Armenian Assembly of America, said Armenia has not run afoul of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, noting that numerous cables dropped by WikiLeaks touch on diplomacy involving Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey, and that overall this "mosaic" indicates Armenia has been a faithful U.S. ally.
"With the U.S., the bonds are unbreakable. You have so many Armenian Americans and people with family connections all over the place," Krikorian said.
In a statement posted after the cable was leaked, the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said the cables "are often preliminary and incomplete expressions of foreign policy, and they should not be seen as having standing on their own or as representing U.S. policy."