Vartan Oskanian and Western interests in Armenia - October, 2012

Seeing its meddlesome presence in the Russian Federation coming to an abrupt end with the return of Vladimir Putin to the highest office in the Kremlin; watching Ukraine succumb to Mother Russia's gravitational pull; watching Central Asian republics pledge an allegiance to Moscow; watching Georgians begin the gradual process of turning away from Tbilisi's Washington-backed tie-eating dictator; and unable to stop the prosecution of Vartan Oskanian in Armenia, Washington may finally be coming to the somber realization that their destructive bullshit in former Soviet republics for the past twenty years may finally be coming to an end.

Commentaries and analysis produced by well known pundits and mainstream information outlets in Yerevan are presenting Oskanian's case as a simple matter of political infighting between the incumbent president of Armenia on one side and a former president (supposedly with renewed presidential aspirations), a restless oligarch and a repatriated Diasporan official (i.e. Oskanian) on the other side. 

This is, in my opinion, somewhat of a misrepresentation or a half-truth of what is actually taking place. Domestic politics does naturally play a role in the political soap-opera currently playing-out in Yerevan, but so does geopolitics

In my opinion, Oskanian's plight in Yerevan is one of the many manifestations of the tug-of-war taking place in the south Caucasus between Russian Federation and the United States. It should also be added that had Moscow not been encouraging Armenia behind the political scenes, Yerevan would not dare touch one of Washington's most important men in Armenia.

The fact of the matter is that Oskanian has been one of Washington's men in Armenia from the very beginning. Like Raffi Hovanissian and Paruyr Hayrikian, Vartan Oskanian was more-or-less sent to Armenia to represent Western interests in the fledgling state. Due to Moscow's relative weakness throughout the 1990s, Armenian officials had no choice in the matter but to allow these men to obtain various positions within the country. In a sense, these men were the human assets with which Washington seeded the Armenian political landscape hoping to reap benefits at a future time.

This type of political seeding of course worked very well for a certain time period following the Soviet Union's collapse. 

Similar to what their counterparts did in eastern Europe, the main task of Washington's men in Yerevan had been to facilitate the expulsion of Russia from Armenia. Their grand geostrategic plan - known in some circles as the Great Game -  was to curb the political/economic growth of Russia (as well as that of Iran) essentially by turning the south Caucasus into one big Turkic-Islamic cesspool funded by a consortium of Western energy interests. This agenda is currently being pushed under the unassuming banners of "fighting corruption", "women's rights", "minority rights", "gay rights", "free speech", "free elections", "democracy"... 

All of Washington's men in Armenia - some consciously, some unwittingly - continue to feverishly work on the Western agenda to remake the south Caucasus, similar to how their Arab counterparts have been working on remaking the Middle East.  Needless to say, if allowed to take root, their agenda may prove deadly for the Armenian state.

But we have been fortunate that in recent years we have witnessed a series of fundamental changes in the political climate of the globe. Most important of these changes has been the unexpectedly fast rise of the Russian Federation as a global power. Georgia's defeat in the summer of 2008 heralded Russia's splendid comeback. After reaping great benefits throughout Eurasia throughout much of the 1990s as a direct result of the sociopolitical and socioeconomic chaos brought upon by the Soviet Union's unexpected demise, Washington began suffering a series of setbacks in recent years. Moscow's resurgence during the last decade as an independent superpower pursuing its national interests on the grand chessboard of Eurasia has been one of the main factors behind Washington's setbacks.  

The following is a brief look at some of Washington's most notable failures with regards to Eurasian geopolitics:
Its inability to stop the rise of Russia as a Eurasian superpower; its inability to stop the reversal of the political direction in Ukraine, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia; its inability to stop Russia from liberating South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008; its inability to freely exploit Central Asian energy via Azerbaijan; its inability to setup anti-missile sites in Europe against Russia; its inability to stop the Russian-assisted nuclear development program in Iran; and its inability to, thus far, oust the Russian-backed Assad regime from power in Damascus...
There have been of course other major geostrategic failures such as Venezuela, Iraq and Afghanistan, but these are outside the scope of this commentary. Nevertheless, Oskanian's fall from grace is hitting cold-blooded reptiles in Washington very hard because it symbolizes empire's loss of influence as well as the loss of its fear factor. 

Washington is finding itself increasingly difficult to persuade, bribe, brainwash, blackmail or threaten violence to get its way around the world these days. 

Since Armenia isn't one of those countries that can be bombed into submission (due to Russia's military presence there) and since NATO's two decades long economic blockade of the nation has proved ineffective (due to Armenian resilience), Washington is calling on
their propagandists, many of whom are deeply embedded in Armenian society to bombard us with their bullshit instead. Utilizing its servants to spread disinformation inside Armenian society when political developments in Armenia don't go their way has been one of their favorite methods of putting pressure on Yerevan and turning Armenia's Hollywood-struck peasantry, both in and out of the homeland, against their state.  

Speaking of our Hollywood-struck self-destructive peasantry, I took the freedom of posting below this commentary several of the hastily produced Western articles in defense of Oskanian. Please read them to acquaint yourselves with their psy-ops and media blitz.

Pay particular attention to the angry rantings of John Hughes, the horse-faced American agent in Yerevan who is also the director of the "independent" news organization known as ArmeniaNow, and David Ignatius, the thoroughly-assimilated-self-hating Armenian that has been on the empire's payroll for most of his life. It was particularly amusing to read Ignatius' comments in the anti-Armenian propaganda outlet known as the Washington Post. His handlers in Washington must have really rushed him because Mr. Ignoramus' diatribe against Yerevan is full of errors, not the least of which is his misspelling of the main object of his concern. 

ArmeniaNow, Radio Liberty, EurasiaNet, Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Hetq and of course the ARF's Asbarez and Armenian Weekly are all getting into the information war against Yerevan by defending one of Washington's main operatives in Armenia. Washington is clearly worried that its once powerful control levers in former Soviet states, including Armenia, are gradually disappearing one by one. Therefore, by bringing out their army of propagandists and doomsayers they are attempting to pressure Armenian officials to fall back in-line, at the same time hoping to incite Armenians to rise against their leaders.

But times have begun to change. Their powerful methods of inciting the global sheeple with their psy-ops may no longer be working as well as it had been for the past several decades. Seeing Washington-sanctioned crimes against humanity in places such as Serbia, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, political awareness, long dormant, is slowly awakening in Armenians. Syria's bloody plight in particular may have finally brought home to us Armenians the very uncomfortable truths of Washingtonian style politics around the world, and may be helping us to finally understand that Washington does not in fact care much about minorities... or gays... or women... or the ecology... or free and fair elections anywhere. 

People are slowly beginning to understand that Washington's main purpose around the world has been to keep its declining empire intact at any cost. And with regards to Armenia, Washington's main concern is not the lack of "democracy" in Armenia but the lack of "America" in Armenia. The main purpose of Armenia's Captain America's has been to replace the Russian presence in the country with that of America's. 

Guess what folks, it's not going to happen. That train left the station a very long time ago (it actually departed on October 27, 1999) and will not be returning anytime soon. Fortunately, the Caucasus is slowly yet surely headed towards Pax Russica.

The good news is that Armenians are not the only ones awakening. Information technology is in fact helping the civilized world to reawaken from a deep slumber that back began in 1945. 

Yes, the political climate of the world is gradually changing, a multi-polar global community is coming into existence and Washington and friends are looking awfully impotent as of late. But we cannot rejoice as of yet because the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance continues have a massive following of destructive zombies around the world; it continues to appeal to mankind's animalistic nature; it continues to control most global levers; and it continues to pack a lot of deadly poison.

Nevertheless, perhaps with some prodding from Moscow, the leadership in Yerevan seems to have negatively assessed Oskanian's political ambitions. Therefore, the process that has started against him should be seen as a preventative measure.

Let us once again recognize the fact that the Caucasus is Russia's strategic and vulnerable underbelly and that Armenia is the last Russian stronghold in the south Caucasus and one of the few reliable partners Moscow has in the world. Knowing the crucial importance of the Caucasus to a resurgent Kremlin, it should not come as a surprise that Moscow would be willing to lay waste to the entire region before it allows it to slip from its grip. Similarly, Moscow will turn Armenia up-side-down before it allows a Western-backed leader to take the strategic Caucasus republic out of Russia's political orbit.

Therefore, those trying to lure Armenia Westward are in fact playing with her life. Those who represent Western/Washingtonian interests in Armenia, despite their humanitarian facades, are dangerous and should be looked upon as traitors to the nation. In my opinion, bringing Oskanian down before he got higher on the political ladder in Armenia was a very important preventative measure carried out by Yerevan and Moscow. 

The following blog posts will help the reader place all this in better context -
Hillary Clinton Reassures Armenian Rights Groups (2010):
Serj Tankian, Dashnaktsutyun and the Continuing Media Blitz Against Armenia (2011):
Washington's Media Blitz Against Armenia (2011):
President Sargsyan and Armenia (2011):

Vartan Oskanian Placed Under Investigation by Armenia's NSS (2012):
Needless to say, many in our politically ignorant American-Armenian community today are foaming at the mouth over Oskanian's ordeal, and many are again enthusiastically readying themselves to cut Armenia out of their lives as a result of the supposed "persecution" of a repatriated official. However, those who are foolishly cheerleading for agent Oskanian and his Washington-funded-homo-centric Civilitas would do well to ponder the following instead:
Institutionalized corruption is rampant in the United States. The American empire is in fact one of the most corrupt political entities on earth and American society is slowly turning into a police state. Democratic elections, the kind of which Washington promotes around the world, has not existed in the United states for generations. And Washington continues to be the most warmongering and gluttonous political entity in existence today.
Knowing this, let's now ask ourselves the following questions.
Would Washington accept advise from others on how to run the American empire? Would Washington allow foreign entities to meddle in America's domestic affairs? Would Washington allow Chinese or Russian NGOs for instance to open shop in the US to encourage better governance in America's poor urban centers or on Indian reservations? Would Washington allow Cuba or Venezuela for instance to fund institutions in the US that advises American officials about social welfare? Does the US have politicians serving foreign state interests? Does the US have politicians on foreign payrolls?
The American empire is strictly a closed-circuit operation for all except British and Jewish officials and connected moneymen.
Knowing that the US became highly developed and wealthy essentially because of centuries of human exploitation, ethnic cleansing and global wars, why should humanity now be expected to unquestioningly accept Washington's self-serving meddling in developing nations going through natural growing pains? Why do so many Armenians mindlessly expect Yerevan to follow the dictates of American officials? Why are there so many Armenians willing to allow Washington to pursue its imperial ambitions in the south Caucasus via Neo-imperialist institutions such as the IMF, USAID and the NED; meddlesome NGOs such as Civilitas and Open Society Foundations, CIA front-offices such as Radio Liberty and ArmeniaNow; and human assets such as Vartan Oskanian, Raffi Hovanissian and others?
More important questions.
Does Huntsman Sr. really care so much about Armenia that he decided to donate over one million dollars to Oskanian's Civilitas, or is the money in question intended to be used towards a Washingtonian political agenda instead? Why is there a Zionist-Jew by the name of Peter Rosenblatt on the board in Civilitas? Is he there for the promotion of "democracy" in Armenia, or is it for the promotion of other agendas? Moreover, why was Oskanian so silent about "corruption" in Armenia when he was a high-ranking official there? Finally, why did Oskanian closely ally himself to one of Armenia's most notorious oligarchs? Was it for the promotion of "democracy" in Armenia, or was he simply being a political opportunist in Washington's service?
Folks, let's face it. Oskanian is clearly serving foreign interests in Armenia. Worst, he is Washington's agent in Armenia. In my opinion, Oskanian patiently played the game as foreign minister during Robert Kocharyan's presidency. Armenia at the time had not yet solidified its alliance with Moscow. Kocharyan was doing his best to play Complimentary Politics. The political opposition in the country was still in its infancy. Oskanian therefore remain quiet. He parted ways with Official Yerevan in mid 2007 when it became apparent that Serj Sargsyan would be president and Armenia would inevitably seek closer relations with the Bear. Under Serj Sargsyan's leadership Armenia has enjoyed very warm relations with Moscow, and Yerevan has managed to institutionalize its very important military alliance with the Russian Federation. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that since stepping down from his position in Yerevan back in 2007, Oskanian has been openly towing a Washingtonian political agenda. 

Therefore, recognizing Washington's main agenda in the Caucasus (i.e. pushing Russia and Iran out of the region and exploiting Central Asian energy) and recognizing who are Washington's traditional allies in the region (i.e. Turks and Islamists), it can be rationally argued that Oskanian and the rest of those who are currently towing a Western agenda in Armenia are in fact traitors to Armenia.

There is yet another troubling factor that needs to be addressed in this matter:

By their actions men such as Oskanian are driving a deep wedge between Armenians of Armenia and Armenians of the diaspora. By their actions these types of Diasporans are essentially continuing what Bolsheviks started - creating a deep schism in Armenian society. By treating Armenia as a political test-tube or an exotic playground for their wild fantasies, Diasporans such as Oskanian are fast becoming a serious liability for the Armenian state. Several of the articles featured on this page are some examples of what I mean. Please visit their sources and read some of the Diasporan nonsense posted in their comments section.

At the end of the day, Yerevan cannot allow Western imperialists to meddle in its domestic affairs. In the big picture, Armenia's main problems are geopolitical and geographic in nature. Armenia is going through very natural growing pains in a very bad political environment. Armenia must be allowed a course to develop naturally and free of Western meddling. In other words, what Armenia needs is a sociopolitical evolution and not a Western funded revolution.  

Nevertheless, I have to admit that I'm encouraged by what I see in Yerevan.

By starting their case against Oskanian merely a week after the Whore of Babylon's visit to Armenia last summer, Yerevan may have been signaling to Washington that there will be limits placed on overly ambitious or aggressive American operatives in Armenia. By taking such an action, Yerevan may also be signaling independence and confidence. Yerevan's message to Washington is - "your Arab Spring crap won't work here and if your operatives get out of hand we will without hesitation round them up."

Although what is happening to Oskanian and his Civilitas is a good start and a good sign, Yerevan needs to do more. Yerevan needs to monitor every single American/Western entity in existence in Armenia today, and it needs to keep a close eye on the many Western operatives currently operating throughout the country. Yerevan cannot relent in its efforts to immunize Armenia against the West because Western designs for the region poses an existential threat to the nation. The Caucasus is an unforgiving place. Ignoring this threat may in fact cause the young republic's downfall.

Despite its cleaver humanitarian packaging and hype, the political West today is a serious menace to world peace and stability, and Western Globalism is a serious threat to apostolic Christianity, western/European culture, indigenous cultures around the world, the nation-state, nationalism and the family unit. 

We must recognize the fact that financial, economic, political and cultural levers of control are being manipulated and exploited by the Anglo-American-Zionist global order. The troubling realization that a very tiny fraction of human society (virtually all based in the West) controls vast amounts of the world wealth should be enough to scare any rational person. But as troubling as this all is, the situation at hand is a bit more precarious for the Armenian state. Two of the geostrategic levers traditionally utilized by the political West, namely Turks and radical Sunni Islamists, poses an existential threat to the entire Caucasus. The manipulation of these levers by Western officials during the past two decades has led to the region's stunted economic growth and political volatility. 

Thanks to Western meddling, the Caucasus is always one political disaster away from turning into a Turkic/Islamic cesspool.

Recognition of these characteristics of the region in which Armenia is unfortunately located in must serve to compel Yerevan not to take any chances with those representing Western interests in Armenia.

Yerevan needs to closely follow the Bear's footsteps by limiting its ties to Washington by curtailing its dealings with Western institutions. Yerevan needs to stop the operations of Western-funded NGOs that involve themselves in political matters in the country. Yerevan needs to shutdown any news agency that maintains Western ties. Armenian security officials need to keep a very close eye on any individual in Armenia that has any connections to Western institutions. I hope Oskanian will be the first of many more Western operatives to be silenced in the future. Finally, Yerevan needs to disallow Armenians from the diaspora (particularly those from the United States) from serving in the nation's governing structures. I say this with a heavy heart because the Armenian diaspora in the United States could have been a great asset for Armenia.

October, 2012


Curtailing an NGO - and political debate - in Armenia

By David Ignatius

The campaign against Western-backed NGOs is spreading to Armenia, where a former foreign minister is accused of “money laundering” because he accepted contributions from former U.S. presidential candidate Jon Huntsman to support civil-society projects. The target is Vartan Oskanian, a U.S.-educated Armenian who served as foreign minister from 1998 to 2008 and then started a nongovernmental organization called Civitas. The allegation is that Huntsman’s contribution of nearly $2 million, described in detail on Civitas’s Web site, violates Armenian laws. (Web links to the group’s site that were working early Friday were inaccessible by mid-morning for unexplained reasons.)

At the heart of the case, according to analysts in Armenia, is politics — and whether Armenia will have open, multiparty debates or follow Russia back into Soviet-style authoritarian government. The Armenian National Security Service has revoked Oskanian’s parliamentary immunity, in what’s described by the local media as a prelude to criminal prosecution. The move to prosecute Oskanian began after he allied himself in early 2012 with the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party and then announced that he would not support a coalition with President Serze Sarkisian and his ruling party. Sarkisian’s government has been a solid ally of Russia; Oskanian is seen as more independent and potentially pro-Western.

The legal battle in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, might seem like a small sideshow on the world stage, but it illustrates an important and worrying trend. In Moscow and other former Soviet capitals, NGOs are being squeezed by the authorities, who see them as potential vehicles for popular protest and political change. This month, Russia announced it was expelling the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has funded many Russian NGOs. A similar squeeze is evident in Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Belarus, as well as in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt and Pakistan.

The Civitas case is interesting in part because of the involvement of Huntsman. The wealthy former Utah governor and GOP presidential candidate has been an active philanthropist in Armenian since the 1988 earthquake, and he is said by Civitas to have contributed about $20 million to Armenian causes. When Huntsman International, a family company, decided in 2010, to close its Armenian subsidiary, Huntsman Building Products, the company directed in a written message that the proceeds should go to Oskanian for the benefit of Civitas. The sale produced about $2 million, of which $577,000 went directly to Civitas and $1.4 million to Oskanian, for future distribution. (Oskanian said he has already sent another $548,000 to Civitas, with the rest to follow.)

Civitas produces a newspaper and an Internet television news show, which are independent voices in a country where most media outlets are controlled by the government. Oskanian and Civitas have attracted international donations, including government grants from Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, the U.K. and the United States. They have also received private grants from the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and the German Marshall Fund (GMF). (Full disclosure:  I am a GMF trustee and have met Oskanian at several international conferences.)

John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, visited Civitas on Wednesday, along with a group of European ambassadors, and then spoke with a reporter from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Armenia service. He called the move against the organization “troubling” and added: “Civitas is a very important partner for us, and we think it’s really important for Armenia politically and for the media.” Civitas has an international advisory board that includes Stephen Bosworth, a U.S. former ambassador who is dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where Oskanian took a graduate degree.

The decision to go after Oskanian and Huntsman, two prominent and widely respected figures, is scary because it illustrates how far the authorities are willing to go in the former Soviet republics in curtailing debate. Just a few years ago, Russia and its former satellites were brimming with civil-society projects and NGOs, whose links to the West gave a cosmopolitan feel to once-dreary capitals of the old Soviet empire. You can see a figurative door swinging shut in the moves over the past year to suppress Western contamination — and the freer political debate the NGOs have encouraged.


Armenian Government Threatens NGO and Former Foreign Minister
By Olivia Kantardjian

An attack on a former foreign minister of Armenia is threatening to shut down one of the country's most active and innovative non-profit organizations. Vartan Oskanian, a U.S.-educated Armenian who served as foreign minister from 1998 to 2008, is being accused by the Armenian government of money laundering for a donation he accepted from the father (an American businessman and philanthropist) of former U.S. presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr..

After leaving his post as foreign minister, Oskanian established The Civilitas Foundation in 2008 in order to strengthen Armenia's civil society. Since its creation, the foundation has received funding from several Western governments, as well as the OSCE, a number of international non-governmental organizations, and individual donors from around the world. Jon Huntsman Sr. was one of these donors.

Huntsman Sr. contributed nearly $2 million to Civilitas in January 2011, and at the time, the Armenian tax authorities said nothing. In May 2012, Oskanian was elected to parliament as a member of the Prosperous Party on a platform of doing away with political and economic monopolies. Two weeks later, the Prosperous Party announced it would not join a coalition, a decision which Oskanian had championed. The very next day, the National Security Service opened a criminal file on money laundering and said that Oskanian and the Civilitas Foundation were involved. 

"It's hard to believe the timing was a coincidence," said Ophelia Harutyunyan, who worked as a producer at CivilNet and is now enrolled in the graduate film program at Columbia University. 

On Tuesday, the Armenian Parliament will vote to seek removal of Oskanian's parliamentary immunity, in order to charge him with expropriating funds and money laundering. If convicted, Oskanian could face four to 12 years in prison. With or without Oskanian's immunity being removed and whether or not he is put on trial, the Armenian government can also, at any time, freeze the Civilitas bank account and office resources, essentially shutting down the foundation, putting over 60 people out of work, and putting an end to the many successful development projects they have started in the country.

Most of Civilitas' employees are young adults who have been educated abroad, who work tirelessly to strengthen civil society by hosting debates, building libraries, and establishing microfinance development projects, to name just a few initiatives. 

"Civilitas has created a space for people like me to work and foster positive change in Armenia," said Diana Muradova, an editor at Civilitas. "Our country is facing hard socio-economic conditions and we have a severe lack of adequate-paying jobs, but Civilitas has given more than 60 educated people an incentive to stay here for development of civil society and free media."

With few professional opportunities, many educated Armenians choose to leave the country in search of work. In 2011, 43,800 people left the country, 1.3 percent of the population. Since 2000, 236,200 people have migrated from Armenia, which is 7.2 percent of the population. 

"What Civilitas represented for me was getting young, multilingual Armenians to believe that change was possible -- that you didn't have to leave Armenia for change to happen," said Greg Bilazarian, who worked as a producer at Civilitas and now attends Yale Business School. "This is going to severely hurt 60 people who have chosen to put their faith and energy into something that could change their country. The next step after that would be to leave the country. That's what we we're trying to prevent." 

In 2011, the foundation began to publish a daily newspaper and launched CivilNet, a multilingual online news channel with funding from the Huntsman donation. In a country where most media outlets are controlled by the government, CivilNet is one of the only reliable sources of information.

"We delivered a kind of journalism that most people hadn't seen before in Armenia. We never covered stuff simply for ratings. We let people work on stories that really mattered. It would be devastating if anything were to happen to Civilitas, especially if it happened in the name of politics to people who are not working for Vartan Oskanian to get elected, they're working to better their civil society, for women's rights, for the environment," said Bilazarian. 

CivilNet was very active during the Armenian parliamentary elections last May, producing videos of blatant election fraud, which the prosecutor's office failed to investigate. If Civilitas is shut down, the upcoming presidential elections will be covered mainly by media organizations controlled by the government. 

Full disclosure: I volunteered as a journalist at Civilitas for five months in 2010. I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such a talented, hardworking group of people in a country where inefficiency is the norm. As an Armenian American, not only am I am involved in the process of civil society building in Armenia, but I am also a member of the Armenian diaspora, which raises a lot of money for Armenian charities. If Civilitas is shut down, it would be a giant step backward not only in the fight for a less corrupt and more democratic Armenia, but also for all the members of the diaspora who work to make their motherland a better place, and for all those who believe in freedom of the press.


The “Oskanian Affair”: Thug rule wins again

By John Hughes

Today’s National Assembly vote that potentially paves the way for sending former Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian to jail is so wrong, ill-conceived and ill-timed, it is hard to know which of the legion of absurdities to address

At the top of the list should be one that seems to be of disturbingly little concern to Oskanian’s colleagues who voted to strip him of the immunity from criminal prosecution that comes as one of the perks included in a parliament mandate. The vote was 64-6 with one invalid ballot, and 58 members either absent from the vote or refusing to participate, on grounds that the vote was a travesty.

Today’s vote again proves to the world that Armenia runs on thug-rule at the expense of democratic progress.

But just a month ago and ever since, Armenia was embraced with tragically-won sympathy when the “Safarov Affair” alerted the world to the stark moral difference between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The latter’s deification of a convicted murderer was ample evidence of why Western democratic countries should stop treating the two neighbors with parity – or with preference bought by Azerbaijan’s oil – and accept the politically incorrect truth that Christian Armenia has a foundation for democratic principle that is not in evidence in Muslim Azerbaijan. Now, the “Oskanian Affair” shifts attention, and none of it is good.

Armenia’s KGB (calling the agency “National Security Service” may sound less spooky, but doesn’t change who they are) says Oskanian hid money that United States businessman Jon Huntsman, Sr. intended earmarked for the Civilitas Foundation, founded by Oskanian.

ArmeniaNow has been told by sources familiar with the investigation that, indeed, staff at Civilitas were asked to deposit portions of the Huntsman money into personal accounts. It remains unclear, however, whether Oskanian was involved in the alleged solicitations or whether such transactions would constitute the fraud with which he is being charged. In any case, investigators have not interviewed the Huntsman family to clarify their agreement with Oskanian which, as one lawyer pointed out today, would not require the NA voting on anyone’s immunity.

This is clear: If this former foreign minister goes to jail ahead of the next presidential election, it will not be for money laundering -- just as when his foreign minister predecessor, Alexander Arzumanyan, went to jail ahead of the last presidential election on the same charges. In each case – now laden with irony – the former cabinet members surfaced from political upheaval on the wrong side of power, a matter more politically perilous than whether or not they conveniently landed on the wrong side of the law.

General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan said today that Oskanian will not be arrested, nor will he be required to remain in Armenia during the course of the investigation.

Last week Hovsepyan took extraordinary measures to tighten the screws on Parliament Member Oskanian. But today, he says that citizen Oskanian, whom the Prosecutor General’s office believes to have defrauded the government in a $2 million scam is free to escape? If we believed Hovsepyan last week, Vartan Oskanian is such a threat to society that a rare act of Parliament should be invoked to assist in his prosecution. Now, the nation’s top law enforcement officer is practically tossing his suspect a “Get out of Jail Free” card? What sense does that make?

Yesterday Oskanian gave an interesting evaluation of the impact arresting him would have on Diaspora relations, which may or may not have prompted Hovsepyan’s odd announcement today. In effect Oskanian asked this: “Are Diaspora now going to think that I was laundering money for the 10 years (1998-2008 as Minister of Foreign Affairs) that they trusted me?”

He also raised a valid point that the government needs his services now as the Syria crisis rages, affecting tens of thousands of Syrian-Armenians. Oskanian, himself, is from Syria.Those, however, are not the questions that a voting public would be asking, were Oskanian to fulfill predictions and try to unseat President Serzh Sargsyan next February, or would use his influence in Diaspora to earn support for a candidate capable of doing so.

Vartan Oskanian is a statesman – duly experienced – who says he is ready to come to his country’s aid, five years after he – through his failure to do the right thing – almost helped destroy the republic he again solicits to serve. “Where were you when we needed you?” is a valid question in evaluating the veracity of the former foreign minister’s willingness to put public good above political gain.

Oskanian, Minister of Foreign Affairs on March 1, 2008, should have resigned his office that day, and in doing so proved himself above the very sort of reckless, political-power-as-personal-weapon decision-making that now has turned against him. But had he done so, he would have found himself crosswise with then-president Robert Kocharyan, with whom Oskanian now remains in favor as a member of the political party created by Kocharyan.

Those of us who believed Oskanian represented a rare voice of reason – or at least embraceable viewpoints -- in Kocharyan’s Moscow-controlled administration, were disappointed to watch him collude in brutality – “legitimizing” as one of his fellow party members now says of the current prosecution/persecution of Oskanian, “an illegitimate act”.

On that Bloody Saturday, Oskanian’s special assistant, with whom he would later found Civilitas Foundation, appeared on CNN to downplay reports that the capital was coming unhinged. And when members of the foreign ministry complained about the ministry being dragged into Kocharyan’s crackdown that would lead to 10 deaths and hundreds of injuries and arrests, Oskanian fired those staff.

To be fair: people would have died, property would have burned, the thinning fabric of Armenian democracy would have suffered another rip, no matter who headed the foreign ministry in the awful spring of 2008. But on that day, more than on this one that brings shame to Armenia and political martyrdom to Vartan Oskanian, we needed leadership that would say “this is not right”, just as people today are saying so on his behalf. We needed men like him to stand up by stepping down.

Oskanian didn’t. And his lack of guts on that day may have been forgotten by the “concerned” Diaspora, “spyurkahye” celebrities and foreign journalists who rally for him today, but it has not been forgotten by locals. Foreign Minister Oskanian's failure to enforce democratic principle may now be a blind spot in the U.S. State Department's mirror, but it is a glaring spotlight for Armenians who needed then, and now, courageous conviction.

It is near Shakespearean that Oskanian now finds himself on the same wrong side that his predecessor in the foreign ministry, Arzumanyan, found himself. Arzumanyan was jailed on charges which, like the Oskanian case, were trumped up because he sided with those who sought to unseat the existing regime -- at a time when Oskanian was part of that regime.

Some might call it karma. In any case, today's predictable outcome is a pity. Everybody loses. Except those who will do this again when necessary, because they know that they can.

Political Persecution Against Former Foreign Minister Oskanian

On Thursday afternoon, Sept. 27, the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Armenia, Aghvan Hovsepian, presented to parliament a petition to strip Vartan Oskanian, a lawmaker and the Former Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, of his parliamentary immunity. The petition is slated to be discussed and voted on by parliament on Monday morning, Oct. 1.

“This tells you how the government is using its resources in the pre-electoral period,” said Ghazarian. “Civilitas will go through all regular legal procedures until it reaches the European Human Rights Court to prove that this case was a political order since the beginning.”

Following the announcement, on Sept. 27, Oskanian’s lawyer, Dikran Atanesian, stated that according to the regulations of the National Assembly (NA) of Armenia, the president of the NA must inform the parliamentary member about said petition, which didn’t take place. “This is an obvious violation of law, and it confirms indirectly that this is political persecution,” Atanesian said.

The petition is related to the criminal case of money laundering filed by the National Security Service on May 25 against Oskanian and the Civilitas Foundation of Armenia. The former foreign minister is accused of “money laundering” because he accepted contributions from American philanthropist Jon Huntsman, Sr. to support civil-society projects. In the absence of other evidence, the prosecutor shifted his attention from money laundering to expropriation, and now claims that they are protecting Civilitas, the foundation Oskanian established, from Oskanian himself.

On Sept. 28, the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) called the petition “a political persecution not only against Vartan Oskanian, but also against the Prosperous Armenia Party.” The party has lent its unconditional support to Oskanian, a fellow party member, and has pledged to achieve justice by all legitimate means available.

After serving almost 10 years as the Armenian Foreign Minister, Oskanian in 2008 left office and established the Civilitas Foundation, which dealt with democracy and development through education, media, rural development, and environmental awareness, as well as several projects on foreign relations advocating for peace and stability in the Caucasus through dialogue and open intercourse. The foundation’s latest project is the research- and news-based internet channel, which has been, throughout its one year of existence, vocally critical of several political, economic, human rights, and environmental issues. Last week, it won the Golden Key award of the Freedom of Information Center in Armenia. Earlier this year, Oskanian had joined the PAP, which is considered the most prominent opposition to the ruling Republican Party; he was elected to the National Assembly on the party list last May. Oskanian has made it clear that he would not support a coalition with President Serge Sarkisian and his ruling party.

Al Jazeera today reported that the alleged charges are politically motivated and aimed at stopping Oskanian from running in February’s presidential elections. According to Salpi Ghazarian, the director of Civilitas Foundation and a longtime confidante of Oskanian, the case is no longer about Oskanian or Civilitas only. “This tells you how the government is using its resources in the pre-electoral period,” said Ghazarian. “Civilitas will go through all regular legal procedures until it reaches the European Human Rights Court to prove that this case was a political order since the beginning.”

In a show of international support, last Friday Oskanian hosted ambassadors from various EU states, the U.S., and Brazil, as well as the EU ambassador in Armenia, and representatives of the OSCE and Council of Europe. Oskanian explained the accusations he faces, and presented the necessary documents to rebuff those claims and charges. Domestically, most parties represented in the parliament declared their support for Oskanian, including members of the radical opposition Armenian National Council (ANC).

In a similar case in 2008, following the tragic post-election events of March 1, four members sympathetic to ANC president Levon Ter Petrossian were deprived of their parliamentary immunity and were politically persecuted. Zarouhi Postanjian, a National Assembly member from the opposition Heritage Party, in an interview with, stated that the process aims to target all those who think differently.

“Maybe this time they are feeling that danger from Oskanian,” she said. “There are many ‘bright’ figures in the National Assembly, who really need to be deprived of their immunity,” Postanjian added, referring to the notorious tycoons in the country who were elected to the parliament on the majoritarian lists of the ruling party.


U.S. Ambassador Voices Concern Over Armenia's Oskanian Charges

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern says criminal charges filed against former Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian are "bad for justice and democracy in Armenia."  Oskanian was summoned to the National Security Service on October 8 and formally charged with misappropriation of some $1.4 million donated by a U.S. philanthropist to Oskanian's Yerevan-based Civilitas Foundation in late 2010. Oskanian denies the charges, calling them politically motivated and aimed at derailing chances for his Prosperous Armenia party ahead of a presidential election scheduled for February 2013. Heffern also mentioned the timing of the charges against Oskanian were "troubling." Heffern called on the Armenian government to "live up to its commitments to the systematic, fair, and transparent implementation of the rule of law."


Vice Speaker to U.S. Ambassador: Don’t mix politics with legal matters

The Vice-speaker of the Armenian Parliament responded to the US Ambassador’s recent statement about Vartan Oskanian, saying that ambassadors should refrain from politicizing legal issues and connecting them with elections.

US Ambassador in Armenia John Heffern made a statement on Wednesday related to the fact that the National Assembly stripped Prosperous Armenia Party MP, former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian of his diplomatic immunity and then was formally charged with money laundering, saying that “it is bad for justice and democracy in Armenia”.

Ruling Republican Party spokesperson, parliament vice-speaker Eduard Sharmazanov said in his interview to RFL/RL on Wednesday that “it is impermissible and unrealistic to connect every legal process to elections”.

“Naturally, I do not share the honorable US Ambassador’s opinion expressed in his statement according to which ‘the case appears to represent the selective application of Armenian law’, because this is a purely legal matter. Our opinion is the same as before – it’s a legal matter and politicizing or making it a party-related issue is impermissible,” said Sharmazanov, pointing out that there are criminal cases on a number of Republicans, who are either in custody or in prison.

Heffern discussed the Oskanian affair with PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan in a private conversation on Wednesday. Tsarukyan’s spokesperson Iveta Tonoyan reports that during the meeting Heffern expressed a hope that the Armenian authorities will fulfill their function and will ensure rule of law in dealing with this case. Tsarukyan said that he will see to it that the case has unbiased investigation and a just verdict is carried out.

“I have instructed the best lawyers to study the case which they have done and have confirmed that all the charges brought against Oskanian are groundless. During the party political board meeting I personally instructed all the faction members to make strict, principle-based statements and speeches,” said Tsarukyan. 


The Diaspora must act as an agent for change in Armenia

The National Assembly of Armenia voted on Oct. 2 to remove former Foreign Affairs Minister and Prosperous Armenia MP Vartan Oskanian’s parliamentary immunity. Oskanian is being accused of money laundering in what is widely perceived to be a political move to impede his return to active politics.

Around the same time, activists from Armenia and the diaspora gathered in New York and then in San Francisco and Los Angeles for the Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) Conference to discuss a range of issues from foreign policy, to civil society development and the rule of law in Armenia. While the presentations delivered at the conference are yet to be made public, there was a clear call from many of the speakers for the diaspora to be more active in the promotion of democracy in Armenia.

Ironically, the two events couldn’t have coincided better. Two decades on, the disconnect between independent Armenia’s realities and the diaspora’s understanding of these realities is striking.

In the past 21 years, entrenched Soviet legacies of corruption and a lack of respect for basic freedoms and fundamental rights have hindered the democratization of Armenia. A strategic alliance with Russia, a country that faces its own serious challenges when it comes to democracy, has not helped. Some have even argued that the lack of a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict has allowed Armenia’s rulers to cling to power and derailed democratization.

While the challenges for democracy to take root in Armenia have been many, the agents for change have been few.

Some external powers have tried to fill this role, yet have been limited in their ability to drive true change. A case in point is the impact Armenia’s integration into various European structures has had on delivering internal change. Armenia undertook formal obligations to adopt democratic reforms as part of its membership in the Council of Europe (since 2001), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (since 1998), as well as cooperation with the European Union particularly under the European Neighborhood Policy starting in the mid 2000’s.

Successive Armenian governments embarked on a series of legislative reforms in the judicial, electoral, human rights, and fundamental freedoms spheres. Constitutional reforms were adopted, election laws were reformed and refined time and again, and legislation relating to freedom of assembly and media freedom, to name a few, were amended in cooperation with experts from these organizations.

In practice, however, legislative reforms have failed to translate into behavioral change. In what democratization experts call cost and benefit calculations by governments, the potential threat posed by putting these reforms into practice has surpassed any benefit that may come out of implementing behavioral change. In other words, when it comes to democratic reform triggered by external pressure, the ruling elites in Armenia have talked the talk but failed to walk the walk.

In recent years civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have emerged as potential change agents in Armenia. NGOs were quick to mushroom in Armenia following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It has been argued that the Armenian NGO sector has been influenced by the availability of funds from donors who have not only played a role in shaping the issues raised but also the solutions proposed, often resulting in a mismatch with the local context (see Ishkhanian, A. Democracy Building and Civil Society in Post-Soviet Armenia, New York: Routledge, 2008).

While civil society in Armenia faces significant challenges, a number of civic initiatives have been able to rally and maintain enough popular support to register small successes. We have seen examples in the fields of environmental activism (for example, the “Save Teghut” initiative), domestic violence, and the protection of public spaces (the campaign against the demolition of Mashdots Park). Some of these initiatives have also resonated with the diaspora. Such was the case of the anti-domestic violence initiatives organized in the U.S. following the murder of 20-year old Zaruhi Petrosyan, beaten to death by her husband. 

By and large, however, the diaspora’s involvement in Armenia’s democratization has remained minimal.

There needs to be a deeper understanding in the diaspora of the serious threats that corruption, the absence of rule of law and accountability, and persistent violations of human rights constitute to the long-term viability of the Armenian state. More than 20 years after Armenia’s independence, it is high time for the diaspora to open its eyes to these realities and reassess its role in bringing change to Armenia.

What can we in the diaspora do? To begin with, we need to start talking about the serious internal issues that threaten Armenia today. We need to start talking about them not in a way that feeds into already well-established stereotypes, but in a way that creates meaningful public discourse and seeks solutions.

Do we have a vision for Armenia? What is it? How do we get there? These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves today as individuals and communities. The imperative for internal reforms in Armenia must become a topic of mainstream concern and discussion in the diaspora if we are to find ways to affect positive change in the country.

The structures and processes by which the diaspora can influence the course of democracy in Armenia is a topic that warrants serious discussion and one we are yet to start. However, in trying to bring change to Armenia, the diaspora can find an important ally in civil society. A generation of young and motivated Armenians who want better for their country exists in Armenia today. Let’s reach out to them, learn from them, empower them. They may become the country’s next leaders.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of an independent Armenia, the priority for the diaspora was to provide immediate relief to an impoverished country devastated by an earthquake and a protracted war. Now it is time for the diaspora to re-consider its priorities in Armenia and act as a much needed agent for change in the country.

Houry Mayissian is a communications professional with journalism and public relations experiences in Dubai, Beirut, and Sydney. She has studied European politics and society at the University of Oxford, specializing on the democratic reform process in Armenia as part of its European integration.


Don’t Silence Another 60

My next trip to Armenia is in December, but if it were tomorrow, I wouldn’t be very excited to get on the plane. In fact, right now I want to be as far away from Armenia as possible. And in this moment, I understand why hundreds of thousands of people have left during the last 20 years.

Currently, Vartan Oskanian, Armenia’s former minister of foreign affairs, faces charges of money laundering, embezzlement, and who knows what else.  Many people thought Oskanian a likely challenger to Republican incumbent President Serge Sarkisian in February’s presidential election, unless, of course, Oskanian is tied up in court, or worse.  Seemingly to correctly prove the hypothesis that the charges are politically driven, the ruling Republicans and their de facto proxy party voted 64-6 to remove Oskanian’s immunity and leave him open to charges, which followed a week later. Every political party boycotted the vote except, you guessed it, the ruling majority and its friends. Interestingly, a party historically loaded with parliamentarians sporting shoddy attendance records somehow managed to convince 96 percent of its membership to show up and remove Oskanian’s immunity. Meanwhile, Georgia just completed a legitimate election and power transfer, further widening the democratic gap between the two neighboring former Soviet states. And yet, this isn’t even the beginning of my frustration…

Oskanian is also the founder of the Civilitas Foundation, a think tank promoting an active civil society. The money laundering charge stems from a charitable donation made to the foundation by U.S. businessman Jon Huntsman, Sr. The foundation’s roughly 60 employees are predominantly young, multilingual Armenians working to improve their country by focusing on issues such as women’s rights, the rule of law, and the environment. Their main vehicle is the news and public affairs website,, which started from scratch with a team of inexperienced future journalists, and has since developed into a real source for independent, analytical news and dialogue. Unfortunately, that mission sometimes interferes with the establishment’s suppressive interests. During my 14 months producing for Civilnet, I learned twice as much as I taught about advocacy journalism and became exceedingly optimistic about Armenia’s future. Civilitas is an oasis for free-thinking creativity, safe from the desert of anti-progressive thought that sometimes pollutes Yerevan.

This all matters because the Armenians with whom I worked at Civilitas are extremely talented and mobile.  They’ve turned down full-scholarship opportunities in the U.S. and the U.K., believing they could improve their home country if they only stayed in Armenia. Even those who have left Civilitas and Armenia, including U.S. citizens such as this article’s author, have pledged to return and make Armenia their long-term home. But now, Civilitas is under fire, facing potential interference from the government, which claims it wants to “protect” Civilitas. Nobody knows what that means and nobody is optimistic about it either. While everyone is still fighting for Civilitas’ survival, some of my former co-workers and friends are second-guessing their desire to remain in Armenia.

At September’s Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) Conference in New York, one attendee astutely described Armenia as an unstable balloon that inflates with each repressive event, such as the one happening now with Civilitas. But as the balloon expands and seems ready to explode, people simply move out of the country, thus diffusing the pressure. We’ve seen it after elections and other events that sully the public. It’s why today Armenia’s population is definitively less than 3 million people.  So I suspect we’ll see more frustration and migration with this episode and the upcoming February election. And, unfortunately, the educated and mobile will be the ones to leave, further exacerbating the brain drain epidemic.

I will get on that plane in December, and my long-term plan to live in Armenia has not changed. I am excited to enjoy the city I love and see the friends I left behind a few months ago. I only hope some of them will still be there to greet me at the airport.

Greg Bilazarian is a first year MBA student at the Yale School of Management. He was the producer for in Armenia from May 2011 to July 2012. Bilazarian worked for four years as a television news reporter in the U.S. before moving to Armenia. He grew up outside of Philadelphia.


‘Armenia at 21’ Conference Brings Together Activists from Armenia, Diaspora

IMG 6754 1024x682 ‘Armenia at 21’ Conference Brings Together Activists from Armenia, Diaspora

Armenian-American activists and community members converged at Columbia University on Sept. 28-29 to attend this year’s installment of the Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) Cconference, dedicated to “Armenia at 21.” The conference featured 30 experts, activists, and academics from Armenia, Europe, South America, and the United States who addressed topics on the environment, foreign policy, economy, civil society development, and rule of law. “This was a unique opportunity for grassroots activists from Armenia and the diaspora to exchange ideas and strategies to affect change in the Armenian polity. Looking at 21 years of Armenian statehood, they saw how far we have come but also how far we must still go along the entire range of social, political, ecological, and economic issues,” said Dr. Dikran Kaligian, the chairman of the conference organizing committee. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent Chris Hedges spoke at the opening session on Sept. 28. Sarah Leah Whitson, of Human Rights Watch, and Arpine Galfayan, of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in Armenia, offered comments. Seven panels were held the following day. The Armenian Weekly will provide detailed coverage of the conference and publish some of the papers in the coming weeks.


Ambassador Djerejian: An Illustrious US Diplomat Tarnishes Own Reputation

On Friday October 5 Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian presented a lecture in Los Angeles titled “Arab Awakening, The Turkish Role in The Region and The Future of Armenians in the Middle East”. Nearly 500 Armenian Americans attended the event organized by Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Asbeds.

Holding himself true to his principle “as a diplomat to think twice before saying nothing,” Amb. Djerejian talked for over 50 minutes without making important revelations on the current situation in the Middle East and Syria in particular.  He went on to narrate the situation in the Middle East by delivering certain details with eloquence, mesmerizing his audience.  He also shared anecdotal stories during his tenure as US Ambassador in Syria.

However on the 56th minute as he shifted his focus to the Caucasus region, he dropped the nuclear bomb on his Armenian American audience when he claimed that 2014 is a potentially deadly deadline for Armenia and Armenians worldwide imposed by Azerbaijan. He sternly cautioned Diaspora Armenians about the so-called “Azerbaijan deadline” for political settlement of the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict by 2014 “or else” face the dismal possibility of a new war. He tersely warned that a formidable military buildup by Azerbaijan spelled trouble for Armenia, and that the war this time “may not be as favorable” to Armenians as the first war. Many members of Southern California Armenian American community were concerned with his promotion of fear among Diaspora Armenians on the ‘dire’ consequences of a new war with Azerbaijan.

His lecture also agitated several members of the audience who were disturbed by his pro-Azeri claims that Armenians are ‘occupying’ lands that “belong” to Azerbaijan.

Before making such anti-Armenia and anti-Artsakh declarations, that the lands around Artsakh (Karabagh) are ‘occupied’, Amb. Djerejian should investigate for himself the true identity of the territories in lower Artsakh (Karabagh). His research will reveal the undeniable fact that the borders of Armenian Territory of Artsakh encompassing both mountainous and lowland Artsakh run from western border of contemporary Armenia to Kura River to the east of mountainous Artsakh; and from Gantsak (“Gendje” under Azeri rule) just north of Shahumian in the north all the way to the current Iranian border in the south.

Under infamous Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, the Territories of Artsakh and Nakhitchevan were carved out of then newly Sovietized Republic of Armenia and were ‘gifted’ to then newly sovietized Azerbaijan in early 1920’s thus completing ‘stalinization’ of Armenian territories. Artsakh Liberation War of 1988-1994 facilitated the reversal of that process which can be appropriately labeled ‘de-stalinization.’

He also underlined how Turkey is fast-becoming a regional super power. Then he expressed support for Armenian-Turkish reconciliation and normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey with “honorable terms” for Armenians on critical issues. But he did not elaborate on the issues. For a moment the former U.S. Ambassador sounded more like an Ambassador of Azerbaijan or Turkey rather than a veteran diplomat representing United States as an honest broker in Caucasus.

During the question-and-answer period, they caught him off-guard by presenting pointed questions such as whether Armenians in Artsakh should pursue or give up self-determination as opposed to capitulating to Azeri demands to settle for autonomy within Azerbaijan. The parade of inquisitive and intelligent questions reflected deep Armenian-American concerns for Armenia and Artsakh as Amb. Djerejian backtracked and modified his position to come across as a more ‘balanced’ diplomat.

Amb. Djerejian pointed out the proliferation of “ism”s such as “extremism” and “terrorism” in today’s world. Interestingly, his position on vital Armenian American issues has illustrated that he is influenced by petroleum interests, and is an adherent of “petrolism.”

A well-respected writer and political observer David Boyajian of Belmont, MA recently wrote: “Djerejian, whose parents were Genocide survivors, is a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Syria. He is now the Founding Director of the James A. Baker III Institute in Houston. The Institutes namesake is James Baker. He is a former Secretary of State and an Armenian genocide denier, as is Madeline Albright, an ex-officio member of the Institute.  Its Board of Advisors is filled with current and former executives of Chevron, Marathon Oil, Shell Oil, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and similar corporations, several of which also fund the Institute.

Not surprisingly, human rights are nearly invisible on the Institutes agenda. In a depressing political presentation to Armenian Americans in Texas in 2011, Djerejian uttered not one word of criticism of Turkey or Azerbaijan.  Nor did he mention Artsakh/Karabagh’s rights, human or otherwise. Instead, he took a neutral position on the issue, and approvingly quoted Azeri President Ilham Aliyev that ‘Azerbaijan has the upper hand.’  Regarding the Genocide, Djerejian noted only that ‘the Armenian Genocide can best be resolved within the context of improved state to state relations between Armenia and Turkey.’”

As noted above, ironically, many of Amb. Djerejian’s comments were echoes of his own remarks of 2011 in Texas.
Similarly, the following comments that were presented in 2011 in Texas are almost identical to his observations made in Los Angeles: “Armenia must look at current trends in the region. The Russian-Georgia conflict destabilized the Caucasus region and beyond. Russia is asserting itself in the “near abroad.” While Armenia’s relations with Russia will remain very important, Armenia must avoid becoming over-dependent on Russia. Turkey is looking westward, seeking to be part of the European Community, while strengthening its ties in the Middle East and Central Asia and improving its relationship with the United States. Georgia and Azerbaijan are actively pursuing stronger relations with the West. Iran’s future direction remains problematic, but it is a major regional player. Increasingly, change in Iran is not a question of if, but of when.

Iran’s policies will have important implications for Armenia, a neighboring border country. Armenia’s relations with the United States are very important and involve interaction on issues such as non-proliferation and border security, international narcotics, money laundering and the trafficking in persons, and the development of democratic institutions and sustainable economic growth. Washington also appreciated Armenia’s support in Iraq. Thus, the promise for Armenia’s security and prosperity rests with following the major trends toward regional and international integration. Armenia can no longer risk being “the odd man out.” Indeed, Armenia should rediscover and reaffirm its historic role as a bridge between the North and South, and the East and West.”

While sounding genuinely concerned with Armenia’s and Armenians’ future, Mr. Djerejian trashed Armenia’s performance as a viable state. Under succeeding US administrations of the last few decades, U.S. State Department has been siding with oil-producing dictators such as Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan at the cost of trampling upon the human rights of people like Armenians of Artsakh (Karabagh). By doing so, US administrations risk exposing themselves to the ire of international public opinion in Middle East, the Caucasus and elsewhere.

Abundance of social and diversified mass media has helped the masses unmask this American double standard. It is obvious that he is not a champion of human rights for Armenians of Artsakh. But he could have at least steered clear of making anti-Artsakh (Karabagh) Armenian pronouncements by respecting his diplomatic rule of ‘thinking twice before saying nothing;’ and by declining to unfairly agree with Azeri false claims that Armenians “are occupying” lands in Azerbaijan.

Ambassador Djerejian noit only did not alleviate Armenian American concerns on U.S. State Department being a dishonest broker in Asia Minor and Caucasus in regards to Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Azeri issues, but he also ended up tarnishing his own reputation as an illustrious US Diplomat.