Saturday, February 27, 2010

Can Obama endure the consequences of a genocide resolution?

   As “Davutoğlu diplomacy” regarding the Iranian nuclear program "hits high speed,” as the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review recently reported, Turkey now officially confirms it has multiple proposals in its hands for a peaceful resolution to the problem. And as the daily Zaman reported, the Turkish administration reckons these new developments regarding Iran can only be discussed on the leaders’ level. According to Ankara, in this approach, the Turkish leadership speaks the same language as United States President Barack Obama does, and the American diplomats in between do not have the sort of savvy to elaborate these proposals back to their administration.
There is no question that Turkey, amid increasing its profile over the Iranian issue in the international diplomatic arena, is also trying to convince their American counterparts how valuable an ally it is for U.S. national security on many fronts at the same time there is only one week left until the March 4 vote at the House Foreign Relations Committee over the Armenian genocide resolution (H.Res.252).
On the street, ordinary Americans are fully unaware of the resolution. While America is striving to wind down the war in Iraq, it is escalating the other one in Afghanistan which brought down the Jan Balkanende government in the Netherlands as a latest casualty. This development is "raising fears that the Western military coalition fighting the war is increasingly at risk," the New York Times noted. On the other hand, the heavyweight Wall Street Journal and conservative Washington Times editorials in the last week openly started to call for a military solution for the Iranian problem.
Domestically, Washington cannot overcome its deepening political divisions, now that it is clear the opposition Republican forces have nothing to lose in saying “no” to about everything the Obama administration proposes. On the contrary, so far, staying firmly in the opposition brought big bonuses for the Republicans, such as the Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts election wins, along with plummeting Obama job approval ratings, now below the 50s, according to the latest CNN polls.
In parallel, one of the biggest annual gatherings of American conservatives, the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference, drew about ten thousand energized supporters to Washington, and they chanted frantically about Obama as a one-term president.
Though Obama and Congress' agenda is jumbled with endless fights over America's problems, the Armenian-American diaspora organizations now see some real prospects for a successful genocide passage, first at the Committee level then in the General Assembly.
While the Obama administration has had very little or no progress related to foreign affairs, it presented Obama's prior push and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's efforts during signing the protocols between Turkey and Armenia as one of the U.S.' achievements.
Therefore, the question is whether Obama would allow the looming Armenian Genocide Resolution to pass early March, then let the process play itself out. Bearing such a move, without a question, would set back the solid U.S.-Turkey relationships that were accelerated by Obama's first bilateral visit to Turkey last April as well as the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia, which has admittedly been in slow motion for a while.
I asked Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America in Washington, if he saw the protocols and the Armenian Genocide Resolution as linked. His response was "absolutely not." Ardouny further stated, "U.S. reaffirmation should not be held hostage to normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey."
When asked about the difference between this year and last year when Obama skipped using the word “genocide,” Ardouny indicated, "President Obama has made it clear that his views on the Armenian Genocide have not changed. In this, the 95th anniversary year, the President has an important opportunity to deliver on his repeated pledge [to recognize] the Armenian Genocide."
Jewish lobbies are neutral this year
While it is a matter of discussing how effective the Jewish lobbying forces are when it comes to this issue, considering that besides then-Representative Robert Wexler, other American-Jewish members of the House Foreign Relations Committee voted for the resolution last time around anyway; still, one should not belittle their effectiveness in Washington regarding any kind of legislative matters. The recent statement from Roger Cohen, New York Times columnist, in an interview for Newsweek shows how Jewish members of the U.S. Congress do not hesitate to put pressure on Obama for Israel, even over America's domestic matters. Cohen said, "President Obama, I understand, has been told by some Jewish congressmen if you want your health bill, step back on Israel."
According to one leader in the Jewish community, who in the past was heading one of the Jewish lobby outlets and still is very much an active figure here in Washington, told me last week, "Members of Congress do not believe that the normalization process in Turkey and Armenia is going anywhere. The still-closed borders between the two countries are a big sign for them. And nobody should expect Jewish lobbies to put up a fight against the resolution around this time... Obama does not seem as effective as [former U.S. President George W.] Bush was over his Republican lawmakers to put up a strong fight. And there is a good chance for the resolution passing this year."
When I asked how the U.S. can navigate in the region with an angry Turkey following such an episode, the source acknowledged that "that would be very difficult... I just don't know how America can be effective energizing sanctions on Iran without Turkey's strong support."
One Congressional source, who has a proximity to the AIPAC, a strong, right-wing Jewish lobby in Washington, stated, "[Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan did not do anything to gain Israel's friendship. Many of the members of the American Congress tend to look at the region in a simplistic way. They tend to categorize the countries as friends and foes. When they see Turkey repeatedly attack Israel, a strong U.S. friend in the region, they do not view this positively."
While openly stating that AIPAC is not putting up a fight against the resolution this year, the same source still thinks, "There is time and room for Turkey to maneuver for the resolution," but stopped short of explaining how.
Ardouny echoed this sentiment in terms of the Jewish lobbies not fighting against the resolution, and also pointed out that the Armenian Genocide resolution enjoys strong support among Jewish members of Congress.
The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL’s, media relations deputy director Todd Gutnick sent me a statement explaining the ADL's position over the issue: "[The ADL] firmly believes a Congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide is counterproductive. Now that Turkey and Armenia are engaged in diplomatic discussions, we believe it is up to the two countries to work toward reconciliation."
When I asked Gutnick over the phone whether the ADL is engaged in a lobbying fight against the resolution, Gutnick said, "no, we aren’t."
Newly created liberal J Street and American Jewish Community, or AJC, spokespeople also said they are not taking a position over the issue and lobbying for either side.
One Washington source stated last week he still expects "Turkey to pull a rabbit out of a hat" when approaching March 4. I, for one, am closely watching for that hat.

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Guest - Fatih (2010-02-24 12:52:57) :

Ilan Feldman, how do you feel about a large number of those poor armenians who 'suffered' the terrible 'holoacaust' just like jews, deserting the Soviet army and joining the Nazis to get some kicks out of killing a few jews of their own, in Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia and I think there were no less than a few hundred jewish families in Serbia at the time? Jews were covering our ass but now they suddenly feel bad about it hey? How much more pathetic can you get?

Guest - bud white (2010-02-24 12:23:22) :

I as a turk hope that this resolution wıll pass ı am sick of tired of this process ı wonder when the resolution accepted and armenıans realızed that nothıng changed what wıll they do? two thıng we wıll gaın two thıngs wıth ıt one no more money wıll spend to prevent it second jews wont have nothıng to threat us anymore so please pass it

Guest - Me (2010-02-23 15:28:58) :

Obama will pass this measure no matter what. He promised during his campaign that he would do it, and he will, if for no other reason that to gain favor in the U.S. I personally don't care whether it was genocide or not. I resent the U. S. spending time and money on the issue at a time that we have much more pressing business to conduct. I don't think the missile defense system has anything to do with it.

Guest - Ilan Feldman (2010-02-23 15:05:47) :

Thank God there`s bad blood between Ankara and Jerusalem so AIPAC won`t be practicing cynicism in their politics and won`t be lobbying for Turkey to shoot down this important resolution. We , as the people who had gone through the Holocaust should be more sensitive to the sufferings of others if we want the rest of the world to be sensitive to our painful history. Ilan Feldman

Guest - Ilan Feldman (2010-02-23 12:32:45) :

Thank God there`s bad blood between Ankara and Jerusalem so AIPAC won`t be practicing cynicism in their politics and won`t be helping the Turks to shoot down this important resolution. We , as the people who had gone through the Holocaust should be more sensitive to the sufferings of others if we want the rest of the world to be sensitive to our painful history. Ilan Feldman, Tel Aviv , Israel

Guest - Zoya (2010-02-23 09:19:49) :

I wouldn't want to bet money on the lobby's support for this resolution.

Guest - Murat (2010-02-23 02:26:25) :

I think there is another quid pro quo in the wings for the Armenian resolution - the multibillion-dollar Turkey long-range antimissile air defense systems upgrade due for a decision by Ankara on March 1st. Besides the US, the EU, Russia and China are bidding for this program. If Turkey does not choose the US PAC-3 system, it is entirely possible that Obama will let the resolution pass as a message to Ankara. In regards to the US' ability to navigate the ME waters without Turkey's support, the US is big boy and would appreciate Turkey's support but does not need it. Finally, the statement "I just don't know how America can be effective energizing sanctions on Iran without Turkey's strong support." betrays an exaggerated view of Turkey's importance in this area, especially since Turkey is strongly opposed to Iranian sanctions anyway. The Iranian sanctions will be crafted in Washington, Brussels, Moscow and Beijing, right over the head of Ankara.

Guest - spatnico (2010-02-23 02:05:49) :

Obama will come around... he will.. no other altenative my friend.. pronto..    

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Passing genocide resolution will poison the normalization process'

   According to the majority of Washington, D.C., insiders, the Armenian genocide resolution will pass the House Foreign Relations Committee in early March. Similar resolutions have already passed several times in the past, and the issue is being handled like a “Sword of Damocles” against Turkey, according to the Turkish side.
Turkey sees the resolution as poison for the normalization process. Some argue that it is a poison not just for the Turkey-Armenia relationship. As one important foreign-affairs official said when I was in Turkey recently, “it has the potential to poison Turkish-American relationships as well.”
The Armenian genocide resolution being taken up by the House Foreign Relations Committee has huge implications for international relationships, though it is essentially being steered by U.S. domestic politics. As former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler pointed out, many members of Congress feel they have to honor the promises they made when they were running for their seats under pressure from members of the Armenian diaspora in their districts.
Another equation in the matter that relates to American domestic politics is the Democratic Party’s extremely vulnerable standing in a mid-term election year. According to the Cook Political Report, one of the best handicappers, there is a chance that the Democrats could lose their majority in the Senate in the upcoming elections, after losing the filibuster-proof, super-majority in the Massachusetts elections Jan. 20. Therefore, in such a difficult year, many Congressional figures do not want to ire the Armenian voter base.
Therefore, the “all politics is local” principle is very much alive when it comes to this issue as well, especially in this year. The problem is, this time, the results of the domestic political interests of members of the U.S. Congress might have a tremendously damaging impact on both American-Turkish and Turkish-Armenian relations.
The Turkish administration also thinks that such a resolution, which will urge U.S. President Barack Obama to recognize the tragic events early last century as genocide, “will prejudice the possible findings and studies of the History Commission that is expected to be created by ratifying protocols.”
I think all parties would accept that the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia is not going the way one would like to see it going. However, as Wexler pointed out in the same speech at Seta D.C., both countries’ leaders should be applauded and encouraged for their courageous risk-taking in domestic and foreign affairs instead of threatened by other countries’ legislation branches.
In my last column, I openly criticized the Turkish administration for the way it is handling the protocols process so far, as it seems to me that Turkey has missed some of the tactical steps badly and at present it is tumbling.
However, criticizing Turkey’s approach to the protocols does not mean one should overlook the U.S. Congress’ mismanaging or using the resolution in a seemingly very narrow-minded and domestic-focused fashion.
When Obama came into office, there was a moment of “Obama bounce” in many countries, including Turkey, as his election changed many of the misgivings of the past, though anti-Americanism is still an important factor among the Turkish public. According to Turkish officials, this image-building work would be hit immensely if such a resolution passes. And this is not a guess.
“If the resolution passes, Turkey would not step back, and its reaction could be very severe,” one high-ranking Turkish official says, referencing what happened in 2007, when Turkey recalled then-Ambassador Nabi Şensoy back to Ankara for the first time in history, as a traditional showing of protest.
Turkish foreign affairs, “with its new Caucasus vision, would like to regard the region as a whole concept.” And the Turkish-Armenian normalization process should also be seen as an element of this concept. Therefore, according to Turkey, America’s legislative branch should not take actions to make matters worse for U.S. national security and geopolitical interests in a time when America is already going through a tough period in the same region.
Still, what happens if the resolution passes in a key U.S. congressional committee early next month and consequently passes on the floor of the House of Representatives? First of all, so far none of the people I have talked to, many of whom are extremely involved with the process, predict that the resolution will pass on the House floor, even if the majority of the same people think that the resolution will pass at the committee level. However, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, even successful passage at the committee level will “torpedo” the ratification of the protocols in the Turkish Parliament.
Turkey’s position against the recognition of genocide at the presidential level would be much starker than the congressional level. With its new-found proactive foreign affairs, Turkey believes it can recalculate the changing dynamics in the region and reconsider its positioning with respect to the relations in its traditional U.S. alliance.
When I asked Congressman Wexler at Seta D.C. why the U.S. administration has been surprisingly quiet so far over the Armenian genocide resolution, he agreed that there is indeed a silence on the U.S. administration side, though he added that he expects the State Department and Pentagon to put up the same kind of fight against the resolution as past administrations did. Nonetheless, he openly stated that the U.S. administration’s attitude toward the resolution “remains to be seen.”
Stephen Larrabee from the RAND Corporation said that he expects Obama to be talking behind the scenes with congressional leaders to stop the resolution. Two leaders in the Jewish community in Washington that I talked to, however, acknowledged off the record that this time around, neither Jewish representatives nor the various Jewish lobbies in Washington will fight against the resolution. The reason, I think is obvious: to protest Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s attitude toward Israel.
The president of the American-Turkish Council, Ambassador James Holmes, stated in an interview with me that “the U.S. Congress was shut down last week because of snow, and this week it is also in Presidents’ Day holiday recess. There will be only four or five days left to reach out to different House Foreign Relations Committee members to explain Turkey’s position. It seems to me, they are trying to pass this resolution in a quick and clandestine fashion this year.”
It might be safe to say that there is very little convincing evidence to argue that the genocide resolution will be stopped in early March.
Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan will be presenting his credentials to President Obama on Feb. 25 and will resume his post right after, in a very toilsome period. As one congressional source who is close to the Jewish lobbying forces told me this week, “Tan’s appointment to Washington is one of the best pieces of news to come out of the Turkish side in recent times.”
I hope Ambassador Tan will be able to do his job adequately during this difficult time. The ambassador is expected to resume his post by many of Turkey’s friends in Washington and he should be able to have enough time and opportunities to display his diplomatic skills in years to come.
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Guest - ramesh (2010-02-22 20:10:57) :
The Ottoman empire has bigger genocides to its name than the Arminian.To admit to this is like kill an ant.There is greatness in admiting your mistakes 

Guest - Dan (2010-02-21 21:33:12) :
In this regard it seems that Turkey could do well in looking at the example set by modern Germany. It fully acknowledged the Genocide perpetrated by the Nazis, it payed reparations to survivors and it is today a very well respected member of the world community. Turkey should likewise: accept responsability, acknowledge history and set some sort of fund to pay reparations to the descendents of the victims of the Armanian Genocide, and in so doing regain a respectful position in the community of nations. 

Guest - kevin (2010-02-21 21:27:35) :
I admire Turkish newspapers publishing articles about the genocide!! I don't want any land, compensation about genocide recognizition. I want it so Turkey won't do it again against its Armenian or Christian inhabitants--also Muslim. Turkey would have a benefit by recognizing it. Really, Goksel Doganay! Turkey spends MILLIONS of its TAXPAYERS $ fighting it! It gives "donations" to universities to fight it. It pays for ads, including ads on the Internet. Why do you think Turkey is the ONLY Muslim country that is friends with Israel? There is an implicit agreement that Israel won't recognize the genocide if Turkey remains its ally. Also, some Jewish-Americans will fight recognition on behalf of Israel's interests. Hence, this affects Turkish foreign policy. IT WON'T GO AWAY UNTIL TURKEY COMES CLEAN WITH ITS PAST! If Turkey ever wants to be a moral leader in the world, it has to come clean with its past. Until then, it will be viewed as it currently is in the world. 

Guest - Joseph Malkoun (2010-02-21 20:35:09) :
I wonder where this stalemate between Turkey and Armenians would ultimately lead. If I were a Turkish government official and thinking long term, I would be looking for ways to resolve this problem that left unattended might become an accelerator for additional internal dissensions. Turkey-Armenia relations are one thing, Turkey-Armenian Diaspora another thing. Both these tracks have to be pursued at the same time and Turkey can take the initiative by opening unconditionally the border with Armenia as a first step. Treat the opening of the border as a normal relations between any two countries in the world and you can take the sting out of this messy relationship. Then deal with other issues through continuous dialogue - step by step. You can not solve ALL the problems at once and the fact that there are problems should not be an impediment for creative thinking. Am I lecturing ? No. This is what we learnt and practiced as conflict resolution techniques and methods and it worked! 

Guest - bud white (2010-02-21 15:43:56) :
@ dimitris kipouros you greeks never cease to amaze me when the matter ıs armenıans we see you holdıng eacother hands like with PKK ang god knows whatelse stop thınkıng us as your enemies otherwıse you wıll keep lıving ın the stupıd fear of turks we dont have problems wıth greek people just some dıspute over certaın matters we look at ıt that way and please stop wrıtıng that what ıs good for turkey cause ıt looks sılly when the ıntentıon ıs somthıng else:D 

Guest - Mr Goksel Doganay (2010-02-21 14:48:40) :
The Genocide allegations are only that allegations. US will never recognise allegations of Genocide against Turkey because 1. It never happened and 2. There is no benefit. My message to all the smug Armenians on this site is if your so keen to live in peace why don't you move on rather than asking the Turks to move. I suggest that you move on, because you will never get recognition, compensation, land, sympathy or anything. In conclusion get over it! 

Guest - Stephan (2010-02-21 12:12:20) :
China protested fiercely about Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama with no success.Obama met the Lama ignoring China"s threats. Why should Turkey"s threats be taken more seriously bearing in mind that China is more important to them? 

Guest - MARK (2010-02-21 00:14:44) :
j2-I intended to write a response to faith and duyum but your post was better than anything I could have said. Like they say MAN UP. 

Guest - John Alexopoulos (2010-02-20 23:22:28) :
Too much ado about the TRUTH. Recognizing the genocide is step forward in the right direction. It will be good for all including Turkey, after all nobody is accusing today's Turks of commiting a crime, it is the Ottomans that did it, and they did, everybody knows it. 

Guest - Mito (2010-02-20 22:48:08) :
well, if those who think that the US and Armenians do not need those angry Turks then they should help pass these bills and also perhaps ask the international crimonal court in Den Haag to revisit their decision that Srebrenica was not a genocide ( ohh I forgot, those were Muslims, then never mind) ..Anyhow then good riddance with those angry Turks...go ahead and just tell us Turks that you do not need us and we'll be out of your way. I feel so sorry for all those Christian nations that they had to put up with us for all these years..Just go ahead and leave us alone ! I am sick and tired of these threats and insults. 

Guest - Hayuhi (2010-02-20 21:58:17) :
It's only a matter of time. Turkey can not be in the denial of its past for ever.No matter how hard Turkey must accept the Armenian Genocide like a mature state. It's no good getting paranoid about it.Only good can come out of this recognition. Turkey and Turks can be unchained from this historic denial and then the respective parties can move on! 

Guest - Mardiros Melkonian (2010-02-20 21:56:27) :
Le me first congratulate HURRIYET Daily News and the Turkish media in general for their openness in recent months to discuss formerly taboo issues, including the Armenian Genocide. This gives a much better impression of a liberated society that can handle difficult issues and thus give credit to the story told by the other side. The sad part of all this though is the slow motion "conversion" that the Turkish state has adopted to come to grips with a problem that will not and can not go away. We understand very well what Ilhan Tahir is saying. However, the longer it takes for the recognition of Genocide to be accepted by the US government , the longer the latent tension on this matter will persist in US -Turkish relations without leading to a solution while Turkey will have constantly to fight back a losing battle. Is this strategic thinking ? Is this a statesmanlike attitude? Official Turkey can fundamentally change the dynamics of the situation if President Gul or Prime Minister Erdogan decide to attend in Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul a memorial service to the victims of the Genocide. Armenians in Turkey are Turkish citizens and there is nothing more noble for Turkish leadership to-day than to share that pain with their own citizens. This could be a tremendous symbolic act that can alter the way Armenians and Turks see the tragedy of the past. Then talking and communicating will be easier . 

Guest - kevin (2010-02-20 20:03:43) :
Off course the genocide happened. Look at newspapers during that time period! It isn't going to go away until Turkey admits to its dark past. Why are they afraid to admit to it? Afraid of giving up land? Won't happen. Who would force them to give up land to benefit Armenia which is allies with Russia? NOT the US. Just ask the other ethnic groups about genocide, the Greeks and Assryians. Genocide was also done against them by the Ottomans. Ask the Kurds, they know about the genocide. The ONLY country that denies it is Turkey. 

Guest - Murat (2010-02-20 19:56:28) :
Please please lets all get behind this resolution and make it happen. Facts will remain facts. History is not written by a bunch of politicians. Only myths require this much propping and protection. World will not come to an end, and no damage will or should come to the bilateral relationships. This ridiculous and emotional Turkish response is what keeps the genocide industry alive. Pass the resolution and end this annual charade. 

Guest - Fatih (2010-02-20 15:15:26) :
inonu said this republic will fall under the plots of christians and jews once we are! 

Guest - Fatih (2010-02-20 15:03:35) :
Which ever way the yanks and armenians spin this they cant change history. All I hope Turkey would do in response to this is keep the border shut, and deport the 70000 something illegal armenains in Turkey. 

Guest - vilgot (2010-02-20 13:29:54) :
It is underlined in the article that US's resolution will poison the relationship, as if it only US's fault and as if Turkey is not capable of making any decisions. But we should also consider that we in Turkey are free to react however we want. If I as a person is insulted, I as an individual have the choice to respond in different ways and also consider how reaction will be perceived by others. The same is valid for Turkey. Turkey can chose how to respond and chose what kind of relationship it wants with US. It is not only up to US to decide that. 

Guest - dimitris kipouros (2010-02-20 12:41:29) :
Useless spoiling of time and energy. While Russia,France ,Greece and many other countries recognise Genocide of armenias and this recognitions do not damage bilateral relations it is appear that turks care only about resolution of north-americans. The turkish behaviour is behaviour of servant against the master. It will be much better to recognise Genocide and to moove from dark past to the future. 

Guest - dimitris kipouros (2010-02-20 12:40:36) :
Useless spoiling of time and energy. While Russia,France ,Greece and many other countries recognise Genocide of armenias and this recognitions do not damage bilateral relations it is appear that turks care only about resolution of north-americans. The turkish behaviour is behaviour of servant against the master. It will be much better to recognise Genocide and to moove from dark past to the future. 

Guest - duyum (2010-02-20 11:18:32) :
The US should FIRST recognise the genocide of the American Indians + the genocide of the Mexican's + the genocide of the Africans + the genocide of the Japanese (Hiroshima+Nagasaki) + the genocide of the Vietnames + the genocide of the Iraqis + the genocide of the Afghans ++++++ all the many other genocides that the US has committed and is committing today, before it even attempts to look at Ottoman history! It's way past time that the US STOP its hypocritical ways! There is more than enough documentary evidence to prove that the events, pertaining to the period in question involving the Ottoman Armenians, WAS NOT GENOCIDE, or to at least provide REASONABLE DOUBT about the Armenian ALLEGATIONS. If the US refuses to see this, if the US chooses to take propaganda and forgery and outright lies and hearsay as evidence, if the US does not DEMAND A FAIR TRIAL before condemning the Turks, if the US does all of this for reasons of political gain, SHAME ON THEM! 

Guest - j2 (2010-02-20 07:25:22) :
“it has the potential to poison Turkish-American relationships as well.”…ah…I think the US will get over it , just like the French have. It is high time that Turks realized that Turkish national interests depend on the US fully, while only some of US interests can be affected by an "angry" Turkey. Even so, Turks should be reminded about the resiliency of US abilities to take care of itself and not be hindered by any actions by small states, such as Turkey, towards their foreign policy goals and actions. It is absurd to think that the US either buys or cares about pompous Turkish attitude. All talk of "unforeseen consequences" about something that is both undeniable and morally the right thing to do, is just that, talk. What will or can Turkey do to the US that will not inevitably harm Turks at the end of the day? 

Guest - danny (2010-02-20 05:47:02) :
Mr. Tanir, You shouldnt be mouthpiece of the Turkish government. I think they can talk for themselves okay. You have been pretty objective so far, and you should continue doing it. still i think it is okay to voice sometimes turkey's view, i guess.. if you have to!! 

Guest - Hovsep Mardirossian (2010-02-20 05:38:39) :
Mr. Tanir expresses well the fears of official Turkey without providing a window on the strategic course Turkey should take to resolve the issue.It took an Alexander the Great to cut the Gordian knot ! All that we have seen so far are feeble Turkish initiatives and attempts the objective of which seems to be to outsmart Armenia and Armenians hoping that the problem would ultimately go away rather than dealing with a problem inherited from the Ottoman past . No one familiar with Turkish-Armenian affairs can deny the fact that the Genocide issue goes to the heart of the relations between the two countries. Who is to blame ? The one who has tried to ignore it or the one who tries to remind the world of the injustice that took place. I as a direct descendant of those who suffered the consequences of the Genocide in 1915 can not forget if the descendant of perpetrator does not want to recognize the deed. I cannot hold today's Turkey and Turks for what happened in 1915 but I also can not accept that they chose to ignore it because it suits them better this way. 

Guest - Greg Shirvanian (2010-02-20 01:29:18) :
Very controversial article. Hard to agree in essence. Who held back Turkey since Oct 10 from ratifying the protocols with Armenia? Or it hopes to manipulate them endlessly to press Armenia for Karabakh and USA for the resolution? Why should Erdogan and Gul think they are smart enough to fool everybody around in the world? I hope they now do understand that any game has its beginning and end. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

April 24 looms over protocols

  About the same time every year in Washington, a guessing game starts to spin over April 24, the traditional date of commemoration of the tragic events of World War I for Armenians. Whether there will be a resolution passed in the American Congress recognizing this day as a genocide or whether the president of the United States will avow the day as such, the tension rises, especially between the Armenian and Turkish diasporas, as well as in trilateral Turkish-Armenian-U.S. relations.
However, “the situation this year is much different than the past,” according to one high Turkish diplomat because of the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia.
The normalization process between Turkey and Armenia, which started with “football diplomacy” more than a year ago, has reached some successes with the signing of the protocols by the foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia in front of the Minsk Group representatives last October. Since then, the protocols, in accordance with the Armenian constitution and likewise by Turkey, have been waiting for ratification in both countries' parliaments.
The protocols were already submitted to the Armenian Parliament by President Serge Sarkisian to formally be ratified last week after the Armenia’s constitutional court found the protocols to be in conformity with the constitution, even though the Turkish government saw the preambles to the court's decision as impairing the spirit of protocols.
Nevertheless, after Armenia's move on the ratification process, the pressure has mounted on the Turkish Parliament to reciprocate. Turkish officials insist that the ratification process would move forward if there is progress on the Karabakh issue. However, since the mentioned issue is not referenced as a pre-condition in the protocols, Turkey has little to make a solid argument. The same Turkish official, who is well positioned to know the developments first hand, stated that “even though the Karabakh issue is not on the protocols, it is a huge psychological concern that the Turkish side has to see some progress to move forward.”
There are several factors for Turkey's plight going forward to April 24:
1. Mr. Vigen Sarkisian, deputy chief of staff to Armenian President Sarkisian, stated repeatedly during a speech last Friday at a meeting organized by the Russia/Eurasian Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, that Armenia does not recognize the Karabakh conflict as a pre-condition for the protocols.
2. President Sarkisian will guarantee the ratification of protocols in the Armenian parliament if the Turkish Parliament does so, as Vigen Sarkisian pointed out. Therefore, while Turkey is unable to push the Armenian side to show goodwill or to make progress to end the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh – although the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan was reaffirmed by the United Nations in several resolution (#822, #853, #874 and #884) – Turkey, itself feels compelled to display progress on the ratification process, since the Armenian side is seemingly moving on in its parliament.
Bülent Alirıza, director of the Turkey program at CSIS, noted Turkey will not move on the protocols without movement on Karabakh. He said this was recently confirmed by Murat Mercan, chairman of the Turkish Parliament's Commission of Foreign Affairs, who openly stated the commission which he chairs does not have any timetable or expectations to move forward on the ratification process unless there is such movement.
3. On the American front, Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said a week ago he intended to call a committee vote on March 4 on the non-binding resolution urging President Barack Obama to describe the 1915 tragedy during the late days of the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.
Following this half-already-expected and timely development, contrary to what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu found a surprising timing a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Feridun Sinirlioğlu, a Turkish foreign ministry official, came to Washington to hold talks at the U.S. State Department and expected to state that the vote at the commission will further damage the Turkey-Armenia reconciliation process that was already damaged due to the recent decision by the Armenia's constitutional court.
4. The head of European and Eurasian Affairs, Mr. Philip Gordon, contrary to the U.S. State Department's attitude in the past, did not oppose outright the “intention” of Berman to bring the resolution to the Foreign Relations Sub-Committee in early March. Mr. Gordon, as a co-author of a book on Turkey, also stated a couple of weeks ago the Armenian constitutional court's decision was a step forward for the reconciliation process, as opposed to the fierce outcry from Turkey.
5. According to one White House reporter in Washington, an official from the White House stated recently that during the meeting between Obama and Erdogan in the Oval Office in early December, Erdogan was told that the normalization process has to go forward, otherwise April 24 might be a difficult time for especially Turkey this year.
6. As if all these developments were not enough, Vigen Sarkisian, during the same speech at the CSIS, stated although “the deadlines are not good for diplomacy for it limits the flexibility of the countries," so far, about all the progress between the two countries relating to the normalization process has been achieved due to different deadlines, such as the dates of the football games or the last April 24, which urged Turkey to finalize a road map just two days prior to Obama's commemoration statement.
Therefore, Mr. Sarkisian argued on behalf of the Armenian president that the deadline is very useful so far for the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia and went on to state that April 24 was an important “flag-post” for measuring progress, meaning another deadline for Turkey to show that they are proceeding on the ratification process. However, he also added that domestic political considerations in Turkey make it highly unlikely that there will be any progress on the protocols in Parliament between at least March and May of this year.
A young diplomat Vigen Sarkisyan's performance while elaborating Armenian's position was pretty well at the CSIS, displaying the confidence that the Armenian side possesses going forward to April 24.
Davutoglu argues in his book titled "Strategic Depth", pg 31: "if the tactical steps are not being harmonized toward to a strategic drift, that would change significantly the meaning and calibre of the whole strategic drift in time." (translation by myself)
Did Mr. Davutoglu take the tactical steps cautiously so far and know where this process is going? Will Turkey be blamed as a spoiler for it puts forward the Karabakh conflict as a pre-condition for the normalization process? What happens if the genocide resolution passed in the American Congress and US President Obama recognizes it as such on April 24 because the rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia is stalled?
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Guest - James (2010-02-17 16:47:27) :
The question is: When will Armenian families get their homes back that they lost during the 1915 Genocide? 

Guest - greg (2010-02-17 00:02:08) :
As soon as Azerbaijan recognizes karabagh's right to self-determination, all problems in the caucasus area will be resolved. but then i guess asking azerbaijan to recognize the rights of armenians is like asking hitler to recognize the rights of jews. 

Guest - kevin (2010-02-16 18:37:46) :
Turkey really doesn't want to move ahead with the protocols because it knows investigating the genocide would make it the loser. Why is Turkey so afraid of the US recognizing the genocide? Turkey won't have to give up land. WHo is going to make it give up land? The US? No way! It is busy with Iran, Afganistan, and Iraq. It isn't in US interests to give Turkish land to Armenia which is allies with Russia. Do you Turks think the US would invade Turkey to make it give up land to Armenia? If so, you are crazy!!! Turkey should let the US recognize the genocide and stop wasting its taxpayers' $ on fighting it. Of course it happened. Look at the newspapers written about it at that time. 

Guest - hukumdar (2010-02-16 18:22:40) :
Does Davutoglu really know the end? Why did Turkey sign a protocol without Karabakh on the table and now backtracts? Do Armenians have any interest to show good-will? not really. why should Sarkisian make a step that he is not required 

Guest - NO to revanchist hate ideology (2010-02-16 18:17:17) :
Armenian genocide debate is more about history than about claimed "historical justice". It is based on a viciously revanchist and hate ideology of "Hay Dat" ("Armenian Cause" in Armenian) that aims to prepare grounds for advancing Armenian land claims on eastern Turkey. Turks have lived under strict censorship for a long time and have adopted a selective approach to their history, which excludes much of the human tragedy that both Turks and Armenians have suffered in eastern Anatolia in the course of the World War I. Because of their ignorance, many Turks do not know how to respond to Armenian genocide claims. Some choose to stay out of this debate, others choose outright denial of any wrongdoing, which further undermines Turkish perspective, others, usually liberal-leaning ones, choose unilateral apology, poorly informed of the fact that the immaterial apology is the last thing the Armenian nationalists want. Armenians have skeletons in their closet too. A true reconciliation is impossible without acknowledging sufferings of all sides. Armenia will condemn itself to isolation as long as it pursues aggressive and hostile policies against neighboring Turkey. And its hopes that it can fool the US and the EU into its own narrative is vain. Some politicians in the West may use Armenian claims to pressure Turkey on unrelated matters, but this is not going to work forever. Turkey is changing, the world is changing. And Armenians better understand it sooner for their own benefit. 

Guest - dr p (2010-02-16 14:43:25) :
turkey has no more right to put the artsakh issue into the protocols than armenia would for turkey to recognise an independient kurdistan. part of true peacemaking is swallowing one's pride, admitting fault, and not taking up offences. bully for the turks and azeris with their "two states, one people" mantra, but the armenians can say the same about artsakh. 

Guest - NO to revanchist hate ideology (2010-02-16 13:29:03) :
Armenian genocide debate is more about history than about claimed "historical justice". It is based on a viciously revanchist and hate ideology of "Hay Dat" ("Armenian Cause" in Armenian) that aims to prepare grounds for advancing Armenian land claims on eastern Turkey. Turks have lived under strict censorship for a long time and have adopted a selective approach to their history, which excludes much of the human tragedy that both Turks and Armenians have suffered in eastern Anatolia in the course of the World War I. Because of their ignorance, many Turks do not know how to respond to Armenian genocide claims. Some choose to stay out of this debate, others choose outright denial of any wrongdoing, which further undermines Turkish perspective, others, usually liberal-leaning ones, choose unilateral apology, poorly informed of the fact that the immaterial apology is the last thing the Armenian nationalists want. Armenians have skeletons in their closet too. A true reconciliation is impossible without acknowledging sufferings of all sides. Armenia will condemn itself to isolation as long as it pursues aggressive and hostile policies against neighboring Turkey. And its hopes that it can fool the US and the EU into its own narrative is vain. Some politicians in the West may use Armenian claims to pressure Turkey on unrelated matters, but this is not going to work forever. Turkey is changing, the world is changing. And Armenians better understand it sooner for their own benefit. 

Guest - Jda (2010-02-16 06:23:46) :
The goal of Turkish diplomacy is to stave off recognition of the AG by implying that something good for Armenia will happen through the current path. The TR should stop fighting the issue. It should stop encouraging laughable and often racist efforts by buffoons like Mr. Kirlikovali. It should, as Baskin Oran has written, disavow the CUP and the losses with sympathy and humanity. Two years after the TR does this, the issue will be half dead. Instead it is stronger worldwide each year. But, for some reason, the TR insists on fighting the issue, which highlights it, and places the issue to the forefront. 

Guest - John Karasarkissian (2010-02-16 01:29:58) :
All this is fine and dandy. My question is: why am I not the owner of my ancestral properties in city of Dort Yol? Was it because they "voluntarily" gave them to Turks and left the country, or because they were marched to Der el Zor by Turkish regime of the 1915, and only my grandfather and my 5 year old father survived out of family of twelve... 

Guest - Murat (2010-02-16 00:09:36) :
Lets hope Davutoglu knows what he is doing. Karabag is not explicitly in the protocols. How does he plan to get it through TBMM without even a symbolic move there? Maybe this is all about putting pressure on Azerbeycan also. I hope there is way found to move on the protocols. It is Armenia which has the most to gain. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Can Gürsel Tekin bring more change to the CHP?

In my last column, I wrote about the conversation I had with Mr. Gürsel Tekin, head of Istanbul branch of the Republican People's Party, or CHP. Since the CHP has been absent from discussions often held about Turkish foreign affairs in different foreign capitals, especially in Washington, I was genuinely interested to hear about the CHP's vision and how it views the Justice and Development Party, or AKP's, recent foreign policy initiatives which are mostly energized by Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, the foreign minister. As a rising figure in the CHP, Mr. Tekin seemed a perfect candidate to have this conversation.
Mr. Tekin, indeed, was impressive with his knowledge about current foreign affairs. Tekin did not only open up how he views many of the AKP's policies, he was also pretty forthright in lending his support to Davutoğlu in many foreign affair matters. I was very much surprised to hear Tekin arguing that many of the foreign policies that have been initiated by Davutoğlu actually overlap with the CHP's foreign affairs vision.
Tekin also caught my attention while elaborating part of his own international relations theory. While answering my question about the current Turkey-United States relationship, especially since Barack Obama came to office and visited Turkey in the very early period of his presidency, Tekin stated: "Every country has its own interests and follows those interests primarily in the international arena. The interests of different countries sometimes overlap with each other but other times do not. America is an important country in this region, so is Turkey. America will always need Turkey and likewise Turkey will need America."
In brief, Tekin declared: "Turkey is not the same country as it was 30 or 40 years ago and it has to look for its interests. Turkey cannot be an inward looking country anymore. For instance, Russia is also a nearby country, and it cannot be ignored and the relationships with Russia must also be handled carefully for trailing our own interests."
Tekin argued there are more than 50 Muslim countries across the world and it is only Turkey that is able to make democracy work, though admittedly with many flaws. Still, Tekin continued, harmonizing its secular and Muslim identities while getting the democratic system working is a huge challenge.
And, not knowing the difficulties of this task, many Western countries are unable to grasp the problems that spring from this struggle in Turkey. However, Tekin claims, "Turkey is the only Muslim majority country that has a secular system at work, and it is Turkey that can be the only model country in this scope to transform the region."
When I told him that so far that the Gürsel Tekin I listened to on foreign affairs sounds very much in tone with Mr. Davutoğlu, Tekin said, "Indeed, Davutoğlu's policies do not seem to be much different from the CHP's."
When asked him to elaborate this matching perspectives paradigm between the CHP and Davutoğlu over rapprochement with Syria and Armenia, hoping stealthily to find some factions, Tekin declared without hesitation: "Of course, Armenia, or Iraq or Iran are the countries that we should be able to make more trade and solve our existing problems. For instance, I am extremely happy to see that we now have better relations with Syria."
Following a question about the worsening relationships with Israel, Tekin made another important statement: "The CHP does not have any intention of impairing the good relations with any allies. Though, what Israel does in Gaza is simply unacceptable. The Gaza problem has been going on for how long now? Yes, it has to be solved quickly. However, we criticize AKP's approach to Israeli relations because AKP tends to treat this relationship as a part of domestic politics. However, Davutoğlu's approach looks calmer over the issue as opposed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's bullying attitude toward Israel.
When it comes to foreign affairs, every administration has to calculate its national interests first very studiously. Just to win a couple more votes, one must not use any foreign matter for domestic gains. Israel is an important country in the region and diplomacy must be used diligently to solve problems. Shows, in the international arena, do not make any problems better. However, the foreign minister is more serene in conducting foreign affairs."
Tekin also emphasized the cultural differences between societies who have democratic traditions and who have the Islamic traditions. Tekin said Turkey, which has a 99 percent Muslim population has a tradition that is not quiet in tune with a cultural background that comes with democracy.
An interview, which turned out to be a casual conversation that lasted more than an hour, gave a great insight into how Tekin reads current foreign affairs.
It is my impression that Tekin was candid but confined under the auspices of the leadership of the CHP while debating some foreign affairs. I must also note Davutoğlu actually has been no less bullying against Israel than Erdoğan, contrary to what Tekin stated. Also, it was interesting to hear repeatedly Tekin’s praise for Davutoğlu while he continued to animadvert Erdoğan's style in foreign affairs.
Still, Tekin sounded like an open-minded politician ready to praise an administration easily when he sees it does a good job in many matters without any fear, as opposed to some other CHP figures that I also had a chance to talk to during my visit to Istanbul.
Before ending our conversation, I asked Tekin once more to pay attention to what is going on in Washington and in other Western capitals closely as I believe that the main opposition party is in despair when it comes to laying out its policy differences and positions, especially outside the sphere of Turkey. If the CHP is serious about taking on the administration, it must behave like a force that has all the skill sets to elaborate its foreign affairs vision to outsiders easily. The CHP, so far, has failed to do that and does not give much hope that it will do so soon.
I enjoyed the conversation I had with Mr. Gürsel Tekin, whom I followed from a distance with the audacity he displayed while reaching out to the pious people of Istanbul during the last local elections. I hope he can also manifest ample audacity to bring that same change to the CHP's foreign affairs outlook.
The CHP must understand that it is not the CHP that many independent pundits worry about. It is about Turkey without a strong opposition that is worrisome.
The stakes are high. Change is needed for the CHP, so must Tekin know that it is needed for a better Turkey.
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Guest - Zouk (2010-02-13 13:38:46) :
Gursel Tekin cannot make any change in CHP without the approval of Deniz Baykal. If he displeases Deniz Baykal, he will face the same fate of Mustafa Sarigul. Baykal owns the CHP till he becomes physically disabled. What changes Gursel Tekin can do in CHP will be found out in May, 2010. These are only wishful thoughts of some people who do not like Deniz Baykal's leadership of CHP. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Top official set to visit US amid Armenian row

Howard Berman, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week he intended to call a committee vote March 4, on the non-binding resolution urging President Barack Obama to describe the 1915 killings during the late days of Ottoman Empire as genocide. Sinirlioğu is expected to tell the U.S. official that the vote will further damage the Turkey-Armenia reconciliation process that has already hit the rocks due to the recent decision of the Armenia's constitutional court.
The court’s ruling that the interpretation and application of the protocols signed between the two countries to normalize relations should be in compliance with the Armenian constitution is a cause of concern for Turkey since Turkish government argues that the court has impaired the spirit of the agreements. The Turkish government insists that the decision prevents the discussion of Armenian genocide claims by a committee of historians that will be established according to the articles of the protocols.
Sinirlioğlu is expected to seek assurances from the U.S. administration that the court’s ruling will not legally prevent the discussion of Armenian claims of genocide.
Turkey believes the pending resolution is aimed at putting pressure on the government to pass the protocols through Parliament. In an interview over the weekend, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu denounced the committee for scheduling a vote on an Armenian “genocide” resolution at this time, saying that its passage would seriously harm Turkey’s relations with both the United States and Armenia.
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Guest - Guest (2010-02-12 18:43:25) :
Here's an idea. Burn the protocols, let the U.S. Congress pass the resolution for which the Armenian Diaspora has paid them millions of dollars in campaign contributions, keep the border closed and Armenia economically isolated, increase trade and ties with Russia (which when push comes to shove, has ALWAYS betrayed Armenia throughout history), take the lead in the Caucasus, establish a Turkic union, remain the hub of most natural gas and oil pipelines from the east to the west that ALL western nations rely upon, keep exploring for oil in Turkey's sovereign territory, and, most importantly, finally and unequivocally ELIMINATE the basis which has been used for blackmailing Turkey for too long. In effect, allow the actions of the diaspora to nail the coffin of Armenia's future. It won't be the first time Dashnak leaders' catastrophic errors have caused the Armenian people suffering. 

Guest - Murat (2010-02-12 15:12:46) :
Turkey should end this annual charade. Let them pass the resolution quietely. It will be seen that world will be the same. Let them find another cause in defense of ther identity. Fact are fatcs, they are not at the mercy of politicians and lobbiests. Only myths need this much propaganda and propping. 

Guest - Fatih (2010-02-12 13:27:33) :
@David there is no need for an Internationally agreed tribunal, as MCB put it very clearly "Any Turkish 'historian' who does not already recognise that there was a genocide has absolutely no right to be described as an historian." theres your court, judge and verdict. They dont even realize Turkey is doing everything they can to normalize relations to help a backward country like Armenia. 

Guest - David (2010-02-12 11:36:19) :
Has there ever been a investigation by say a World wide agreed Independant Genocide Tribunal or any other organisation which is not the usual political sham government organisation, one which is clean and unbiased?. I,ve searched the web and can find nothing other than opinions and "judgements" from very interested political organisations, this is like a hysterical kangaroo court. If there is to be a decision either way put a unbiased commission agreeable to both the accused and accuser otherwise it will be yet another sham inquiry or so called trial. The WW2 Jews got a fair hearing and a world wide agreement, Haulocost is a much bandied and political word this days. Also have a trial against the Accuser to see what was their true posion in this matter, no need to respond to this as these columns are full of "they did that","we were innocent" and visa vera comments. just looking for the truth not continued accusations. 

Guest - MCB (2010-02-12 08:53:22) :
"a committee of historians ". Any Turkish 'historian' who does not already recognise that there was a genocide has absolutely no right to be described as an historian. To not be aware of the Genocide they must be incompetent or a nationalist puppet. The committee is pointless, just another chance for Turkey to try and erase this disgusting part of its history. 

Guest - Daniel (2010-02-12 01:00:40) :
The US congress should not bow to such indirect threats.. say what needs to be said... morality starts with the truth.... then lets deal with the consequences s of such truths...