Good news rang through the halls of the US State Department Wednesday, as their much-supported ally Ilham Aliyev was re-elected for a second term as Azerbaijan’s president.
But wait. How can it be called a re-election when the he was running almost unopposed, with most opposition forces effectively boycotting the election and in the months and weeks leading up to the election the government carried out a systematic and major crackdown on the media? We have learned, throughout the years, that the more deplorable the injustice the more likely it will be for the US and others in the international community to praise it–or turn a blind eye to it.
The Aliyev administration will inherit a $2.5 billion military budget, the largest in the history of the 17-year-old former Soviet Republic. This coupled with the continued rhetoric–mildly called bellicose at times by the State Department–promising a military end to the Karabakh conflict will certainly benefit the balance of power the US has so advocated in the past several years!
As early as Monday, two days before his sure-bet win, Aliyev reiterated his intention to use all means, including military, to secure a resolution to the Karabakh conflict, which of late is on the minds of everyone with a seemingly urgent mandate for its resolution. Last week, the US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and the US Undersecretary of State Matthew Bryza said that Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity was of utmost importance for the US, signaling that the long-discussed status of Karabakh is once again unresolved.
Aside from a slight slap on the wrist and a wagging of the finger, the US has been quiet about the systematic military build-up by Azerbaijan. Last month we reported the completion of an arms deal between Azerbaijan and Israel with Aliyev’s intention of further fortifying its military capability coming off very loudly in international circles. After all, is such a military arrogance not what makes a US plan to invade or isolate another country. Or perhaps, the administration officials who can’t stop drooling over their oil profits can turn a blind eye to human rights violations, oppression of media and even, why not, threats of, once again, killing innocent people who are getting in their way.
Ironically, the same Matthew Bryza would not shut up about how “unfair” the vote was in Armenia after opposition-provoked violence marred the February presidential elections this year. Yet, none of Armenia’s candidates–and there were more than one–ever uttered a threat against a neighbor as a campaign promise.
Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney and Matt Bryza, during their last days as prophets of an ever-darkened Bush Administration were so vocal in condemning Russia’s aggression toward Georgia this summer with their own bellicose statemen’s, yet, as Georgia’s other neighbor was threatening war and building up its military budget–which incidentally equals the entire budget of Armenia–all they could do was threaten Armenia with aid and program cuts if the government did not take “concrete” steps to restore their brand of democracy in the country.
The international community is hoping that talks, which began this spring between Armenia’s Serzh Sarkisian and Aliyev will continue after the elections in Azerbaijan. Well, the elections have taken place and Aliyev’s rule has been re-established. What now? Are the sides supposed to come together to discuss peace, while all the newly re-anointed one wants is war?
Under this climate, Armenia must demand and the mediators should be vocal in their insistence that no peace talks can go forward without an unequivocal guarantee by Azerbaijan that it will end its threats and rejoin the negotiation table as a civilized side to the conflict and not one with an appetite for blood.