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ARMENIAN ISSUE EXPECTED TO STYMIE TURKISH-US TIES IN 2007

Semih İDİZ
08 January 2007 - Turkish Daily News
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!Þà0="justify">2007 is set to be another year when Turkish-U.S. ties go on a rollercoaster ride. In line with the mood in Washington -- and not least because it features as one of the key recommendations in the Baker-Hamilton report -- it appears that there will be more consultations with Ankara over the Iraq question. The desire by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush not to appear dismissive of that report may even lead to even deeper consultations with Turkey on this issue than assumed, as the administration tries to show it is `consulting Iraq's neighbors more' while avoiding dialogue with Iran and Syria. Put another way, Turkey could become the proxy by means of which Washington talks to Iran and Syria on strategic issues relating to Iraq. This is good for Ankara, of course, seeing as the Turkish side has from the beginning bemoaned the lack of substantive consultations on Iraq, only to feel vindicated in the end with the growing chaos and anarchy there. It is also clear that such consultations will contribute to helping bilateral ties out of the doldrums they are presently in, despite the brave face officials on both sides are trying to put on them. But a shadow has already loomed that indicates these ties may in fact be heading for greater turbulence rather than improving. The victory by the Democrats in the recent Congressional elections, combined with the fact that Nancy Pelosi, a committed supporter of the Armenian cause, has become speaker of the house, appear to signal a crisis as early as the first quarter of the new year. Put simply, Armenian Americans and their supporters in the U.S. Congress believe they have the best chance in a decade for having a commemorative Armenian genocide resolution passed in the House of Representatives this year. There is no indication that Pelosi has backpedaled on her commitment to the Armenian cause, either. If she does this time, however, it will signal a major blow to Armenian American efforts since it will signify that `raison d'état' in the United States will always ensure that such a resolution is not passed. Pelosi will clearly not want to be the person that underlines this fact, so it is more likely that she will do all in her power to facilitate such a resolution, when it comes before her, as it no doubt will, rather than stall it. But she too has her difficulties. The Democrats owe much of their latest electoral victory to their position on Iraq. That position is not too far from what the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton report recommends. Among these recommendations is closer cooperation with `regional allies,' the most important being Turkey, of course. She will be faced with the serious question of how to deal with the Armenian issue -- to which she has apparently been committed for at least 20 years -- on the one hand, while keeping Turkey engaged with the United States in a positive manner that serves her country's global -- and not her local -- political interests on the other. The number of people in Washington, and especially in Congress, who believe that they owe nothing to Turkey after the way it let the United States down over Iraq is said to be increasing. This alone makes it more likely that Pelosi will not want to squander the `best chance in a decade' to have the Armenian resolution passed. But others say there are highly respectable Democrats such as Richard Holbrook and Strobe Talbott -- to name just two -- who take a broader view of world affairs and clearly see Turkey's lasting importance for U.S. interests, who will advise her against this.  If I am not mistaken it was the American historian Stephen Ambrose who said of politics in his country that `it is not the man that makes the office, but the office that makes the man.'     Put another way, whatever you may have blown off during your election campaign, when you win and sit in that seat of power you see things differently. Well, it is not a man but a woman who has taken the seat this time, and it should not take long to see whether it is the `office that makes her' or vice versa.

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