The Oct. 23 news story “Hillary Clinton pushes human rights, cooperation in Central Asia” quoted a senior U.S. official as stating that he believes that Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov is serious when he says he wants to introduce democratic reforms. I wonder which of Mr. Karimov’s actions gives the U.S. government this conviction.
You can’t find anything to justify it in this year’s State Department human rights report, or the 19 annual reports before it, which classify Mr. Karimov as one of the world’s most repressive rulers.
Nor is there any evidence in an Oct. 18 letter that Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake sent to a coalition of nongovernmental groups protesting the Obama administration’s push for a waiver of congressionally mandated human rights conditionality, which had prevented the United States from providing military assistance to Uzbekistan since 2004. Mr. Blake wrote that the U.S. government does not think Uzbekistan has made “substantial or adequate progress” on human rights.
So why does a senior U.S. official now believe Mr. Karimov’s pious statements, against all the evidence of the Uzbek dictator’s past actions and previous official U.S. statements and reports? Is it because the United States needs Karimov to keep supplies flowing to Afghanistan?
Jeff Goldstein, Washington
The writer is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Foundations.