Friday, July 24, 2009

Bryza & Baku, anti-trafficking progress, lobbying against Gen. Res., Kyrgyz and Iran elections

This was first published in June 20, 2009 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

Possible pick for U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan criticized

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza, left, with Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, right, during the latest Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Russia, June 5. . Armenian president's press office

Matt Bryza, who has been the U.S. envoy for Karabakh negotiations since 2005, may be considered for a posting as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, a well-connected Foreign Policy magazine blog, The Cable, reported on June 12.

Mr. Bryza declined to comment when asked about the report by the Armenian Reporter.

The Cable cited former Clinton and Bush administration officials who raised concerns that Mr. Bryza's reputed closeness to Georgia's leadership - and his handling of the Ossetia crisis last year - might irritate Moscow, thus undermining U.S. efforts to engage with Russia.

In his current capacity, Mr. Bryza was frequently a target of criticism for his contradictory and controversial remarks on Karabakh. Last February, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tigran Balayan charged him with "hindering the negotiation process," Arminfo reported at the time.

Writing in Harper's website on June 17, Washington-based investigative journalist Ken Silverstein described Mr. Bryza as a "friend of the Azeri dictator" Ilham Aliyev.

Prior to dealing with Karabakh as an deputy assistant secretary of state, Mr. Bryza managed Caucasus and Turkey affairs at the White House in 2001-2005 and before that was the deputy U.S. envoy for Caspian energy in 1998-2001, dealing mainly with Azerbaijan.

Armenian sources familiar with Mr. Bryza's work at the State Department were harsh in their assessments of his track record.

Asked to comment, California Courier publisher Harut Sassounian told the Armenian Reporter, "everyone is tired of Bryza's antics of repeatedly saying one thing in one capital and then denying it in a second capital. He has cried wolf too many times and has lost all credibility."

Another source, who asked not to be named, predicted that "should Mr. Bryza become the president's nominee, he can expect comprehensive congressional questioning over his role" in U.S. policy in the Caucasus.

Separately, The Cable reported that Nancy McEldowney, the former deputy chief of U.S. diplomatic missions in Ankara (2004-2007) and Baku (2001-2004), will become the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Eurasia.

State Dept. sees improvement in Armenia’s anti-trafficking policy

Armenia has been removed from the U.S. human trafficking "watch list," the State Department reported on June 16. After spending five years on the list, Armenia was credited with "significant efforts" to meet U.S. standards on fighting trafficking in persons, although it was still short of meeting them.

The U.S. Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2001, mandating that the State Department issue annual reports that rate the world's efforts to counter human trafficking for the purposes of forced labor or prostitution.

Theoretically, the most egregious offenders could see a cut in U.S. aid. But no sanctions have ever been implemented under the act. See for the complete report.

U.S. companies with Turkey interests lobby against Genocide resolution

Major arms producers BAE Systems Inc., Goodrich Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., Raytheon Co., and United Technologies Corp. and energy producer Chevron Corp. lobbied against the Armenian Genocide resolution introduced in U.S. Congress earlier this year, The Associated Press reported on June 12 citing mandatory lobbying disclosures.

The companies spent a total of $14 million on lobbying for contracts and tax incentives and it was unclear how much of the amount was spent against the congressional resolution. Additional lobbying for Turkey is done by firms hired directly by the Turkish government and Turkish-American entities.

Seeking to win Ankara's favor, U.S. corporations looking to do business in Turkey have long lobbied against honoring Armenian lives lost in the Genocide.

One the resolution's main sponsors, Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.) charged the companies involved with not being ‘‘good corporate citizens.''

U.S. seeks to keep Kyrgyzstan airbase

President Obama sent a letter to Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev emphasizing the importance of bilateral security ties, the Kyrgyz government reported on June 11, according to news agencies.

The letter was meant as a fresh appeal for the Central Asian nation to reverse its decision to close a U.S. air base on its soil that has been used in support of Afghanistan operations. Last February, Kyrgyzstan gave the United States six months to close the base after receiving a $2 billion aid package from Russia.

During a regional summit meeting in Yekatirinburg, Russia, on June 16, Mr. Bakiyev pledged continued cooperation with the United States on Afghanistan security.

Paul Quinn-Judge, the Bishkek-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, a Brussels think tank, told on June 17 that current expectations are that the U.S. base would stay open in spite of an earlier decision to close it by August 18.

Mr. Bakiyev is seen as hedging his bets, as he faces an election contest on July 22.

World watching Iran’s post-election crisis

Street clashes and large-scale protests that followed Iran's June 12 presidential election continue to grab headlines as the United States and others try to make sense of the crisis, watching for any potential impact it might have on Iran's relations with the world.

Official figures gave the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad more than 60 percent of the vote and a first-round victory against former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was credited with about half as many votes. But Mr. Mousavi's supporters and sympathizers say the vote was a sham and have held protests demanding its annulment.

While President Barack Obama said he did not want to be seen as "meddling" in Iran's politics, he implicitly criticized the handling of the vote and most of America's political class remained overtly hopeful that Mr. Ahmadinejad, known for his controversial rhetoric, could be sidelined.

Meanwhile, China and Russia were quick to recognize Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory, with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev hosting Iran's president on June 16 for a regional summit meeting.

In Europe, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy was most outspoken. Shortly before attending the funeral of Gabon's ruler of more than 40 years and France's protégé, Mr. Sarkozy criticized Iran's election as a "fraud" and its government reaction "brutal."

In scenes reminiscent of recent election-related crises in Armenia and Georgia, angry opposition supporters filled the streets of the capital Tehran and other major cities, while pro-government groups sought to counter with demonstrations of their own. On June 15 seven protestors were killed as they tried to make their way inside the headquarters of Basij, the pro-government militia.

Observers have compared the post-election ferment to demonstrations that preceded the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew Iran's Shah. But in a major difference, in addition to support in the streets, Mr. Mousavi has strong endorsements from within Iran's establishment, including two of Mr. Ahmadinejad's predecessors as president, Mohammad Khatami (1997–2005) and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989–97) – who continues to hold powerful posts – as well as many celebrities.

Iran's supreme leader for the last 20 years, Ali Khamenei, under pressure from some fellow religious leaders, has already called for a partial recount of votes.

The ongoing crisis follows an earlier setback for Iran in Lebanon, where a Tehran-backed coalition failed to unseat a ruling alliance backed by the West and Saudi Arabia in June 7 elections.

No comments: