Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shifting factors for April 24 in Washington

April 24 is the date Armenians around the world commemorate the “Armenian genocide,” this year coincides with the Eastern Sunday, a Resurrection day in Christian faith.
Contrary to previous years, not many people, including Armenian-Americans, expect President Obama to use the word “genocide” in his Commemoration Day Statement this year. Primarily, there seems to be simply no compelling reason for Obama to change his mind and language following last 2 years. The Obama administration cited not to disturb the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia, which started 2 years ago on April 23, by jointly issuing a road map, as chief the reason for opposing any “genocide recognition” passage at the United States Congress and choosing to omit the same word from presidential statements.
Armenians in Los Angeles reflected their disappointment in Obama this week with some protests, when Obama launched his first major fundraiser in Southern California for the “Obama Victory Fund 2012.” During private conversations, some of Armenian-Americans diaspora leaders did not hide their anger with the Obama administration and some others publicly push Armenians to take on this matter with the Obama re-election campaign head-on in coming months during campaign stops.
It is certainly unclear whether calls for protests will make any dent on the Obama 2012 campaign, though a couple of other transformations also shifted the balance in Washington in favor of Turkish cause further and dimmed significantly much of the hopes of Armenian-Americans who want to see such Congressional passages or Presidential statements with accordance to their beliefs during Obama terms.
New Republican majority in the House of Representatives is one of these new shifts, a political alliance known with its traditional distance to the Armenian arguments over the issue. The Republicans still tend to view matters regarding Turkey from more of a national security perspective, regardless of their personal beliefs in the 1915 events. For instance, strong supporters of the Armenian cause in the last Congressional sessions, Nancy Pelosi, as the speaker of the House and Howard Berman as the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, have been replaced by Republican leaders John Boehner and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both known by their pro-Turkish stances in most issues.
 Latest revolts across the broader Middle East equally played an important role in terms of polishing Turkey’s strategic importance in Washington. Economically and politically stable Turkey transformed its image by pro-active foreign policies in recent years, and became an ever-sought actor since the upheavals began. Whether Turkey has been using this historic opportunity fully and diligently to advance its regional leadership status is certainly another topic that should continue to be discussed. Though, level of relationship between the leaderships in Washington and Ankara unquestionably received an extra boost during the latest Arab Spring episode.
That is why it would be one of the last and extremely imaginative expectations from the US president, who day in and out deals with multidimensional political and economic metamorphoses occurring around the world along with monumental economic challenges in home, to infuriate Turkish leadership at this time. The US administration has been treating Turkey with extremely cautious and nuanced polices in other current affairs as well, such as in the face of policy differences on Libya or Iran.
In addition to all of that, this year, while no genocide recognition bill has introduced to the House floor so far (can happen anytime), two pro-Turkey resolutions introduced, one by co-chairs of the Turkey caucus on April 12, and second resolution praising Turkey's parliamentary democracy ahead of April 23, by mainly lobbying efforts of the Turkish Embassy.
Some of the Armenian-American community leaders and members confirmed that there is indeed a discussion started within their community this year to shift the genocide strategy dramatically to spend their energy pursuing the legal grounds rather than the political ones, which don't seem to be promising in coming legislative years. According to one Armenian-American leader, the reason for changing the ground is because “the genocide battle is already won by Armenians. It was won when President Reagan issued a statement recognizing it in 1981, when two other House resolutions in 1975 and 1984 passed and scores of other countries also recognized it. Therefore, these discussions are only arriving late, instead of taken place much earlier.” The World Court, or IJC, European Court of Human Rights and US federal courts were some of the options cited to me in one conversation as legal venues.
While Turkish arguments gain momentum in Washington, the genocide battle across the globe continues to cause much time and energy of the Turkish diplomacy. Just to give the latest two examples, this week Switzerland decided to erect an “Armenian genocide monument” in Geneva’s city center and Iran decided to show “Armin Wegner, the Armenian Genocide Photographer” documentary by Armenian film director Tigran Khzmalyan, for the first time. Of course the Turkish diplomats have spent time and energy to find creative ways to stop both actions.
Turkey’s pro-active diplomacy certainly helped Turkish arguments in Washington along with other political changes cited above. Though, Turkey has to show its real pro-active policy in the Caucasus region by revitalizing the normalization process if it wants to make a dramatic break for the better for both countries. While there is no reason for us to believe Ankara will move on the normalization process before the general elections of June 12th, the frozen political environment between Turkey and Armenia might get complicated even further if Erdoğan’s order to tear down the symbolic monument to Turkish-Armenian friendship in Kars is being undertaken, which ironically also corresponds to around April 24.
As I stated in an interview with the from Azeri media recently, the failed normalization process is a failure more for Turkey than for Armenia. Turkey obviously does not need better relations with Armenia for an economic sense. Turkey and Armenia, via Georgia, traded a quarter of a billion dollars in 2010, a small amount when comparing Turkey’s trade with only Northern Iraq, which amounted to $10 billion.
Nonetheless, Turkey needs to step forward to normalize relations with Armenia more of a moral obligation. With close to 75 million strong people and ten times the size of Armenia in terms of its accumulated wealth or economy, as if a big brother who made a much bigger fortune than his little brother since they fought and parted ways during the last century, Turkey has moral obligations to take the lead of healing relations with Armenia. Armenia, for its account, also needs Turkey's help to move towards a freer and wealthier future where it will be less dependent on Russia.
Otherwise, Turkey, whether it is winning the Washington political and diplomatic war or not, will always be met with a lot of suspicion and constant criticism in especially Western capitals, and therefore is seen as the more responsible party by the international community for the problematic relations with Armenia. Without reaching an understanding with Armenia, Turkey will never present itself as a truly peaceful state that is able to come to terms with its own history.
And as Turkey’s Caucasus policy perspective, even though multi-billion dollar energy projects, like Nabucco, can be realized without Armenia, in much the same way as Baku Tbilisi Ceyhan was in the past, and relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia have let Turkey become an influential player in the region already, without normalizing relations with Armenia, it will be very difficult to call it a success in whatever Turkey is trying to do in the region.

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Guest - Paul
2011-04-24 09:14:03
  " With close to 75 million strong people and ten times the size of Armenia in terms of its accumulated wealth or economy, as if a big brother who made a much bigger fortune than his little brother since they fought and parted ways during the last century, Turkey has moral obligations to take the lead of healing relations with Armenia." You bet Turkey has moral obligations, the first of which is to stop this ridiculous charade and finally admit that the Genocide happened. From there, the "big brother" can make financial amends to the poor "little brother", from whom he gained his wealth.  

Guest - Jack Kalpakian
2011-04-24 03:22:41
  No recognition means no reconciliation; continued blockades mean no reconciliation; continued suppression of our foundations mean no reconciliation. Just as your country imposed non-negotiable pre-conditions, get ready for ours. The pressure will continue and will not stop, either legally or politically. Your diplomats will continue to fight quixotic battles against global Armenian communities and your allies will begin to realize that any interaction with you is now litigation-bringing.  

Guest - Gavur
2011-04-23 22:04:20
  ""With close to 75 million strong people and ten times the size of Armenia in terms of its accumulated wealth or economy, as if a big brother who made a much bigger fortune than his little brother since they fought and parted ways during the last century,"" Full props to Mr. Tanir. That is one I haven't heard before...fought and parted Just wow.  

Guest - H.KEMAL
2011-04-23 00:29:52
  If these misguided people put as much effort into their mother country Armenia, as they do with the alleged "genocide". We would see a modern country, instead of a third world backwater. Who is dependent on mother Russia to guarantee it's security . Quite pathetic when you think about it, but i am willing to bet my last dollar, that the Armenians will use the coinciding dates to milk it for all it's worth .

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