11th-Hour Attack on Boxer by WSJ Smells of the Oil Lobby


BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN

The Wall Street Journal’s September 20 attack piece on Senator Barbara Boxer and the Armenian National Committee of America, which it characterized as a group with “tribal Caucasian obsessions,” is the last ditch effort by oil industry executives and the pro-Azerbaijan lobby to save the deeply flawed nomination of U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan designate Matt Bryza, just 24-hours prior to Senate Foreign Relations Committee consideration of his candidacy.

And Bryza clearly needs all the help he can get. Rumors of his impending nomination came up as early as May, 2009, but, curiously, it took the Obama Administration a full year to submit Bryza’s name for Senate approval. By July 22, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee grilled Bryza on his failed record in the Caucasus, his uncomfortably close ties with Azerbaijan’s dictatorial regime, and conflict of interest concerns regarding the work of his wife, Zeyno Baran, it became obvious why it took so long.

There is no question that foreign service officers having close working relationships with the leaders of the foreign countries can be an asset in promoting US interests abroad. However the effective diplomat must know where to draw the line. Bryza’s ties to Azerbaijan foreign minister Elmar Mamedyarov – who served as one of three witnesses at Bryza’s 2007 wedding – and the dearth of Azerbaijani Government officials who attended the wedding and, allegedly may have even paid for a portion of it – fundamentally weakens his ability to send a strong pro-democracy, anti-war message to Azerbaijan’s leadership.

Baran’s participation on the editorial staff of an Azerbaijani government sponsored journal titled “Azerbaijan Focus” – where she serves along side Mamedyarov and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, raises further questions as to where her allegiances lie.

Bryza’s public inaction in the face of the destruction of a 1300 year old Armenian cemetery in Djulfa, which featured thousands of ornate “cross-stones” as grave markers, showed callous indifference to the cultural and religious desecration committed by Azerbaijani soldiers, condemned by the European Parliament and other international institutions.

The Wall Street Journal, which since being purchased by Rupert Murdoch has become the mouthpiece of right-wing conservatives, chooses to ignore these facts as listed in a nine-page public memo prepared by the ANCA. They also choose to ignore Bryza’s flimsy responses to a series of oral and written questions submitted by Senators Boxer, Menendez, Feingold, Shaheen and Committee Chairman John Kerry.

Instead they resort to a brazen show of partisan politics – hoping to tie Senator Boxer’s concerns about a flawed nominee whose name should never have been placed on the docket in the first place – to election year politicking. The Wall Street Journal’s unnamed editorial team ignores the Senator’s 20-year record of promoting a balanced U.S. policy in the Caucasus that aims to end illegal blockades by Turkey and Azerbaijan. They conveniently forget Boxer’s efforts to make human rights and democracy a priority in a country where brutal dictators, like Ilham Aliyev, continue to threaten war to maintain Stalin-imposed borders.

They close their eyes to the deaths of some eight Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers on the Nagorno-Karabakh border in the last three months alone – a result of a failed OSCE negotiating tactic, left over from Bryza’s time as Minsk Group co-Chair, which emboldens Azerbaijani military action through muted condemnation of these actions.

It is time for a new representative for Caucasus diplomacy–one without Bryza’s bias and baggage. Senator Boxer understands that reality and should be commended for her diligence on this matter.

Furthermore, President Obama should realize that his choice for an ambassador to Baku has more support from the far-right conservative community than members of his own party, who are trying to hold on to their majority in Congress.

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16 Comments

  1. Ahmet said:

    “tribal Caucasian obsessions”–> that is true. they are bunch of starving obsessions who always cause problems in Caucasus.

    “fundamentally weakens his ability to send a strong pro-democracy, anti-war message to Azerbaijan’s leadership”–> armenians are scared. this sentence is proof. :-) a wedding ceremony is enough to scare tribesmen.

  2. O'dodd said:

    The pedantic rantings of Ahmet seem to be in keeping with all of Bryza’s supporters. Where are the facts that Bryza did not have an Azeri official pay for his wedding? Why did Bryza in written and oral testimony tell the Senate of the United States that his wife stopped working on Caucasus issues when public documents tell a different story. In essence – he lied! Where is Ahmet – or anyone else for that matter – have public proof that anything that was presented about Bryza was false.

    Armenians are not scared – we are just no longer on the defensive. This is just our first step ….

  3. Joe Derderian said:

    The only reason why Bryza and Gephart and many others take money for deeds by these scumbags is that there is no recourse. Nothing ever happens to these guys except they get richer. Why doesn’t someone proscecute or worse. No one is ever chastised except the Armenians.

  4. Tony said:

    Bryza Doesn’t need to become an ambasador to Azerbeijan/Baljan? I’m sorry, which one was it? The 1st or the 2nd name?
    He can go to Baku and get a better paying job by working in the oil industry as a representetive to Aliev’s clan. What say you?

  5. Jay said:

    Armenia’s and Karabakh’s economy has had a negative impact due to border closings by Azerbaijan and Turkey. It is only fair to suggest that next time the oportunity knocks, the Karabakh Defence Forces should advance into Baku and take control of the oil fields.

  6. Mihran said:

    Since when have promoting human rights, upholding justice and defending freedom of speech been misconstrued as “tribal Caucasian obsessions”?

    The wsj’s attack piece smacks of more of the same yellow journalism. Shame on the wall street journal editorial board.

    Perhaps the wsj will consider writing a more sensible piece titled “Matthew Bryza (New Azerbaijan Party., Azerbaijan)”

  7. O'dodd said:

    The brutal truth is that the Armenian lobby and Armenian-Americans are facing a momentuous decision tomorrow. Based on the outcome – we either continue to refrain from historical (and hysterical) name calling and generalizations about the Turks, Azeri’s or any other nationality or we lower ourselves and we become no better than what they accuse us of being … bigots.

    Obviously, a “no” vote to this nomination would be an outcome that is preferably but in either case – the international attention focused on this issue – have forced “outsiders” to recognize that Armenians are more than just a “one issue” group and that we are a force to be recognized!

  8. ed said:

    As everybody can see even Osama bin Laden (al-Qaida) could publish an unnamed article in WSJ- if he pays enough!
    WSJ is printing a cheap and disgraceful propaganda article. Such ugly and “hidden” actions and articles are conmen in Asia with totalerian regimes- The question is which criminal foreign secret service or terror organisation is in control of WSJ?…. One has to read the headline and the sentence “Turkic world” at the end … the article is either written by a criminal and corrupt Azerbaijani official – having close links to Taliban’s and other terror organisations in Pakistan- or edited simply by people in payroll of Aliev´s clan , maybe people like Paul Goble …? !

  9. eddy said:

    WSJ has published a slanderous article … The question is why is Bryza so in need of such poor agitation and slanderous actions?

  10. jack deragopian said:

    Note to author/editor only.
    Did the author mean “dearth”, i.e. scarcity of Azerbaijani government people at the wedding, or the opposite?

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