NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Beware the principles of Congress

Worried Iraqi officials urge calm as Turkish-Kurdish conflict escalates

Turkish armed forces’ escalation of bombing and shelling in northern Iraq, along with threats of a broad ground incursion across the border, has alarmed and surprised Iraqi officials, who say the problems Turkey faces from rebel groups can be solved peacefully through diplomacy.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said officials in his government are preparing to get parliamentary approval for a cross-border military operation aimed at disrupting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a guerrilla group that operates on both sides of the border. [complete article]

Righteousness before realism

Imperial delusions die hard – and once again the US Congress is trying to legislate for the world. As most Turks see it, this week’s committee vote in the House of Representatives accusing Turkey of genocide against the Armenians in 1915-17 is an insulting, gratuitous interference in their sovereign affairs. As the 27 Democrats and Republicans who backed the bill see it, it is a matter of putting the world to rights, according to America’s lights.

Congress has a long history of extraterritorial meddling. It regularly slaps unilateral sanctions on “rogue” governments, and orders foreign businesses and individuals to obey its strictures, regardless of nationality. Its attempts to direct US foreign policy are resisted by the executive branch to varying degrees. On Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and Israel, White House and legislature mostly agree. On Turkey, like Iraq, they are at noisy loggerheads.

“We oppose the bill. We think it is a bad idea that will do nothing to improve Turkish-Armenian relations. It will not do anything to advance American interests,” Daniel Fried, assistant secretary for Eurasian affairs, told Turkish television this week. President Bush, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and defence secretary, Robert Gates, all chimed in. They even mobilised all former living US secretaries of state in joint opposition, but to no avail. It was a measure of the lame-duck president’s chronic weakness. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — It’s often said that politics is all about timing. Some members of Congress might think this is a perfect time to win a few Armenian-American votes. But really, in 2007 the United States Congress decides it’s time to recognize the Armenian genocide from 1915-17?

Turkey has just recalled its ambassador in protest, a billion dollars worth of Boeing defense contracts now hang in the balance, and while the US asks Turkey not to invade Iraq who in Ankara is now likely to listen?

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