Testimony before Congress: 'The Caucasus and Caspian Region: Understanding United States Policy'
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Caspian Studies
"The Caucasus and Caspian Region: Understanding UNITED STATES Policy", House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on Europe
TESTIMONY BY DR. BRENDA SHAFFER, RESEARCH DIRECTOR,
CASPIAN STUDIES PROGRAM, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
October 10, 2001
With the independence in 1991 of the three states of the South Caucasus— -the Republics of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia— - and the new states in the greater Caspian region, tremendous opportunities were created for the U.S. to promote its national interests in the Caucasus and greater Caspian region. Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan each demonstrate strongly pro-American political orientations and ardent desires to be linked to U.S. led activities in the area. Kazakhstan strives for good, cooperative relations with the U.S. Turkmenistan also seeks cooperation with Washington, while balancing its relations with other regional powers. While Armenia''s foreign policy is not as strongly U.S.-oriented, Yerevan possesses strong links to the U.S. through the Armenian American community and is one of the highest recipients per capita of U.S. foreign aid.
Policy discussions relating to the Caucasus and Caspian region have tended to focus on the oil and gas resources of the region and associated pipeline issues, and on the contribution that the region can make to energy security. However, the importance of the Caspian region for the U.S. extends far beyond energy; extensive and positive ties with the states of the region, most of which are populated by Muslims, can contribute to building important ties in the Muslim world and encourage the development of U.S.-oriented regimes and open societies there.
Since taking office, the Bush Administration has demonstrated interest in the Caspian region and recognized it as an important arena for pursuing U.S. national interests. Secretary of State Colin Powell''s hosting of the Key West peace summit in April 2001 on Nagorno-Karabagh; President Bush''s statements on the importance of diverse energy supplies; and the recommendations on Caspian issues in the report of the National Energy Policy Development Group led by Vice-President Cheney are all positive examples of the Bush Administration''s approach.
My statement before this committee focuses on U.S. national interests in the Caucasus and greater Caspian region; provides an assessment of the political situation in the region; offers an evaluation of U.S. policy toward the Caucasus and Caspian region; and includes recommendations on how to improve those policies in order to best promote U.S. national interests in the region.
The Caspian Region: Advancement of U.S. National Interests
A number of U.S. national interests can be advanced through successful articulation and implementation of policies in the Caucasus and greater Caspian region. The Caspian region is understood to encompass the Caspian littoral states of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan as well as neighboring states that belong to the security and energy transport picture of the sea basin: Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. U.S. national interests in the region include:
Â§ Ensuring the viability and stability of global energy supplies and diversification of supply areas other than the Persian Gulf. Caspian discoveries are at least equal to and may prove larger than those in the North Sea. The Caspian''s resources are located in countries possessing predominately pro-Western orientations that are not currently members of OPEC. The addition of Caspian oil could weaken the OPEC monopoly, providing greater leverage over the pricing policies of Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries, and ultimately contributing to lower world oil prices.
Â§ Improving relations with the Muslim world. The United States has problematic relations with a large portion of the Muslim world, which the recent tragic events have further exacerbated. With the Soviet demise, a tremendous opportunity was created for the U.S.: the establishment of six new states whose majority population is Muslim, most of whom strive for close association with the West and increased cooperation with the U.S. Through strong relations with the Muslim states in the Caucasus and Central Asia, the U.S. can decisively signal that it is not interested in a conflict with the Muslim world as a whole. Moreover, through strengthening the independence of these Muslim states-many of which have made progress toward democratization and have a clear separation between religion and state-the U.S. might encourage these trends in the broader Muslim world.
Â§ Promoting trends in neighboring Middle East states that are conducive to U.S. national interests. The Caspian region borders on the Middle East. Many of the states in the Caucasus and Caspian region share co-ethnics with neighboring states in the greater Middle East region. Events in the Caspian region can affect developments among co-ethnics in neighboring countries and overall trends in those countries, and these cross border ties can serve as a policy lever. For instance, large communities of Uzbeks are found in Afghanistan, and Iran is a multi-ethnic society in which half of its population is non-Persian. The Azerbaijanis are the largest ethnic minority in Iran, comprising between a fourth and a third of the population of the state, and events in the Caucasus have internal ramifications for Iran. Ethnic politics, especially among the Iranian Azerbaijanis, may play an important role in the unfolding regime crises in Iran, and may be affected by relations with co-ethnics abroad. In the last decade, direct trade and cultural relations between people in the new republics in the Caspian region and co-ethnics in neighboring states have become intensive and this interchange is affecting center-periphery relations and other developments in the neighboring states, especially Iran. Cross border exchanges are especially active between Azerbaijanis in the Republic of Azerbaijan and in Iran.
Â§ Promoting the well being of Turkey, an important U.S. ally, now in the midst of a financial crisis. Ankara is trying to build influence in and derive economic benefit from cooperation with the Caspian region, especially in the energy sphere. Turkey''s economy can profit from the transit of Caspian oil and gas through its territory, and from access to this energy source.
Â§ Promoting U.S. economic interests. American companies and U.S.-based multi-national companies have invested significant funds in the Caspian region, especially in the development of energy resources. Positive political relations with the states of the region provide important support for American investments and encourage the growth of these investments. U.S. legislation establishing the transparency and legality of U.S. companies'' actions abroad serves as a good example for local states and also helps to promote these practices.
Â§ Promoting the independence of the states in the Caucasus and Central Asia; their successful democratization; and general peace, stability and prosperity in the region. The emergence of a group of independent, democratic, and prosperous states with pro-American orientations would only serve to enhance U.S. security, removing potential future trouble spots that could embroil us.
Current Political Situation in the Caucasus
One decade after their independence, all three states of the South Caucasus-Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia-are still in a process of building political institutions and political, social and economic transition. Rule of law is still weak in all three states, and efforts should be focused on strengthening the professional functioning of the judicial systems.
In my assessment of the political processes in the states of the region, I will concentrate on the Republic of Azerbaijan, which has been the focus of my research. Azerbaijan needs to make improvements in the field of democratization of its political system. Rule of law is still weak, journalists at times have been subject to attack, and the judicial system is at times arbitrary. However, we must look at the overall trend of democratization in Azerbaijan to assess its success: each year, significant improvements occur in the situation of democratization in Azerbaijan. Institutions of open society are clearly in place in Azerbaijan. Baku has a population of approximately two million people and at least five serious newspapers, many of different social and political orientations, are published there daily. I know of few American cities of that size that support such a large number of quality daily papers. We learn of human rights violations in the Republic of Azerbaijan from its own press, which is an important sign of democratization. The press in Azerbaijan is a spirited watchdog and conducts feisty investigative reporting of the government''s actions, unparalleled in many western states. University classrooms in Azerbaijan have become venues of fierce open debate, and representatives of the government at times appear in academic conferences and conduct dialogue with the citizens. The state''s universities are a central training ground for fostering democracy in society. However, beginning in spring 2001 the central government has created hardships and put pressure on some of the private universities in Azerbaijan, and this is to be viewed with concern.
Successful democratization is a long process and in the first decade since independence, Azerbaijan has taken important strides in its direction. While improvements need to be made, the trend of democratization in Azerbaijan is positive and U.S. officials should focus on this affirmative direction of development. The U.S. should act as a partner and friend in the democratization efforts in the Caucasus, and not chiefly as a sideline critic, and this will improve its contribution to this process.
Central to the development of the Caucasus and Caspian regions is resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Today, important policy and development options are obstructed due to this conflict. As long as the borders, citizenship of residents and political organization of the region are not clear, it is difficult to implement long-term development and investment designs. The small states of the south Caucasus must deal with many great challenges, especially living with strong neighbors like Russia, Turkey and Iran. Open trade and cooperation between these three states is necessary in order to meet these challenges. The current status quo (no war, no peace) should not be considered a viable option in the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict: Thousands of Azerbaijanis are still displaced and living in deplorable conditions, and the economic hardships and political instability in Armenia, has led to emigration of a significant portion of the population of the small state, and these situations should be remedied.
I am confident that the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict is resolvable in the near future and commend the American efforts in the last year in this direction. Journalists and historians have often tried to convince us of the "ancient hatreds" associated with the people of the Caucasus that dictate the emergence of conflict in this region, and I fundamentally disagree with this approach. In many places around the world, diverse ethnic, tribal, regional, cultural and other groups live adjacent to each other and conflict does not necessarily emerge. The ethnic and religious diversity of the Caucasus did not lead to the conflicts that emerged there between Armenians and Azerbaijanis over Nagorno-Karabagh or in regions of Georgia, such as Abkhazia and Ossetia. Agendas of various political movements, polices to further interests of neighboring powers, problems associated with political transition, and rivalry between vying powers greatly contributed to the emergence of conflict in the Caucasus. Almost all bordering states posses a mutual history of wars, conflict, and shifting borders and populations, yet we do not conjure up that history in most current political contexts. However, when relating to the Caucasus, U.S. policy makers often repeatedly refer to the past negative interactions between the peoples of the Caucasus, as if conflict was predestined, while when assessing European and other governments, they rarely refer to the history of wars that took place between neighboring states there. After conflict has emerged, it is clear that it has an impact of its own and that the prevailing relations on the eve of the appearance of the conflict cannot return with its resolution. However, to see conflict in the Caucasus as an almost predestined development is an error. An additional factor that leads me to believe that the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict can be resolved is the fact that interpersonal relations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in the region have generally remained cordial and constructive despite the war. Moreover, violence against or between civilian targets has not appeared frequently since the 1994 ceasefire, and cooperation between Russia and the U.S. in the Caucasus has improved in the last year.
The crucial element of the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict is the status of the Shusha district. The city of Shusha is strongly revered by both sides to the conflict, and its status is a central issue to the conflict somewhat like Jerusalem in the Israeli-Palestinian context. Without return of sovereignty over Shusha and of the Azerbaijani residents evicted from their homes there, it will be difficult to convince the Azerbaijani public to accept a peace compromise over Nagorno-Karabagh. Status of Shusha should be resolved early in the peace process, and this central issue should not be left to the end of the negotiations, in the manner of the Oslo Agreement.
Promotion of U.S. national interests in the Caucasus and Caspian region
The population of the Caucasus and greater Caspian region possess a number of collective identities-ethnic, regional, state, family, religious and others. Religion is only one facet of identity in the Caspian region. Most of the states of the region are overwhelmingly secular, and religion need not serve as a divide between the U.S. and these countries, nor as the basis of most of the coalitions in the area. Overemphasis on the Muslim factor by American policymakers has led to erroneous assessments and poor policy choices over the last decade. For example, the U.S. mistakenly assumed that Russia would cooperate with Washington in restraining Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, due in part to Russian fears of Iranian— sponsored Islamist activities. Additionally, the U.S. failed to correctly read Iran''s policies in the South Caucasus and Chechnya, wrongly assuming that Tehran would back Muslim actors, while in actuality Tehran did not back the Muslim Chechens or the Muslim Azerbaijanis but maintains extremely close and cooperative relations with Christian Armenia. The U.S. has often attached too much importance to religious identity, and often attaches religious motivations to various national movements: for instance, in Chechnya, the conflict was described as being between "Russian" soldiers and "Islamic" rebels. Accordingly, the U.S. should place less emphasis on religious identity when assessing an actor''s policy choices and as a basis for coalitions formed in the Caspian region.
In many instances over the past decade, Washington failed to coordinate its disparate policies and consequently sent mixed signals to the Caspian region. For example, the Clinton Administration publicly declared the importance it attached to relations with the states of the region, especially Azerbaijan. Yet, in the sphere of concrete actions, the previous administration did little to waive or combat the sanctions imposed by Congress on Azerbaijan in the form of Section 907. Section 907 prohibits U.S. assistance (with the exception of humanitarian assistance and assistance for non-proliferation and disarmament programs) to the government of Azerbaijan under the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets Support Act of 1992 (also known as the Freedom Support Act) "until the President determines, and so reports to the Congress, that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh." The legislation imposes sanctions only on Azerbaijan, despite the fact that both Armenia and Azerbaijan waged a war over the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh.
Baku is clearly oriented toward the U.S. and vigorously promotes U.S. policies in the region, such as in the fields of non-proliferation and prevention of terrorism; but at the same time, the country suffers under U.S. sanctions, a fact not lost on the Azerbaijani people at the grassroots level. Such contradictions create confusion and disappointment for the Caspian states, especially since there is little popular understanding of the dynamics of the U.S. foreign policy process, the role of Congress, and the influence of U.S. domestic constituencies on foreign policy. Credible commitments are crucial in this region, as they are everywhere. Mixed signals and the corresponding disappointment resulting from the lack of consistent support from the U.S. have led to the emergence of the first buds of anti-Americanism in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The U.S. must work to curb this development, and preserve its own credibility by following through with its commitments to these states and by conducting policies that are more consistent.
1. Increase diplomatic efforts and encourage financial investment to promote the flow of Caspian energy resources along an East-West corridor (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan). In order for Caspian oil to make an effective contribution to diversification of energy sources, it must flow to world markets via multiple routes, including an east-west pipeline. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline will ensure that a large portion of Caspian oil flows through non-OPEC countries and countries that do not have competing interests (Russia and Iran both have extensive oil and gas supplies). The building of this pipeline serves a number of key U.S. strategic goals, foremost energy security, and it additionally promises to bolster the political independence of Caspian states. The U.S. government must continue to appreciate the fact that BTC is not solely a private economic project; there are geopolitical stakes involved as well.
2. Promote the establishment of arrangements and infrastructures for the creation of regional gas supplies in the South Caucasus. Significant new gas supplies have recently been discovered in the Caspian region, especially in Azerbaijan. With Azerbaijan''s agreement, the U.S. should promote the construction and revitalization of pipelines for the utilization of some Caspian gas resources to supply the states in the South Caucasus, potentially as part of a Nagorno-Karabagh settlement package. The U.S. should also encourage the World Bank to devote resources to this project and to facilitate investment from other states. Use of local gas supplies can enhance regional security and stability by lessening the region''s dependence on Iran and Russia for electricity and heating, eliminating a source of vulnerability to political dictates.
3. Make a serious effort to conduct a consistent, clear, and coordinated policy in the Caucasus: cancellation or waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. In Congressional hearings, State Department and Administration representatives have referred to Azerbaijan as one of the "cornerstones of U.S. policy in the Caspian region," while, at the same time, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation that bars direct government assistance to Azerbaijan. One of the important ways to achieve consistency in policies directed toward the region would be for Congress to repeal Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act or for the Executive to seek changes in, waive, or circumvent this legislation as much as legally possible. Section 907 is prejudicial towards Azerbaijan-which for close to a decade has conducted a pro-American foreign policy-and projects an inconsistent U.S. policy toward the region. Moreover, if Azerbaijanis had the opportunity to participate in more U.S.-sponsored training programs and initiatives, the security of the region as a whole (including that of Armenia) would improve. The Republic of Armenia benefits little from the imposition of Section 907. This legislation may humiliate its neighbor and frustrate relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan, but brings little concrete benefit to Yerevan. In addition, this legislation can impair Washington''s ability to facilitate the Nagorno-Karabagh peace process since it imposes sanctions on one side of the conflict, and due to this legislation, Washington appears in the eyes of the Azerbaijani public to have a bias in favor of Armenia.
4. Attempt to communicate clearly with Russia about U.S. policies in the region, explaining the target of certain measures (such as Iran), and clarifying that the exclusion of Russia is not the objective of American policies. The U.S. is capable of crafting a comprehensive policy that keeps the Caspian region from becoming a zone of U.S.-Russian rivalry, and therefore decreases tensions in the region. U.S.-Russian relations in the region can be converted from a "win-lose" to a "win-win" situation for both states. For example, efforts can be made to encourage Russian corporate involvement in East-West pipeline projects, increasing the likelihood of these projects'' realization and providing economic benefits to Russia. It should be made clear to Moscow that pipelines that avoid the Bosphorus, such as BTC, actually serve Russian interests; they avoid additional traffic in the straits and thus avert a potential challenge to the free passage regime in place, the preservation of which is viewed by Moscow as a vital national interest.
5. Continue to invest diplomatic capital to solve the conflicts that afflict the Caspian region, especially the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict. Secretary of State Powell should be applauded for the investment he has made in a peace settlement for Nagorno-Karabagh as one of the first major foreign policy initiatives of the new Administration. These efforts should continue and should be conducted in full cooperation with Russia, if possible. Great expectations were linked to the spring 2001 negotiations. Failure to achieve an effective agreement soon could trigger renewed violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia, perhaps even war. The U.S. should continue and intensify its efforts to promote peace in the region and invest diplomatic efforts in this process. Successful negotiations will demand increased Western assistance and involvement in the implementation of the peace accord, including efforts (funding, coordination) for refugee resettlement and the construction of roads and other infrastructure. The U.S. and agencies like the World Bank should prepare for immediate action to consolidate the peace if an agreement is reached.
6. Promote security arrangements in the Caspian region that Russia perceives as compatible with its interests, and thus has a stake in preserving rather than undermining. Washington should strive to co-sponsor security arrangements and peace efforts in the region with Russia while developing structures that Moscow will perceive as at least minimally beneficial. Much of the instability that has plagued the region has resulted from the actions of rival powers: among them, the U.S., Russia, Iran and Turkey. In the early 1990s, Moscow''s activities contributed to the escalation of many local disputes in the region to all-out wars.
Overall, Russia is strategically inferior to the U.S., but in the Caspian region, Moscow retains levers of influence that the U.S. cannot, or is not, willing to apply: i.e., Russian "relevant" versus American "relative" power. Moreover, some actions are available in the region to Russia at much lower costs than they are to the U.S., such as the use of military troops. Actions resulting from U.S.-Russian rivalry can be very destabilizing to the region and, as a result, contrary to U.S. goals. Attempts by the U.S. to push Russia out of the region would be equally destabilizing.
7. Fulfill U.S. commitments to the states of the region to help them preserve their independence, and simultaneously find ways to constructively deter Russia and Iran from undermining these states'' interests. The U.S. should prevent regional powers from taking advantage of the current crises and realignments in the region in order to impose their will on states of the Caspian region. In addition, the U.S. should oppose the use of Russian forces for any long-term peacekeeping missions in the Caucasus. Overall, a permanent foreign peacekeeping contingent of any composition should be avoided in the Caucasus.
Changes in Iran or in some of its policies that may emerge in the coming weeks or months could allow a more cooperative relationship to develop between Tehran and Washington. In efforts to renew cooperation with Iran, Washington should be careful not to compromise the interests or independence of states like Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan-which have been very cooperative with Washington on its Iran policy. Specifically, Washington should not reshape its Caspian pipeline policy in order to court Tehran at the expense of the other Caspian states. As a result of U.S. encouragement, some Caspian states have stood up to Iran (e.g. barring Iran''s participation in some energy projects, supporting ILSA, and foiling Iranian proliferation attempts), often at the expense of aggravating their relations with Tehran. These states received only minimal concrete rewards from the U.S. despite their pro-American orientation and support for Washington''s policies in the area. The U.S. should continue to devote significant efforts to developing its cooperation with Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and should assist these states in thwarting subversive efforts by Iran. Tehran may continue to attempt to destabilize Azerbaijan, even if there will be a significant change of regime in Iran. Tehran fears that the Republic of Azerbaijan could serve as a source of attraction for its own Azerbaijani minority. Thus, since the independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran has taken many steps to destabilize Azerbaijan, prevent the flow of Caspian energy resources that could bring prosperity to Azerbaijan, and has acted to keep Baku embroiled in conflict with Armenia. These policies are not connected to the nature of the regime in Tehran, and even if there will be a significant change in the regime, Iran will act to prevent Azerbaijan''s development due to the internal ethnic consideration
8. Caspian Sea demarcation should be viewed as a political issue and not a legal issue, which still demands resolution. The contesting sides attempt to present demarcation of borders in the Caspian Sea as a strictly legal issue. However, the recurrent changes in their positions, especially those of Russia— up until the last year, and of Iran— reflect that the actors'' legal stances are tactical, and that their overriding concerns regarding delineation are political and economic. When opportunities have arisen for their respective involvement in certain oil and gas exploitation projects, a change has generally emerged in Tehran''s and Moscow''s legal stances, in order to remove the obstacle that they themselves have created and allow the projects to be carried-out, and they have often been willing to forsake the common stand and abandon one another without support on this issue. In the past year, Moscow has displayed its willingness to compromise on this issue and has removed obstacles to Caspian energy projects. These actions have created disagreements with Tehran, though they have not fundamentally affected Russian-Iranian relations, which remain strong. On July 23, 2001, Tehran militarily threatened a BP survey boat in the Caspian in an attempt to force its position on Caspian border demarcation. On a number of subsequent occasions, Iran violated Azerbaijani airspace as a further show of force. In response to the Iranian threat, Russia did not change its new flexible position on the Caspian borders, and this is commendable and promising, however Caspian demarcation continues to remain a subject of contention in the region, and may demand Washington''s attention.
9. Recognize the extensive Turkish domestic opposition to expanded traffic through the Bosphorus and design responsive policies that can reduce chances of accidents. Moreover, the Administration should identify the Bosphorus question as a potential future hot topic and work to prevent it from developing into a source of conflict between states in the region. Currently, opposition is becoming more vociferous in Turkey that increased tanker flow in the Bosphorus will lead to accidents that could endanger large numbers of people in Istanbul and cause environmental disaster. The flow of high volumes of Caspian oil through the Turkish straits would lead to increased traffic and a corresponding increase in the chance of accidents. Turkey cannot legally regulate the flow of traffic in the straits or obstruct the "free passage regime" which was established by the 1936 Montreux Treaty. Arrangements should be determined which could prevent conflict over Bosphorus traffic.
10. Alter the thrust of U.S. democratization programs in the region to emphasize the establishment of open society infrastructure (e.g. wide internet access, independent press and an independent and qualified judiciary), while recognizing that local leadership must guide these democratization efforts. Democratization is a long process. Elections and election monitoring should not be the focal point of the whole democratization policy nor should they be the only barometers of success. Heavy emphasis on election monitoring has contributed to a public cynicism about elections. U.S. democratization efforts should instead be geared towards long-term goals. The U.S. must be perceived as a friend in the democratization process, and commend the positive steps in this regard whenever possible. The previous Administration often recognized progress by making more demands, creating confusion and animosity among the governments in the region. Moreover, foreign election monitoring created wide resentment in Central Asia and the Caucasus; alternative programs supporting the rule of law and infrastructure for information exchange would better promote democratization and produce less local resentment.
11. Increase people-to-people exchange initiatives, professional development opportunities, and specialized training programs with each of the countries of the region. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice explicitly made this excellent recommendation in her Foreign Affairs article of January 2000. The U.S. should create opportunities for Americans and the various peoples of the region to learn more about each other and each other''s countries: Congress should increase opportunities for educational, cultural, business, and other types of partnerships and collaboration. Interactions among citizens and civil societies, combined with strong economic relations, are key pillars in good bilateral relationships. These pillars, or contact points, are critically important as fall-back relationships in times of misunderstandings when formal government to government contact and/or security relationships are strained.
12. The U.S. should support and focus some of its resource allocation for the continued development of local and provincial zones of trade as well as the cross-border cooperation that is on the rise despite the many obstacles on the state-to-state level. Examples of such trade and cooperation can be found between Armenia and Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia (taking place in Georgia), and Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani-populated provinces in Iran. Establishing these trade and economic ties encourages peace, the flow of ideas, and general cooperation in the region. The U.S. should also promote investment to these regions, drawing on the success stories that already exist, while simultaneously pushing for more cooperation through technical assistance and conferences in the region on cross-border trade.
Insights into the September 11th terror events and regional implications
After the catastrophic September 11th events, a plethora of articles and comments appeared in the U.S. press and abroad, posing the question as to why this tragic attack took place on the U.S. Many blamed the events on various policies of the U.S., such as its defense of Kuwait, support for Israel, and other policy stances. I condemn this practice of self-blame and contend that we do not have to accept violence as an appropriate means to call attention to stances in various political conflicts. Many peoples suffer tragedies and possess a self-view of having endured injustices, yet most do not use violence in order to call attention to their problems. The most manifest example comes from the Caucasus. 800,000 Azerbaijani refugees were created as a result of the Nagorno-Karabagh war. They lost their homes and their land, yet have not used violence to call attention to their plight. The refugees and their leaders have not fostered hatred toward the U.S. or any foreign powers, despite the fact that the U.S. has imposed sanctions in this conflict on Azerbaijan— the side which has lost 20 percent of its territory, and a tenth of its population has became refugees. We should not foster self-victimhood or condone violence by accepting the idea that terror is an understandable response in a political or territorial struggle. We should take example from the Azerbaijani refugees who have not used violence to call attention to their struggle. We should adopt a new model of conflict resolution-not just attention to those conflicts whose level of violence calls attention to them, but resolution efforts should be focused on those conflicts where the sides have abstained from the use of violence against civilian targets, and we should reward those refugees who have waited patiently and not glorified the use of terror.
The current U.S.-led efforts to combat terror are creating a political earthquake in Central Asia and the Caspian region. Coalitions are shifting and new ones are being formed. In the effort to court new support, the U.S. should be careful not to forsake those states in the region that have over the past decade supported its anti-terrorism and non-proliferation efforts. States like Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan were extremely cooperative with Washington in the past decade on a variety of issues affecting U.S. security, long prior to the catastrophic events, and at times endured retribution from neighbors, such as Iran and groups in Afghanistan, due to their staunch pro-American policies. Uzbekistan''s wide assistance to the U.S. in the current crises is crucial to making possible various policy and military options in the region, and Tashkent''s clear-cut pro-U.S. stance was preceded by a decade of cooperative relations, often insufficiently pursued by Washington.
The U.S. should be careful that while its attention and policies are focused on the anti-terror efforts, various powers will not take advantage of the situation to destabilize regimes in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Concerns have been raised in the region that Moscow and Iran make take advantage of the focus of the U.S. on the war on terror to further pressure states in the Caspian region. Concerns are being voiced in the region that regional powers may use terrorist incidents and attribute them to other actors, such as "Islamic terror" in order to force its will on some of the states of the region. The U.S. should also take care that in its current actions in the region, it does not create havoc that will have long-term negative repercussions for the Caspian region. Some of the states that have offered the U.S. significant assistance in this current battle, such as Uzbekistan, will become targets of reprisals. The U.S. should take care to extend assistance to help counter these threats.
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