Azerbaijan & Obama Suffer Setbacks as Ambassador Bryza’s Service is Cut Short

The Winners & Losers in Bryza Case

By Harut Sassounian

BryzaAs a result of successive political blunders by the Obama administration, Matthew Bryza was forced to abandon his ambassadorial post in Azerbaijan last week.

President Obama ignored repeated warnings that the candidate he was nominating as Ambassador to Azerbaijan in May 2010 had serious flaws. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee accused Bryza of having a pro-Azerbaijani bias and questionable ties to Azeri officials. The Senators were troubled by reports that foreign officials had given Bryza lavish gifts at his Istanbul wedding, during which the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan had served as a groomsman. In addition, the nominee’s Turkish-born wife Zeyno Baran was accused of conflicts of interest while working on Caspian energy issues at a Washington think tank. She had also antagonized the Armenian-American community by testifying against recognition of the Armenian Genocide at a Senate Subcommittee hearing.

When Pres. Obama failed to take these concerns seriously, Senators Barbara Boxer (Dem.-CA) and Robert Menendez (Dem.-New Jersey) had no choice but to place a hold on Bryza’s nomination, effectively blocking his confirmation. Obama then compounded his error by appointing Bryza as Ambassador to Azerbaijan in late 2010 without Senate approval. The President seemed oblivious to the potential damage to his own reputation, the prestige of the United States, and U.S.-Azeri relations, should the Senate not confirm Bryza’s nomination, forcing him to leave his post and return to Washington upon expiration of his 12-month appointment. [Read more...]