U.S. can learn from Azerbaijan

The policies, positions and actions of nations the world over never cease to amaze…very often to our deep chagrin. One need only look at the U.S.’s recent stab at rapprochement with Iran. The Obama administration’s obsession with leaving some sort of legacy in “cementing” a deal with Iran is just plain badly thought out and a prime example of reaching…reaching for anything positive for which the president will be remembered.

The administration seems to have conveniently forgotten that Iran is a chief sponsor of terrorism; has repeatedly trumpeted its intent and mission to wipe Israel off the map; is building nuclear weapons (to use on Israel and the West - the words of the ruling Mullahs); is a bloody and repressive theocracy…etc. This rapprochement serves only to alienate allies in the Middle East and many in the Arab world. It also promises to start an arms race in the Middle East, and, most importantly, it forsakes Israel.

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Congress has been smart to voice its hesitation and qualms with the road the administration is taking vis a vis Iran. Key players on both sides of the aisle have promised persistent oversight on the issue and should continue to do so. A concerted effort from Congress can force the administration into a more realistic, nuanced and safer path for the American people and, indeed, the world.

Once in a while, though, we learn of nations who have a very different outlook and whose actions we would not necessarily expect…actions from which we can learn and apply to our own dealings.

Over the past several years, as the U.S. has found it necessary to develop close relationships with nations who are ready and can serve as REAL allies. As such, the American public has started to hear quite a lot about the Republic of Azerbaijan. Replete with commentary by the best minds on issues of international affairs and in the opinion pages of major American newspapers, prestigious blogs and other media outlets, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have also taken keen notice.

Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic that emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union a mere 22 years ago and has since set upon building a working democracy. Since the nation’s independence, Azerbaijan has stood squarely with the West, building pipelines to supply its vast oil and natural gas reserves to Israel, Europe and Western markets…all importantly, bypassing Russia and Iran, both nations with aims to usurp Western nations and their values and freedoms.

Azerbaijan is majority-Muslim, yet staunchly secular and notably tolerant of its many ethnicities, religions, etc. There are many churches and synagogues in Azerbaijan and faith communities are free to practice as they see fit.

Remarkably, Azerbaijan has extremely close ties with the State of Israel. The two nations cooperate on many issues, industries and business concerns. Azerbaijan and Israel work closely on security issues, regularly thwarting terrorist attacks and assassination plots by Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Azerbaijan also supplies roughly 40 percent of Israel’s oil. The nations build military equipment together, mobile communications technology, industrial agriculture…the list goes on.

The diplomatic and political exchanges between the two also abound. Recently, MP Samad Seyidov, Azerbaijan’s Chairman of the Commission on International Affairs of Parliament visited Israel.

Chairman Seyidov was personally welcomed by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the prime minister's office. Prime Minister Netanyahu said of his meeting with Seyidov, "Your visit to Israel once again proves that the relations between our countries are developing in the right direction." The Prime Minister further expressed his hope that both nations further these relations and deepen their mutually beneficial multilateral cooperation. Chairman Seyidov met with various members and counterparts in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) and was welcomed as a friend, colleague and ally.

The U.S. can learn much from a nation like Azerbaijan and in particular its relationship with Israel. Nations must choose friends wisely and be faithful to them. In like terms, nations must deal with enemies with eyes open and in a deft manner.

Again, action by both parties and in both houses of Congress is key to regional and global stability and to the safety and welfare of the American people. All may want to take a closer look at the policies and actions of Azerbaijan…how they treat their friends and deal with their enemies.

Katz is the principal of TSG, LLC, a consultancy that advises foreign governments, NGOs and corporations in the realms of strategic communications, politics and policy. He is also the former head of Public Affairs and Public Relations for the American Jewish Committee, based in Los Angeles.