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Oil versus Democracy 12/11/2003
Pentagon Values Oil Much More
Than Democracy in Azerbaijan

 
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
 
It was noteworthy that U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited
Baku and Tbilisi last week, but not Yerevan. Armenians have to be concerned
about his lack of even-handedness vis-a-vis the three countries of the
Caucasus. Most European and American officials usually visit all three
states during their tour of the region, in order not to snub any of them.
Mr. Rumsfeld could have made a brief stop in Yerevan just for the sake of
appearances.
While the U.S. delegation was on its way to Baku, a "Senior Department of
Defense (DoD) official" made some interesting remarks in a "background
interview" to the accompanying members of the press on December 2. The
official, who did not wish his name quoted, stated that he was the Acting
Deputy Secretary of Defense for Eurasia. The transcript of that interview
was posted on the web site of the Department of Defense. Regrettably,
several key words of the interview are missing and are marked in the
transcript as "inaudible." Some of these "inaudible" words may have been
intentionally deleted in order to conceal information that the official
should not have disclosed to the media.
It is interesting that separately both the Secretary of Defense (during a
press conference in Baku) and his deputy (during the "background interview")
refused to make a single critical comment about the fraudulent elections
that brought Ilham Aliyev to power in October.
When the "Senior DoD official" was asked about the recent fraudulent
presidential election, he evaded the issue by referring the journalists to
the State Department. When asked the same question in Baku, Secretary
Rumsfeld simply replied: "We have both military and socio-economic relations
with Azerbaijan. Perhaps, we are to continue this cooperation with the new
leadership of this country." The Pentagon officials also did not seem to be
bothered by the fact that Azerbaijan was listed as the 95th most corrupt
country out of the 102 countries surveyed by Transparency International.
The State Department, on the other hand, took a little more forceful
position on the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, by stating: "The
United States is deeply disappointed and concerned that the October 15,
2003, presidential election in Azerbaijan failed to meet international
standards. The United States will work with President-elect Ilham Aliyev and
his government, but we believe that Azerbaijan's leadership missed an
important opportunity to advance democratization by holding a credible
election. The Unite States calls for an immediate, independent, thorough and
transparent investigation of all election violations."
Azeri human rights activists, risking their lives, have told western
journalists that America is more interested in Azerbaijan's oil than its
corrupt elections, dictatorial rule, human rights record or lack of
democracy!
Even though the unnamed "Senior DoD official," just like Secretary Rumsfeld,
has a definite pro-Azeri bias, nevertheless, he made some very interesting
observations about Karabagh that would please Armenians and displease
Azeris. Here are some excerpts:
"Azerbaijan's most significant security problem is the conflict in
Nagorno-Karabagh, largely frozen since the early 90's, I think since about
93, 94 now. And Nagorno-Karabagh is a largely ethnically Armenian populated
area over which Armenia and Azerbaijan (inaudible) ["fought?"] in the early
90's."
By making the same distinction as the CIA in its World Factbook between
Karabagh proper and other Azeri territories under Armenian control, the
"Senior DoD official" acknowledged that Karabagh "is certainly, legally part
of Azerbaijan, but on the ground, it's controlled by the Nagorno Karabagh
Armenian forces, and they have their own sort of local government . So again,
on paper, [it's] part of Azerbaijan, but on the ground, it's really a region
separate from Azerbaijan right now. And there's territories west of
Nagorno-Karabagh between Nagorno-Karabagh and Armenia, which are occupied by
Armenian forces as a result of the stalemate of the cease fire that ended
the war."
The unnamed Pentagon official described the window of opportunity for a
peaceful resolution of the Karabagh conflict as "closing ... to the
detriment of Azerbaijan." He added, "even if you left Nagorno-Karabagh
aside, there's other territories of Azerbaijan that are currently occupied
... you probably won't see a change. That's why we say it [the opportunity
for settlement] is closing."
Finally, the "Senior DoD official" made the alarming disclosure that
Azerbaijan, similar to Iraq, is a conduit for terrorists and dangerous
weapons: "Any number of proliferation of weapons, weapons of mass
destruction, narcotics, you all know come from Afghanistan in transit
through Central Asia across the Caspian into Russia and Europe. And also the
movement of people [meaning terrorists]."
The above transcript indicates that despite Pentagon's favoritism towards
Azerbaijan, U.S. officials have reached the realistic conclusion that
Karabagh proper, in any future settlement, would most probably maintain its
independence from Azerbaijan.
 
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