Bi-Partisan Resolution Led By Rep. Pallone Calls For Immediate End to Azerbaijan’s Blockade on Lachin Corridor, Requests U.S. Humanitarian Assistance, and Condemns Aliyev’s Attempts at Ethnic Cleansing
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), along with Armenian Caucus leaders Reps. David Valadao (R-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Brad Sherman (D-CA), are spearheading a resolution condemning Azerbaijan‘s blockade of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and ongoing human rights violations, calling on President Biden to immediately suspend U.S. military and security assistance to Azerbaijan and to fully enforce Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and provide U.S. humanitarian and development assistance to the Armenian victims in Nagorno-Karabakh, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).
The bipartisan resolution, which began circulating last week for original co-sponsors, states that “Azerbaijani forces [are] in violation of international obligations to resolve disputes with Armenia and Artsakh peacefully,” following their large-scale, unprovoked invasion of Artsakh in 2020.
The resolution states that “President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has used vitriolic rhetoric to call for the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and his regime has consistently violated important international humanitarian legal agreements during the 2020 war and up until the present date, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, and the Geneva Convention.”
Evidence of Azerbaijan’s violations of international humanitarian law during the 2020 war – including rocket strikes on civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, the decapitation of civilians, the use of white phosphorus munitions, and the torture and killings of Armenian prisoners of war – are well-documented by reputable non-governmental organizations such as Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The resolution emphasizes that the November 2020 ceasefire statement that ended the 2020 war signed by Azerbaijan “clearly states in Article 6 that, ‘The Lachin Corridor (5 km wide), which will provide a connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia while not passing through the territory of Shusha, shall remain under the control of the Russian Federation peacemaking forces…The Republic of Azerbaijan shall guarantee the security of persons, vehicles and cargo moving along the Lachin Corridor in both directions.'”
Despite the Article, on December 12, 2022, “Azerbaijan created a man-made humanitarian crisis by implementing an extended blockade of the Lachin Corridor under the guise of a civilian protest” which has resulted in “dangerous, escalatory steps.”
The closure of the Lachin Corridor – which serves as a vital lifeline connecting the Republic of Artsakh to the Republic of Armenia – and its blockade prevents food, critical medical supplies, and other essentials from reaching 120,000 people, and has “severely worsened the quality of life for the people living in Artsakh, including 30,000 children, 20,000 elderly individuals, and 9,000 people with disabilities, including the sabotage of civilian infrastructures such as a critical natural gas pipeline, power transmission lines, and fixed-line internet.”
The U.S. Department of State has time and again warned that the “closure of the Lachin Corridor has severe humanitarian implications and sets back the peace process,” and publicly called “on the government of Azerbaijan to restore free movement through the corridor.”
In addition to condemning the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, calling for the immediate suspension of U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan, and providing humanitarian aid, the resolution also encourages the U.S. and international community to petition the International Court of Justice, European Court of Human Rights, or other appropriate international tribunals, “to take appropriate steps to investigate any and all war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani forces,” while also calling on the U.S. to deploy international observers to the Lachin Corridor and Artsakh “to explore opportunities for more effective and sustainable guarantees of security and peaceful development,” as well as “support U.S. sanctions under existing statutory authority against Azerbaijani officials responsible for the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and other well-documented human rights violations committed against Armenians in the region.”
“The Assembly applauds the tireless efforts of the Armenian Caucus leadership to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its continuous human rights violations against the Armenian people of Artsakh, particularly as Azerbaijan’s blockade, which has spurred yet another humanitarian crisis, is in its seventh week,” said Assembly Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan. “We urge the U.S. and the international community to stop Azerbaijan’s attempts at ethnically cleansing the Armenian people and destabilizing the South Caucasus region for its own gain.”
Campaign 2012: A Look Through the Armenian-American Lens
Campaign 2012: A Look Through the Armenian-American Lens
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor
We are now less than a year away from the 2012 elections and the campaign trail is already heating up. The race for the white house has catapulted various GOP candidates to the top of the mountain, only to see them tumble from its peak. So far we have seen some historic debate gaffes, incredibly bold policy proposals and unorthodox candidates try to distinguish themselves from each other, all in an effort to be the anti-Romney; the presumptive GOP nominee. But this election season is going to be unlike any other. Fresh campaign tactics, new technologies, redistricting and the latest player in the political arena, the SuperPAC, are all poised to dramatically change the way Americans vote in 2012. And these factors will impact not only the presidential race. What we see in the presidential contest will be evident in congressional races as well.
So what does this all mean for the Armenian-American community? Let’s take a look.
In congressional elections, for decades Armenian-Americans have been active in raising Armenian issues and concerns, upon which politicians compete for our vote. In recent years, the small but growing Turkish-American community has followed suit. From its peak in the 110th Congress, the Congressional Armenian Caucus boasted over 160 Members of Congress. Today it stands at 135 Members strong. At the same time, the Congressional Turkish Caucus grew its ranks from just over 60 in 2006, to 126 Members today, a 200 percent growth rate.
So far this year, 17 House Democrats and 9 House Republicans have announced their retirement or will not be seeking re-election in their present seat. The number of outright retirements can be attributed in large part to the redistricting process, a once a decade phenomenon. The announced retirement of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), a strong leader on Armenian issues, is a prime example. Additional retirement announcements can be expected in the coming weeks.
As of this writing, the Armenian Caucus is set to lose 9 Members: Representatives Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Jerry Costello (D-IL), John Olver (D-MA), Barney Frank (D-MA) and Dale Kildee (D-MI) have all announced retirement. Congressman Kildee’s nephew, Dan Kildee, is a candidate for his uncle’s seat. In addition, three Armenian Caucus Members are running for other office: Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) is running for mayor of San Diego, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) is running to replace Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in the Senate and Rep. Shelly Berkeley (D-NV) is also running for the Senate. As of this writing, the Congressional Turkish Caucus is set to lose 7 Members: Reps. Mike Ross (D-AR), Dan Boren (D-OK) and Geoff Davis (R-KY) are retiring outright, while Reps. Connie Mack (R-FL), Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are running for the Senate. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is running for Governor. Mack, Flake and Pence all sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee where they voted against the Armenian Genocide resolution in 2007 and 2010.
Redistricting has resulted in some of the above retirements, but it is also putting pro-Armenian incumbents in head-to-head battles and making re-election much more difficult for others. Looking at congressional champions of Armenian issues, Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Armenian Genocide resolution sponsor Adam Schiff (D-CA) have not been adversely affected by redistricting. However, Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Ed Royce (R-CA) and Armenian Genocide resolution sponsor Robert Dold (R-IL) are not as fortunate. Redistricting has made Dold’s seat bluer, and given his narrow victory in 2010, he is a top target for Democrats in 2012. Congressman Ed Royce has also been victimized by redistricting, putting him in a dual-incumbent battle with Armenian Caucus Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA). In New Jersey, reports indicate that Armenian Caucus Member Steven Rothman (D-NJ) has decided to challenge his colleague, fellow Armenian Caucus member Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) in the redrawn 9th Congressional district, setting up a costly dual-incumbent primary.
The most prominent tete-a-tete battle to result from redistricting has put two pro-Armenian (and pro-Israel) incumbents in the same district: House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) and House Foreign Affairs member Brad Sherman (D-CA), both champions on Armenian issues. Rep. Sherman has a decades-long record on Armenian issues, particularly the Armenian Genocide. Congressman Berman has a similarly strong record and as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2010, ensured the successful passage of H. Res. 252, the Armenian Genocide resolution. Berman is the favorite in the race, having ratcheted up over 30 endorsements, and enjoys the backing of three SuperPACs. A product of the 2010 Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court ruling, SuperPACs are independent expenditure only committee’s that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money.
In addition to working with our friends in Congress, electing Armenian-Americans is long overdue. This year we saw a new face emerge, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian who sought the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional district. Although unsuccessful, he was able to garner 22% of the vote in the primary, no small feat. As of this writing, only one Armenian-American has officially filed papers to run for Congress, while another is preparing to jump in: David Krikorian and Danny Tarkanian, respectively.
David Krikorian is no stranger to Armenians, having unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) in 2008 and 2010. Schmidt, the top recipient of Turkish PAC money, filed a complaint against Krikorian with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) after Krikorian accused her of taking Turkish “blood money” on campaign advertisements in the 2010 race. The OEC ruled in Schmidt’s favor. However, following the election, the House Ethics Committee began an investigation into the free legal services provided to Rep. Schmidt by the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund and the Turkish Coalition of American. Although the House Ethics Committee found no wrong doing on Schmidt’s part, she was ordered to repay the $500,000 legal bill and amend her financial forms to reflect this in-kind contribution. According to a December report in Roll Call, Schmidt “has yet to amend her financial disclosures or begin repaying the debt.”
Danny Tarkanian, the son of former University of Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is preparing to run in the new 4th district of Nevada. According to a December poll by the conservative Pubic Opinion Strategies, Tarkanian overwhelmingly leads his primary challenger (73% to 9%) and when matched up with the Democratic front-runner, he holds an 11-point advantage. Tarkanian has not officially filed and has stated that he will announce his intentions in January.
Turning to the presidential race, we have President Obama, whose record on Armenian issues is not unfamiliar. Obama deserves acknowledgement for his audacity to speak about the Armenian Genocide inside the Turkish Parliament, something no U.S President has ever dared, and for overseeing the signing of historic Protocols by Turkey and Armenia. However, his broken promise of employing the proper term, Armenian Genocide, in the annual April 24 statement, as well his policies toward Azerbaijan, from disproportionate military funding to Ambassador Bryza’s recess appointment, leaves many Armenian-Americans skeptical.
Looking at the GOP field today, we have two front-runners: Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Neither can be viewed as favorable through the Armenian-American lens. During President Bill Clinton’s second term, then-Speaker Gingrich built a leadership team that consisted of Dick Armey, Robert Livingston, and Dennis Hastert; all of who went on to lobby on behalf of Turkey against U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Turning to Mitt Romney, it was positive to see pro-Armenian officials, such as former Senator Robert Dole (R-KS), Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and former Congresswoman Susan Molinari (R-NY), endorse Romney for the GOP nomination. However, from a legislative standpoint, it is cause for concern that Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) is his Congressional liaison. In 2007, Blunt, then-House Republic Whip, was appointed by President Bush to the Foreign Affairs Committee the day before a vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution, in order to whip his Republican colleagues to vote against the bill. Recently, Senator Blunt won a top post, securing his position within the Republican Senate leadership, and is working to rake up Congressional support for Romney.
It’s definitely too early to say what is going to happen between now and November 6, especially in the race to the White House. While the focus is on the Republican primaries, Democrats are activating their grassroots in what is likely to become one of the nastiest and most expensive campaign seasons ever. In politics, anything is possible and there is certainly a long road ahead. In the meantime, it is critical that Armenian-Americans know where our elected officials stand, with whom they are associated, and their record in support or opposition to Armenian issues.
Taniel Koushakjian is an independent political commentator for Florida Armenians. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, and is currently enrolled at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C.
This article originally appeared in Massis Post.
*Correction: An earlier version mistakenly referenced Dan Kildee as his uncle, current Rep. Dale Kildee and misattributed Ranking Member Howard Berman’s 30 endorsements to his challenger Rep. Brad Sherman.
Updated January 9 at 6:00 pm.