- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2004

Azerbaijanis and Nagorno-Karabakh

On Azerbaijan, S. Rob Sobhani believes he is right on the mark: It has oil and the West needs that oil, so Washington has one choice, to support the Azerbaijani government regardless of its aggressive policies toward its Armenian neighbors or its universally acknowledged dismal record on corruption and human rights (“Keeping a key Caspian ally,” Commentary, Saturday).

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the agreement that gave the United States access to Azerbaijan’s oil reserves, but it also marks 10 years since the cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh, which should have been a prelude to a negotiated peaceful settlement.

However, 10 years into the cease-fire, Azerbaijan’s response to the popular demand of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians for self-determination has not changed. Like the pogroms and mass deportations in the months before the Azerbaijani-initiated war, threats of more of the same continue today.

To quote remarks by Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Ramiz Melikov published Aug. 4 in the Azerbaijani press: “In the next 25-30 years there will be no Armenian state in the South Caucasus. This nation has been a nuisance for its neighbors and has no right to live in this region.” Also, to quote former AzerbaijaniPresidentHeydar Aliyev’s own national security adviser, Vafa Guluzade: “Armenians should be driven out … . The entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh should be moved from there … this problem will not be resolved as long as Armenians are in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Is this the policy Mr. Sobhani wants the United States to support? Is this what the American people want their government to support? Is Azerbaijani oil so important that the United States should encourage and defend a leadership that clearly advocates not just another military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, but also ethnic cleansing and the demise of Armenia against its population?

Oil is one thing; the price for oil espoused by Mr. Sobhani is something else.

ROSS VARTIAN

Executive director

Armenian Assembly of America

Washington

• • •

[Editor’s note: The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is not recognized by the United States or the United Nations as an independent nation-state.]

S. Rob Sobhani again used standard Azerbaijani disinformation to describe the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Experts who followed developments in the region during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union know that the conflict is in essence between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, not Armenia and Azerbaijan. Furthermore, Nagorno-Karabakh forces control only 8 percent of the territory beyond Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders, not 20 percent, as Mr. Sobhani claims.

Finally, according to official census data and Azerbaijan’s own electoral lists, there are no more than 600,000 refugees and internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan. Still a big number, but not the figure of 1 million given by Mr. Sobhani. Mr. Sobhani fails to mention that 350,000 Armenian refugees that were expelled from Azerbaijan.

After failing in its military campaign to crush Nagorno-Karabakh’s quest for freedom, the Azerbaijani leadership has misrepresented the facts to create an image of a victim country. It is regrettable that third parties uncritically present Azerbaijan’s intentional misrepresentations. In this particular case, I wonder if Mr. Sobhani bothered to verify his data at all.

VARDAN BARSEGHIAN

Representative of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the United States

Washington

Kerry Iraq plans questioned

Sen. John Kerry’s plan to improve the U.S. effort in Iraq (“Kerry calls Iraq war ‘profound diversion,’ ” Page 1, Tuesday) offers nothing substantial to the conflict. Of his four points, the only one in which the current administration is not making much progress is supplementing U.S. forces with more foreign troops. And though this may sound like an attractive option, it is unrealistic and unnecessary.

Mr. Kerry would undoubtedly be looking to Western European allies such as France and Germany for contributions to the effort. Assuming that French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could muster the political will to send their troops, it is highly unlikely that they would even make a worthwhile contribution there. European nations spend so little on their militaries that it would be questionable whether their troops would be adequately trained and supported for such a demanding mission, especially taking into consideration that these nations are already stressed by helping us in Afghanistan.

Given that Iraq is in the grip of an insurgency, not a war of attrition, the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity. The United States learned this painful lesson in Vietnam, where increasing the quantity of troops yielded no demonstrable benefit in defeating the guerrillas. The United States should instead be following the example it set in El Salvador, where a vicious and determined guerrilla movement was defeated with highly skilled advisers from U.S. special operations forces and other personnel.

ROBERT PAISLEY

Research assistant

National Defense Council Foundation

Alexandria

CBS and memogate

The docu-drama swirling at CBS (“CBS ‘deeply regrets’ memos ‘mistake,’ ” Nation, Tuesday) raises an important philosophical question: If a document falls to the ground from a tree in a forest where no one hears it or sees it fall, can Dan Rather and CBS authenticate its existence and produce a “60 Minutes” show based on it?

Mr. Rather seems to have attempted to do just that, or something like that, without success. How much of a disaster this will ultimately mean for the legacy of Dan Rather is not known at this time. However, one thing is clear: Mr. Rather is not out of the woods yet. We know from the double-think logic of his statements that although CBS cannot authenticate the documents in question, he still believes in the heart of them and does not believe they were forged.

BEVERLY KROEGER

Springfield

Investor interests first

Contrary to the Star Chamber-like atmosphere Sen. George Allen and Gregory Slayton describe (“Allowing Americans to compete and win,” Commentary, Sunday), the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) developed its current rules on stock options after numerous hearings and with significant public input.

Only after hearing what information investors — the true owners of publicly traded companies — need in order to make sound investment decisions did the FASB decide that it was time for all companies to accurately report their compensation expenses.

Moreover, despite the authors’ heated rhetoric, it is important to note that an ever-increasing number of companies have decided to voluntarily expense stock options so that Americans who invest in the stock market have a clearer understanding of corporate financial performance.

Thanks to congressional interference, investors were denied this information in the 1990s, which contributed to inflated “reported” earnings during the tech bubble. Now the FASB is trying to implement reforms to protect those who otherwise would be misled.

Investors need facts, not fiction. The FASB believes, and we agree, that stock options are not the issue. The real issue is whether independent accounting experts should be free to write accounting rules intended to inform and safeguard investors or whether politicians should write accounting rules designed to make companies appear more profitable than they really are.

Speaking for thousands of investment professionals who rely on financial statements every day to make investment decisions for investors large and small, we support the independence of the FASB and its commitment to place investor interests first.

THOMAS A. BOWMAN

CFA Institute

Charlottesville

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