Won't you come home, Reno Harnish
There's a black Mercedes rollin' through the combat zone - Bob Dylan
There aren't many small countries with greater geostrategic heft than Azerbaijan. Wedged between Russia and Iran, it's a major port of entry to the West for the region's oil and heroin, much of the latter being routed through the distribution hub of Kosovo, secured in the Balkans wars of the last decade.
Another commodity in Azerbaijan's pipeline subject to fantastic mark-up is the flesh of young women. Anar Orujov, in his report "Azerbaijani slaves of the 21st century" for the Caucasus Media Investigations Center, writes that "in our country a prostitute can make a profit from $7,000 up to $100,000 depending on the 'exploitation conditions.' No doubt that such a profitable business paves the way to spend a lot of money to 'hunt' the people, and establishment of a large mafia network which sometimes even the high-ranking officials are involved."
The composition of the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce certainly suggests another large mafia network hasn't neglected Baku. The "Honorary Council of Advisors" includes James Baker, Lloyd Bentson, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Dick Cheney (resigned after the Nov 2000 election), Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft and John Sununu. Richard Perle is a Trustee, and Richard Armitage was on the Board until his State Department appointment. Turkish and Azerbaijani were Sibel Edmonds' two languages in the FBI's translation department, where she discovered the intersections of drugs, arms and oil.
So it's with some interest I read that the US State Department has today announced the recall of Ambassador Reno Harnish, former Chief of Mission, Pristina (capital of the aforementioned hub of Kosovo) and late of the American Enterprise Institute. Why, is of particular interest.
The Azerbaijani media is rife with speculation that Harnish is being recalled because of a burgeoning human smuggling scandal which came to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Moscow newspaper Trud newspaper reported on Thursday that FBI agents began interviews with embassy officials about the smuggling of Azerbaijani prostitutes into the United States and the issuing of visas.
As the investigation proceeded, Zarifa Dzhabieva, a former translator for the American embassy was found knifed to death in her own home. Whoever killed Dzhabieva ransacked her dwelling looking for something, even though none of the victim's valuables had been touched. Dzhabieva was under investigation for aiding and abetting the issuing of visas and forged documents to girls destined for the U.S. sex trade.
Tales of prostitution, visa fraud, human trafficking and the murder of an embassy translator prompted the bizarre comment from public relations official Jonathan Henick that "The uncovering of the crime linked to the sale of Azerbaijani girls to the USA, and the punishment of the guilty parties merely shows the high level of American-Azerbaijani relations."
A translation of the Trud story, reproduced in Pravda, can be read here. Trud adds that "It is known for certain that the enlistment and transfer of young people from sunny Azerbaijan to no less sunny Florida were organized on a truly American scale and brought large profits."
Reno seems destined to land on his feet, reputation unsmudged. His next assignment appears already lined up. According to "diplomatic sources", he will find an environmental posting engaged in the "fight against bird flu."