Thursday, July 31, 2008

Briefly: ANCA, ArmenPac and Turks on U.S. election favorites; HRW report; Sibel Edmonds and Eldar Kouliev spying allegations

This was originally published in February 2, 2008 Armenian Reporter.

by Emil Sanamyan

Armenian groups endorse rival Democratic candidates
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) this week endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in the Democratic primaries. In a January 30 statement, ANCA chair Ken Hachikian said that “based on his strong record in office, his bold statements as a candidate, and our judgment as to the policies he will pursue as President, we believe that, among a strong field of Democratic candidates, Senator Obama will best reflect the views and values of Armenian American voters.”

A day earlier, ARMENPAC, a political action committee, endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.). “Out of all the candidates for President, it is my belief that Hillary Clinton will be the strongest advocate not only for the recognition of the genocide, but for all Armenian issues,” said ARMENPAC Co-Chair Annie Totah.

Senators Obama and Clinton are the main candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination; former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) withdrew this week.

Turks discuss U.S. presidential candidates
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Sen. Barack Obama as a political amateur after the candidate for Democratic presidential nomination issued a statement in support of the Armenian-American agenda on January 19.

Mr. Erdogan counseled the U.S. senator to “outgrow his amateur period of his political career” and take note that Turkey was a much larger country than Armenia, local media quoted the Turkish leader as saying on January 22.

There was no immediate Turkish government reaction to a similar statement on Armenian issues made by Sen. Hillary Clinton on January 24, but speaking at a Washington think tank this week former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Mark Parris said both statements could start a Democratic presidency off “on a sour note” in terms of relations with Turkey.

Writing about the statements in the Turkish Daily News on January 26, its Washington correspondent Umit Enginsoy said that they reflected a close race between the two senators and their effort to court voters. He noted that neither President Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush upheld their pledges to affirm the Armenian Genocide after they were elected.

“Analysts say that although Clinton and probably Obama may also change their positions if elected president, their present statements favoring the Armenian cause are pretty strong,” he said.

The English-language Turkish newspaper wrote on January 17, “Turkish diplomats and other high level officials generally favor Senator Clinton over Senator Obama,” recalling that the Clinton presidency marked “arguably the highest point in U.S.-Turkish relations over the past four decades” and that they anticipated “no surprises” from Sen. Clinton.

“They tend to view Sen. Obama as an unpredictable and inexperienced politician on foreign policy, surrounded by some advisers hostile to Turkey,” the paper suggested and went on to add that since he “comes from a minority” Sen. Obama “may attempt to transform U.S. foreign policy in ways that may hurt Turkey, if he is elected president.”

While Turkish officials report no specific qualms about Republican presidential candidates, and would particularly welcome Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) as president, “many Turkish officials have reservations over a Republican victory in the face of the party’s hard-line policies in the Middle East.”

Watchdog: West puts other interests before democracy abroad
U.S., European, and other democracies are letting authoritarian states violate human rights while using pseudo-elections as a smokescreen to earn international legitimacy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual World Report released on January 31.

“It’s now too easy for autocrats to get away with mounting a sham democracy,” HRW executive director Ken Roth said in a statement. “It seems Washington and European governments will accept even the most dubious election so long as the ‘victor’ is a strategic or commercial ally,” he said. The report argued further that human rights abuses as part of the U.S.-led “war on terror” have also undermined international standards.

In its review of Armenia, HRW acknowledged the improved conduct of elections in May 2007, but cited incidents of ill-treatment in police custody and harassment of political opposition supporters. It also claimed that media freedom was limited.

HRW also criticized European leaders for their reluctance to accept Turkey into the European Union (EU). As a result, the report argued, the EU “lost leverage itself and diminished the clout of those in Turkey who have cited the prospect of EU membership as a reason for reform.”

Sibel Edmonds case featured in British newspaper
The former translator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) added new details to her allegations of wrongdoing in U.S. government that may have damaged national security.

In feature articles on January 6 and 27, the Sunday Times (London) published the charges of Sibel Edmonds (covered by the Armenian Reporter last year and previously) that Turkish and other foreign governments successfully co-opted senior members of the U.S. government.

In particular, Ms. Edmonds, 37, alleged that in 2001 a senior State Department official exposed a covert Central Intelligence Agency counter-proliferation operation to the Turkish government, which in turn shared the information with other foreign governments seeking nuclear weapons.

The charges were previously heard in a closed session of the U.S. Congress, but the Justice Department has since barred Mrs. Edmonds from testifying, citing national security concerns.

The Times was able to confirm that the FBI in fact looked into the case in 2002, but no formal charges were apparently filed.

The State Department official told the newspaper last week that “It is impossible to find a strong enough way to deny these allegations which are both false and malicious.” See

Russian intelligence officer was Azerbaijan’s UN envoy?
Eldar Kouliev, Azerbaijan’s ambassador at the United Nations from 1994 to 2001 was “a deep-cover [Russian] intelligence officer,” a former Russian spy, Col. Sergei Tretyakov, who defected to the U.S. in 2000, claims in a recently published book.

Ambassador Kouliev (Guliyev) was a veteran Soviet and then Russian diplomat, before joining the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry as ambassador to the UN. He is currently an executive director for a Russian-Azerbaijani community organization in Moscow.

In a comment to Azerbaijani media, Mr. Kouliev called the allegation a “stupidity,” but neither he nor a spokesperson for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry denied it outright.

The former ambassador called Mr. Tretyakov a “traitor who destroyed hundreds of people.” According to a book review in the Washington Post on January 27, Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America after the End of the Cold War , written by Pete Early, was commissioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Alexa Millinger contributed to this week’s column.

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