- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Like father, like son?

S. Rob Sobhani wrongly suggests that Ilham Aliyev’s succession to his father, Heydar Aliyev, as president of Azerbaijan marks a transition toward democracy and pluralism in that country (“A new era in Azerbaijan,” Op-Ed, Monday). The elder Aliyev was a Communist Party official whose 10-year rule was marked by rampant corruption and the imprisonment, abuse and torture of political opposition. A byproduct of these policies has been the growth in the popularity of the radical Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which seeks to establish a caliphate uniting Central Asia and the rest of the Islamic world.

If the younger Aliyev does not explicitly repudiate the autocratic and oppressive practices of his father, it will be clear that what occurred in Azerbaijan was merely a change of hands and not a change of policy.

Finally, one must view Mr. Sobhani’s analysis with a degree of suspicion, as he heads an energy consulting company and may have clients involved with Caspian oil. He claims that Iran seeks to make Azerbaijan an Islamic republic, despite the absence of any evidence of this.

It may be in Mr. Sobhani’s financial interest to distract legislators and policy-makers from Azerbaijan’s democracy and human rights problems by portraying Iran as a threat to the country and the Aliyev government as the most reliable bulwark against its supposed encroachment. It also may be in his financial interest to promote the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and to distract those in government and the oil industry from the reality that Iran, not Russia or Turkey, is the cheapest outlet for Caspian oil and gas.

The government of Iran is highly flawed, but turning a blind eye to the autocratic and oppressive governments of Central Asia will provide the perfect incubator for the next generation’s al Qaeda.

ARIF RAFIQ

Greenvale, N.Y.

Removing obstacles in Cypriot talks

Readers are well-advised to separate fact from fiction in Tahsin Ertugruloglu’s misleading version of developments in Cyprus (“Greek Cypriot arrogance stymies talks,” Forum, Nov. 16).

The author represents an outlaw regime, declared “legally invalid” by the U.N. Security Council and not recognized internationally. Turkey, whose illegal invasion and partial occupation of the Republic of Cyprus since 1974 has been condemned repeatedly by the international community, set up the puppet regime to control the Turkish Cypriot community. In the eyes of the world, that rogue regime is the byproduct of international aggression.

In May 2004, the European Union will admit Cyprus as a full member. The EU rules and regulations will be suspended in the northern section of the republic, still under an illegal occupying force until Turkey’s army vacates Cyprus’ sovereign territory.

The vast majority of the people of Cyprus in both communities deeply resent Turkey’s military occupation and its brazen rejection of U.N. efforts to reunify the republic. The reunification of Cyprus has the full support of the international community, including the United States.

Mr. Ertugruloglu falsely suggests that the Turkish Cypriots face problems when they cross into the government-controlled areas in Cyprus as a result of the partial lifting of the illegal restrictions imposed by Turkey’s military occupation. In fact, as has been widely reported, these crossings on both sides of the shameful dividing line have been remarkably incident-free. The cordiality and warmth shown by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots toward each other destroyed the propaganda claim spread by Mr. Ertugruloglu’s side that the two communities cannot get along and therefore must be kept separated. The Greek Cypriots have convincingly shown their desire to live in peace and security with their Turkish Cypriot compatriots in a reunified Cyprus, a member of the European Union.

It is clear from its official policies that the government of Cyprus readily embraces all Cypriots and is eager to assist the entrapped Turkish Cypriots held behind barbed wire in the occupied north.

Moreover, the government is ready to participate constructively in U.N.-sponsored negotiations with the Turkish Cypriot community to reach an agreement on the reunification of Cyprus. The record speaks for itself.

The real enemies of both Cypriot communities are among those in Ankara and its puppet regime in occupied Cyprus who advocate the permanent partition of our country. This anachronistic attitude hurts Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike. Turkey’s army must be purged from the Republic of Cyprus, along with the rogue regime that fronts for Turkey’s ongoing aggression. With Cyprus poised to join the European Union, the country must be reunited, so that Turkish Cypriots, too, can enjoy the benefits of accession.

MILTOS MILTIADOU

Press counselor

Embassy of Cyprus

Washington

Veterans’ benefits reassessed

I’m a 100 percent disabled (service-connected) retired Air Force captain, and I am writing to challenge the comments by Rep. Sam Johnson, Texas Republican, in Saturday’s Op-Ed, “A victory for our disabled veterans.”

Specifically, I object to the Texas Republican’s specific statement, “The Republican-led Congress has changed the current system to help America’s veterans.” The change may have technically been facilitated by sitting Republican members of Congress. However, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can be credited with the recently passed legislation commonly referred to as “concurrent receipt.”

In fact, disabled American veterans have little to thank the parties for, although we do appreciate the fact that they finally acknowledged the legitimate financial entitlements earned by military retirees who served 20 or more years for their country.

Mr. Johnson was also notably incorrect when he listed only Democratic administrations dating to Woodrow Wilson’s as having failed to get Congress to act upon concurrent receipt issues fought for by disabled American veterans throughout the 20th century. In fact, all administrations, both Republican and Democratic, were complicit in their indifference to concurrent receipt and disabled veterans until this year. With only a few individual exceptions in Congress, servicemen and -women have been subjected to financial exploitation by presidents, senators and congressmen, while these national leaders have lined their pockets with midnight pay raises and exclusive, pork-barrel benefits. This applies to the current Congress and administration.

The decision now to authorize concurrent receipt was solely political expediency for our current government. The pressure placed on this government by the Military Grass Roots Group, numerous Veterans Service Organizations and hundreds of thousands of concerned veterans throughout America drove our government to take action. There is a simple reason why this occurred, and it is called self-preservation.

Our national leadership finally took action because of the outcries by military veterans and retirees to dump the incumbents in 2004. There is a national outcry nowadays, “Out the door in 2004.” That pertains to the removal from office of lackluster, disinterested and dishonest national leaders who exploit the warriors of America for their own personal gain. We’re tired of the photo-ops and the condescending attitudes before elections. Words are cheap, as our elected politicians know. They think they can buy us off with their cheap words of support, typically right before elections. Once re-elected, however, they forget about us and are indifferent to their broken promises.

If Mr. Johnson thought he got it right, he is sadly mistaken. Concurrent receipt is a byproduct of the efforts of good, honest Americans. Every politician in America must be on guard, as we are monitoring their actions. They must never forget, “Out the door in 2004.”

EDWARD F. LAWTON

Fairfax, Va.


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