This article by IWP alumnus Vilen Khlgatyan and co-author Armen Sahakyan was published by The Hill.
After inheriting the half-a-century-old reins of power in 2003 from his deceased father, Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev has tried to position his country as a reliable producer of energy and counter-terrorism partner for the West. At the same time he has pursued rapid militarization, anti-Armenianism, and the consolidation of a strongman regime.
The United States government annually waives Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act which would deny direct aid to the Azerbaijani government. But the West in general has overlooked the anti-democratic and jingoist nature of Azerbaijan in the post 9-11 world for two reasons – geography and energy. Located in the Caucasus region, Azerbaijan borders both Russia and Iran – two countries with which the West, particularly the United States, has traditionally had tense and even hostile relations. For years rumors have swirled that Azerbaijan made its territory available to the U.S. Intelligence Community so that it could launch some of its operations against Iran and Russia from there. Moreover, Azerbaijan provided an alternate transit route to ship supplies to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan through the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). Such rumors are not necessarily baseless given Azerbaijan’s earlier history of hosting Al Qaeda training camps within its territory before 9-11 and the use of Afghan and Chechen Mujahedeen against the Republic of Artsakh during the Karabakh War. The very same terrorists that the Aliyev senior regime helped to train were among the radicals the U.S.-led coalition has been fighting against since 2001.