US Overtures Dividing Azeri Leadership?

by Nathan Hamm on 8/15/2005 · 3 comments

In today’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, Taleh Ziyadov says that talk of a possible US military base in Azerbaijan is heating up ahead of an unconfirmed visit from Donald Rumsfeld. The intensification of US interest in Azerbaijan of late–an intensification that has quite a bit to do with the upcoming parliamentary election–is giving some in the Azeri government the jitters both because it would upset attempts to balance the interests of Russia, the US, and Iran and because of fears that an increased US presence would be a threat to the continued rule of the current government.

Several opposition newspapers have argued that the warming relations between Baku and Moscow are a result of holdovers from the Soviet government who continue to hold important positions in the Azerbaijani government. These officials are the ones who feel the most insecure about the growing U.S. presence in the South Caucasus and want to secure their interests, both national and personal, playing Russia against the United States.

Ziyadov points out that the ongoing crackdown on the opposition at least in part has to do with fears of the United States. This is interesting because it suggests that at least the more conservative elements of Azerbaijan’s leadership either fear the United States more than liberalization or feel that the US will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back causing the current government to collapse.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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