Ignorance is not bliss – or how little Washington understands the Caucasus
By Claude Salhani- Trend:
According to the New Testament, (Luke 23:34), when Jesus Christ was on the cross and in His last moments of consciousness, He asked of God not to begrudge those who crucified him, because they were ignorant: "Father, forgive them for the know not what they do."
I would ask of the Azerbaijani leadership and people to forgive the Americans for their ignorance in the blind and blunt support that Washington offers Yerevan, as clearly they know not what they do, when it comes to US foreign policy in this part of the world.
Much to the detriment of Azerbaijan, because similarly, the Americans know not what they do in the long-standing dispute over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjoining regions which Armenia has forcefully grabbed during a short but brutal war between the two former Soviet socialist republics at the break up of the Soviet Union.
What drives American support of Armenia, although the entire international community agrees that the Armenians are clearly the aggressors and Azerbaijan is without a doubt the victim? Yet despite that and much more, the US continues to support Yerevan.
Take a look at a letter that US Secretary of State, John Kerry wrote some 25 years ago while serving in the Senate. This, points out Elchin Mehdiyev, an Azerbaijani journalist explains, at least in part, the incredible bias that against Azerbaijan. Says Mehdiyev, "The anti-Azerbaijani sentiment among the US political elite has deep roots."
At the time Kerry signed an appeal urging the United States "to break the economic blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia", stressing the need for "reuniting the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia" and accused the Azerbaijani authorities that they "succeeded in infringement of the cultural rights of the region's inhabitants."
Had Kerry's proposal been accepted it would have been detrimental not only for Azerbaijan but the souring of the relations between Washington and Baku would have hurt US interests.
And have the years been kinder to render the US secretary of State any wiser? Hardly, say many in Azerbaijan.
How and why is the current pro-Armenian US policy detrimental to Washington? Washington has allowed itself to be railroaded by a very powerful pro-Armenian lobby loitering in the corridors of Capitol Hill where they have emulated the even more successful pro-Israeli lobby tactics of AIPAC.
Armenia is way ahead of Azerbaijan in the PR game and well incrusted in North America and in France, two countries with rather large and important Armenian diasporas.
This is a mistake that could cost the United States big time. Azerbaijan is very much pro-West, so much so, that it has transported itself - in it collective psyche -- from the Caucasus of Central Asia into Europe. Ask any person in Baku where the country stands geographically speaking, and the reply will undoubtedly be, "in Europe."
Later this year Baku hosts the First European Games, another reminder of where the country stands. Baku has supported the US war on terror, sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. A largely Shiite Muslim country, though ardently secular, where Christmas is celebrated with decorated trees and carols blaring through loudspeakers in supermarkets and public squares,it was resisted attempts from fellow Shiites in neighboring Iran to less pro-West.
At a time when the West needs all the allies it can get ----- especially after Turkey's gradual shift eastwards, it would be a big mistake to lose Baku. Oh, did I mention that Armenia is Moscow's greatest ally in the region?
Claude Salhani is senior editor with Trend Agency. You can follow Claude on Twitter @claudesalhani.