Sassounian: Obama Can Now Replace Bryza with a New Nominee as Envoy to Baku

A funny thing happened to Matthew Bryza on the way to Baku. He had rented out his Washington home and packed up his suitcase, after being assured by top White House and State Department officials that he was going to be the next U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. He could already smell the oil and gas in the air!

In his excitement, Bryza seemed to have forgotten that his irresponsible statements and actions, made during his stunt as U.S. negotiator on the Karabagh (Artsakh) conflict, had antagonized some of his Washington colleagues and others in the Caucasus.

More than a year ago, when the U.S. ambassador’s post in Baku became vacant, Bryza brashly told everyone in Washington that he wanted to be—nay, he was going to be—the next ambassador to Azerbaijan. He immediately hit a snag when President Aliyev informed the White House that he was neither pleased with the Obama Administration’s policies in the Caucuses nor with its self-proclaimed Wunderkind (boy wonder)!

Azerbaijan was unhappy because: 1) the United States and Bryza were pushing Turkey to open its border with Armenia, in the absence of any progress on the Artsakh conflict; 2) Congress had allocated another $10 million to Artsakh, despite strong objections from Baku; and 3) Armenia’s president was, while Aliyev was not, invited to the 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

Bryza also had opponents within the Obama Administration. After months of internal bickering among Washington officials over Bryza’s nomination, Obama finally submitted his name in May to the Senate as the next envoy to Azerbaijan. Shortly thereafter, Obama dispatched two high-ranking Cabinet officials, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to Baku in order to appease Aliyev and give him the necessary assurances on Bryza.

During Bryza’s Foreign Relations Committee hearing in July, several Senators asked him pointed questions regarding his statements and activities while serving as Artsakh negotiator. They also raised serious concerns about possible conflicts of interest involving his wife and gifts the couple may have received for their wedding from Azeri government officials. Senators Barbara Boxer, Robert Menendez, Russ Feingold, Committee chair John Kerry, and Majority Leader Harry Reid were not satisfied with Bryza’s incomplete and evasive answers, despite repeated follow-up written questions. This did not bode well for his ambassadorial ambitions, as all five Senators are Democrats who would normally back a Democratic President’s nominee.

In early August, frustrated by Bryza’s unresponsiveness, Boxer asked the Foreign Relations Committee to postpone the vote on his nomination. After a delay of six weeks, when the majority of Committee members voted on Sept. 21 to confirm Bryza, Boxer and Menendez had no choice but to place a “hold,” in order to block the ratification of his nomination by the full Senate. Indicating serious concerns with the qualifications of this controversial nominee, the two Senators resorted to the rare practice of placing a double “hold,” freezing any further Senate consideration on his nomination until next January at the latest, when the new Senate starts its session. Obama has to decide then whether to resubmit his name or propose a new nominee.

Until January, the president has the unlikely option of making a “recess appointment.” He could appoint Bryza as ambassador to Azerbaijan without Senate confirmation, while the Senate is in recess. The disadvantages of such a rare move are twofold: 1) Bryza would be handicapped in carrying out his diplomatic duties, as he would not enjoy the confidence of the U.S. Senate; and 2) the president would antagonize the Senators by depriving them of their constitutional mandate of “advise and consent.”

The ideal option for Obama would be to abandon Bryza’s flawed candidacy and name another less controversial nominee who could be confirmed by the Senate. Such a move would dispatch quickly the next U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, after a 15-month absence. In contrast, re-nominating Bryza in January would delay the posting of such an Ambassador for several more months.

Seeing its Wunderkind in serious trouble, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the bastion of the neo-cons and oil and gas lobbies, published a vicious editorial against Boxer and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) the day before the Committee vote, attempting to intimidate Bryza’s opponents. After the “hold,” a nastier editorial was published by the Washington Post against Boxer and Menendez, and the ANCA.

These vicious attacks had the exact opposite effect—they inadvertently helped promote the political clout of ANCA and the Armenian American community in Washington!

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Senator Jihn Kerry received an award from the genocide-denying American Turkish Council, and hired Doug Frantz, the man who prevented Mark Arax from writing about the Armenian genocide denials of the Anti-Defamation League.

    This may help to explain why our alleged “friend”, Senator Kerry, let his House Foreign Relations committee vote to confirm Bryza.

  2. Unacceptable by Kerry.. and we take him as a friend of ARmenians.. this type of action puts a very negative light on him as well as others because it puts doubts in our minds and hearts..

    Shame on Kerry…

    Anyone has the articles that Wall Street wrote about Boxer and ANCA?  I want to read and share it with others..


  3. Lets hope Obama is hearing America zey…NO to Baran and her hubby! Bring on the next stooge! Bryza’s out so who’s up next? An overdue White House cleaning is in order.
    Interesting insight Boyajian. Senator Kerry has merely become part of the problem in Washington. He doesn’t represent the change Armenians are looking for in America as his unscrupulous associations and actions (or lack there of) have clearly demonstrated.
    Sireli Gayane jun, well said as always. I made a vow after reading the yellow journalism from the wapo and the wsj the other day. I vowed that whenever I came across such venomous attack pieces in the media, I would make a distinct effort to do two things consistently.
    1. Write a short 1 paragraph letter to the editor expressing my disdain and encourage my friends to do the same.
    2. Make a donation to the ANCA for an amount within my means.
    In order to read the wsj’s despicable piece you can gain access to the article without registering by following the instructions on the website below. The process is described elsewhere as well on the web. I just found it most clearly depicted on this website for you. I usually check out GROONG for the article because I prefer to not even give them the luxury of my IP “hit” but I cant seem to find it now.


  4. Armenians cannot handle the idea of AZE friendly US Ambassador serving in Baku despite the ARM friendly Ambassadors in the past. This is a prime evidence that Armanian diaspora and ANCA is powerful in the US politics and are using Boxer and Menendez to block the Bryza appointment. Those senators are desperate because they are in jeopardy with their Midterm elections in their states and very much need any armenian votes they can get. And this disgrace of an article has the courage to complain about the WSJ article “attacks”. AZE and its relationship are the only things under attack in this despicable process.

  5. Such a proper name to select for yourself Doesnotmatter.. because what you say truely does not matter to me…

    It is unfortunate that there are people who are still so closed minded that they dont’ see that Armenians not only critisize those politicians who pretend to do the right thing but we have no problem of voicing our disaapointment…

    If you are a just and true to your citizens, then you will do the right thing.. and if you do the right thing, you will get rewarded.. like getting our votes.. Bryza screwed himself out of his nomination because he did not do the right thing.. Boxer and Menendez DID.. how they conduct their business to further their own career. it is no business of mine.. all i know Boxer and Menendez stopped a two faced, low life politician who has strong connection with even lower life country who uses guns and destroys human lives to threaten Armenia.. how pathetic… In addition,  ANCA along with millions of Armenians fought to stop the nomination..Hopefully we will continue to fight till all bought out politicians are removed.. i rather boot out the bought out politicians who take blood money from Turkey or Azerbajian than those politicans who are after their own gain.. reality check…politician will remain politician but at least justice is served in a small way if those politicians do something right.. and in this case.. THEY DID.. whether you like it or not Doesnotmatter.. but then again it really does not matter if you like or not..


  6. Dikranagertzi jan.. than you for your comment and the information you provided.

    I will follow the steps and do whatever I can.

    Thank you for your dedication and your willingness to fight against such outrageous articles.. We should all do the same..


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