6 years, 11 months ago
Iran is attempting to move to higher Uranium enrichment, and Ambassador John Bolton is warning us to get ready for a nuclear Iran. The CIA has already warned us. Unless Israel acts unilaterally, the Obama administration will be in the difficult position of trying to explain why so much energy was invested in the prevention of a nuclear Iran, when it was acceptable all along for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. In other words, it must explain why containment would have worked all along, thus making fools of those who tried to forestall that otherwise acceptable condition.
In a stark testimony to the fact that the Middle East has no confidence in our stomach for doing whatever is necessary to contain Persian hegemony, Kuwait and France have signed agreements on nuclear cooperation, and Saudi Arabia has established a new national agency to take the lead role in nuclear activities. These countries do not need commercial nuclear power for purposes of energy infrastructure. Commercial nuclear power is the first step to having the infrastructure, QA, training and protocols to control a weapons program. Even the UAE is planning a nuclear site with four reactors.
Iran has made no attempt to hide its lack of fear of U.S. presence in the region. Iran has been at war with us in Iraq since the inception of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and there are dead U.S. servicemen whose lives were sacrificed to the altar of avoiding the necessity of addressing the regional conflict. Just recently an Iranian reconnaissance aircraft buzzed the U.S. aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, coming within 1000 yards of the ship. This kind of aggression has become fairly routine. During the 2008 deployment of the 26th MEU, an Iranian helicopter all but landed on the deck of the USS Iwo Jima. The Marines could almost touch it from a standing position on the deck, but no actions were taken. The Navy refused to allow the Marines to fire on the aircraft. Iran has made its presence known in the recent Iraqi elections, and Moqtada al Sadr is trying to emerge as a legitimate political power after having been trained in Iran for the last several years.
Things don’t look much better to the North. In spite of recommendations to seriously engage the Caucasus region, we have snubbed our allies in Georgia (in spite of their having sent the Georgian 31st Infantry Battalion to assist us in Afghanistan) and most recently it appears that we are losing Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s long-standing alignment with the United States is rapidly unraveling in the wake of Washington’s recent policy initiatives. As perceived from Baku, those US initiatives fly in the face of Azerbaijan’s staunch support over the years to US strategic interests and policies in the South Caucasus-Caspian region.
Current US policies, however, are seen to favor Armenia in the Karabakh conflict resolution negotiations, curry favor with Armenian advocacy groups in domestic US politics, split Turkey and Azerbaijan from one another over the Karabakh issue, isolate Azerbaijan in the region, and pressure Baku into silent acquiescence with these policies.
Key actors in the region tend to share Azerbaijan’s perceptions in this regard. During last week’s nuclear safety summit in Washington, Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, and Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke frankly in this regard. They told US interlocutors at every step that the refusal to invite Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, to the summit was a mistake, counterproductive to US interests in the region, and confirming perceptions that Washington was attempting to isolate Baku.
US President, Barack Obama’s, meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan during the Washington summit (while failing to invite the Azerbaijani president) confirmed perceptions that Armenian issues in US domestic politics distort Washington’s policy on the Karabakh conflict and toward Azerbaijan.
Ankara had cautioned Washington against such moves ever since Erdogan’s December 2009 visit to the US. At least from that point onward, Turkey has closed ranks with Azerbaijan, instead of distancing from it and opening the Turkish-Armenian border promptly and unconditionally at the Obama administration’s urging. The administration insists on de-linking the border opening from the continuing Armenian military occupation of seven districts beyond Karabakh, deep inside Azerbaijan. The administration had, instead, hoped to link the border opening with the April 24 US anniversary of the 1915-1918 Armenian events in Ottoman Turkey.
Washington’s summit miscalculation is the latest in a year-long series of blows to US-Azeri relations. This trend continues amid an apparent US strategic disengagement from the wider region (rationalized as a “strategic pause” to assuage pro-US governments there). In Azerbaijan’s case, Washington seems unable even to fill the long-vacant post of US ambassador in Baku. The vacancy deprives the United States of steady high-level access to Azerbaijan’s leaders (which had never been a problem previously), while making it more difficult for Washington to grasp the crisis in US-Azerbaijan relations and its region-wide implications.
Addressing an April 14 cabinet meeting in front of TV cameras, President Aliyev criticized the US policy of pushing Turkey to open the border with Armenia, despite the latter’s occupation of seven Azeri districts beyond Karabakh. This move pulls the rug from under Azerbaijan’s carefully constructed negotiating position for a stage-by-stage peaceful solution to the conflict. It also seems designed to separate Turkey from Azerbaijan. Accordingly, Aliyev complained about “certain countries that believe that they can meddle in everything…by exerting pressure and blackmailing. This is how we see it. This policy clearly runs against Azerbaijan’s interests, and the Azeri state is taking appropriate steps.”
It isn’t clear if the U.S. policy regarding Azerbaijan is malicious or merely inept. What is clear is that we are still witnessing the collapse of U.S. foreign policy, a fact both easy and sad to catalog.