By Seto Boyadjian–Esq
Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) has devised a new legal contraption to circumvent Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–which was enacted by Congress in 1992 and since then consistently reaffirmed in the Senate and the House through overwhelming bipartisan support. As we all know–Section 907 prohibits direct U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan as long as that country retains its blockade of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh.
The national security concern serves as the pivot for Brownback’s new contraption. On October 10–the senator introduced a stand-alone legislation that would allow the President authority to waive the proscriptions of Section 907 if he determines that such waiver is in the national security interest. In a brief speech on the Senate floor–Brownback–in substantiation of his legislative proposal–first acknowledged that Congressional repeal of Section 907 would be a "tough issue," then he underscored that his bill does not intend to repeal that section–but rather provide the President with the authority to waive if required by our national security interest. Brownback said–"this is providing the President with national security waiver authority." He added–"there has to be a national security interest. If it is not needed–if it is not there–the President does not have the authority to exercise it."
But Sen. Brownback’s new contraption is blatantly transparent. All efforts undertaken by him and his likes to undermine Section 907 have constantly met with failure. Now–Brownback–who is an ardent supporter of oil interests and a relentless advocate of Azerbaijani issues in the Senate–wants to succeed where all previous attempts have failed. For this purpose–he is exploiting the prevailing militant dispositions and using the issue of national security interest as the vehicle to achieve his objective.
To all Americans the pursuit and preservation of our national security interests are very natural and constitute a civic obligation. However–in case of Brownback’s legislative proposal–the issue is the relevancy of Azerbaijan and the circumvention of Section 907 to our genuine national security interests.
First–in terms of military and strategic importance–Azerbaijan represents a very minimal value in the current campaign against terrorism. The geographic positions and capabilities of other countries in the region – such as Russia–Turkey–Uzbekistan–Kazakhstan–even Armenia–are considered more vital for U.S. in its anti-terrorism operations. On the other hand–it is true that acting upon the President’s request–Congress lifted the standing sanctions against Pakistan and India. However–we must not confuse the standards. At this juncture of the crisis–Azerbaijan cannot be compared with those two countries.
Second–the political stability and peaceful coexistence in the Caucasus is a fundamental security concern for U.S.crisis in the Caucasusregion would inject additional obstacles into U.S. policy–which in turn would compel the State Department to divert needed resources in order to control and neutralize that newly erupted crisis. In this context–the elimination or circumvention of Section 907 would send the wrong message and encourage Azerbaijani belligerence in that region. Specifically–such an act would serve Azerbaijan to implement its recent threats for the renewal of war against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh.
Third–Western governmen’s published a list of 32 countries which implement terrorism or harbor terrorist organizations. Azerbaijan is on that dangerous list. Since 1995–Azerbaijan has been serving as a country that provides safe haven and facilities to islamic fundamentalist groups–to terrorist cells of Osama bin Laden–and to Al Qaeda structures. This dangerous reality directly negates American national security interests. To neutralize this very perilous situation–Azerbaijan must be controlled and bridled. The repeal or weakening of Section 907 will only spur Azerbaijan’s militancy. Whereas the maintenance of Section 907 and thereby the retention of sanctions will serve as effective levers to control and bridle Azerbaijan.
Therefore–by enacting a legislation crcumventing Section 907 through pesidential waiver–Congress in general and en. Brownback in particular will not promote–ut rather bring harm to our national security nterest. And accordingly–it is our obligation–as citizens–as Armenian-American rganizations–to petition the members of Congress–and specially President Bush–to explain the harmful damages of a repeal or circumvention of Section 907–and to demand the retention of that section for the sake of our U.S. national security interests.