Jason Katz’s ‘Impeded Development’

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Jason Katz’s “Impediments to regional development in the South Caucasus” (http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/228812-impediments-to-regional-development-in-the-south-caucasus), which appeared in “Congress blog” on “The Hill” website, leaves the (informed) reader with the impression that the only impeded development exits in the author’s mind. It leaves the broader reading public with a badly imbalanced, inaccurate, and utterly skewed view of the state of affairs in the South Caucasus. Here are most, though not all, of the flaws in Katz’s arguments. One hopes the clients of the Tool Shed Group (TSG), LLC (where Katz is the principal), a consultancy that advises foreign governments, NGOs, and corporations in the realms of strategic communications, politics, and policy, will reconsider their relationships with the provider of such flawed logic.

“Prosperous,” “stable,” “reliably Western-oriented,” and “most influential and affluent.”

These are NOT terms I associate with the region in question, and yet Katz freely applies them. It would be interesting to have him explain the poverty in the area; the corruption and jailing of journalists and oppression of minorities; Azerbaijan kicking out European and American civil society entities; and what the influence of the countries in the area is, and in whose hands the wealth is concentrated.

“Comprised of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and peripherally Turkey.”

Interesting, isn’t it, how Katz reveals his pro-Turkish bias? If Turkey is “peripherally” part of the South Caucasus, then so are Iran and Russia. Why are they omitted?

“Recently, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia met…” and “Conspicuously absent from this meeting and, indeed, from all discussions on regional development, energy, and general regional prosperity was Armenia. Armenia…has oddly chosen to excuse itself from the growing prosperity of the region.”

So Armenia is so stupid as to miss out on opportunities for economic improvement. It’s absence has nothing to do with its being excluded by its two neighboring genocidal states, Katz’s darlings, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

“As the other nations of the South Caucasus have embarked upon and continue to navigate independent foreign and economic policies leading to prosperity for their people, Armenia has increasingly become a vassal state of the Russian Federation in direct contradiction to the best interests of their people.”
“As the South Caucasus region and surrounding regions seek closer links with the European Union, Armenia has opted to join Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal attempt to usurp the EU, the Eurasian Customs Union suddenly interrupting its half-hearted talks with EU.”

Katz ignores the imperatives imposed on Armenia by the threats posed to it by its neighbors. He also ignores the ongoing efforts to develop connections with Europe under the constraints imposed by his Turkic masters.

“…Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war over the Azerbaijani lands of Nagorno Karabakh and its surrounding districts. The Azerbaijanis lost the war as a result of the significant help rendered by the Red Army and Iran. Following ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in Nagorno Karabakh and surrounding regions, Azerbaijan possesses nearly a million refugees.”

“In their place is an unrecognized area…seeking to be the second failed Armenian state. During the fighting, Turkey closed its border with Armenia in solidarity with Azerbaijan.”

Hallucinogens must be thoroughly in control of Katz’s mind. Aside from the cheap shot about a “second failed state,” he also believes that Russians and Iranians helped the Armenian side in the war. He must have forgotten the OMON units that helped Azeris attack Armenians, and Iran’s studied neutrality. He also perpetuates the old chestnut about “Armenia and Azerbaijan” fighting a war, which is far from accurate, and at best incomplete in describing Artsakh’s liberation war. No explanation is offered as to why Turkey acted “in solidarity” with Azerbaijan.

“Speaking at a joint press conference…Cavusoglu of Turkey eluded to the real players.”

Since cheap shots are evidently acceptable to Katz, I’ll take one, too… This guy can’t even write properly! “Eluded,” above, should presumably have been “alluded.”

“International agreements should be the basis for a solution,”

What a great idea! How about Katz prevails upon his buddies in Baku to stop creating border incidents and respect the ceasefire?

  1. Return the occupied lands of Azerbaijan with an ironclad agreement that Azerbaijanis will return to their homes and lands and that ethnic Armenians will be protected and given the same rights as any other citizen of Azerbaijan.
  2. Based on this gesture, work with Turkey to reopen their mutual border. If events of WWI are an impediment to these negotiations, agree to a tribunal of scholars to explore exactly what happened in WWI and what to do about it all these years later.
  3. Work to repair ties and relationships with Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
  4. Force the Armenian Diaspora to use the considerable money spent on lobbying related to the issues of events in WWI and Nagorno Karabakh to invest in Armenia’s economic survival.
  5. Following these steps, engage in talks on regional development and be a player in existing and future projects.

This prescription reads like an Ankara-Baku joint wet dream. The lands in question were under Azerbaijan’s control during Soviet times and led to the ethnic cleansing of Armenians. How and why Turkey enters the Artsakh picture is a mystery, but Katz is quick to dispense a solution to the “impediment” to Armenia-Turkey negotiations, suggesting a “tribunal of scholars” to “explore exactly what happened” in the “events of WWI”—this is identical to the Turkish government’s line.

Then we’re treated to the presumed need to “repair” relationships with Georgia (where did this come from?) and the two-Turk-states, with which there never really existed a “relationship” in any positive sense, so what’s to repair? And, since Katz was the former head of public affairs and public relations for the American Jewish Committee, I have to wonder if he advised the Jewish Diaspora to “use the considerable money spent” on the Holocaust to salvage Israel’s faltering economy.

“Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey are open to solving this frozen conflict.”

What do Georgia and Turkey have to do with Artsakh? That problem has to be addressed by Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic, no one else, not even Armenia!

This whole piece reeks of the propaganda mills of Ankara. Trying to introduce irrelevant participants to the Artsakh issue, promoting the Turkish line on the genocide, and generally trying to portray Armenia and Armenians as outliers in the international arena, are all part of a transparent effort to vilify us and sanctify the perpetrators of endless massacres.

You might consider writing Jason Katz to give him a piece of your mind, contacting “The Hill” to suggest they refuse to run such drivel, and asking your Jewish friends if they are scraping the bottom of the barrel of late, given that someone as manifestly inept as Katz used to work for one of the foremost Jewish groups in the U.S.

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Source: Armenian Weekly
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