Autumn 1996 (4.3)
The Armenia Lobby
Washington Post Editorial
August 1, 1996
© 1996. The Washington Post. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
The United States continues to intervene mischievously in the appalling conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Its particular contribution is to increase the misery of a million Azeri refugees, and in that way to draw out hopes for a settlement. Why would Washington wish to conduct such a policy, which runs against its own substantial strategic, economic and political interests? It is a policy thrust upon a reluctant president by a Congress heavily influenced by Armenian-Americans. This lobby has forced tough restrictions on direct American humanitarian and other aid to Azerbaijan.
The pro-Armenians argue that Azerbaijan and its regional patron Turkey are squeezing Armenia in a cruel joint embargo. But look at the situation on the ground. First, though the Turks lack similar cause, Azerbaijan is at war with Armenia; you would not expect them to trade with each other right now. Then, it is not only that Karabakh Armenians seized and hold the long-sovereign Azeri enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, whose turmoil sparked this war between the two formerly Soviet republics. Armenians also now occupy 20 percent of Azerbaijan proper. In short, the United States is punishing the loser and comforting the conqueror, occupier and evident winner of the war.
Is there an American interest in denying normal humanitarian aid to a small country that, though not especially democratic, is reaching to the West and is critical to its region's political stability and economic promise (Caspian Oil)? The American Armenian community and its supporters, led by former Senator Robert Dole, make no such showing. Rather, what is on display is ethnic political power. The irony is that its wielding may not even be to the advantage of the Armenians. They would be better served, as would the Azeris, by enlisting the United States as an impartial moderator as they traded off territory for security for Karabakh and prosperity for themselves. But instead the Armenian lobby tends to tip American policy and to invite political intervention by an imperially inclined Moscow.
The question is due to be fought out again today in a foreign operations appropriations conference. Senate members seem inclined to widen the way for the humanitarian aid. House members are more split. But an opening is there to benefit Azeris, Armenians and, not least, Americans as well.
From Azerbaijan International (4.3) Autumn 1996.
© Azerbaijan International 1996. All rights reserved.