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The indispensable Laura Rozen reported that Matthew Bryza, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, “is being recommended by supporters as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan.”
Rozen describes Bryza as having “liaised intensively with the Georgian leadership, including during the Russian-Georgian conflict last summer, and says that some are concerned that his “appointment as Washington’s man in Baku [the Azeri capital] might potentially put a wrinkle in Obama’s efforts to ‘reset’ relations with Russia and send mixed signals about the kind of relationship he is trying to build.”
But an associate close to Bryza says it is inaccurate that Moscow would perceive him as hostile or too close to Tbilisi, and noted that Bryza has strong and positive relationships with Russian officials…
Bryza was seen as having gone “beyond what someone in his position would usually do” in showing support for Mikheil Saakashvili in the run-up and during the Georgian-Russian conflict last summer, a former senior Clinton administration official said. “Not so much by what he said,” but with “frequent public demonstrations that he was” close to the Georgian president.
But Bryza was also representing the preferences of the administration he then served, the former official acknowledged. “A lot of people in the U.S. government have responsibility for the aggressiveness of Georgia last summer and the mistaken belief there that the U.S. was going to come to their support” more than it did, the former official said.
Russia most definitely does have a negative view of Bryza, but there’s a far more direct reason for concern about his potential nomination: Bryza, and his wife Zeyno Baran are totally in the tank for the Azeri dictatorship and his appointment would be demoralizing for democrats (such as they are) in Azerbaijan. In 2007, the Azeri Foreign Minister reportedly attended the Brzya-Baran nuptials in Istanbul.
Just as Bryza was the point person for the relationship with Saakashvili leading up to the war, he had the same role vis-a-vis the stolen parliamentary elections of 2005 in Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev (who inherited power from his KGB dad) promised the U.S. government (through Bryza) that he was going to have free and fair elections; the elections were a sham; and there was no negative reaction from the U.S.government.
Meanwhile, Baran periodically says Azerbaijan should take steps towards democracy but is effectively a mouthpiece for the regime. See, for example, this regime-friendly panel she moderated at the Nixon Center:
In her introductory remarks, Baran observed that the elections represented a step forward, citing President Ilham Aliyev’s decision to fire three regional governors involved in election fraud as an unprecedented move. She cautioned that there were equally significant problems that remain to be addressed, and noted that “more needs to be done” before Aliyev can establish his legitimacy and prove to the West and to his own people that he is committed to the democratic process.
Her remarks about Aliyev firing three governors as a positive sign are ridiculous. Aliyev wanted to look like he was trying to do something, and was, I’ve been told by a very well-placed source, going to fire these guys anyway. According to my source, fraud was no different in those regions than in other places, and in fact it was almost certainly less fraudulent than in Baku, where the results were falsified in nearly every district.
(I’ve written about Bryza’s and Baran’s support for other Caspian-region dictators here.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Commentary — November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm
The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Average number of Americans who are injured by chain saws each year:
A farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”