Genocide vote harms US-Turkey ties

Stephen Kinzer writes:

For the US house of representatives foreign affairs committee to decide that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 constituted genocide, as it did Thursday by a one-vote margin, would be acceptable and even praiseworthy if it were part of a serious historical effort to review all the great atrocities of modern history. But the singling out of Turks for censure, among all the killers of the 20th century, is something quite different. This vote was a triumph of emotion, a victory for ethnic lobbying, and another example of the age-old American impulse to play moral arbiter for the world.

Turkey recalled its ambassador in Washington immediately after the vote, which was broadcast live on Turkish television. The resolution now goes to the full House of Representatives. Given the pull of moneyed politics, and President Obama’s unwillingness or inability to bring Congress to heel on this issue, as Presidents Bush and Clinton did, it could pass. That would provoke much anger in Turkey, and might weaken the US-Turkish relationship at the precise moment when the US needs to strengthen it.

In the past few years, Turkey has taken on a new and assertive role in the Middle East and beyond. Turkey can go places, talk to factions, and make deals that the US cannot. Yet it remains fundamentally aligned with western values and strategic goals. No other country is better equipped to help the US navigate through the region’s treacherous deserts, steppes and mountains.

Before the resolution was passed, Philip Giraldi wrote:

Every year the resolution lives or dies based on a key but never openly verbalized question: what does Israel want? This year, Israel is somewhat chagrined by Turkish refusal to see last year’s Gaza carnage as a measured response, but remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak would seem to indicate that Tel Aviv still values the relationship, unleashing AIPAC to make sure that each and every congressman votes the right way. Having received its instructions, the US Congress will likely genuflect and do as it is told, allowing the resolution to languish in committee just as it did last year.

Giraldi turns out to have been wrong about the outcome of the vote, but his assumption that Israel would make its preference known to members of Congress — especially under the leadership of Israel-loyalist Howard L. Berman — is surely well-founded. Might that suggest that Israel, convinced that the administration’s efforts to place sanctions on Iran are destined to go nowhere, is now intent on short-circuiting the process? Souring US-Turkish relations would be useful in serving that agenda.

Hmmm… On second thoughts, maybe in this instance these were not the dynamics at play. After all, if word had come down from AIPAC on which way the Congress members should vote, I can’t imagine it would have split so evenly – 23 to 22.

MJ Rosenberg, however, sees a clear Israeli hand at play here:

The Israelis are trying to teach the Turks a lesson. If the Armenian resolution passes both houses and goes into effect, it will not be out of some newfound compassion for the victims of the Armenian genocide and their descendants, but to send a message to Turkey: if you mess with Israel, its lobby will make Turkey pay a price in Washington.

And, just maybe, the United States will pay it too.

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