Monday, September 27, 2010

WaPo: It is shameful that the ethnic origin of a U.S. diplomat's wife should be used against him

Topographic map in Italian of Azerbaijan and A...Image via WikipediaIt is shameful, yes it is. But who, pray tell, is ashamed?

Last Friday's WaPo editorial called attention to the prompt hold placed by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who was joined later by Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on the nomination of career diplomat, Matthew Bryza for the US Embassy in Baku. Excerpt below:

FOR THE AWARD for Most Craven Election-Year Pandering at the Expense of the National Interest, we nominate -- this week -- Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). Ms. Boxer, who is facing a tough reelection fight, and Mr. Menendez, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, are blocking the confirmation of a top-notch State Department diplomat, Matthew J. Bryza, as ambassador to Azerbaijan, an energy-rich and strategically important nation in the volatile Caucasus region.
Mr. Bryza is an unlikely target for a political fight. Highly regarded by both Republicans and Democrats, he has spent the past 13 years working to advance U.S. interests in the Caucasus at the National Security Council and the State Department. He served for three years as co-chair of the Minsk group, a coalition of nations seeking to broker peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Mr. Bryza won the respect of both sides; both governments are supporting his nomination.

So what is Ms. Boxer's objection? The senator claims that Mr. Bryza has been unwilling "to speak out forcefully in the face of increasing Azerbaijani aggression" against Armenia. This is ludicrous. Mr. Bryza, acting like all nominees under the instructions of his State Department superiors, has simply echoed the Obama administration's statements -- which have opposed violence by both sides and insisted that there is no military solution to the conflict. What stands out here is not Mr. Bryza's public statements, but his record as a peace negotiator -- which makes him the American most likely to prevent more aggression.

Mr. Menendez, echoing ANCA's ugly propaganda, has questioned Mr. Bryza's "very close ties to Turkey"; the diplomat's wife, scholar Zeyno Baran, is Turkish-born. Yet Ms. Baran has been an outspoken critic of the current Turkish government; it is shameful that the ethnic origin of a U.S. diplomat's wife should be used against him. (After first telling us that Mr. Menendez was concerned about Mr. Bryza's wife, his office backpedaled, saying that what worried the senator was "ties to Turkish government officials." Our request for the names of those officials, and an explanation of why "ties to officials" of a major NATO ally would be of concern, went unanswered.)
If ANCA succeeds in blocking the nomination of a competent U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, it will only lessen U.S. influence in the Caucasus and make war more likely. In advancing such interests, Ms. Boxer and Mr. Menendez disgrace themselves.
WaPo was thereafter accused of pandering to the State Department.

Meanwhile political scientist Sergey Shakaryants is confident that the elections have nothing to do with current developments. “There is a confrontation between the pro-Armenian and pro-Turkish forces in the United States, and the US Congress has become the field for this battle,” he said.

We have previously written about this nomination here.

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