USAN testifies before the House Subcommittee on Appropriations, urges more aid for Azerbaijan, less to Armenia, and zero in direct aid for the Armenia-occupied Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan
On March 10, 2009, the Managing Director of the U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) delivered his testimony before the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the Committee on Appropriations of the United States House of Representatives (Congress). In the four page testimony, he urged the Members of Congress to retain at least $19.5 million in aid for Azerbaijan, no more than $19.5 million for Armenia, and to zero out direct aid to the Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Additionally, he urge $8 million in FMF and $900,000 IMET military aid for Azerbaijan, $3 million FMF and $300,000 IMET aid for Armenia, as well as to more actively look into the $236 million Millenium Challenge funds allocated for Armenia several years ago. Such levels of aid are based on the national interest of the United States and the realistic needs assessments by the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon, which in turn allows to continue the expansion of bilateral ties with the U.S. strategic ally nation of Azerbaijan in all spheres of interest, and to prevent disbalance and tilt in relations with Armenia, the second largest per-capita recipient of U.S. aid since 1992.
Additionally, two more members of the Board of Directors of USAN will be submitting their testimonies for the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the Committee on Appropriations of the United States House of Representatives (Congress). USAN is committed to continuing the education of the members of Congress about the issues facing the Azerbaijani-Americans and the strategic allied relations with Azerbaijan.
The U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) (www.USAzeris.org), is a registered non-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian genuine grassroots advocacy and voter education network that is facilitating political activism and efforts by the Azerbaijani-Americans and other Turkic-Americans and their associations, organizations, councils, conferences, and other formal, semi-formal and informal groups, on federal, state and local levels. USAN is the first nationwide grassroots organization uniting Azerbaijani-Americans, being created by the grassroots, for the grassroots.
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Witness Testimony for FY2010
By the Managing Director of the U.S. Azeris Network (USAN)
Before the United States House of Representatives
Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
March 10, 2009
Chairwoman Lowey, members of the subcommittee, it is indeed an honor to have the opportunity to provide input as you and your colleagues take up the important task of crafting a new appropriations bill. Tthe U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) is the first and only not-for-profit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian volunteer grassroots organization dedicated to voter education and advocacy for the Azerbaijani-Americans and their friends, and in light of this, advancement of strategic allied relations between U.S. and Azerbaijan, with special attention given to issues of energy security, ethnic and religious tolerance, military and security relations, nuclear non-proliferation, foreign aid and technical assistance, compliance with international law and UN resolutions.
USAN and its members fully support retaining the Administration’s FY2009 proposed, and committee recommended, budget requests of at least $19.5 million to remain in FY2010 for the valuable strategic U.S. ally nation of Azerbaijan. USAN also recommends the same amount (parity) for Armenia. Also, USAN fully supports Administration’s proposals to not include any direct assistance for the Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, USAN fully supports Administration’s request of at least $900,000 in International Military Education and Training (IMET) aid to Azerbaijan and than $300,000 for Armenia, as well as $8 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Azerbaijan and $3 million for Armenia. Administration’s request is sound and logical, based on past performance and real needs assessment of these nations by the State Department and the Pentagon. USAN also supports previous indications that all aid to Armenia, including the $235.6 million MCC compact, be reviewed and disbursed more carefully in light of the emergency rule there due to hundreds of peaceful protesters being killed and wounded in March 2008.
INTRO – AID TO ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN SINCE 1992
When Armenia established its independence in the aftermath of the Soviet break-up, U.S. undertook massive financial aid and assistance to that nation. From day one, Armenia became the second largest per capita recipient of U.S. aid in the world. Since 1992 Armenia has received over $1,777 billion in US aid, plus $236 million for 5 years in MCC funds.
According to the CRS calculations, Armenia has received $225 million in cumulative budgeted U.S. foreign assistance for democratization (about 13 percent of all aid to that nation) from FY1992 through FY2006 (RS22675, Jun 8, 2007, p. 6). These figures do not include millions in additional democratization aid appropriated in FY07 and FY08. Naturally, it was expected that these extremely generous funds would result in more, not less, democracy in Armenia, as well as more stable region. Unfortunately, as time has shown, both expectations were not fulfilled, as indeed, there is less stability and less democracy in Armenia than in the 1990s.
As all the elections in Armenia have shown, most vividly the February 2008 presidential elections and its violent aftermath, U.S. efforts have failed and money was all but wasted. Consider the official facts (independent and opposition report offer far higher figures): at least 8 people killed, over a hundred wounded, tanks and army patrolling the streets of the capital, full-scale government censorship of all communications for at least 20 days, and main opposition contender under house arrest. “Unreliable” officials were dismissed while opposition arrested.
Additionally according to the CIA World Factbook and all other U.S. government sources, including the White House, State Department and the CRS, Armenia is also militarily occupying 16% of neighboring Azerbaijan (including the NK region), displacing 800,000 ethnic Azeris in the process, placing an even harder moral and financial burden on its population, to sustain and support its military machine. Indeed, Congress and CRS note, “Armenia’s shift away from a war footing would also further U.S. interests in Armenia’s economic development and improved standards of living (Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, FY2007)” (RL30679, Updated Jan 31, 2008, p. 29).
Compare this with Azerbaijan, a victim of occupation and ethnic cleansing by Armenia, yet has received only $746 million in cumulative budgeted U.S. foreign assistance from FY92 through FY08, of which only about $75 million were for democratization. No other loans, grants or MCC compacts were given to Azerbaijan. Thus, larger Azerbaijan, a strategic U.S. ally, has received some four (4) times less aid than a smaller and highly militarized Armenia. As the CRS report notes, “The United States has provided most assistance for democratization to Armenia, and somewhat less for Georgia. U.S. aid for democratization in Azerbaijan was explicitly permitted by Congress [only] in FY1998 and thereafter” (ibid., p. 48).
To put it into perspective, in spite of Armenia being the second largest U.S. aid recipient in the world, it ended up having markedly worse presidential elections than Azerbaijan did in 2003. It should be noted that Azerbaijan is suffering from occupation of its lands by Armenia and has to grapple with 10% of its entire population being displaced. This shows that the disproportionately high, no-strings-attached U.S. aid to Armenia has been ineffective at best and has failed at worst, which was in line with the signs that the MCC, Freedom House and other respected groups have started to publicly notice years ago.
This is the wrong message to send – we should not be rewarding a corrupt and militaristic regime in Armenia, which is not only occupying its neighbor’s lands, conducts ethnic cleansing and engaged in crimes against humanity (e.g., Khojaly Massacre), but also violently kills its own citizens during its elections and conducts markedly worse elections than its neighbors.
NO DIRECT AID TO NAGORNO KARABAKH SHOULD BE PERMITTED
Direct aid to the Armenia-occupied Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan obviously causes irritation and protests on the part of both Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani-Americans, and spoils the relations between allies significantly. U.S. is the only country in the world to allocate aid directly to the occupied region, bypassing central authorities in Baku. Aside from this move sending the wrong message symbolically, this money, which is at 10-15% of the total economy of the occupied territories, frees up funds for the Armenian armed forces to continuing illegal occupation of 16% of Azerbaijan, buying arms, as well as serving as a black hole for narcotics and drug trade, arms smuggling (there is a 132 km border with Iran), diamond and precious metals trade, etc. I am submitting several proofs of this for the record below. Hence, it is absolutely essential that the counter-productive and inappropriate allocation of direct U.S. aid to the occupied Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan be finally put to stop this year.
Official U.S. government position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over NK region of Azerbaijan: “The actions taken by the government of Armenia in the context of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh are inconsistent with the territorial integrity and national sovereignty principles of the Helsinki Final Act. Armenia supports Nagorno-Karabakh separatists in Azerbaijan both militarily and financially. Nagorno-Karabakh forces, assisted by units of the Armenian armed forces, currently occupy the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding areas in Azerbaijan. This violation and the restoration of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been taken up by the OSCE.” (Presidential Determination (PD) No. 99-8 of December 8, 1998, and PD No. 98-11 of January 26, 1998, Memorandum for the Secretary of State, Re: "Assistance Program for the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union.")
“Furthermore, the occupation of 20% of the Azerbaijani territories by Armenian military forces that resulted in 132 km of the state border with Iran not being controlled by the Government of Azerbaijan, constitutes a major impediment for achieving progress in the fight against trafficking not only in Azerbaijan but also in the entire region, since this border area, the so-called “criminal black hole”, is used as an attractive trafficking channel.” (11th OSCE Economic Forum on Trafficking in Human Beings, Drugs, Small Arms and Light Weapons: National and international economic impact. Country Report: Azerbaijan).
“There were credible reports that Armenian immigrants from the Middle East and elsewhere, had settled in parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and possibly other Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenian forces.” (Department of State, 31 March 2003, sect. 2d)
MILITARY AND SECURITY AID
I believe that Azerbaijan’s one-of-a-kind record as a predominantly Shi’a Muslim nation that sent peacekeepers to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, was among the first to offer assistance after the tragedy of September 11, offered aid to the Katrina victims, extradited international terrorists, prevented nuclear and arms smuggling and proliferation, etc., speaks for itself. However, in light of recent escalation of violence between the Azerbaijani army and the Armenian occupational army stationed in Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and seven other Azerbaijani regions adjacent to it, the State Department’s statement on Armenia’s military and occupation speaks for itself:
“Armenian compliance with CFE has been uneven. In addition to Armenia's longstanding failure to properly notify or carry out reductions required by the Treaty, there are serious concerns about the completeness of Armenia's data on equipment holdings. Also of concern are: evidence that Armenia may have failed to notify increases in unit holdings involving CFE Treaty limited equipment transferred from Russia, the fact that Armenia continues to station troops and CFE limited equipment on the territory of Azerbaijan without Azerbaijani permission, and evidence that Armenia made a late notification of the entry into service of multiple rocket launchers purchased from China. Another area of concern is Armenia’s failure to report the apparent transfer of TLE from Russia in the mid-1990s. There has been no change in this issue by the Armenians. Armenia has taken no new steps toward resolving this issue since the Trilateral Commission, established in 1997 to investigate the transfers, stopped meeting in April 1998. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have maintained that it is impossible for them to meet certain Treaty obligations because of security concerns associated with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict…. On May 9, 2002, the U.S. imposed sanctions on two Armenian entities – Lizin Open Joint Stock Company and Armenian national Armen Sargasian – pursuant to the Iran Nonproliferation Act for the transfer of Australia Group-controlled items to Iran in the second half of 2001.” (“U.S. Government Assistance to and Cooperative Activities with Eurasia -FY 2003”, Released by the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, January 2004, http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/rpt/37969.htm)
USAN makes the following requests for Azerbaijan and Armenia:
Armenia – $19.5 million development aid; military: $3 million FMF, $300,000 IMET Azerbaijan – $19.5 million development aid; military: $8 million FMF, $900,000 IMET Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan - $0.00 (zero)
Chairwoman Lowey, members of the subcommittee, thank you once again for this opportunity to address you on this important matter.
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