An Ethnic Lobby Harms National Interests, Wastes Taxpayer Money


LOS ANGELES, Nov. 2, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ahead of next week's elections, collusion of some ethnic lobbies with electoral politics continues to hurt our national interests. Case in point is the Armenian-American special interest groups' attempt to turn U.S. foreign policy against Azerbaijan and in favor of Armenia.

In 1991-1994, the two post-Soviet nations fought a war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which ended with Armenia's occupation of the fifth of Azerbaijan and an expulsion of over 800,000 Azerbaijanis. Meeting with the Armenian-American constituents last month, Congressmen Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Howard Berman (D-CA) raced each other on damaging U.S.-Azerbaijani relations. Mr. Berman even called on Secretary Clinton "to suspend Azerbaijan from all future NATO-sponsored activities."

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has been striving to ensure that the U.S. aid to the victims of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is directed only to ethnic Armenians and away from Azerbaijani refugees. Accommodating the same special interest, in 2010-2011, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) obstructed the confirmation of Matthew Bryza as the Ambassador to Azerbaijan... by arguing that his wife is Turkish.

Since attaining independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has been a steadfast partner of the United States. After 9/11, the country promptly opened its airspace and contributed forces for the U.S. missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and remains the main over-flight and landing route for our forces in Afghanistan. Sharing its longest border with Iran, Azerbaijan has thwarted a number of terrorist plots against Americans, such as the March 2012 apprehension of 22 suspects trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards to attack U.S. and Israeli embassies. Moreover, developed by Western companies, Azerbaijani oil and gas safeguard Europe's energy security.

In contrast, Armenia is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty and hosts Russia's only military base in the South Caucasus. While receiving over $2 billion in U.S. assistance since 1992, Armenia's government delivered 1000 RPG-22M rockets and 260 PKM machine guns to Iran in 2003. According to the U.S. State Department cables, these weapons were used in the 2008 killing of a U.S. serviceman, Sgt Matthew Straughter, by the Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

These facts highlight the necessity of decoupling such ethnocentric lobbying from electoral politics to protect national interests and to save taxpayer dollars from funding America's adversaries. The upcoming elections are an opportunity to face that challenge.

SOURCE Azerbaijani-American Council