Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) reacted sharply to President Biden’s decision to once again waive Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan, greenlighting new U.S. military aid to the Aliyev regime despite its ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Armenian population of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a statement released on Friday, Chairman Menendez noted, “I am deeply disappointed to see the Department of State once again make an exception to bypass Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act to provide what has become annual assistance to the regime in Baku. Adding insult to injury, the administration chose to move forward with this most recent waiver despite the recent publication of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which confirmed the Department of State and Department of Defense have failed to meet statutory reporting requirements to Congress on the impact of U.S. assistance on the military balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
Chairman Menendez continued, “As Azerbaijan continues to further occupy territory from its violent assault on Nagorno-Karabakh, during which more than 6,500 people died and more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians were displaced in 2020, it simply makes no sense to say that U.S. assistance and training has not impacted its military balance with Armenia. I will continue to conduct rigorous oversight of any and all assistance to Azerbaijan and expect the Department of State to operate with complete transparency and provide all necessary details for Congress to assess any assistance provided to Baku.”
In commentary released to the ANCA, Chairman Schiff pledged to work with Congressional allies and the Armenian American community to “remove a president’s power to waive Section 907 and to urge the Biden administration to reinvigorate the peace process.” Chairman Schiff explained, “Azerbaijan is responsible for provoking a horrific war and humanitarian disaster in Armenia and Artsakh, killing thousands of Armenians over 44 days in September 2020 and forcing thousands more to flee their ancestral homelands. To this day, Azerbaijan continues to illegally detain Armenian soldiers who have been subject to torture, and to threaten thousands of innocent civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh who live in fear of another attack and invasion.
Chairman Schiff continued, “Under no circumstances should the United States be providing military support to such a regime – it not only runs counter to our nation’s core democratic values, but could empower the Aliyev regime to continue or escalate its provocative actions against Armenians. President Biden should not have waived Section 907.”
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian thanked Chairman Menendez and Chairman Schiff for calling out the Biden Administration’s reckless decision – demanding stronger Congressional oversight and a stop to U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan. “Not a single penny in U.S. tax-payer money should go to the overtly racist and openly aggressive Aliyev regime. We look forward to working with Chairman Menendez and Chairman Schiff and their colleagues on key committees in both the Senate and the House to oppose U.S. subsidies for Azerbaijan’s genocidal violence against Artsakh and Armenia.”
The ANCA has been running an online campaign condemning President Biden’s decision and urging Congress to use every legislative vehicle possible to zero-out military aid to Azerbaijan.
On June 23rd, the Biden Administration reportedly notified Congress of their decision to waive Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act. The measure, adopted in 1992, establishes statutory restrictions on U.S. assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan “until the President determines, and so reports to the Congress, that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.” Congress included a Section 907 waiver in the FY2002 Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act. U.S. presidents – Republican and Democrat – have waived Section 907 annually ever since.
During his run for office, on October 14th, 2020, then-candidate Biden stated that the United States must “fully implement and not waive requirements under Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act to stop the flow of military equipment to Azerbaijan.” As President, he first reversed his position on the issue on April 23, 2021 – on the eve of his historic announcement properly recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, issued earlier this year, revealed that the State Department consistently failed to inform Congress of the impact of over $164 million in assistance to Baku on the military balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia. According to the GAO, the U.S. has provided about $808 million in overall US aid to Azerbaijan in fiscal years 2002 through 2020.