While I miss serving in Congress, the years of not working in the House of Representatives have given me a better perspective on Capitol Hill.  I’ve come to realize that one of the biggest challenges facing our leaders is the politicization of foreign policy. Two recent examples are the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to the leader of Iran instructing him that any deal with President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAmericans need an economy that supports more than the 1 percent Pompeo’s retreat into chaos Barack Obama wishes Michelle a happy birthday: 'You’re one of a kind' MORE to curtail their nuclear program is moot.  And, the ongoing debate over whether we should call terrorists like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) radical groups, or radical Islamic groups. Both of these matters are political theater and have little to do with keeping America and our allies safe from harm.

The most important foreign policy question facing the United States today is if we can go after the terrorist groups, who pose a real threat to our country and out allies, and at the same time, work with moderate Muslim nations to build an alliance against the radicalized forces?  These alliances with moderate Islamic nations are critical because they deny the radicals the ability to claim that the United States is at war with Islam – even as our military seeks to destroy terrorist groups around the globe.

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One moderate Muslim nation with which the United States has a long-standing partnership is the country of Azerbaijan.  In the last few months, there has been a lot of talk about our relationship with that nation.  I believe we should be strengthening our relationship with countries that seek to be constructive U.S. allies, Azerbaijan chief among them.

Azerbaijan’s population is 95 percent Muslim. Despite this, it is also a country with a thriving Jewish population and close ties with the Jewish state of Israel.  In fact, there are several thousand Jews who live peacefully in Azerbaijan, worshipping at the synagogues in Baku, the nation’s capitol.  

Azerbaijan has proven itself an ally of Israel and set up strong economic ties. Israel gets around 40 percent of its oil from Azerbaijan.  In return, Azerbaijan has received technology and armaments from Israel.

While Azerbaijan could trade and partner with another country, we must keep in mind that by working with Israel, the Azerbaijanis are helping our closest ally in the most dangerous region of the world.  Despite recent tensions between the elected leaders of the United States and Israel, both nations understand that we share a common enemy who views the destruction of our countries as a moral imperative.  The fact that Azerbaijan is a Muslim nation makes their partnership with the Jewish state of Israel all the more compelling.

During the Afghanistan War, Azerbaijan was a reliable partner of the United States. The Azerbaijanis allowed American aircraft to use their airspace and allowed troops and supplies to travel to Afghanistan through their nation. Azerbaijan sent troops to Afghanistan and the former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, praised that nation for their commitment to helping us fight the war.

I also believe our partnership with Azerbaijan reinforces our message to the world that the United States is not at war with Islam. Equally important, that not all Muslim nations are at war with the United States and Israel.

Azerbaijan is a young nation and a new democracy that spent decades behind the Iron Curtain. I hope policy makers in the United States will continue to realize that Azerbaijan is an ally and it is in our interests to work together.   Congress needs to skip the political theater and focus on keeping Americans safe.  If we are going to contain the forces trying to hijack Islam for their own radical worldview, then the United States is going to need the cooperation and partnership of moderate Islamic countries like Azerbaijan.

Shows served in the House from 1999 to 2003. He works for the lobbying firm AUX Initiatives. Azerbaijan is not an AUX client.