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02 April 2007 - Turkish Daily News
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Are Turkish-US relations, which have survived 177 consecutive years without interruption, and have been put through the wringer once before with the Armenian diaspora, and twice by the Greek lobby, going to reach a breaking point a second time because of the Armenian Diaspora? I don’t think so.

Ãthe Armenian Diaspora? I don’t think so.

Though Americans first became acquainted with Turks in the late-18th century, the first official treaty was signed in 1830 and was based heavily on trade relations. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire the U.S. Senate vetoed the Lausanne Treaty, due in part to lobby pressure of the Armenian diaspora in the United States, creating the first political tempest between the two countries. However, as a result of U.S. business interests the bi-lateral Friendship & Trade Agreement ratified in 1927 put relations between the two nations back on the right track. 
  Turkish-U.S. relations began to magnify onto the military platform after World War II. However, in 1964, they turned chilly for a second time over the Cyprus issue. When the Greek Cypriots attempted to wipe the island clean of Turks, the latter responded with a move to intervene militarily on Cyprus, basing their actions on Article 4 of the 1960 Treat of Guarantee, which was signed by Turkey, Greece and England. As a consequence, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson sent Prime Minister ?nönü a letter on June 2, 1964, stating, “If Turkey makes a move requiring Soviet interference, the rest of NATO will not protect her.”


Good and bad times:

  After that, relations between the two countries reached a breaking point over the Cyprus Question again in 1974. As a consequence, once the Greek-Cypriots carried out a massacre on their Turkish counterparts, Turkey countered this time with a military intervention within the same Guarantor Treaty framework. The United States then stepped up to the plate with an arms embargo.

  Turkish-U.S. relations passed fairly uneventfully through the '80s and '90s, with Prime Minister Turgut Özal siding with the United States and switching off the Kirkuk-Yumurtal?k Pipeline at the start of the 1991 Gulf Crisis. The situation changed dramatically when Turkey declined its support in the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 1, 2003. Things hit rock bottom with the Suleymania Incident, i.e. the arrest of a group of Turkish soldiers by U.S. forces with the allegation that the former were planning assassinations on local Kurdish leaders.

  It is said that the Democrat Party, which grabbed a majority in both the U.S. House and the Senate during the past mid-term elections, might put the Bush Administration on trial for the wrong Iraq policy if they win the Presidential election in 2008.

  In this context, various media organizations are suggesting that Turkish-U.S. relations will go beyond critical mass and unravel completely on April 24, 2007 when the Armenian Genocide Bill is scheduled to pass in the United States

  I don't agree with these types of interpretations simply because of the following:


Iraq and the ‘genocide' bill:

  U.S. political history shows that even though there are severe differences in viewpoints between the Democrat and Republican parties regarding domestic policy, their foreign affairs are pretty much the same. In this context, populist sound bites propagated during the election campaign in the quest for votes are more or less tossed down the disposal after the election. This is due to the fact that the “Great Middle East Project” was drafted during the Democratic Clinton Administration.

  Consequently, for the United States to get through the self-induced Iraq Syndrome with the least amount of damage possible will depend entirely on how it mends its relations with the Muslim world. Though we can say the Cold War is a concept of the past, how the United States keeps Russia and China in check in the Middle East and the Caucasian region will depend mainly on how it decides to proceed with its alliance with Turkey.

  As for the Armenian Genocide Bill, one of the top domestic policy concerns in the United States is infighting amongst religious and ethnic groups comprising of its own citizens. If, in fact, presidents  accepts the claims regarding Armenian Genocide, which is not based on any court decision, on April 24, 2007 or in 2008, there may be more harm done to the social fabric in the United States than to Turkish-American relations. A hint of what I'm referring to occurred on September 16, 2005 at a House Foreign Relations Committee discussion panel on the Armenian Genocide Law Proposition. I had also participated in this meeting, whereas the first reaction came from an African-American Congressman, who exclaimed something to the effect of, “Go ahead and mess in other countries' affairs when you should be sweeping the porch of your own home, my fellow African-Americans have yet to receive an apology for what we were subject to for the past century or so.” In an era that is full of domestic problems, it doesn't appear possible that U.S. administrations are going to follow populist, risky policies.

  In short, are Turkish-U.S. relations, which have survived 177 consecutive years without interruption, and have been put through the wringer once before with the Armenian diaspora, and twice by the Greek lobby, are going to reach a breaking point a second time because of the Armenian Diaspora? I don't think so, but we have to wait and see.


  Nur?en Maz?c? is a professor of political science at the Marmara University of Istanbul. 

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