IS AZERBAIJAN LOBBYING FOR U.S. WEAPONS SALES?
by Joshua Kucera

EurasiaNet.org
http://www.eurasianet.org/node/64002
Aug 4 2011
NY

That's what a source tells the independent Azerbaijani Turan News
Agency:

Recently Azerbaijan again began a serious push to get the US provide
it with "defense weapons," in particular, air defense and anti-tank
systems.

"Azeri lobbyists and their allies in the US capital received a new
assignment from Baku - target getting American weapons for Azerbaijan",
the source said.

"Several years ago, this issue almost defined the US-Azeri
relationship, but back then, Baku stepped down after understanding
that they couldn't afford American weaponry on their own", one of
Azerbaijan's former lobbyists told TURAN's correspondent, adding,
now, Azeri supporters in Washington are arguing that the oil-reach
country doesn't need the US to give them the weapons as aid, they
can buy the weaponry.

The article goes on to point out that there is little reason to
believe the U.S. would accede to this. Perhaps most of all, it would
be against the law, in particular the "Section 907" rules that forbid
Azerbaijan from buying weapons from the U.S. And there are several
powerful pro-Armenian members of Congress who would make it very
difficult to get around that.

Some Wikileaked cables from 2009 reported that Azerbaijan's president,
Ilham Aliyev, personally brought up the idea of getting the U.S. to
allow weapons sales. But if the lobbyists in the U.S. are now working
on this, that would suggest that this is serious.

I asked Adil Baigurov of the U.S. Azeris Network, an Azeri-American
advocacy group, what he thought of the report. He said he didn't know
if Azerbaijan really was pushing to get U.S. weapons, but that if it
were, that would be a good idea:

I think Azerbaijan would be very smart in looking at all options
and considering U.S. weapons, especially in light of the strategic
relationship with U.S., NATO aspirations, and interoperability with
U.S. troops, from special forces to peacekeepers. It should have been
doing all this for many years. At the same time, I think they are
mindful that since much of such sales need to be approved by Congress,
it slows down the process significantly, makes the purchases more
transparent for the Armenian intelligence, and gives opportunities for
Armenian lobby to explore via its pro-Armenian members like Pallone
and Menendez - in same way like they tried to do with the satellite
deal, or anything that in any way benefits U.S.-Azerbaijan relations.

So if any Azerbaijan lobbyists got such a request, I don't know, but
I certainly think it's very smart for Azerbaijan to consider all of
the options, carefully explore all technologies and systems out there,
and if it thinks it would benefit from the purchase due to its great
value, as well as ability to nearly guarantee the sale to go through,
despite all the noise and fumes created by Armenian lobbyists, then
they should definitely try to make this happen.

In any case, there are many advanced weapons produced worldwide, and
Azerbaijan certainly does not depend, require, or must have, any U.S.
weapons systems. Cooperation with Israel is going through quite well,
as is with many other countries, and it's probably cheaper than U.S.
weapons, not to mention easier and almost immune to Armenian lobby.

One small thing that seems noteworthy: the Turan report says that
Azerbaijan is looking for "defensive weapons," in particular air
defense and anti-tank systems. That happens to be exactly the package
that Georgia is looking for. Is that because it's what Azerbaijan
needs? Or because U.S. equipment is particularly good in those areas?

Or is Baku modeling its lobbying effort after Georgia's, seeing that
as a politically palatable request?

Anyway, expect to hear the Armenian lobby groups weigh in on this
in 3...2...1....



From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress