Yesterday the House Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Congress passed a measure condemning the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. Naturally a furor arose from the Turkish side, and now Turkey is threatening to put a stop to US military activities in there, such as transporting cargo to Iraq and ceasing flights out of the US military’s own base. The US government does not want to hurt the feelings of its “key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror,” according to President Bush. But no one acknowledges Turkey’s continued oppression of Kurds living in eastern Turkey as representing acts of terrorism, not to mention the murdering of Armenians speaking out against genocide of its own people in the country.
Anyway, the measure to officially condemn the Armenian Genocide will reach the floor of the House of Representatives by the end of the year, despite the fact that Washington is in an uproar. Turkish lobbying groups are just as strong if not stronger than Armenian ones it appears. They even managed to get a former Congressman Richard A. Gephardt, a previous supporter of such resolutions, on their side condemning such an initiative. Several people from virtually all living former and current Secretaries of State to the Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates are condemning the resolution, stating that “it is not the right time” to consider acknowledging the occurrence of genocide—you have to wonder when the right moment would be. The fear is that potentially severely strained relations with Turkey as a result of the passage of the resolution (H.Res. 106) will damage war efforts in Iraq, set back the war on terrorism, and so forth.
Personally I think that although once again Turkey is bullying the US to stop this act using their upper hand, even if the resolution is passed not much would change in terms of relations between the two nations. Turkey has opposed similar resolutions repeatedly (although I think a similar resolution was passed by Congress in the 1970s if memory serves), and they get away with it each time since the US relies on its military presence there. But if the resolution does pass this time around—the odds of that happening decreasing with each passing day—Turkey can’t do much. One significant reason being the fact that Turkey’s economy has had its fair share of ups and downs in recent history, and it wasn’t so long ago when the Turkish lira lost its value against the dollar (at one time 1,000,000 lira equaled $1.00). Each time Turkey’s economy tanked the US was there to save it from drowning. Although the Turkish economy is apparently booming at a fast rate no one can say how long it will continue before the US comes to the rescue once again. The Turkish leadership knows this but must do all it can to suppress such resolutions from being passed by governments around the world anyway. For instance, it threatened to sever economic ties with France, but even though the resolution was passed there overwhelmingly, trade suffered only temporarily before things went back more or less to normal. After all, business comes before politics.
Anyway, we’ll see what happens soon. For more information, see this New York Times article.