The following originally appeared in the Washington Post.
In the article "Clinton Chides Central Asia on Human Rights," which appeared in the Washington Post on October 23, a senior American official states that he believes that Uzbek strongman Islom Karimov is serious when he says he wants to introduce democratic reforms.
I wonder which of Karimov's actions gives the U.S. government this certainty. 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 Karimov as one of the world's most repressive rulers. Nor is there any evidence in an October 18 letter 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 right conditionality that had prevented the U.S. from providing military assistance to Uzbekistan since 2004. 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 American official now believe Karimov's pious statements, against all the evidence of the Uzbek dictator's past actions and previous official U.S. statements and reports? Perhaps because the U.S. needs Karimov to keep supplies flowing to Afghanistan?