When I mention to people that I visited Azerbaijan, most people’s eyebrows lift up and the first thing that comes out of their mouth is, Azerbaijan? What is it?
For thirty years Azerbaijan was entangled in a conflict with Armenia. The 1992 1st Karabakh War ended with 20% of Azerbaijan’s sovereign land falling into the hands of the Armenian invader. The 2020 44-day Second Karabakh War ended with a different result. Azerbaijan liberated most of the land held hostage by the illegal occupier, Armenia.
Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim country, is pro-west. Now that the decades-old conflict and crisis is close to being in the past, the country’s trajectory is to become known in the west, particularly the United States, and receive the west’s full cooperation and support.
Americans Need Education on Azerbaijan
In general, American society lacks worldly knowledge, which leaves the door wide open for well-funded political influence by influentially aggressive lobbyists.
One such lobby is the Armenia Lobby in Washington D.C.
In June 2023, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC), a bipartisan body of the United States House of Representatives, held a hearing, spotlighting Azerbaijan as an aggressor toward the Armenian population who remained living in Karabakh, after the 2020 44-day 2nd Karabakh War ended.
Azerbaijan, a Muslim majority country, friendly to the Jewish state Israel, was criticized but the heads turned to Armenia, a Christian country which has been accused of rising Antisemitism with Iran’s dangerous influence. An Orthodox strategic advisor also pointed to high levels of Antisemitism in Armenia and among the US Armenian community. A Jewish strategic advisor to the US Congress warned of a “dangerous and ungrateful” rise in Antisemitism among the Armenian community in the US, which he says is taking place under Iran’s influence.
Armenia The Bad Actor
Armenia has been a bad actor in the South Caucasus and beyond for many years.
Glorifying fascism has been widely spread in Armenia. A new US Congressional document exposed Armenian Dashnak – The Armenian Revolutionary Federation also known as Dashnaktsutyun – sympathies for Hitler. Prior to the 2nd Karabakh War, a pro-Holocaust movement tried to lure Los Angeles Jews to side with Armenia.
It is no accident that Israel holds the most cordial relationship with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has no history of Antisemitism, nor contemporary Antisemitism for that matter. A report attests that in June 2019, on the eve of the Jewish Holiday Shavuot, known in English as the Feast of Weeks, 60 Armenian Church students carried out an anti-Semitic attack in Jerusalem, bringing to light the centuries-old trend of Christians targeting of Jews, and in this case the ongoing Antisemitism in Armenia.
The question is, how much does the average American really know about Azerbaijan? Do the members of the Congress panel know enough about Azerbaijan to express an opinion, based on facts and data? Or are their opinions only based on impressions gained from a one-sided lobby?
Human behavior is predictable. People often hold strong but baseless biased and bigoted views, this without investing any time learning about the subject at hand.
Israel Subject to Disinformation, Baseless Hate
Americans with politically left leaning views often support the Arabs who named themselves “Palestinians.” Much of their influence stems from a well-funded propaganda machine. Campaigns organized by pro-“Palestinian”-Arab organizations, spread their disinformation in cities and campuses. They influence these people without them reading a single line about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Without them visiting Israel to witness facts on the ground or educating themselves on the topic in any way shape or form.
We often hear that these are the country’s most educated people, but their views are often based on propaganda.
Testing Americans on the Subject of Azerbaijan
What do the American people know about Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus region? Generally very little because the country and its surrounds are rarely mentioned in school curricula or media.
More so, what is the American Jew’s knowledge on the subject? Also very little, but the information is slowly increasing. Most people don’t know, but Azerbaijan is safe country for Jews. Due to that fact, the country receives verbal support from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Recently, relations between Israel and Azerbaijan see strengthening support from US Jewry.
During July 2023, William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, met with Mukhtar Mammadov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Israel. Their topic of discussion was the role that could be played by US Jewish organizations in strengthening cooperation between Baku and Jerusalem.
But that Conference Organization is not the litmus test to the average American on the street and their knowledge, or not, about Azerbaijan.
When asking an American where Azerbaijan is on the global map, the reply is the not-knowing silence. Or, a guessing game starts, with a tinge of embarrassment that takes place. If tested, the average American cannot point to Azerbaijan’s location on the map. They may say, I heard the name but I do not remember in what connection. Some will connect the name Azerbaijan to the conflict with Armenia without knowing anything else.
Bottom line, there is very little the average American knows about Azerbaijan, the South Caucasus, or geography in general. American society is rather uninformed.
Conclusion, if the average American has poor, or no information about Azerbaijan, how can that American stand by and support Israel, the US’s greatest ally in the Middle East that is the bulwark for the United States’ war against terror? That very same American would rather stand in the street and shout “Free, free Palestine, from the river to the sea,” because it is easy to flow with propagated incitement than learn the truth.
What the Average American Knows or Not
Americans’ illiteracy and ignorance about the near and far world around them is alarming. According to a recent Pew Opinion Poll, only 56% of Americans know that Ukraine is not a NATO member; Americans know little about who is a member of their government’s Cabinet. Very few know that Kabul is the capital city of Afghanistan, where America was mired in a 20-year war it finally lost. Many Americans do not know that the US Embassy in Israel moved from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, meaning the US formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. Most Americans cannot identify the flags of other countries and know very little about China except that what is made in China is sold at more affordable prices.
A survey conducted by the ‘Council on Foreign Relations-Global Literacy Survey‘ attests that just over half of American people could point at Iraq’s location on a map, even though, according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,431 total deaths, including both killed in action and non-hostile, and 31,994 wounded in action (WIA) as a result of the Iraq War.
A more saddening factor is that only 30% of Americans learn about US foreign policy while attending school.
Azerbaijan’s Contribution to the War in Afghanistan
The American nation should hold much gratitude to Azerbaijan, a former Soviet satellite, lounging along the western shore of the Caspian Sea, for its contributions to the coalition’s efforts in the war in Afghanistan.
Azerbaijani service members were part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The country was a key part of the air and ground global network that resupplied the ISAF, the Afghan forces and the war-torn nation.
During the 20-year war, doing the United States a favor, Azerbaijan provided the American forces overfly and the ability to use ground transportation through its land which was the most effective, most cost-efficient way to get supplies to the international coalition in Afghanistan, as well as the Afghan forces themselves.
About 25% of the coalition’s supplies bound for Afghanistan passed through what’s known as the Caucasus Spur, which includes Azerbaijan. Tens of thousands of flights headed for the war effort in Afghanistan have passed through Azerbaijan’s airspace, and over the years hundreds of thousands of troops have flown through Azerbaijani airspace, en-route to Afghanistan.
Inappropriately, given the importance of its contributions, the United States paid little attention to Azerbaijan.
Without Information What Shapes One’s Opinion?
Since the average American is lacking good education about the world around them or faraway lands, they become easy prey to disinformation. Consequently, Israel is maligned in the United States, even in Congress. And Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim country, Israel’s most reliable and congenial ally faces possible wrongly opinionated categorizations. There are often suggestions to boycott this pro-western-pro-American country, Azerbaijan. Most of that urging comes from the Armenian lobby, a well-funded propaganda machine.
I hope that after reading this story, more Americans will be cognizant of the immediate need to be more educated on the world around them. As the world’s superpower, the United States should not pursue policy decisions when most of its politicians and population have their heads sunk deep in the sand pit.
That is why the US-AZ Cultural Foundation was founded. To bring the United States’ population closer to Azerbaijan’s orbit with verifiable data and facts.