"Trump Administration is preoccupied with other issues and will not have the bandwidth to devote to Nagorno-Karabakh"

"Trump Administration is preoccupied with other issues and will not have the bandwidth to devote to Nagorno-Karabakh"

Azeri.Today's exclusive interview with Peter Feaver, former ex-adviser on strategic planning and institutional reform in George W. Bush's administration.

Reference: Peter Douglas Feaver is American professor of political science and public policy at Duke University. He is a scholar in civil-military relations. Feaver has served as the director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies since 1999, and founded the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. In 2007 he returned from service in the Bush administration, where he served as a Special Advisor for Strategic Planning and Institutional Reform on the National Security Council. Prior to working on the National Security Council of George W. Bush, Feaver served as Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. He was also a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

- Mr. Feaver, what are your expectations of further actions by the United States and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East against the backdrop of the Qatari crisis? Is there any serious cause for concern?

- The United States has several clear interests in play. First and foremost, the United States has an interest in peace and stability in the Gulf region, particularly among our Gulf partners. Second, the United States has an interest in continued secure access to major military installations, which are spread throughout the region. Third, the United States has an interest in forging a cooperative multilateral push-back against Iran’s regional aggression and interference. Fourth, the United States has an interest in having all countries stepping up their efforts against religious extremists, whether Sunni or Shia extremists, who have fueled transnational terrorist networks. Fifth, the United States has an interest in seeing all of our Middle East partners further their political and economic reform efforts, addressing the challenges identified in numerous Arab Human Development Reports. While in theory those interests can align, in practice they are in tension with some trade-offs across short, medium, and long-term objectives. The most recent crisis pulls at those trade-offs. Fortunately, the current U.S. Secretary of State has unique credibility and experience suited to just this crisis and so he is well-positioned to use U.S. influence to resolve it.

- Why do you think Trump has left Qatar where the biggest American military base in the Middle East is located and took Saudis’ side?

- President Trump initially viewed the crisis narrowly through the lens of just one of our interests. He was surely aware of the other interests, but in a 140 character tweet was only able to address one of them. This is the problem with tweeting during a diplomatic crisis. Since then, the Administration has better aligned its diplomatic efforts and its public messaging.

- In April 2006, Presidents of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and George W. Bush met in Washington. Do you remember any interesting facts from the meeting of the two presidents? How did Bush treat Azerbaijan in general? How big was the interest of Bush’s administration in cooperation with Azerbaijan?

- I simply do not recall enough of that meeting to comment. More generally, President Bush viewed Azerbaijan and the entire Central Asian region through the lens of the worldview outlined in the 2006 National Security Strategy. Here is the relevant language: 'Central Asia is an enduring priority for our foreign policy. The five countries of Central Asia are distinct from one another and our relations with each, while important, will differ. In the region as a whole, the elements of our larger strategy meet, and we must pursue those elements simultaneously: promoting effective democracies and the expansion of free-market reforms, diversifying global sources of energy, and enhancing security and winning the War on Terror’.

- Did the Armenian lobby (the Armenian Diaspora) try to influence President Bush and his advisers over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Do you know anything about these facts?

- The United States is a land of immigrants and most immigrants retain personal ties to the lands from which they, or their foreparents, originated. This gives them a particular interest on foreign policy matters that touch on those countries. This is neither unusual nor undesirable. In a healthy policy making process, these can be valuable inputs that get weighed against other considerations.

- As you know, Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions. Armenia continues to ignore the UNSC resolutions. Though long time has passed, the Karabakh issue is still in limbo. Why does the UN Security Council not force to implement the resolutions?

- I have not followed this issue closely enough in recent years to offer an expert opinion on it.

- Do you believe that Trump’s administration will make efforts to settle the Karabakh conflict?

- I believe the Trump Administration is preoccupied with other issues, foreign and domestic, and so will not have the bandwidth to devote to this, at least not for the foreseeable future. Remember that we are almost halfway through the first year, and the Administration still has not even named, let alone gotten confirmed, the majority of the sub-cabinet positions in foreign and defense policy.

Seymur Mammadov
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