Washington Babylon — June 17, 2009, 2:09 pm

Friend of Azeri Dictator Reportedly to be Named Ambassador to Baku

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.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Poison Apples

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Growing Up

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Gateway to Freedom

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Guns and Poses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Christmas in Prison

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Beeper World·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The beeper, for a certain kind of Miami teenager in the Nineties, was an essential evolutionary adaptation.”
Photograph by Curran Hatleberg
Article
Hammer Island·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The place could have sprung from someone’s jealous dream about white people.”
Photograph by Emily Stein
Article
Growing Up·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The best coming-of-age stories have a hole in the middle. They pretend to be about knowledge, but they are usually about grasping, long after it could be of any use, one’s irretrievable ignorance.”
Photograph by Ben Pier
Article
Guns and Poses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘It’s open shopping,’ he said. ‘A warehouse. The whole of Libya.’”
Map by Mike Reagan
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Amount that President Obama has added to America’s “brand value” according to the Nation Brands Index:

$2,100,000,000,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

A Utah woman named Cameo Crispi pleaded guilty to having drunkenly attempted to burn down her ex-boyfriend’s house by igniting bacon on his kitchen stove.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today