Monday, March 08, 2010

A game of chicken for Turkey and America

Make no mistake: The successful passage of the Armenian “genocide” resolution in the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee has started a very difficult and painful period for all of us who want peaceful solutions for regional problems.
In my last column, I stated that “a miracle is needed to stop the resolution at this point.” Even though the 23-against-22 tally in the committee looks like it was not an easy win, it was nevertheless a win. The resolution sailed through from the committee to the hands of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House and another staunch supporter of the bill.
Turkey did not waste time recalling its newly appointed ambassador to Washington, Namık Tan, back to Ankara for consultations, in an apparent diplomatic protest. What comes next is the focus of this column.
Canceling Trade Minister Zafer Çağlayan’s upcoming visit to the U.S. in two weeks would be another opportunity to display the anger of the Turkish administration, as would Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s scheduled visit to Washington, D.C., in the second week of April for the nuclear summit – unless Erdoğan decides to use that visit to cajole Obama into working harder to stop the bill for the last time.
Mr. Suat Kınıklıoğlu, the head of the Turkish-American Caucuses in the Turkish Parliament, said to me after the voting that “even though the U.S. administration and the Jewish lobby did not back the Turkish position this time around, it was still a victory to make the result a close call. Armenians were relaxed and thought before the vote that they could have gotten an easy victory; instead, they got a good beating.” He added that “this bill will not come to the General Assembly after what happened Thursday.”
Bryan Ardouny, the executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, stated, however, “the committee passed the motion despite a well-funded lobbying effort by the Turkish government supported by major defense corporations doing business with Turkey.”
The delegation from the Turkish Parliament that has been worked hard to lobby against the bill this past week in Washington did not hide its anger with the Obama administration at the press conference after the voting. The administration was absent in Washington in showing the political muscle needed to get the committee members in line.
The Obama administration has told the Turkish administration in many different venues in recent weeks that it actually views the Armenian constitutional court’s recent decision, which found the protocols in line with its constitution, as a positive step for the normalization process. As Şükrü Elekdağ, one of the members of the Turkish delegation and a member of the main Turkish opposition party, told me in an interview, it was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon who elaborated this stance to Feridun Sinirlioğlu, a high official from Ankara who visited Washington a couple of weeks ago.
I not only confirmed this with other sources in Washington, but also heard from other reputable sources that Elizabeth Sherwood, senior director for Europe at the White House, also took a similar stance when she had a meeting with Sinirlioğlu and basically said that America expects Turkey to move ahead with this process as quickly as possible.
Spokespeople for both the White House and the State Department have been quiet for weeks, and it was Michael Hammer, spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, who made a statement three days before the voting, giving the White House’s position on the resolution for the first time. “As the President’s 2009 Remembrance Day message states clearly, the President’s ... view of that history has not changed,” he said. “Our interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts.”
There were also personal issues for Obama to deal with while taking a position on the issue this year. As a senator, he vigorously supported the previous Armenian resolutions and accused former President Bush very harshly in the past for working to stop the resolution. As president, he now finds himself in such a position from which there is no easy exit strategy. In addition, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also supported similar bills in the past and Congress is dominated by a Democratic majority. Obama hid behind this quietness and “did not move his little finger,” as one Turkish deputy stated.
Where to go from here is the question. There are several factors to watch now. Turkey lists three obstacles for not stepping forward to ratify the protocols, the third one just added a day ago: 1) Armenia’s unwillingness to take any positive action in regard to Nagorno-Karabakh. 2) The Armenian constitutional court’s preambles to its decision, which Turkey sees as changing the spirit of the protocols. 3) With Thursday’s vote, the head of the Turkish delegation, Murat Mercan, also added another obstacle, and it is for Obama to stop the “genocide” bill from coming to the House floor.
Armenia now, amid a victory after the Thursday voting, sees no reason to make any concessions on any of these issues. Armenia’s responses to Turkey’s claims are as follows: 1) The Nagorno-Karabakh issue is not a pre-condition for the protocols, therefore it is not linked to the ratification process. 2) Armenia, amid the U.S. and other countries’ backing, vows that its constitutional court’s decision is in conformity with the protocols, therefore the decision is a positive step for the normalization. In addition, according the constitution of Armenia, the court’s decisions are final and irreversible, so Armenia simply claims that there is nothing it can do about this decision now.
3) On top of all these discrepancies, the Armenian officials, starting with the Armenian ambassador to Washington, who was present at the committee vote in Congress, and others from the Armenian administration, welcome the passage’s move to the full House, thinking they already possess unbending supporters of the Armenian diaspora cause, such as Nancy Pelosi and Majority leader Steny Hoyer, to name just two.
Amid an already irate Turkish public and administration, expecting any kind of positive step from the Turkish administration at this stage is similar to daydreaming. And likewise the Armenians, who see now recognition of the “genocide” by the U.S. House of Representatives within their reach, will not play nicely either.
So what is left for us while moving forward? What we will see in the coming days is probably a game of chicken. Turkey will harden its rhetoric and take more retaliatory steps, while the American side will calculate that it can use the resolution in the House to put more pressure on Turkey and hope that Turkey give in to move forward with the normalization process, while being full aware how important it is for Turkey to stop the resolution.
We might need to fasten our seatbelts while getting into this turbulence. How and when this turbulence might end, nobody can predict now, not even the administrations in Washington, Ankara and Yerevan, but we hope it will not spin out of control.
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Guest - Nshan (2010-03-08 05:47:43) :
@umit. First of all I’d like to tell you that I really appreciate the polite tone of your comments. We might have different views on many subjects but still we need to have communication in a civilized manner. When I say that Turkey’s threats against the US are only a balloon I mean that there is a big difference between what one says and what he does. Only time will show if Turkey will have enough courage to go beyond her words. Please don’t forget that whatever Turkey achieved was mostly done by American help whether it is financial, political or economical. As to military bases, mineral resources, etc. please remember that bases usually are not on month to month leases and one party can’t unilaterally close them. And I don’t think that Turkey donates any mineral resource to the US for free. Regarding F16s please be more serious. They might be ASSEMBLED in Turkey because of cheap labor but the US is not naïve to pass high-tech secrets to countries like Turkey who refused passage of American forces via her soil into Iraq in 2003. My friend, I don’t have any intention to hurt your national feelings, but you need to understand that your country will not be allowed to become more than a power in a REGIONAL level. Every time when you try to jump higher than your height you will be reminded about Armenian Genocide, Assyrian Genocide, Pontiac Greek Genocide, Kurdish issue, Alevi issue. The list goes on and on. Crying every time that you did not do it is not an answer. By the way, I personally don’t hate Turks. I just want them to acknowledge that big injustice was done by them towards my people in 1915. The current generation can not be responsible for actions of its predecessors if he recognizes and courageously condemns the wrongs that have been done by them like Germans did. Only then you will get that credit that you ask. Status quo can’t go forever. Something must be done. 

Guest - Umit (2010-03-07 22:05:01) :
I forgot this also, What about the genocides of Chechnya, Dagestan? What about the genocide the bosnian genocide, please people tell me what was happening at the time of the genocide in washington? Bill Clinton was having whisky with Karadic! doesn't that answer it all? How different is it from today? in various parts of the world people are being slaughtered and politicians continue their pleasantries! i.e Israel! The US said we did a genocide against the armenians, i ask you all did anyone read the exodus law enver pasha brought out? there was a war where Russia, England, France, Australia, Greece, New Zealand all attacked us at same time not to mention the Arabs in Yemen and Africans and indians that were manipulated by UK all attacked us at same time, Armenian and pontiac greeks of North east Turkey were plotting to join the ranks of the coming russians, so the empire thought it best to move these potential armies to the south were they could be a neutral threat, on the way many died of starvation, but please reffer to our turkish troops on the front line they were hungry and malnutritioned too, as all they ate if they could were onions, and bread if that! so how do you expect some people not to die from hunger? even turks did and we are sorry for that but again blame the west that attacked us at same time! What we did was no different than what the USA did in WW2 with the Japanese people living there by moving them into detention camps - to neutralise the threat! Also whether directly or indirectly shouldn't the attacking nations also be responsible, as had they have not attacked nothing would have happened! Also another point to mention, what about Churchill and Rothschild? they plotted together Rothschild the funder to the UK of this war to guarantee the right to palestine, isn't this also a genocide? Wikipedia says genocide is: Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. well in 1914 the Ottoman empire was attacked by the west to bring about the end of a nation of empire - Ottomans, with it they demanded from Ataturk that the caliphate be abolished or more war would follow, but don't this go against the genocide rules again? as since then a islamic leader as never been established again! So you see again the west is to blame! also the situation in Iraq and afghanistan, isn't they too genocide by the above criteria? as they not only killed many people but have and are bringing the deliberate destruction of a nation and its establishment as can be seen witht he defacto northern Iraq organisation and forceful exodus of Turkmens from area! they have set up a government with a forced system of democracy, in a Islamic nation with 89% muslims they dictate that the new republic will not have islamic values! again isnt this genocide? the fact that they attacked Afghanistan and Iraq with the view of enforcing democracy a type of oppression? I leave the thoughts to you the readers, but think please, the actions of the US - doesn't it resemble the holy roman empires actions??? I came, i saw, i conquered! they take what they want and no one says anything - and they criticise us now?? 

Guest - Umit (2010-03-07 21:36:33) :
People tell me please, Who here thinks that this so called genocide claim is no one's business but historians and politicians of relevant countries? All we see France says this, US says this, etc etc well what about us reversing the roles a little? Why dont we question France's role in rwanda genocide? or US against the genocide they did against native indians? or perhaps get recognition for Hiroshima as a genocide as people today in that region still suffer! What about the English role in Australia and New zealand? or how about spains exodus of Jews? or lets go back further, what about the genocide done against Muslims in Jerusalem by the german knights in the crusades? Why not talk about the Greece's role in the Cyprus attempted genocide? My point is why is it that when none of these are spoken of, nor a whisper of these - the world occupies themselves with Turkey done this etc and the funny thing is these people (politicians) they dont even know a thing regarding history! While in the world now, there are genocides in progress like i.e Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq etc none of these are being stopped and brought to justice instead we talk of what gains corrupt nations politicians! This is why i have always said and will always say THERE WAS NO GENOCIDE - put me in jail! oh wait isn't that against my basic human rights? but it happens all over these corrupt nations stating genocide took place! In the US a poll showed that all muslims should wear a seperate muslim ID badge on clothes, can we not see that this too is a gateway to genocide later in future? GET A GRIP!!! 

Guest - sam (2010-03-07 20:26:45) :
Almost equal number of Germans died in ww2. I wonder why Germans got the Nuremberg trial for the Jews?

Guest - wolf (2010-03-07 19:50:54) :
@ (2010-03-07 18:04:15). You wrote: "What this decision creates is more hatred to the USA and more hatred towards against Armenians." I would say that we should act like a mature and balanced country and it is up to US to determine how WE react and respond. Hatred is a very unhealthy feeling and something we should avoid. It does not make anything better to hate.................and the only ones who can decide on that is, as I said, we. 

Guest - IRFAN (2010-03-07 18:27:47) :
When things are done behind close doors then people will talk and thats the problem. We do not know our own history and how a we have been manipulated by a small but large player, in middle east affairs. YES, we were let down by the Arabs during WW1 but it was as result of the lies propagated by those that wanted a state, at all costs. Even if it meant true genocide of the indigenous people that sold us out , and how the YOUNG Turks manipulated the ottoman empire by having key personal in the most strategic positions of the ottoman government. The funny thing is just as the Jews manipulated the ottoman empire ,today they also manipulate American foreign policy irrespective of who is in office. I thing the best thing we can do is have a true investigation of all of the events that led to this so called incident and what orders were given when and to who and who and why they were executed in a certain fashion. If we have a true investigation then these so called discrepancies will start to emerge and again we will see the same hand at play that is at play to day who even has the audacity to bug our own government and manipulate out domestic and foreign policy.. THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE………….. 

Guest - Roger (2010-03-07 18:10:59) :
Why are we wasting our time on this issue? Nearly 100 years ago. Every eye witness is dead. Will the great-great-great grandchilden still fight the war over and over again? Move on American Armenians. 

Guest - Kemal (2010-03-07 18:04:15) :
What this decision creates is more hatred to the USA and more hatred towards against Armenians . US and EU are playing a very dangerous game with country of Turkey , as usual USA and EU under estimates Turkish people what they are capable of achieving. just look at past thirty years US policy in middle east , They spend how many billions of dollars in this region and still they are chasing their own tails , They made a mass of every country in the region with their dirty politics than they try to mop up there mistakes helping to create a new governments. The sad part is the USA plays both ways in this part of the world over and over again so many families lost many members in past decades because of the US government's wrong choices of supporting governments in this region but no one is somehow accountable for all these deaths past thirty years , apparently these deaths not important to American politicians and the president of the USA . 

Guest - umit (2010-03-07 15:45:03) :
@nshan My friend Turkey's threat at USA is a balloon you said, may i please remind you of the several military bases that the US use in Turkey to move troops, and if Turkey were to tell them to withdraw all their bases the US war against Iraq, Afghanistan will cost more, which amidst a recession is not good. Secondly, Nasa use Bor and it is mainly found in Turkey, what would happen to Nasa's progress in space if Turkey cuts all of its Bor resources to them? Also let us not forget shall we that the majority of f16 fighter jets that US use are built in Turkey, amidst their many wars this might hurt them as other countries produce these more expensive! Also you forget that in the US, Iraq withdrawel the plans are for Turkey to oversee the regions peace, what would happen if Turkey says i will not assist you, they will need to then stay and in doing so spend more money! Another thing for you to consider my dear friend, USA is among the most hated nations on earth, amidst all of the muslim world that hate the US, can the US really afford to gain a new powerful Turkey as an enemy that will work with the other nations like korea etc??? You dont give enough credit to Turkey's stance in this world, a recent CIA agent reported that Turkey is gaining such power and influence that in 20 years it will have the same levels of influence and power as it once had in Ottoman empire over its old regions it controlled, please do the maths? I leave you with one last thought for you to consider, can the US (a declining power) really afford for the strategic gateway to west and east, to work and become greater allies with either Russia or China and do everything in Turkeys power to make life hard for the USA like i.e cut US ships and planes using turkish space, and with the backing of Russia, china etc it would be harder for the US to further intimidate Turkey. And also answer please what will happen in the US bid to attack Iran later in future if Turkey back Iran like Russia do? no offense but the US can't fight the afghani's successfully let alone taking on a united strength like mentioned above! The USA has much more to lose than Turkey my friend, its time you gave Turkey the credit we deserve! 

Guest - sam (2010-03-07 12:38:07) :
Christoph ... you couldnt be more wrong ! you are discussing issues in Turkey true or false, Turkish - Kurdish - Arab - Israeli - Greek - Armenian etc etc FREELY yes FREELY !!! if Armenia has nothing to hide why would they not accept a UN sponsored Historian committee to find the truth as Turkey has always insisted ? WHAT HAVE TO LOSE ? MAYBE FINDING THE TRUTH ? face it ARMENIAN DIASPORA WOULD RATHER PLAY POLITICS TO HIDE THE TRUTH !!! 

Guest - bud white (2010-03-07 11:28:31) :
@ katie can you please tell me whre are you from? so that ı can understand you are not from one of a few country thats lookıng forward to see turkey on her knees we are human and make mıstakes that correct but nobody can ask us to accept of crıme we dıd not commıt you say world is watchıng well world is watchıng you are correct they watched pals lıke ın ruanda they dıd ın algerıa and in bosnia and now ask them if they remember the real crımes let alone a made up genocide 

Guest - Christoph (2010-03-06 23:11:44) :
If Turkey did nothing wrong against Armenians in 1915 than why is it against the law to even DISCUSS this event in history within Turkey? Turkey acts like it has a lot to be afraid of by openly discussing this item. Confident nations don't make historical discussion against the law. Turks act like they have something to hide, and when that happens nations usually do. 

Guest - Nshan (2010-03-06 22:21:47) :
It might sound paradoxical but the Erdogan's government has to choose between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Either Turkish parliament ratifies the protocols and stands with the US or faces consequences. If Mr. Erdogan believes that he is able to keep his promise to Aliev why he thinks that Mr. Obama will break his promise to American citizens? Turkish threats against the US are nothing but a balloon filled with air. 

Guest - Emir Soler (2010-03-06 21:43:45) :
Katie@ Vote in US senate to decide history which took place 100 years ago? Would you accept guild, if you are not guilty party? How would you like to be treated like Nazi’s? Mass killings did take place; it was a war after all 3 million Turks lost their lives. Let me tell you another thing. ONE extra vote in US senate, can change the history? I am not surprise Americans like soap opera, that’s what the vote was in senate. About time history should be left to the historians not crook politicians. 

Guest - guest (2010-03-06 18:17:45) :
This resolution passing may be the best thing possible for Turkey. It will see that the sun comes up the next day, the world's perception of it has not changed, and the nation can free itself to deal with larger issues. ... Or it can descend into recriminations about which side to blame for the vote. 

Guest - greywolf (2010-03-06 12:23:53) :
do you know i read all this stuff written by people that are turkish bashers and perthetic nonsense. you are either kurds, or westerners that have answered. the americans voted this way because of the power of the armenian dispora and the money they contribute to the american administration? we continue to ask WHERE IS THE PROOF this ever happened nobody is denying thousands of armenians died but thousands of turks were killed as well, but the armenians were traitors, back stabbers and thought by helping the russians they would get a big slice of turkey , how wrong they were how did you expect the turks to behalve, they were fighting for their survival. If genocide was commited and 1.5 million armenians were systematically and premeditatedly killed then what was this removal of them from their alleged lands and what are all the armenians doing in america and all over the world, either the alleged genocide was crap or the turks were very inufficient in finishing the job, what do you think? this is a total lie from the armenians to try and bad mouth turkey because of old enemies it is also the same with the greeks they are the same anything that bad mouths turkey. Shame on you lot that decide with no proof and because turkey is a muslim country, shame on you all . SHOW THE PROOF AND I AM SURE TURKEY WILL APPOLOGISE FOR THE OTTOMAN GOVERNMENT> 

Guest - katie (2010-03-06 10:29:54) :
If only Turkey would stop being so tetchy, admit,accept,regret. End of ! Making all this fuss only goes to show the flaws in their psyche. Turks are human ... aren't they ? This means they make mistakes... don't they ? So ? They should also remember the world is watching, other countries have apologised for their misdemeanors why can't Turkey do the same ? 

Guest - sam (2010-03-06 09:41:32) :
Nice + balanced article ... what can Turkey do ? lets start by doing what the US does,,, start beating drums uniformly around the nation. then correctly and within Turkish and International law find how many illegal Armenians are living in Turkey, then round them up and send them to Guatemala type institution after all they are Christian and possible ASALA members. detain them by putting a sack over their heads and cable ties to their wrist, waterbard them (since this is not illegal) then maybe deport them by dumping them over the border. IS THIS OK WITH USA ? then maybe support splinter groups by training and arming them and creating another 'bay of pigs' type incident... is this democracy ??? 

Guest - Orhan Kucukoglu (2010-03-06 08:51:15) :
So what is left for us while moving forward? the problem is that Armenia is moving forward and Turkey or (chicken) walking backward,they shall never meet this way. 

Guest - Murat (2010-03-06 07:22:15) :
Obama now has one more leverage left, and I think that was the calculation. Passage through the committee puts pressure on Turkey and signals the disappointment over Turkey's making a 180 degrees on the protocols. Turkey will need to give Obama administration some reason to vigorously work to prevent passege through the congress, reversing all their positions on the campaign trail a second time. Turkey needs to take a deep breath and sign the protocls and be the adult in this theater. This annual circus needs to be stopped. So-called direct lobbying by Turkish politicians in DC is seen nothing more than bullying and ugly threats. It is very crude and unseemly. It costs a lot more than all resolutions combined. It is time to let this fade without the usual emotionl reactions. Nothing will change, truth will remain true. It just feeds the frenzy and loses friends. 

Guest - George (2010-03-06 07:19:23) :
The Author is right the reason it get through was because the jewish lobby did not back it. Erdogan's constant criticism of Isarel has changed things around for most Jews. At the end of the day the Armenian Genocide resolution is non binding. Canada,Russia,France,Germany,Italy have recognised it and Turkey still trades with these countries. 

Guest - James (2010-03-06 01:08:09) :
Turkey must right the wrongs of ITS past. 

Guest - Sanjay (2010-03-06 00:29:17) :
The sole reason the vote was close was due to those in the US Congress who actually believe the reconciliation process will achieve a result. They will soon see the futility in this and their votes will change. That ship sailed the day after the documents were signed and Turkey mischievously tried to add the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict to the protocols.They recognize that Turkey has been trying to bully its smaller neighbor. The US loses nothing, in fact can breathe a sigh of relief if delegations from Ankara are not sent; its not much of a threat at all. And by "spinning out of control" do you mean Turkey will commit another genocide because they are angered by the recognition of the former one? 

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