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Responsible Iranians should applaud Rob Sobhani for his bravery

By Ali Moayedian


I had a great start on Monday morning. I began the day by reading an article titled "A new era in Azerbaijan" written by Rob (Sohrab) Sobhani and published in Washington Times.


The article begins by mentioning the turmoil in Georgia and the "the difficulty former Soviet republics are encountering in making a smooth transition from authoritarianism to democratic pluralism."  This sounded very good! Mr. Sobhani is interested in "democratic pluralism" as I am!  The next few paragraphs are then devoted to defending the "clear winner" of the recent Azerbaijan election Ilham Aliyev whom Sobhani calls "successor to Heydar Aliyev, a man who has dominated the political landscape of this oil-rich country for over 40 years." Right on! I'm all with you Mr. Sobhani. Heydar Aliyev has labored for 40 years to bring Azerbaijan to where she is today. So who's better than his son to continue his legacy and lead Azerbaijan to further prosperity? And he has clearly won the election by pulling the most number of votes out of the boxes. Not only he should be defended as the "clear winner" of the election in Azerbaijan, he should be congratulated for it.


If you are wondering what makes this "father followed by son" scenario in Azerbaijan superior to let's say Syria, wonder no more. Think black! Think oil! Mr. Sobhani, as president of Caspian Energy Consulting, has every right to say "Washington must now make every effort to work with the clear winner to ensure a smooth transition that can further enhance the lives of the people of Azerbaijan and advance America's interests in this increasingly important part of the world." It's obvious that what we have in Azerbaijan as compared to Syria is a convergence of the interests of the people of Azerbaijan, US government, western oil companies and Caspian Energy Consulting.


Mr. Sobhani continues his article by dedicating a few paragraphs praising Ilham Aliyev and his achievements in dealing with the oil companies and making Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) a reality. He even mentions Ilham's generosity: "Despite claims to the contrary from some in the opposition, Ilham Aliyev has included members of the responsible opposition in almost all of his official oversees visits." I really like the term "responsible opposition." Generally speaking, that's an opposition who will not say no to the oil companies and can specially work with Mr. Rob Sobhani's Caspian Energy Consulting.


Sobhani's praise of Ilham made me quite nostalgic too and brought tears to my eyes. It kind of reminded of the old days back home in Iran when we, as responsible students, used to write compositions at school praising Shah's White Revolution or his many other achievements. Unfortunately our teachers didn't really coach us effectively or point us in the right direction, and so I never got good grades for those fabulous writings. What we really lacked was someone like Mr. Sobhani to act as our teacher and mentor! While we missed the boat, at least the present generation can enjoy Mr. Sobhani's guidance and use their pen for the right cause.


Mr. Sobhani then points to the dangers ahead: "As the newly elected President of Azerbaijan, this close friend of the United States faces a number of challenges that should be of concern to Washington."


It's obvious that Azerbaijan needs both us and US! According to Sobhani, there is "rampant corruption" there; but luckily "According to Western oil executives working in Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev has been responsible for keeping corruption out of the critical oil sector of the economy." While this sounds good and we can sleep calmly knowing that our oil interests are safe, we cannot fully ignore our conscience and must do something to help. So Mr. Sobhani wisely suggests that "The United States should provide Ilham Aliyev with every tool it can to ensure that the non-oil sector is revived. A visit by Commerce Secretary Don Evans, accompanied by CEOs from major U.S. corporations, would be a good start."  All I can say is Mr. Sobhani is a great visionary and human rights activist. This world would certainly be a better place with more people like him.


But wait, we aren't done yet. Azerbaijan is being threatened by Armenia and Iran. So a couple of warnings are in order: "Washington would be well-served to warn Armenia not to take advantage of this transition in Baku in order to restart the war over Nagorno-Karabagh."


And of course "Washington needs to send a very strongly worded letter to the Iranian government stating that the U.S. will not tolerate any interference in Azerbaijan's internal affairs, including the intimidation of companies exploring for oil in Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian Sea." How dare the Iranians interfering in the business of western oil companies who are doing their utmost to harvest the riches of the Caspian to benefit the people of the region! What business does Iran have interfering in the affairs of Caspian Sea or Persian Gulf? Thanks God we have alert and watchful local people like Mr. Sobhani who are going to save the people of this region from intervention by these outside forces!

"The United States should use this opportunity to insist that Iran end its hostile actions towards the Anglo-American giant BP, and allow BP to explore the Alov structure that may contain as much as 9 billion barrels of oil reserves." I'm already salivating reading that there may be 9 billion barrels of oil in the area, and I'm not even remotely involved in anything Caspian or energy related! But if I were, you would be reading a lot from me inviting all the big bullies in the "neighborhood" to help me out! Sobhani may be an Iranian-American or American-Iranian, whichever he prefers, but above all he is a pragmatic and practical man. His loyalty is not to the land but to the oil. One needs to rid himself from the strings of nationalism and think freely. What's more important here is exploiting the riches of Caspian. A "responsible Iranian" will not get offended by Mr. Sobhani offer to hand over disputed Caspian territories to Azerbaijan or better say to the oil companies. That would be a sign of weakness or madness! The "responsible Iranians" should praise Mr. Sobhani for being so brave to risk damnation by all sects of "irresponsible Iranians" including nationalists, reformists, hardliners, monarchists, socialists, feminists, and chauvinists, among others, for auctioning off Iran's territory to the needy oil giants!


Sobhani ends his article with the following note: "The United States has a vested interest in President Ilham Aliyev's success. The majority of those eligible to vote among the seven million citizens of this country voted for Mr. Aliyev in order to preserve the legacy of his father - stability."


You know, some people always doubt everything, perhaps because they like to escape the reality? I remember years ago there was an election in Albania where 99.99% had voted for the current head of state (I believe there was 100% participation). Actually, to be exact, there was only one opposing vote. While some people questioned the validity of this democratic election, in my mind the only thing wrong with it was the fact that a single voter, "an irresponsible opposition" member, ruined a perfect election! Of course history almost repeated itself recently in Iraq when Saddam brought in over 90% votes in his support in the last Iraq election. It's true that Ilham Aliyev didn't come close to either Albania's or Iraq's examples. But given a few decades and our full support in creating a "responsible opposition" in Azerbaijan, Ilham should easily top Iraq and hopefully even Albania!


About the author:

Ali Moayedian is a responsible Iranian-American. He resides in San Francisco Bay Area.



... Payvand News - 12/4/03 ... --

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