Well, as of this week, he'll be able to look forward to a car, a personal driver, lifetime diplomatic immunity, all-inclusive, taxpayer-funded medical service and a pension of about $6,358 (5,000 manats) per month. If that doesn't convince Azerbaijan's 49-year-old head of state to retire one day, nothing will.
This post-presidential future was offered to President Aliyev by Azerbaijan's parliament, dominated by his Yeni Azerbaijan Party, which, in a stroke of generosity on October 25 adopted a new law on ex-presidents.
Retiring, though, doesn’t run in the family. Running Azerbaijan was pretty much a lifetime job for his father, Heydar Aliyev (President: 1993-2003; Azerbaijan Communist Party boss 1969-1982; Azerbaijan KGB chairman 1967-1969), and Aliyev junior can also run Azerbaijan till death do them part.
Aliyev's current term expires in 2013; if Azerbaijan still considers itself in "a state of war," then Aliyev, pending a Constitutional Court ruling, potentially could just stay put.
But if the habit of retiring or losing elections comes back to Azerbaijan, then life after the presidency may not be that bad at all.
Ex-President Ayaz Mutalibov may also benefit from the law as well as the family of late Abulfaz Elchibey, said senior YAP parliamentarian Ali Ahmedov. But parliament is still debating.
After all the haggling that has kept gas-thirsty Europe on tenterhooks, Baku and Ankara finally made an agreement this week on the transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Turkey, and further afield to Europe. If all goes as planned, once 2017 hits, Europe will be able to tap into as much as 10 billion cubic meters per year of the much-wanted, non-Russian gas, news agencies report. As middle man, Turkey itself will receive 6 bcm per year.
The news may come as a smelling salt for the long-delayed Nabucco gas transit project and its rival proposals, but most news reports overlooked one small detail.
Both Turkey and Azerbaijan's energy ministers will revise the agreement's details -- a process that "should not take more than a year," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters, one Azerbaijani news site reported,echoing a report in Turkey's Hürriyet Daily News. Details were not provided, but, as the past has shown, both Turkey and Azerbaijan can revise with the best of 'em when it comes to energy agreements. Arguably, the EU and US appear more impatient about calling it a day.
And if Baku can make it there, it can make it anywhere . . . that's the tune Azerbaijani media are playing in an unabashed celebration of the country’s becoming a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council this week.
Azerbaijan’s debut on the council is “a victory for the Azerbaijani people,” declared Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov. But more than a symbolic victory, the membership placed Baku in a better position to shape the international debate about its long-running conflict with Armenia and separatists over breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ali Hasanov, a senior presidential administration official, indicated that Baku will use its new position to bring Nagorno-Karabakh-related issues to the UN floor. “Capitalizing on the [two]-year-long membership of the UN Security Council, Azerbaijan will demand restoring norms of international law,” he said, without elaboration, Regnum reported.
Mammadyarov said that Baku will seek support for such initiatives from the main international negotiators in the conflict -- the US, France and Russia, all permanent members of the Security Council.
Some Azerbaijani politicians could not help but gloat at sour faces in Armenia, Baku’s arch-rival in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. “Armenia is seriously upset,” asserted independent parliament member Rasim Musambekov.
It probably is, but the Armenians are trying not to show it. Yerevan did not make an official statement about Azerbaijan’s promotion, but one official claimed that the Security Council would not be swayed by Azerbaijan. The country’s membership, he reasoned, will only damage the council’s reputation.
Many Georgians are still having an “It’s alive!” moment with the political awakening of Bidzina Ivanishvili, a reclusive, Forbes-list billionaire from a glowing castle who has declared himself the sworn enemy of President Mikheil Saakashvili. But the country's interior ministry now has taken all the Dracula and Lord of the Ring jokes to a whole new level by suggesting that the businessman is into black magic.
Ivanishvili lives in a bizarre hillside castle, avoids appearing in public and speaks with a strong Russian accent. In a word, he pretty much has all the attributes to qualify for the role of the prince of darkness in a vintage horror flick.
In a statement today, the interior ministry declared that "unusual minerals and printed materials" of an “occult character and used to predict the future” were found on Ivanshvili’s Russian aide, Valery Levin, when he flew into Tbilisi on October 22. Police took the pains to inspect -- and photograph -- the items and assured the public that the minerals do not pose a threat to "human health."
The stash came from Moscow -- the center of all evil, of course. Perhaps for this reason, the ministry did not bother to explain why Levin was questioned and searched?
Some local commentators have diagnosed the Georgian government with paranoia over Ivanishvili after it stripped the billionaire of his Georgian citizenship and impounded cash meant for his Georgia-based bank. But few expected the many accusations against the eccentric businessman to move into the realm of the supernatural.
Azerbaijan is hearing a diplomatic growl from across its southern border, which was recently violated by a lone Iranian border guard. The breach cost 20-year-old Akber Hasanpour his life and resulted in an exchange that once more laid bare the repressed antagonism between Baku and Tehran.
The Iranian authorities have fired a protest note to Baku and demanded an explanation from the Azerbaijani ambassador in Tehran. Iranian officials said that Azerbaijani border police violated international norms and agreements between the two countries by pursuing and shooting to death the unarmed Hasanpour.
After inadvertently crossing into Azerbaijani territory on October 19, the young man refused to surrender to Azerbaijani border guards, Azerbaijani news services reported. In a claim that Tehran finds hard to digest, the Azerbaijani side says that he then attacked a large detail of Azerbaijani border guards and was fired on in response. The Iranian died of his wounds in hospital. His body was handed over to Iran yesterday.
Forget about Russian military bases and separatist tensions. Georgia now faces a threat to its territorial integrity from some of the world's sharpest strategists. And they are already in breakaway Abkhazia. Soon, they will be smacking away at Tbilisi's claims to the territory with spotted tiles. These are, of course, domino players.
The Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi is about to become the epicenter of the world of domino. Over objections from Tbilisi, the world domino championship will be held in the seaside town from October 18-21. Abkhazia’s de facto leadership hopes the event, its largest sports shindig ever, will help place their territory on the world map as a sovereign country.
Bucking Washington’s take on Abkhazia, the president of the National Domino Federation USA, Manuel Oquendo, is already in Sukhumi to observe preparations for the tournament. The US domino grandmaster said that American players will arrive in Sokhumi next week despite Tbilisi’s opposition to holding the championship in Abkhazia, Kavkazsky Uzel news service reported.
One question might be from which direction they -- and the other 21 participating national domino teams -- plan on coming. Travel into Abkhazia via western Georgia is the route recognized under international law, but involves a one-kilometer trip across the Inguri River bridge in either a jam-packed, horse-drawn cart or on foot. And a preliminary chat with Georgian Interior Ministry representatives.
Travel via Russia may involve more comfortable transportation, but is deemed an illegal entry into Georgian territory.
Not exactly like flying into Las Vegas, where the championships were held last year.
The three-meter-tall wall will stretch three kilometers across the conflict line to shield nearby Azerbaijani-controlled villages from sniper bullets. The wall starts in Ortagervend, a village where an eight-year-old boy was shot to death six months ago.
The chronic sniper exchange between the Azerbaijani army and separatist Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian forces has often turned deadly and threatened the return of all-out hostilities in the area. Azerbaijani authorities said that the sniper fire is driving the civilian population away from the villages.
In a rare sign of approval of an Azerbaijani initiative, separatist officials welcomed construction of the wall as a way to solidify the border of the disputed enclave.
He may have lost his Georgian citizenship this week, but tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili nonetheless is busy building a political army for a battle royale with President Mikheil Saakashvili during Georgia's 2012 parliamentary elections.
The billionaire businessman, though, cautions that he's not taking just anybody on board. Selecting "the right staff" has proven instrumental in his past business success, and politics will be no different, he claimed in an October 12 statement.
Ineligible candidates include the Christian Democrats Party, parliament's largest minority party, and the New Rights Party and Labor Party, both outspoken government critics. Ivanishvili accused these groups of being in cahoots with government, an observation that sparked an angry response from the parties’ leaders.
Eligible candidates, as determined in what Georgian media billed as Ivanishvili's “casting," include former UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats Party. The party announced today that a full understanding was reached between Alasania and Ivanishvili.
And, like any business operation, team Ivanishvili is also thinking about media. Ivanishvili has invited all Georgian journalists disenchanted with what he calls the government’s attempts to control the national news to work for him. He earlier offered to buy two Tbilisi-based opposition-minded television stations, as well.