Wikileaks documents reveal diplomat’s scathing comments about Azerbaijani first lady and uncover the extent to which the presidents extended family holds control over the country.
At the end of 2009, Wikileaks released two cables sent from the Secretary of State that read:
WASHINGTON ANALYSTS ARE CLOSELY FOLLOWING DEVELOPMENTS RELATED TO THE AZERI GOVERNMENT AND WOULD APPRECIATE ANY INFORMATION POST CAN PROVIDE ON RELATIONSHIPS OF KEY NATIONAL POLITICAL FIGURES WITH PRESIDENT ILHAM ALIYEV, AS TIME AND RESOURCES PERMIT. SPECIFICALLY OF INTEREST ARE ANY INSIGHTS INTO THE INTER-RELATIONSHIPS AND PERSONAL/BUSINESS RIVALRIES OR ALLIANCES OF TOP AZERI OFFICIALS, THE PLANS OF THE ALIYEV ADMINISTRATION FOR AZERBAIJAN AND PLANS FOR THEIR OWN POLITICAL FUTURES, ESPECIALLY IF ENERGY PROFITS BEGIN TO WANE AND/OR PROBLEMS ARISE IN THE REGION WITH RUSSIA, IRAN, OR ARMENIA.
Following this, another was sent out regarding President Aliyev’s family, with special interest on his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva.
The reported purpose was to “inform policymakers” on key developments in the Azeri government by keeping tabs on the Aliyev family. The concern was that Aliyev could shuffle around top officials, cabinet membets, and regional governors to better suit his needs. Accordingly, this called for a need to understand the general opinions and attitudes that prevailed among members of the government on a wide range of topics. (You can read the original cables here and here.)
But how successful was this?
Although the the results of this “call for information” haven’t been publicized, a report titled: “Who Owns What?”, split into two parts, was published to Wikileaks. The report detailed the startlingly large power net cast by President Aliyev’s family and also contained quite interesting comments regarding Azerbaijan’s first lady, Mehriban Aliyeva.
The report mentions the first lady’s involvement in managing the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, and organization founded on charitable works. Despite the seemingly positive nature of the organization, the report claims that it is non-transparent in its financials, and most of the money is spent on educational propaganda, “geared towards efforts to explain Azerbaijan‘s side of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict”.
My personal favorite part of the report comes towards the end, when the author has decided to provide a scathing review of the first lady’s fashion choices:
The Pashayev women are known to be fashion-conscious and daring, far more so than the average woman in majority- Muslim Azerbaijan. First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva appears to have had substantial cosmetic surgery, presumably overseas, and wears dresses that would be considered provocative even in the Western world (reftel). On television, in photos, and in person, she appears unable to show a full range of facial expression. The First Lady and her two daughters hosted Second Lady Lynne Cheney for dinner in September 2008. Prior to the Second Lady’s arrival, while the three ladies were waiting for Mrs. Cheney’s car, one Secret Service agent asked “which one of those is the mother?” Emboffs and White House staff studied the three for several moments, and then Emboff said, “Well, logically the mother would probably stand in the middle.”
I doubt this report had any major impacts on U.S.-Azerbaijiani relations, as there is already a good amount of tension, but it does serve to reveal the less-than-diplomatic way some officials regards their international counterparts.