THE NEW DIPLOMACY. There's a kind of impenetrable air of absurdity wafting throughout this paper I found on the AEI website advocating the formation of a Washington-Jerusalem-Baku axis aimed at countering the rising Persian Menace. Nevertheless, this passage is an intriguing and refreshingly honest look at contemporary diplomacy:

The United States. The U.S. government also remains a player. Baku cooperated with Jerusalem in the hope of improving ties with Washington. Not too long ago, U.S. policymakers considered Azerbaijan to be, at best, irrelevant and at worst, a nuisance. In 1992, the United States Congress passed the Freedom Support Act promising economic and humanitarian aid to all the former Soviet republics except Azerbaijan. Muscled through by the Armenian lobby, Section 907 of the act legislated that Washington would not give aid to Azerbaijan until the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a result, Azerbaijan received no economic aid from the United States in the 1990s while Armenia received over $1 billion.

In the mid 1990s, struggling to piece together the weak and dysfunctional Azerbaijani state, President Aliyev moved towards Jerusalem, thereby winning the allegiance of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. As Hassan Hassanov, Azerbaijan's foreign minister, stated in 1997, "We don't conceal that we rely on the Israeli lobby in the U.S." This paid dividends when, in 2002, President Bush waived Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. In a rare and understated public admission, an official at the Azerbaijani embassy in Washington acknowledged that, "Jewish organizations made a certain contribution in the Section 907 waving process."

Since, in this instance, the Israel Lobby was probably right on the merits and the really dumb policy was being pushed by the obscure Armenia Lobby, perhaps this can provide an opportunity for a non-hysterical discussion of the dynamic here. Is it really a good idea for this to be how America's policy toward Azerbaijan gets determined?

--Matthew Yglesias

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