Former Ambassador Matt Bryza: Fears and Frustrations on Embassy Security

Matt Bryza served as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan from 2011-12 and as a deputy assistant secretary of state from 2005-09. He is now director of the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn, Estonia and resides in Istanbul. Below is an excerpt from his December 3 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

I was appalled to learn weeks later that midlevel bureaucrats in Washington had implemented the cutback for Baku. My immediate and angry response got the capability restored. But for approximately two weeks, our embassy personnel—and all their family members—were left unnecessarily vulnerable because of budget decisions taken deep within the bureaucracy and against the assessment of the U.S. president’s personal representative in Azerbaijan, his ambassador.

I saw a similar lack of urgency when I returned to Washington. As I thanked diplomatic security officials for restoring the key capability that had been cut without my approval, I expected them to acknowledge that their subordinates had made a mistake. I also expected them to emphasize the need to do anything required to protect an embassy facing a serious terror threat. Instead I sensed reluctance—bred apparently by budgetary pressures, as fortress embassies like those in Baghdad and Kabul swallowed the lion’s share of the State Department’s diplomatic-security budget.

This budgetary stinginess is dangerous and self-defeating for U.S. diplomats. And it contrasts starkly with what I witnessed in a 2001 episode, when the State Department mounted an all-out campaign to beef up information security after the disappearance of a single laptop computer from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. It is ridiculous that the State Department can find financial resources to protect classified data but not to protect the people who produce that information.

Continue reading, My Experience with Lax Embassy Security.

If link above does not work, click here (H/T to James Schumaker).

– DS

 

 

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Confirm Matt Bryza: 36 Conservative Foreign Policy Experts Write to Ranking Senators

U.S. Ambassador to Baku, Matt Bryza is the last of President Obama’s recess appointments from 2010 whose nomination is snagged in the Senate
(Ambassadors Ricciardone and Eisen were confirmed while Ambassador
Aponte’s nomination was derailed this past week). Ambassador Bryza’s
nomination was held up last year by twin-pops, Senator Barbara Boxer
(D-CA) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The senators represent the concerns of their Armenian constituencies, which are
against the administration’s policy opposing a Congressional resolution
condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide.

WaPo awarded the duo, the Most Craven Election-Year Pandering at the Expense of National Interest Award.

Ambassador
Bryza is posted to Baku, Azerbaijan not Yerevan, Armenia.  But it’s
complicated since the two countries have fought in more than one war including the Nagorno-Karabakh War from 1988-1994.

Ambassador Bryza with wife, Zeyno Baran during
the 4th of July reception at
US Embassy Baku
Photo from US Embassy Baku/FB

Anyway, Senator Menendez even questioned Ambassador Bryza’s “very close ties to Turkey” because his wife is Turkish-born. That the good senator had dragged the ethnic origin of Ambassador Bryza’s wife into this confirmation fight was called shameful by the Washington Post.

In a rebuttal to WaPo, Senator Menendez writes:

“For the record, I stand by my position that Mr. Bryza is the wrong person for the job and have made public my hold in the U.S. Senate on his nomination. That position has absolutely nothing to do with the ethnic origin of his wife. It is based on information that I believe raises concerns about Mr. Bryza’s ability to remain impartial toward Azerbaijan and Turkey, including his opposition to the recognition of the Armenian genocide by Turkey and his close ties to individuals in both governments.”

Nuthintodowithit …. it’s just all politics. Surprisingly, not a lot of noise on the nomination of career diplomat, John Heffern as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia who was confirmed in September.  Ambassador Heffern also stopped short of using the “G” word during his confirmation hearing arguing
that “the characterization of those events is a policy decision that is
made by the president of the United States.” Same-o, same-o, except that he’s not married to a Turkish-American scholar.

In a letter dated December 15, 2011, 36 conservative foreign policy experts have now written to ranking senators to plead for the confirmation of Ambassador Bryza.  His recess appointment expires within a couple of weeks.

Excerpted from letter via The Cable:

Matt has conducted himself as an exemplary Ambassador to Azerbaijan, a country of growing importance to U.S. interests. He has the right combination of everything – contacts, trust, strategic vision, operational ability, leadership – everything.

Matt’s confirmation is being held up because a small minority of activists accuse him of being a “genocide-denier” – someone who denies that the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against Armenians in 1915.

United States policy under successive Administrations has been neither to affirm nor deny that a genocide occurred. Rather, it is to avoid having the United States place a label on the events that took place at the close of the Ottoman Empire, and in so doing, to help provide the best chance possible for the current states and people of Armenia and Turkey to explore their history together, and to build new relations and trade, in the interests of all people in the region.

To be sure, U.S. policy is to make clear that what happened to Armenians in the closing days of the Ottoman Empire was nothing short of mass murder and forced expulsion. Yet because U.S. policy is not to label these acts, Matt – as a career professional – has done what any professional American diplomat would do: adhere to the policy of successive U.S. Administrations and avoid labeling those acts on his own.

This in no way means Matt is insensitive to their occurrence, their nature, and their importance. And it in no way disqualifies him to serve with distinction as U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan. Indeed, such professional discipline in the face of extremely difficult and emotional issues only demonstrates his suitability to serve as Ambassador.

The signatories includes Elliott Abrams, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy; R. Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and former Ambassador to Jordan, Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, the UN, India and Russia; Randy Scheunemann,
former National Security Advisor to Senate Majority Leader and others. 

Read the full letter here.

Senate confirms State Dept nominations EXCEPT Robert Ford, Frank Ricciardone, Norman Eisen and Matt Bryza, then adjourns for midterm campaigns

The US Senate adjourned late Wednesday and the House of Representatives quickly followed Thursday morning. On their way out the door, our representatives managed to pass a measure to continue to fund the federal government until Dec. 3. So there will be no lights out for a couple of months, at least. 

Raul Yzaguirre
, the nominee for  the Dominican Republic was released from the hold and was confirmed. The nominations of Robert Stephen Ford (for Syria), Frank Ricciardone (for Turkey), Norman Eisen (for Czech Republic) and Matthew Bryza (for Azerbaijan) did not get their confirmation votes in the Senate and continue to be stuck in the hold placed on their nominations by various Senators. They could get the nod after Congress returns in December, they could get recess appointments, they could all get renominated in the 112th Congress — we don’t know. But what is sure as day is that we won’t have an ambassador in three possible flashpoint missions for a while lot longer.  But who cares, right?   

The Senate confirmed various executive nominations for the State Department, USAID and related agencies on September 29 (see below):

PN1221 *      DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Raul Yzaguirre, of Maryland, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of
the United States of America to the Dominican Republic.

PN1944 *      DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Alexander A. Arvizu, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service,
Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of
the United States of America to the Republic of Albania.

PN1950 *      DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Duane E. Woerth, of Nebraska, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of
service as Representative of the United States of America on the Council of the
International Civil Aviation Organization.

PN1952        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Robert P. Mikulak, of Virginia, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of
service as United States Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons.

PN1988        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Kristie Anne Kenney, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service,
Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of
the United States of America to the Kingdom of Thailand.

PN1989        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Jo Ellen Powell, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class
of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the
United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

PN1991        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mark M. Boulware, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class
of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the
United States of America to the Republic of Chad.

PN1992        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Christopher J. McMullen, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign
Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and
Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Angola.

PN1993 *      DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Joseph A. Mussomeli, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service,
Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of
the United States of America to the Republic of Slovenia.

PN1994        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Wanda L. Nesbitt, of Pennsylvania, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service,
Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of
the United States of America to the Republic of Namibia.

PN1995        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Karen Brevard Stewart, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service,
Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of
the United States of America to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

PN2128        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Cameron Munter, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service,
Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the
United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

PN2129        DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Pamela Ann White, of Maine, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class
of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the
United States of America to the Republic of The Gambia.

PN2091        UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Nancy E. Lindborg, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Administrator
of the United States Agency for International Development.

PN2098        UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Donald Kenneth Steinberg, of California, to be Deputy Administrator of the United
States Agency for International Development.

PN1770 *      EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF THE UNITED STATES
Osvaldo Luis Gratacos Munet, of Puerto Rico, to be Inspector General,
Export-Import Bank.

PN1850 *      AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Mimi E. Alemayehou, Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment
Corporation, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the African Development
Foundation for a term expiring September 22, 2015.

PN1851 *      AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Johnnie Carson, an Assistant Secretary of State (African Affairs), to be a Member
of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation for a term
expiring September 27, 2015.

PN1852 *      AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Edward W. Brehm, of Minnesota, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the
African Development Foundation for a term expiring September 22, 2011.

Confirmations – September 29, 2010

    Officially In: Matthew J. Bryza to Baku

    Map of the existing and planned oil and gas pi...Image via Wikipedia

    On May 25, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Matthew J. Bryza to be Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan. The WH released the following brief bio:

    Matthew J. Bryza is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs. He previously served as the Director for Europe and Eurasia at the National Security Council in the White House. He was also Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy. Mr. Bryza has also served in Russia and Poland.

    Mr. Bryza received a B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

    If confirmed, he would only be the 6th chief of mission to Azerbaijan.  He would succeed career diplomat Anne E. Derse who was appointed to the US Embassy in Baku from 2006 until July 2009 (and now US Ambassador to Vilnius).


    Related Item:

    President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 5/25/10
    Panorama-am |Senate Should Scrutinize Bryza Before Confirming him as Ambassador to Baku
    APA: USA nominated Matthew Bryza as U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan


    Ambassadors’ Renominations Submitted to the Senate: Bryza, Eisen, Ford, Ricciardone, Krol

    Nominations for ASEAN and USTR also resubmitted

    On January 26, President Obama resubmitted to the Senate the following nominations from last year:

    Matthew J. Bryza, of Illinois, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Azerbaijan, to which position he was appointed during the recess of the Senate from December 22, 2010, to January 5, 2011. (Originally nominated on 5/26/10)

    Norman L. Eisen, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Czech Republic, to which position he was appointed during the recess of the Senate from December 22, 2010, to January 5, 2011. (Originally nominated on 6/29/10)

    Robert Stephen Ford, of Vermont, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Syrian Arab Republic, to which position he was appointed during the recess of the Senate from December 22, 2010, to January 5, 2011. (Originally nominated on 2/22/10)

    Francis Joseph Ricciardone, Jr., of Massachusetts, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Turkey, to which position he was appointed during the recess of the Senate from December 22, 2010, to January 5, 2011. (Originally nominated on 7/12/10)

    George Albert Krol, of New Jersey, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Uzbekistan. (Originally nominated on 9/16/10)

    David Lee Carden, of New York, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. (Originally nominated on 11/15/10)

    Michael W. Punke,
    of Montana, to be a Deputy United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador, vice Peter F. Allgeier, resigned. (Originally nominated on 9/14/09)

    Related item:
    Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate | January 26, 2011


    Recess Appointments: Ambassadors Bryza, Eisen, Ford and Ricciardone

    On December 29, President Obama announced his intent to recess appoint six nominees to fill key administration posts that have been left vacant for an extended period of time.  Four of the six recess appointees are for ambassadorships in Baku, Prague, Damascus and Ankara! 

    The President announced his intent to recess appoint the following four nominees for ambassadorships:

    • Matthew J. Bryza, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan, Department of State (Senate hold by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
    • Norman L. Eisen, Nominee for Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Department of State    
      (Senate “hold” by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IO)
    • Robert Stephen Ford, Nominee for Ambassador to the Syrian Arab Republic, Department of State.  His nomination was announced on February 16, 2010, cleared by the SFRC on April 13.  He had been waiting since. Who placed a hold on the Ford nomination? Who knows? It’s a secret hold.  One or more of these 13 GOP Senators?  One of these 8 GOP Senators?
    • Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr., Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, Department of State (Senate “hold: by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-KS)

    Politico’s Laura Rozen who reported on this here points out that “recess appointments last for one year beyond the remainder of the Congress’s term. In addition, the White House could decide to resubmit the nominations during the 112th Congress.”


    Related posts:

    Related item:
    President Obama Announces Recess Appointments to Key Administration Posts | December 29, 2010

    Senate Hold and Jam Roundup: Bryza, Ricciardone, Eisen and Ford

    Four ambassadorial nominations currently snared in Senate hold and jam have been a lot in the news lately.  By far, the Bryza nomination has garnered the most ink (and passion), followed closely by the Ricciardone nomination, which has taken a rather strange turn this week with the appearance of an old fan mail from the senator blocking Ricciardone’s current nomination.   

    On October 5, Wall Street Journal has criticized delays in appointing U.S. ambassadors to Azerbaijan and Turkey (Bryza and Ricciardone) in its piece, Undiplomatic Hold-ups:

     “The Senate’s confirmation powers aren’t supposed to be an excuse to indulge the pet causes of individual Members. Azerbaijan and Turkey are important American allies in a tough neighborhood, and the U.S. needs good ambassadors there. The previous ambassador in Ankara, James Jeffrey, left for Iraq in July. The embassy in Baku has been without an ambassador since July 2009.”

    “Distracted by its many other troubles, the White House has declined to press the Senate to vote on the President’s appointees. The limbo these diplomats find themselves in may help Ms. Boxer’s campaign or make Mr. Brownback feel good, but it undermines the executive’s ability to function and American foreign policy.”

    Read the whole thing here via today.az. Read in WSJ if you have a subscription.

    US Azerbaijanis lobby ambassador-designate’s opponents (Matthew Bryza)

    The US Azeris Network has written to Senator Barbara Boxer over her opposition to the appointment of Matthew Bryza as US ambassador to Azerbaijan.

    “Your placing of a hold – twice – on President Obama’s nominee for the position of US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Mr Matthew Bryza, has greatly surprised and disappointed the Azerbaijani-American community, who are active members of the US Azeris Network (USAN), the largest Azerbaijani-American grassroots advocacy organization, and on whose behalf we are writing to you to express our sentiment as a community,” the diaspora letter said


    Ambassadorial Vacancy Disables US Policy in Azerbaijan and Beyond
    (Matthew Bryza)
    Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor | By Vladimir Socor

    Militant Armenian Group’s Senate Allies Oppose US Ambassador To Azerbaijan
    (Matthew Bryza)
    Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor | By Vladimir Socor

    US policy in South Caucasus – real target of US Ambassador’s opponents (Matthew Bryza)
    Tue 05 October 2010 06:38 GMT | 9:38 Local Time | by Vladimir Socor

    “By seeking to block and derail this nomination, ANCA and its supporters are actually attempting to change US policy on the South Caucasus, in line with ANCA’s uncompromising nationalist politics. They have targeted Bryza precisely for representing US policy loyally and impartially, during more than ten years of work on the South Caucasus.”


    Matthew Bryza’s not-at-all-surprisingly rough road to Baku

    Foreign Policy | By Steve LeVine Wednesday, October 6, 2010 –

    Some of the big U.S. newspapers — the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post — are unhappy with how ambassador-designates are being treated in the vetting process for posts in the oil- and geopolitics-soaked lands of Eurasia.

    Yet the main reason for these newspapers’ angst is the ambassador’s post in Azerbaijan, which has been empty for some 14 months now. Perhaps not since the kitty-cat John Bolton was nominated to the United Nations has a designee attracted at turns such adoration and venom as Matthew Bryza, the choice of the George W. Bush and now the Obama administrations for the Baku post, as Laura Rozen has reported at Politico.

    In dueling editorials published in a space of three days, the Journal and Post mourn Bryza’s woes, since two senators have used their prerogative to freeze his confirmation. Bryza is “respected by all sides” and should be “waved through the Senate,” says the Journal. Instead, the paper says, he is being held up by “Caucasian tribal obsessions” — meaning Armenian lobbyists.
    [..]
    Bryza is exceptionally close not only to presidents, but to a number of journalists (for the record, I have interviewed him numerous times since 1997), to whom he delivers sometimes inflated accounts of his role as a “key architect” of the triumphant Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline (an admittedly not-so-unique offense — many officials claim that mantle). Bryza sought the celebrity limelight with his 2007 Istanbul wedding, which was attended by invited senior-level Azeri and Turkish guests, and was the talk of the Turkish city.

    Some colleagues attribute Bryza’s rise in the last administration to his connections to Condoleezza Rice, and have advised Bryza to work his way to the top like everyone else by serving first somewhere as a deputy chief of mission. Bryza may be right that his nearly two decades in the State Department are credential enough, but he — and the newspapers — shouldn’t be surprised at the roadblock to his confirmation.


    Egyptian democracy activist praises diplomat Ricciardone

    Via Politico | Laura Rozen

    Egyptian American sociologist and pro-democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim told POLITICO in an interview Wednesday that he strongly endorses former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. to become the U.S. ambassador to Turkey.

    “[H]e was very popular with the Egyptian people,” Ibrahim said of Ricciardone. “He will go to all the important popular and folkloric events, they called him Sheikh Ricciardone, he would sit with the people and eat with them, and he was very popular in that respect, he was not just a diplomat, he did what we call public diplomacy and was very popular with the Egyptian people.”

    But what’s this? Senator Brownback was for Ricciardone before he was against Ricciardone?

    Brownback letter thanked diplomat for “great job representing America’s interests”

    Here is the link to the letter from the good Senator from Kansas now running for governorship:

    “I pushed hard for your confirmation because I knew in my heart that you would do a great job representing America’s interests.”

    “When I heard the initial reports from the Philippines on Friday, it was reassuring to know that you were there. Your insight on the situation provided me with the information I needed to assist the family in their time of need.”

    Under his signature, Senator Brownback hand-wrote: “Thank you so much Frank! You have done wonderful work!”

    As Nero Wolfe would say, “phooey!”

    Which led this blog to conclude that Sam Brownback loved Francis Ricciardone Jr. before he stalled his nomination for ambassadorship

    “Remember “Dyslexic Heart” that awesome Paul Westerberg song from the ’90s? “Do I love you? Do I hate you? I got a dyslexic heart,” the former Replacements frontman waffled. Somebody should gift Sam Brownback the song on iTunes.”

    Another Obama ambassadorial nominee held up indefinitely (Norm Eisen, Matthew Bryza)
    The Cable | Josh Rogin 

    Norm Eisen, President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to the Czech Republic, joins the long list of State Department nominees facing opposition in the Senate, and the path forward for his nomination is unclear at best.

    Eisen, who left his post as White House ethics czar in August, is being held up by Finance Committee ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IO) over alleged actions and misrepresentations related to the June 2009 removal of Gerald Walpin as Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a position where he oversaw government programs such as AmeriCorps.
    […]
    Shortly after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Eisen’s nomination on Sept. 21, sending it to the Senate floor for consideration, Grassley made his opposition known.

    “I object to the proceeding to the nomination because of Mr. Eisen’s role in the firing of the
    inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, CNCS, and his lack of candor about that matter when questioned by congressional investigators,” Grassley said in a statement entered into the Congressional record.
    […]
    For Bryza, his nomination is being held up by two Democrats, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who are seen to be representing the Armenian voting constituencies unhappy with the administration’s policy opposing a Congressional resolution condemning the 1915 Armenian genocide.

    “It’s the policy of this administration to oppose the genocide resolution, as has been the case for past administrations,” pointed out one GOP senate staffer who supports the nomination. “It’s not his job to make this policy. Putting him in a position to oppose his own administration’s policy would get him fired.”


    State Dept.: stalled ambassador nomination is impacting relations with European ally
    (Norm Eisen)
    The Cable | Josh Rogin

    State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable that the stalled Eisen nomination came up in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s bilateral meeting Wednesday with Czech First Deputy Prime Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who was in town to announce the deployment of more Czech troops to Afghanistan.

    “The Czech Republic is understandably concerned about the extended absence of a U.S. ambassador,” Crowley said. “His absence does affect our relationship. The Secretary reiterated our commitment to the nomination and hopes that Mr. Eisen will be confirmed in a lame duck session.”

    Grassley’s office hasn’t specified what exactly Eisen or the administration could do to encourage him to lift his hold. If he doesn’t relent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would have to file cloture and hold a roll-call vote on the nomination, which is possible but difficult due to the scarcity of floor time during the post-election Senate sessions.


    US laments delay in approving envoys to Turkey, Syria
    (Ricciardone, Ford)

    Ford’s nomination ignited a festering row with Republicans over Obama’s signature policy of seeking to engage US foes.

    If approved, Ford would be the first US ambassador to Damascus since Washington recalled its envoy after Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was killed in February 2005 in a bombing blamed on Syria.

    Josh Rogin of The Cable has pointed out that the recess appointment appears out as an option for the president this year: 

    The Senate adjourned for their pre-election break last week. Normally, if senators are out of town for more than 30 days, nominations would have be resubmitted and go through the committee process all over again. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) avoided that by keeping the Senate in “pro forma” session through the break (knocking the gavel ceremoniously every few days). That tactic has the collateral effect of preventing Obama from installing the nominees as “recess appointments.”

    Therefore, unless Reid agrees to file for cloture on the nomination and push for 60 Senate votes, the process will stall. Reid isn’t likely to take the time to push forward the nominations in the brief lame duck sessions post election, so Eisen, Ford, Ricciardone, and Bryza probable shouldn’t pack their bags until at least next year.


    Senator Menendez on Bryza hold: "absolutely nothing to do with the ethnic origin of his wife"

    Robert Menendez, a Democrat representing New Jersey in the U.S. Senate was not happy with WaPo’s Sept. 24 editorial “A toxic hold” and has written to the newspaper to make clear that his opposition to Matthew Bryza’s nomination to be US Ambassador to Baku has “absolutely nothing to do with the ethnic origin of his wife.”

    I am so very relieved, are you? Read on …

    Why I oppose Matthew Bryza’s nomination as ambassador to Azerbaijan

    Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
    WaPo | Sunday, October 3, 2010; A18

    The Sept. 24 editorial “A toxic hold,” in criticizing Sen. Barbara Boxer’s and my opposition to the nomination of Matthew Bryza as ambassador to Azerbaijan, cited an unsubstantiated comment from a junior member of my staff as my position. This was despite the fact that a Post editorial writer had a full conversation with my foreign policy adviser and an official written statement regarding my position, which was entirely consistent with my statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The suggestion that my office “backpedaled” is incorrect. The Post is entitled to its own opinion, but not to its own facts.

    For the record, I stand by my position that Mr. Bryza is the wrong person for the job and have made public my hold in the U.S. Senate on his nomination. That position has absolutely nothing to do with the ethnic origin of his wife. It is based on information that I believe raises concerns about Mr. Bryza’s ability to remain impartial toward Azerbaijan and Turkey, including his opposition to the recognition of the Armenian genocide by Turkey and his close ties to individuals in both governments. Perhaps it is not so unusual for a U.S. ambassador to have acquaintances in regional governments, but when those relationships affect the ability of the individual to represent the interests of the United States, it is my prerogative to withhold support of the nomination.

    Finally, at the core of my opposition to Mr. Bryza’s nomination is respect for the Armenian people. The Armenian genocide was one of the great atrocities of modern history. We should not be sending a top diplomat to the region who does not support recognition of what is considered among historians to be the first modern genocide. Nor should The Post label the Armenian National Committee of America as “noxious” simply for demanding recognition of this historical fact.

    So his main beef –– “We should not be sending a top diplomat to the region who does not support recognition of what is considered among historians to be the first modern genocide.”

    Good grief! Has the good senator from New Jersey been under a rock during the Bush Administration’s years in office?

    NYT reported in October 2007 that “President George W. Bush and two top cabinet members urged lawmakers on Wednesday to reject a resolution describing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians early in the last century as genocide – a highly sensitive issue at a time of rising U.S.-Turkish tensions over northern Iraq.” And they did.

    Remember Ambassador Evans?  He was recalled officially for undisclosed reason — the “firing” have something to do with using the “G-word” and confusing the public with his own personal opinion and that of the official position of the Bush Administration. He had to issue an official clarification — the whole thing from the informal comment he made in California to the clarification, and clarification of the clarification statement and the recall from Yerevan, followed in great detail here

    In an interview later in 2007 with LA Times, he was quoted as saying, “I never in 35 years had encountered a U.S. policy that I could not at least live with.” After this incident, he was “eased out after about 18 months,” and was “basically asked to go ahead and retire.”
     
    What did then Senator Obama said about this in early 2008?

    “Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term “genocide” to describe Turkey’s slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915.”

    Now apparently,  President Obama, had not used the word in a statement honoring the memorial in 2009 after he became president.  Foreign Policy in Focus reported in March this year that “The Obama administration, citing its relations with Turkey, has pledged to block the passage in the full House of Representatives of a resolution passed this past Thursday by the Foreign Relations Committee acknowledging the 1915 genocide by the Ottoman Empire of a 1.5 million Armenians.”

    Sounds familiar?  The Bush and Obama administrations, a historian complained in the History News Network “…both sing the same old song.”

    So Senator Menendez essentially found Mr. Bryza lacking for not articulating a policy position that got another ambassador canned. Can we call this an example of a no-win/no-win situation?

    Senator Menendez, of course, faults Mr. Bryza for the one thing that is admirable/distressful (take your pick) with professional diplomats – the suspension of a personal opinion.  As a career diplomat, Mr. Bryza and all diplomats like him are allowed one opinion – the official opinion/position of the administration of the day.  They work 24/7, 365 days a year and they’re on-duty even when they’re off duty. Their “opinions” do not go beyond the chalk lines, that is — until they retire, and are free again to say what they really think.
      
    So to ask that Mr. Bryza support a position beyond what his bosses are willing to officially articulate is quite absurd, no?


     

     


    SFRC Clears Arvizu, Eisen, Mussomeli, Woerth and Bryza, then somebody Prompty placed a hold on one of them. Guess who?

    Matthew Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of S...Image via WikipediaThe Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following executive nominations on September 21. The nominations will now go to the full Senate vote. 

    1.  Alexander A. Arvizu to be Ambassador to the Republic of Albania

    2.  Matthew J. Bryza to be Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan

    3.  Norman L. Eisen to be Ambassador to the Czech Republic

    4.  Joseph A. Mussomeli to be Ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia

    5.  Duane E. Woerth for rank of Ambassador while U.S. Representative on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization

    As Politico’s Laura Rozen reported, the President’s nominee to be U.S. envoy to Baku, Matthew Bryza was voted out of the SFRC despite the two votes against it by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

    The Armenian American lobby group, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), which opposes Bryza’s nomination, urged senators to put a hold on the nomination.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Bryza’s appointment was reportedly praised by Azerbaijani groups, which made it almost a certainty that the other group would have at least one cause or more to be angry with it. He is, after all, going to a region with a long history of enmity. Most recently, a war fought from 1988-1994 between ethnic Armenian and ethnic Azerbaijanis which resulted in the creation of the OSCE Minsk Group “to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.”

    I understand that the Minsk Group is still hard at work.

    Recently, the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, California and president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations has also urged Boxer and her colleagues to “either reject Bryza’s nomination outright or place a hold on it until all allegations against him are investigated and proven to be true or false.”

    The “allegations” reportedly have to do with Mr. Bryza’s wedding in Istanbul to his Turkish-born wife, Zeyno Baran which apparently had about 400 prominent guests. In 2007.

    In this article, the publisher writes that “U.S. investigators should contact everyone who attended Bryza’s wedding to verify what gifts they gave to the couple on that occasion. He should also be asked to produce a record of his wedding expenses and how they were paid.”

    Which if done, would be quite a precedent.

    Not only would you need to report a continuing relationship to Diplomatic Security when you are dating a foreign-born national, in a future perfect world, you may also be asked to submit your wedding guest list and gifts received to ensure that you did not receive any inappropriate gifts … a 214b kindof thing …. you, presumed guilty you, must prove you are innocent.

    If you’ve been married more than once, well, then that’s a hell of mess. Was that copper bowl a gift for your first wedding or the current one? Was it a gift from the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister? Was it over $50? Did you ask the gifter for a receipt? Was it reported or not?
       
    Oh, Public Service, how much more complicated can you get?  When diplo marries pundit next time, we think they should just elope, ditch the ceremony, and one of us better not be born in a foreign country!

    Anyhow, I probably need not point out that Mr. Bryza’s wife is not an employee of the US Government. The USG did not hire a twofer (two for the price of one)!  Should she quit her job just because he’s going to be ambassador some place? You know, if he gets confirmed, her supporting role as wife of the US ambassador will not even earn Social Security credits for retirement. Seriously.

    Makes one wonder if he would have received this much flack if his wife was a native of  say, Namibia?

    Speaking of foreign-born spouses — the last time I look, approximately a third of FS folks are married to foreign-born spouses. Are we going to start a spouse test for all ambassadorial appointments from now on — diplomats married to Greek-born spouses may not be assigned to Cyprus or Turkey because [fill in the blanks]? Diplomats married to Taiwanese born spouses may not be assigned to any posts in China? Diplomats married to Philippine nationals may not be assigned to posts in Spain because they must still be smarting from 400 years of imperial rule? We can go down the list of countries worldwide ….
       
    See — how tricky that can get?    

    Of course, no one has yet started an investigation but a Senate hold and jam on the Bryza nomination was promptly “extended,” courtesy of the good Senator from California. So prompt that the ink has not yet dried in the Senate’s Executive Calendar. 

    Ah, politics, don’t you love the darn thing like your own vacuum cleaner that sucks up everything on its way.  All we need now is for Carly Fiorina to wade into this and make Bryza a full blown political nonissue.
      
    Mr. Bryza is a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor. He has worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations.  As a professional diplomat, he is expected to represent the interest of the United States in Baku. End of story.

    Oops, sorry  — not quite.  This is an election year, remember?  

    Unfortunately, we might have to add Bryza to Raul Yzaguirre (who displeased somebody about DR), Robert Ford (who was caught in Syrian politics the WashDC edition), and Frank Ricciardone (accused of being too cozy with this and that country and light-handed on human rights issues in where? Zimbawe. Really?).

    All are waiting for the members of our “more deliberative body” to have their minds made up. Perhaps we should just move to the American Idol Senate Edition model, so all of us can call in and help vote?
     
     

     


    SFRC Hearings: Moon, Arreaga-Rodas, Smith, Bryza

    Thursday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is holding a hearing on the executive nominations of the following career diplomats:

    Presiding: Senator Shaheen
    Date: Thursday, July 22, 2010
    Time: 10:00 AM
    Location: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

    Nominees:

          Patrick S. Moon, of Virginia
          to be Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina

          Luis E. Arreaga-Rodas, of Virginia
          to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iceland

          Daniel Bennett Smith, of Virginia
          to be Ambassador to Greece

          Matthew J. Bryza, of Illinois
          to be Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan

    Video of the hearing (livestream) and prepared statements are posted here as soon as they are available.