Matthew Bryza, President Obama's controversial nominee to be the next American ambassador to Azerbaijan, had his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on July 22. He defended himself against allegations of bias in favor of Baku and asserted he would be an even-handed advocate of US policy in the Caucasus. His critics did not appear reassured, however.
Bryza, who as deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs has long been the United States’ most visible diplomat in the South Caucasus, was nominated in May to be Washington's ambassador to Baku. Baku has been without an American ambassador for more than a year, causing Azerbaijani officials to complain that they were being ignored by Washington. The White House attempted to rectify that by sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Azerbaijan in recent months.
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.