BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The Washington Post’s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, has taken a page out of the Aliyev propaganda manual in his Sunday piece about US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza and how the Armenian lobby (special interests) is blocking Bryza’s appointment, despite his alleged qualifications for the job.
Of late, official Baku in its framing of the Karabakh conflict, has opted to compare the national wealth of both countries as an indication that Azerbaijan is a force to be reckoned with, often whitewashing the entrenched Western oil interests that have been lurking in Azerbaijan since its independence 20 year ago.
Calling Armenia “oil-poor” Hiatt blames the Armenian lobby and Armenia for it’s current land-locked reality, failing to mention that Turkey and Azerbaijan shut their borders with Armenia in protest of the Karabakh war and continue to hold the Karabakh conflict resolution as a precondition for any “good neighborly” relations.
“And one reason peacemaking has failed is the dogmatism of some diaspora groups that can enjoy, from afar, the luxury (and fundraising magic) of sustained grievance. A fervent, at times even counterproductively so, diaspora is not unique — ask Cuba, Israel or Latvia — but it has been particularly debilitating for minuscule, resource-poor Armenia,” Hiatt points out in his ill-thought out piece to promote Bryza.
Hiatt also singles out the Armenian National Committee of America for mounting a campaign against Bryza, who the author deems highly qualified for the job. He cites a barrage of support Bryza has received from former State Department officials and numerous think-tanks, some of which are notorious in their support of neo-conservative agendas, which ultimately benefit the deep pockets of corporations with interests in countries like Azerbaijan.
The argument that Azerbaijan is rich and Armenia is poor, thus the Armenian lobby should shut up and let Bryza’s nomination go through is so circuitous in its logic that one wonders why Hiatt has taken on such a keen interest in promoting an ambassador, whose actions and statements call into question his qualifications to represent this country in Azerbaijan.
This is not the first time the Washington Post has blindly defended Bryza. Under Hiatt’s leadership, the paper’s editorials have reeked of one-sided support for Bryza and condemnation for those opposing him, especially the ANCA. Hiatt seems to harbor disdain, if not outright hatred for the group.
Hiatt treats the arguments against Bryza, as expressed by senators Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez last year during his Senate nomination hearings as not making sense and essentially blames the two senators for holding Bryza’s fate hostage to what he calls “special interests groups” that are, in Hiatt’s mind, doing a disservice to Armenia by opposing Bryza’s nomination.
Hiatt conveniently brushes over some of the important concerns of the aforementioned senators and rightfully highlighted by the folks at the ANCA during Bryza’s nomination process. For example, the senators extensively questioned Bryza on his failure to act promptly and effectively when Azeri forces began destroying Armenian monuments in Djulfa. As ambassador, Bryza was barred from visiting Djulfa by Azeri authorities and, frankly, never really attempted to make another visit there. Nor, did he question the validity of this action during his so-called exemplary service as US ambassador.
Furthermore, Hiatt conveniently discounts Bryza’s entrenchment in Azeri political circles and his often blatant advocacy for the government, that even according to the State Department, continues to torture and stifle opposition forces and silence free expression by dissenting circles. The Washington Post editorial page editor couches the ANCA’s concerns over Bryza’s Turkish wife’s connections with the Aliyev regime as ethnically motivated.
He neglects to mention that Bryza’s wife, Zeyno Baran, has served on the editorial board of the Azeri Government funded “Azerbaijan Focus,” a journal published by the Center for Strategic Studies Under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. She was joined on that board by Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, among other high-level Turkish/Azeri officials.
Hiatt asserts that Bryza is a beacon of democracy and peace building, yet his tepid response to Baku’s continued warmongering demonstrates that he does not want to ruffle his friends’ feathers and further contributes to Baku’s combative approach to the peace talks. In fact, during his year-long tenure as ambassador, Bryza has been known to cherry-pick incidents and comment on them, before the bodies tasked to address those issues have had an opportunity to assess the veracity for validity of events. By doing so, he has done more to advance official Baku’s propaganda than protect US interests in the country.
“The biggest losers in all this won’t be Americans or Azerbaijanis (who, by the way, enjoy about twice the per capita income of Armenians), but Armenians — poor, isolated and once again victims of a power play that has nothing to do with their well-being,” Hiatt concludes.
Hiatt’s concern for Armenia’s economic well being is touching. But to equate Bryza’s nomination with the end of Armenia’s economic woes is shortsighted at best and a cheap and uneducated conclusion for an editor of such a venerable publication.