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Azerbaijan--Next on the List for U$ Overthrow and Occupation?

Is it an eerie replay, albeit more time-compressed, of the U$ imperialist military-corporate establishment's phases of seduction, cultivation, embrace, exploitation, rejection and termination in its relationships with heads of weak states--usually unsavory, bloody dictators, or potential dictators? Even Rumsfeld makes a cameo appearance, delivering his handshake. Is it like the Cosa Nostra "kiss of death"?
"Saddam's Biggest Mistake?"
Our Man in Baku

Sunday, January 25, 2004; Page B06 -- The Washington Post

ILHAM ALIYEV was inaugurated as president of the oil-rich Muslim country of Azerbaijan three months ago after an election condemned by international observers as blatantly fraudulent. When members of the opposition tried to protest, they were brutally beaten by police. There followed a massive, nationwide crackdown in which more than 1,000 people were arrested, including opposition leaders, activists from nongovernmental organizations, journalists and election officials who objected to the fraud. More than 100 remain in prison, including most of the senior opposition activists. A new report by Human Rights Watch documents numerous cases of torture, including severe beatings, electric shock, and threats of rape against the opposition leaders. Mr. Aliyev, who succeeded his strongman father, meanwhile has been consolidating dictatorial powers: Most recently he was named director of Azerbaijani radio and television.

Azerbaijan, in short, might look like a good place for President Bush to start implementing his frequently declared policy of "spreading freedom" to the world -- and in particular the greater Middle East. Instead he is doing the opposite. The president and his top aides have embraced Mr. Aliyev, excused his fraud and ignored his human rights violations -- not to mention reliable reports of his personal corruption. The administration waived congressional restrictions to grant Azerbaijan $3 million in military aid and is winding up to give still more. The Pentagon is talking with Azeri officials about the possible use of bases for U.S. operations. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Baku last month to confer with Mr. Aliyev. When asked about the electoral fraud, he replied: "The United States has a relationship with this country. We value it." Said Mr. Aliyev proudly: "The United States is a strategic partner."

Pentagon officials argue that Azerbaijan is vital to the war on terrorism. Among other things, they contend Azerbaijani help is needed to stop terrorists from traveling across the Caspian Sea. But a more obvious source of President Bush's policy is oil. Over the last decade Mr. Aliyev and his father granted billions in contracts to such companies as BP-Amoco, ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil. He also has supported a $3 billion pipeline that is to carry oil from the Caspian to a port in Turkey. According to Mr. Aliyev, Mr. Bush once pronounced him an honorary citizen of Texas in appreciation of his support for American oil companies. When he was installed by his dying father as prime minister last August, the president quickly sent him a congratulatory letter.

American diplomats and oil executives portray Mr. Aliyev as an urbane pro-Westerner and a secret moderate who plans to liberalize the police state he inherited from his dad. This account strikes Azerbaijanis as ludicrous. Only 42 years old, Mr. Aliyev is renowned in Baku as a playboy with a bad gambling habit. During his tenure at the state oil company, Azerbaijan was rated the sixth most corrupt nation in the world by Transparency International. An indictment unsealed in the Southern District of New York charges that millions of dollars in bribes were channeled to top Azeri officials in 1997 as part of a scheme to privatize the oil company, of which Mr. Aliyev was then vice president. Since his "election," Mr. Aliyev has reappointed his father's key ministers and promised to pursue the same policies -- including, apparently, ruthless suppression of the peaceful and pro-democracy opposition.

It's clearly expedient for Mr. Bush to back Mr. Aliyev, just as for decades U.S. governments found their interest in propping up dictators in the Persian Gulf. But Mr. Bush himself has said -- in one of his several major speeches about democracy -- that such policies were mistaken. "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe," the president said two months ago. "In the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty." It may take the United States decades to overcome the legacy of embracing corrupt dictators in the Arab world. The least Mr. Bush can do is avoid repeating the mistake in the new oil states of the Caucuses and Central Asia -- beginning in Azerbaijan.

2004 The Washington Post Company

homepage: homepage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45227-2004Jan24.html?nav=hptoc_eo

some maps 26.Jan.2004 02:08

jim

Here's some maps that show the corporate oil field in the Caspian.
North Caspian
North Caspian
South Caspian
South Caspian

Washington Trades Human Rights for Oil in Azerbaijan 26.Jan.2004 09:22

Jim Lobe submited by friend

ouble standards; that should be brought up to the agenda of Bush, Blair and all their teams.
Published on Friday, January 23, 2003 by OneWorld.net
Washington Trades Human Rights for Oil in Azerbaijan
by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON -- The oil-rich nation of Azerbaijan, eagerly courted by the Bush administration, is suffering its worst repression since it became an independent state--after the Soviet collapse more than a decade ago--according to a new report released today by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The 55-page report, "Crushing Dissent: Repression Violence and Azerbaijan's Elections," details hundreds of arbitrary arrests, widespread beatings and torture, and politically motivated firings of opposition activists and supporters following October 15 presidential elections widely denounced as unfair and fraudulent by Western and other observers.

The elections confirmed Ilham Aliev as the nation's new ruler. He is the son of Heidar Aliev, a former top KGB official and Kremlin adviser, who became president two years after Azerbaijan became independent in 1991. The elder Aliev died last month while receiving medical treatment in the United States.

"Azerbaijan is experiencing its gravest human rights crisis of the past ten years," said Rachel Denber, acting director of HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division. "The government must take immediate steps to end the repression."

The report, based on hundreds of interviews with victims and witnesses in 13 towns and cities during and immediately after the elections and subsequent testimonies and press reports, found that repression has only intensified over the last several months.

It also accused the U.S. and other western governments of responding to the elections and the crackdown that followed them by sending muted and contradictory messages, capped by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's visit last month. Rumsfeld personally congratulated the younger Aliev on his election victory, but otherwise refused to make any comment on the political situation.

"The international community needs to take a strong and consistent stance against the rising tide of abuse," said Denber. "In light of President Bush's recent statements on democracy in neighboring countries in the Middle East, U.S. inaction on Azerbaijan is particularly troubling."

Despite its vast oil wealth, Azerbaijan remains a poor country with an annual per capita income well below US$4,000, and about half the population living below the poverty line. The country lost part a key part of its territory, Nagorno-Karabakh, in a fierce conflict with neighboring Armenia in the early 1990s that was suspended by a cease-fire in 1994 but has yet to be fully resolved.

Corruption under the Alievs has reportedly been rampant, particularly with the investment of billions of dollars by foreign oil companies eager to exploit the country's energy resources, found primarily in and around the capital, Baku, and beneath Azerbaijan's territorial waters in the Caspian Sea.

Washington has been interested in Azerbaijan as a major future supplier of oil for the past decade. It has played a leading role in promoting the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that will carry oil from the Caspian through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey's easternmost Mediterranean port, a controversial project designed to ensure to circumvent Russia and Iran, even though using existing grids would be a much cheaper transport method.

Azerbaijan was quick to offer assistance to Washington after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and military ties between the two nations have grown steadily. Beginning in 2002, Bush waived a ban on security assistance to Azerbaijan that was first imposed during its war with Armenia.

Indeed, Rumsfeld's recent trip there was aimed at intensifying military cooperation and assessing Baku's willingness to host U.S. military facilities. Washington has also expressed interest in providing Azerbaijan with training and equipment, including a Coast Guard cutter, to permit its navy to patrol its waters.

But some analysts say the growing coziness with the Aliev government carries serious risks, particularly if repression and corruption are not soon curbed. The fact that it had to resort to fraud to ensure its election victory, according to this view, suggests that the government is deeply unpopular and could be destabilized.

"A failure to fully promote democracy will ensure that the profits from oil production will end up in the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt leaders and government officials," warned Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) in a recent article in which he argued that Washington faces similar challenges throughout the Caucasus region. Some days later, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze was ousted in a popular uprising.

While the Georgian crisis was resolved in a free election swept by a pro-U.S. opposition, the October election in Azerbaijan was anything but free, according to HRW and other independent analysts.

HRW found that the government prevented many opposition candidates from campaigning effectively--often through police brutality, arbitrary arrests, and intimidation--during the election campaign. On election day it carried out a well-organized campaign of fraud to ensure victory for Ilham Aliev with some 75 percent of the official vote. The fact that the fraud was carried out in front of the largest election-monitoring team ever deployed to Azerbaijan only increased the frustration of both the opposition and the observers.

Immediately after the election, protest demonstrations were met by "brutal and excessive force" carried out by the police, as a result of which at least 300 protestors suffered serious injuries and one was killed. Azerbaijani authorities have so far refused to carry out an investigation of the police violence, let alone punish any of the security forces involved.

In the weeks following the election, the authorities used the violence as a pretext for rounding up nearly 1,000 people--among them, opposition leaders and activists, activists of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) perceived as supporting the opposition, journalists, and election officials and observers who challenged the fraud. Those detained routinely suffered beatings by police, while opposition leaders held at the Organized Crime Unit of the Interior Ministry were tortured by electric shock, severe beating, and threats that they would be raped.

As of last week, more than 100 detainees remain in custody and, if convicted of various crimes with which they have been charged, may face up to 12 years in prison. More than 100 opposition supporters and their family members have been fired from their jobs, while opposition activists throughout the country are subject to constant harassment by the policy.

"The government of Azerbaijan is attempting to crush the opposition with few attempts to hide it," charges the HRW report, which calls on the government to immediately release all of those detained for political reasons and thoroughly investigate acts of torture and other official misconduct. But it stressed that the role of the international community, particularly Western powers, could play a critical role.

Next Tuesday, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, is scheduled to debate Azerbaijan's compliance the Council's human rights requirements--an opportunity, according to HRW for European governments to express stronger concern. "The Assembly needs to adopt a strong resolution making clear that Azerbaijan's credentials are at risk unless the government remedies the situation," said Denber. Azerbaijan was admitted to the Council in February, 2001.

Washington also needs to convey a clearer message, according to HRW, which recognized the Aliev's election victory, even as U.S. observers sent by the administration denounced them as a "sham."

Copyright 2004 OneWorld.net

Joint U.S.-Azerbaijani military exercises started today 26.Jan.2004 11:09

mt

Joint U.S.-Azerbaijani military exercises started today, Turan News Agency reported.
26/01/2004 20:42
Baku Today

The exercises aim at training Azerbaijani armed forces in protecting offshore oil platforms, the Agency said.
The training will involve 45 Azerbaijani navy personnel. The U.S. side is participating with 18 American fleet experts and two patrol boats in the training.
This is the second training held by two sides.The first exercises were conducted in 2003.

The military training will end on February 6.


 http://www.bakutoday.net/view.php?d=7804

Investments in Azerbaijan's economy soared 70% to 17.8095 trillion manat in 2003 26.Jan.2004 11:11

mt

Investments in Azerbaijan's economy soared 70% to 17.8095 trillion manat in 2003, the State Statistics Committee told Interfax.
20/01/2004 21:54
Foreign investment of 14.341 trillion manat accounted for 80.5% of the total, and local investment of 3.469 trillion manat for 19.5%. Foreign investment and local investment increased by 84.2% and 32.6% respectively in 2003.
Investments in industry accounted for 79.7% of the total investment, with the oil and gas industry taking 76.2% of the industry investments.

Overall investments in Azerbaijan soared by 84.2% in 2002 compared with 2001.
The exchange rate was 4,927 manat/$1 on January 16.

Baku. (Interfax)

 http://www.bakutoday.net/view.php?d=7757

Exxon Mobil invested 1.5billion in Azerbaijan 1995-2003 26.Jan.2004 11:12

mt

Exxon Azerbaijan Operating Company LLC (subsidiary of American company Exxon Mobil) invested over $1.5 billion into oil and gas projects in Azerbaijan during 1995 - end of 2003.
17/01/2004 14:13
Turan

Press service of EAOC told Turan that the amount includes all project expenses, particularly on Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (8.0006%), Zafar/Mashal (30%), Nakhchyvan (50%), Oguz (30%), Alov (15%) and Lerik Deniz.
It should be noted that Exxon Mobil is currently attaching closest attention to offshore exploration project Zafar/Mashal, where first well was started in November of 2003. Oguz project was already shut down due to commercial unpredictability. The first exploration well at Nakhchyvan structure turned out dry. Practical exploration works at Alov structure were suspended since summer of 2002 due to Iran's protests. Exploration contract on Lerik Deniz did not yet come into force due to undetermined status of the Caspian Sea.

 http://www.bakutoday.net/view.php?d=7731

About the Maps 26.Jan.2004 11:51

dervish

Jim, regarding the color key for the deposits shown on the maps, are the darkish gray/green those in current production, while the yellow ones are identified but not tapped? Or are these color codes for gas fields and crude deposits?

Also, can you share the source of these maps?

Fuck. 27.Jan.2004 09:09

PortlandVegan PortlandVegan@hotmail.com or Rhodk269@hsd.k12.or.us

I didn't actually absorb a whole heck of a lot of that. But I think I get the general idea. If Azerbaijan is in fact Bush's next target, I'll be really fucking pissed off(excuse my French). My good friend is a foreign exchange student from Azerbaijan. When he returns in May, he will have to already be going into war with Armenia. It makes it a bit more personal when your friend will be living in the country.