FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images
The Caucasus
Time for Sanctions on Baku

As the West has turned its attention to the Islamic State and the Ukraine crisis, the government of President Ilham Aliyev has expanded its crackdown on dissenting voices in Azerbaijan with harassment, threats, beatings, and arrests. Even American citizens and international NGOs have bet caught up in the widening net of repression. These actions demand a response.

Published on: October 2, 2014
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  • wigwag

    Is there a nation anywhere in the world that Saint Kramer doesn’t want the United States to fix? First his fellow-travelers in the starry-eyed optimist community wanted us to bring the blessings of democracy to Iraq and then they deluded themselves into thinking that if an American F16 would just sprinkle a little fairy dust over Ukraine that pluralism would sprout in that rat hole like the first shoots of the daffodil emerging from the spring soil after a long, hard winter. Now Kramer wants us to rend our garments because liberal democracy has yet to bloom in, of all places, Azerbaijan. Give me a break.

    Since Azerbaijan was founded in one incarnation or other in the 4th century BC, it has enjoyed democracy for all of two years; between independence in 1918 and its fall to the Soviets in 1920. Since 1993 there have been at least three and maybe more attempted coups. Since the fall of the Soviet Union the country’s political system has been characterized by oppression, intolerance and violence. Kramer is desperately in need of a wake-up call; Azerbaijan is not a democracy. It has virtually no history of democracy. It is unlikely to ever be a democracy in the lifetimes of anyone reading your essay.

    It is extremely likely that Azerbaijan will always be ruled by a thug; nothing the United States can do will change that. That being the case, all that matters is that he be our thug and not a thug allied with his co-religionists and neighbors in Iran.

    If Aliyev is hostile to Iran the United States should support him to the hilt; if Aliyev genuflects to Iran we should oppose him. If Azerbaijan provides assistance to the CIA, Mossad and other western intelligence services we should ignore the fact that he isn’t a sustaining member of the American Civil Liberties Union (or its Azerbaijani affiliate). If he moves closer to Tehran we should use any excuse, including his lack of democratic credentials to attack him.

    For many years, Azerbaijan and Israel have had surreptitious but cordial relations; this is enormously important to Israel because of Azerbaijan’s proximity to Iran. There have been many reports that these nations have collaborated closely on economic and military affairs. Note to David J. Kramer; Israel is the only democracy in the neighborhood and it is a tiny nation living in a tumultuous area. As long as Azerbaijan continues to assist Israel, we should keep our wallets open and our mouths shut no matter how many dissidents and journalists Aliyev has tortured. The reason is simple. those dissidents and journalists are going to be beaten now matter what the United States says or does.
    Will Kramer ever figure this out?

    • ShadrachSmith

      Agree, except for criticizing Kramer. Kramer gets an opinion too 🙂

    • Teodoro

      What do you expect Kramer to be other than a shill for Israel? The Jews stick together, dude. But that’s okay, because Jews need to stick together. If others do it, like, for instance, the Muslims, why they are Islamofascists. As the Jew Kramer will be the first to point out

      • זאב ברנזון

        jews that worship libaral princples instead of god

        are not real jews

        as a real jew i think you are an ignorent racist

        • Karin Agab

          Right. Jews are always right;)

    • objective_analyst

      You say Israel is the only democratic state in the region, therefore, America must support Azerbaijan because it supports democratic Israel. What kind of logic is this: supporting a brutal, corrupt, and bloody dictatorship to prop-up the Israeli democracy?!!!!

      Azerbaijan is today what Iran and Turkey were yesterday to the US and Israel. That did not last. Look at these two countries now. The American policy of looking the
      other way backfired in Iran and is bound to backfire in Azerbaijan. America
      will only be investing in its future enemy if looks the other way.

      Is Azerbaijan that loyal to Israel? Why did it host Abbas and support Palestine’s bid?

      Are there no other alternatives for Israel but this peripheral Muslim state?

      The only tolerance Azerbaijan displays is towards Azeri Jewish community driven by Aliev’s need for Israeli support in the NK conflict. Azeris in general do not have any sympathy to Israel or to Jews. Other religions, sects, and ethnicities are
      heavily discriminated against.

      What you’re saying harms Israel and it portrays it as a supremacist state that cares of nothing but, itself. You portray Israel as self-centered, this is not true. Further, as bad as Iran is—and it is horrible—it is still better than AZ. Even in Iran you see Jews in parliament along with other groups, contested elections—though remain fraudulent—opposed forces represented in parliament and quotas for minorities, and different presidents. You cannot say the same about Azerbaijan.

  • Teodoro

    You f…kers are not satisfied with the West being unofficially at war in 7 Islamic countries. You want more war, more shedding of Muslim blood. Or could it be that your thirst for oil matches your blood lust for Muslim blood?

  • Teodoro

    What consequences? You want Aliyev to be droned to death, so you can lay your hands on his country’s oil?

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  • Jack Kalpakian

    Interesting, but rather than sanctions, provide covert support for the opposition and begin the process of normalizing the NKR in world politics.

  • worldPEACE9

    Azerbaijan has been a criminal “nation” since its creation in 1918. Then again, can we expect anything more from a country that was created by committing the Armenian genocide. As the saying goes, “A house built on sand…”

  • hyemarsh

    Sanctions should have been imposed against Aliyev (father and son) first when Heidar depopulated Nakhichevan of Armenians years ago, and then against Heidar for his pogroms against the Armenians of Azerbaijan in 1987 and the early 90s, and then against this piece of junk for the facts listed in this article, not to mention the constant cease fire violations against Armenia and Karabagh.

  • Find Policy

    is it too much to ask, if one wishes for a discussion to stay civil? The proposal is specific, highlights measures that have little to do with geopolitics and that seek to find ways to reduce the harrassment of decent people. I wish at least some commenters would focus on these aspects.

  • objective_analyst

    Azerbaijan is a small, Shiite Muslim state that is marginal as a Muslim state to court. So,
    there is really no reason to look the other way. The geopolitical significance of Azerbaijan is hyped thanks to the money azerbaian is spending in the US and Europe for lobbying, PR, and cash paid to “think-tanks.” Check-out the following link: Azerbaijan and Think Tanks http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/07/us/07thinktank-docs4.html?_r=0

    Just look up the term caviar diplomacy to see how Azerbaijan even bribes politicians
    to gain their support.

    The geopolitical arguments are not based on sound on analysis. In 2019 Azerbaijan will be able to supply less than two percent of Europe’s gas demand. Azerbaijani oil has already peaked and is declining.

    The new oil and gas extraction technologies in the US render Azerbaijan useless. Even Azerbaijan’s role as a transit country for the military on its way in and out of Afghanistan is overhyped. In any case, the need for Azerbaijani services will soon end.

    Azerbaijan is one of the most corrupt countries on earth. It is a hereditary dictatorship where power in a republic passed from father to son. The incumbent in Azerbaijan inherited power from his late father who undertook a coup on a democratically elected government. The authorities there fabricate evidence against and jail opposition figures, youtube users, and
    critical journalists

    Hayder Aliev was forced to resign by Gorbachev for being too corrupt in the nineteen eighties (imagine!). He staged a coup against a democratically elected government in Azerbaijan and founded the Aliev dynasty. Today, his son was elected as the corruption person of the year by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). Both Alievs human rights records are less than impressive if you know what I mean.

    Iran was everything that people are praising about Azerbaijan today and more. Look at it now. The American policy of looking the other way backfired in Iran and is bound to backfire in Azerbaijan. America will only be investing in its future enemy if looks the other way.

  • Karin Agab

    Aliev became a bad boy just because he took russian side;) good luck with fighting against him and his followers. It is not an American interest, it is a group of people inside America, who has interest in different regions and putting American lives at risqué.

  • Kevin

    We’ve got bigger fish to fry right now.

  • Bashinaqusum

    Utter stupidity. Sanctions against a country which was the first country among a handful to provide an unconditional support, its airports and airspace, and as well as ground support after 9/11 and invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. A country which sends its oil to the United States and its allies in Europe and Israel despite Russia’s objections. A country which committed its own money to provide energy security to Eastern Europe and easy dependency on Russian energy resources. A country which helps Israel develop its own gas fields, let alone provides 40% of its oil. A country which always votes in support of US-led efforts and resolutions in UN, and sends its troops to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with American counterparts. Yet, we decide to bash this country because it suppresses internal opposition funded by Russia, Iran and interest groups which seek to destabilize the region? Kramer should mind his business, perhaps take a stance and be more outspoken about abuse of human rights in Ferguson. When will these people start thinking about American interests than about justification of their paychecks? When will these two stop bashing Azerbaijan, an ally to US and start condemning Armenia, a Russian puppet and vassal state which not just abuses human rights but kills the opponents to remove any sort of opposition? A country that made it home for 3,000 Russian troops which stand against our NATO troops? Bravo, Kramer and Kauzlarich! You couldn’t have discredited yourself more.

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