Back At It, With Ambassadorial Hearings in Tow
It seems like every time I leave Lənkəran, the blog gets left behind. Maybe it’s because leaving Lənkəran involves going to Baku, where there is generally more to do, and also leaving my high-speed internet sanctum, the office that has styled itself after a kitchen table with a flower-print tablecloth and constantly blowing fan.
As of this return, however, I’m happy to report that Matthew Bryza is finally being heard from at his Senate hearing. Per our sterling Charge d’Affaires, the hearing is set to begin on the 22nd. This doesn’t mean things are all rosy, though. While everyone seems to be in agreement that Bryza is the guy, and should be, that doesn’t mean they’ll just let the nomination slide. There’s actually a neighbor to our west who boasts a very strong diaspora and one of the largest ethnic lobbies in the US. Azerbaijan doesn’t really have great relations with these folks. Considering that said lobby has strong pull, and all it takes is one senator to delay the approval, we could be looking at an extended case. And that one senator could be unknown, using the anonymous hold as the tool.
A few things here, if this hold happens. First, anonymous, or secret, holds are ridiculous. The original intent of the concept of holds was to allow a given senator more time to study whatever piece of legislation or upcoming vote before having to vote on it. I like that. I like more informed voting. However, the anonymous hold lets the senator out of any responsibility for their actions. I’m hoping that Senator McConnell and Senator Reid take the advice of their colleagues and do away with secret holds altogether (thank you, Ms McCaskill).
Second, I understand that Armenians are concerned about their position when it comes to negotiating Nagorno-Karabakh and anything that has anything to do with Azerbaijan. However, a senator pulling any sort of hold here on account of their Armenian-American constituents certainly could not be a serious senator, most likely ignoring the needs of the United States in this area of the world (think: Moderate Muslim, oil-exporting, militarily strategic, geographically strategic country). At that point, do you take the USA’s strategic interests or the local constituency’s interests as the priority? I guess you know which one I’ll pick–my position is not beholden to a voting public.
Last, the opposition to Bryza’s senate approval seems to be hinged on personal attacks instead of any measure of his worthiness as an ambassador. Apparently there was a car accident in Russia a few years ago. Another allegation is that an Azeri minister payed for Bryza’s wedding to his Turkish bride. The other argument seems to be that Armenians don’t know where Bryza falls on the NK situation. The car accident thing seems a bit odd. I don’t really know what went on with Bryza’s wedding. I have a fairly good idea of where Bryza goes when it comes to Azerbaijan’s relationship with Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
In this case, barring conflicts of interest, delaying approval would just be an attempt to deny Azerbaijan an opportunity to come to the table with a US voice included (which Armenia has). Whether you think either country is ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ I think we can all agree that having a US ambassador here is better than not.