Making nice with the ‘Stans
The United States is at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is trying to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Washington’s relationship with Russia is still fragile. Thank goodness for the annual United Nations General Assembly, a place to meet casually, massage some shoulders, and point fingers at some chests — in short, ...
The United States is at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is trying to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Washington’s relationship with Russia is still fragile.
Thank goodness for the annual United Nations General Assembly, a place to meet casually, massage some shoulders, and point fingers at some chests — in short, an opportunity to get much important business accomplished efficiently. Since time is short, and demands for face time high, fixing the bilaterals can be tricky — these are the few people a U.S. president chooses to grace with direct, one-on-one chats. Basically there are five such meetings. But such matters are ironed out with diplomacy.
So who are President Barack Obama’s bilateral five this Thursday and Friday? If you guessed Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev and Kyrgyzstan’s Roza Otunbayeva, you would be correct (oh, and also China’s Wen Jiabao, Japan’s Naoto Kan, and Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos.).
How is it that two of the ‘Stans won the beauty contest? Bluntly speaking, it’s because of their status as war entrepots.
According to White House spokesman Ben Rhodes, Obama will discuss Afghanistan with Aliyev, whose territory is a key crossing for U.S. materiel to the war theater (Aliyev, a very prickly fellow who at home simply jails those who displease him, has been sore since Obama snubbed him at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April. Obama’s foreign policy team apparently didn’t know that you cannot invite Armenia’s leader to a summit, snub Azerbaijan’s — or visa versa — and still be friends). Azerbaijan has much oil as well, but that was a 1990s story; the administration today is all about Afghanistan, who can help, and who can’t.
As for Otunbayeva, it’s much the same story — the Kyrgyz have made threats both vague and explicit to oust the Manas air base, amid charges that the U.S. military bribed the prior two presidents of the country in order to maintain this facility that the United States uses for Afghan transit. Said Rhodes: “The president wanted to take this opportunity at the U.N. General Assembly to speak with the president of Kyrgyzstan and underscore our ongoing commitment to the Kyrgyz people.”
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