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..    

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