Ex-Congressman Lobbies for Tajikistan’s Quixotic Dam
Former Republican Congressman Dan Burton once famously called for American warships to patrol the coast of landlocked Bolivia. Now he’s turning his keen analytical eye on Tajikistan and promoting the Tajik strongman's dream project. In a March 7 commentary for The Washington Times, former Indiana Republican congressman Dan Burton offers his two cents on why Tajikistan’s controversial Rogun Dam project, which would be the tallest in the world, must be completed. A 2012 visit to Tajikistan, while he was still a congressman, “stands out” from all the international trips he made on behalf of the United States, declares Burton (after listing the international horrors he has personally witnessed). The reason: Rogun’s “potential to transform the lives of tens of millions of people—permanently and for the better.”Washington lobbyist Fabiani & Company currently has a $100,000-per-month contract to promote Rogun and Tajikistan on behalf of an obscure offshore entity with links to Tajikistan’s president, Imomali Rakhmon. Burton happens to work for another Fabiani client, the Azerbaijan American Alliance, as its chairman. And in The Washington Times he mimics talking points that a Fabiani representative confirmed to EurasiaNet.org the company pushes on behalf of its client, British Islands-registered Talco Management Ltd: The way to sell Tajikistan to Washington is to put it in the context of the war in Afghanistan. “You could scarcely find a country situated in a more strategically critical location for U.S. foreign policy than Tajikistan—sharing an 810-mile border with Afghanistan and a 260-mile border with China,” Burton writes. “As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops in 2014, a cheap, plentiful supply of energy to energy-starved Afghanistan would do wonders for its development and, consequently, its stability.”Sound familiar? The same position has been argued by a Wall Street analyst through whom Fabiani promotes its clients’ positions. In one of four Forbes pieces last year, Hillary Kramer, the analyst, wrote that “lack of access to electricity means that terrorism can rule and people will suffer.” She encouraged the US government to pay for Rogun. “The conversation has begun, and it will need to continue,” Kramer exclaims. Forbes has since taken her Tajikistan pieces down, though the magazine refused to discuss Kramer’s stories promoting the Azerbaijan American Alliance, which even the Alliance has scrubbed from its website. Neither Burton nor Kramer addresses the crippling corruption, the cronyism or the human rights abuses that make supporting President Rakhmon’s vision impossible for any responsible investor or country. Instead, Burton closes his commentary with a Kramer-style one-liner: “This is an agenda that should be embraced.”
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.