Why House resolution 252 should be strenuously opposed PDF Print E-mail

Next Friday, March 4th, is a pivotal day in US-Turkish relations. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider House Resolution 252, the so-called "Armenian Genocide Resolution" which calls upon the President to “accurately characterize” the historical events in Armenia “as genocide”.

What is wrong with this resolution:
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House Resolution 252 - A Major Step Backward in US TURKISH Relations PDF Print E-mail

It is February, and time once again for the endless replay of the drama over the attempt by certain US legislators to introduce a resolution in Congress which, among other things, calls upon the President to “accurately characterize” the historical events in Armenia “as genocide”. On March 4th, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider House Resolution 252.

Such a resolution does not have the force of law. The US Congress’ own website describes the type of resolution being promoted (a simple resolution) as follows: “Simple resolutions do not require the approval of the other house nor the signature of the President, and they do not have the force of law.”

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Showing of Film “Desperate Hours” Highlights the Heroism of Turkish Diplomats PDF Print E-mail

On Sunday evening, January 17th, the film “Desperate Hours” was shown to a large group of attendees at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan. The program was organized by Mark Meirowitz. We were privileged to have present at the event the distinguished filmmaker Victoria Barrett, Turkey’s Deputy Consul General Başar Sen, Rabbi Nissim Elnacave, as well as Turkishny.com’s Ridvan Sezer and Ali Cinar. With Ms. Barrett was her husband, Tom Barrett.

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Türkiye Nereye Gidiyor? Where is Turkey Headed? PDF Print E-mail

 

A recent article in the New York Times spoke about the trend in Turkey towards “Ottomania” (“Weary of Modern Frictions, Turks Glory in Splendor of Ottoman Past”, New York Times, December 5, 2009), the “harking back to an era marked by conquest and cultural splendor during which sultans ruled an empire stretching from the Balkans to the Indian Ocean”. The New York Times article explained that the reason for this was based on Turks’ frustration at not being accepted into the EU, and also nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire “as a way to challenge the pro-Western elite that emerged during Atatürk’s rule, and to help Turkey to forge a national identity as an aspiring regional leader.” The article also described advertising promotions in Turkey around the Ottoman theme, television docudramas dealing with the Ottoman period and young people in dance clubs wearing T-shirts with the slogan “The Empire Strikes Back”.

Is this a good direction for Turkey? The fact is that it is Turkey’s fascinating Ottoman history that attracts millions of tourists to Turkey. It isn’t surprising that Topkapi Sarayi (Topkapi Palace), the residence where the sultans resided for 400 years, is a major tourist magnet – it is just amazing (the New York Times article comments: “The sultans hold a place in the popular consciousness like Douglas MacArthur or General Patton have for Americans”). Turkey’s history is truly absorbing, so looking back with pride is a very good thing.

If, however, the purpose of this nostalgia is, as the New York Times also suggests as a possibility, to reorient Turkey’s foreign policy toward the east, to a sort of “Neo-Ottoman” renaissance, then I would suggest that these developments require a great deal of thought and attention. To my view, Turkey must look forward to the great future that lies ahead (including, hopefully, EU membership), and not overly dwell on the past as some sort of guidepost to a new political direction.

Prime Minister Erdoğan visited Washington recently (in December 2009) and the results were somewhat mixed. Besides a diplomatic snafu in which the Turkish Ambassador to the US resigned, US-Turkish relations seem to be (or are perceived to be by many commentators and political analysts) in a state of flux and transition.

Rather than the “model partnership” envisioned by President Obama, or the “golden era ahead in cooperation” described by Foreign Minister Davutoğlu. the U.S. and Turkey may be diverging in their approaches on major policy issues.

For example, on Afghanistan, Turkey did not provide President Obama with an additional troop commitment in Afghanistan. Turkey has not supported US calls for sanctions against Iran in connection with its apparent nuclearization. There was even a recent report that the Iranian foreign minister said that Turkey could be a venue for Tehran to exchange nuclear material with the West; however, does Turkey want to place itself in this position and have this awesome responsibility? This is fraught with risks for Turkey.

Turkey’s relations with Syria are markedly improving, and Syria and Turkey have just signed 50 important bilateral economic and security agreements. The relationship with Israel is very uncertain. The implementation of the Turkey-Armenia protocols may be in jeopardy because of Turkey’s linkage of this issue with the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the protocols still require approval by the Turkish and Armenian Parliaments. If these protocols are not approved, among other consequences, the forces behind the Armenian Genocide resolution in the US Congress will be emboldened (at present, these groups may have been temporarily suppressed based on the argument that the passage of the Genocide Resolution would endanger the implementation of the Turkey-Armenia protocols). The Cyprus conflict is far from solved.

President Obama has stated: “Turkey is a great country.  It is growing in influence around the world.  And I am pleased that America can call Turkey a friend”. From the Truman Doctrine through the Cold War and through the present, the US has counted on Turkey as a stalwart ally and supporter.

At this point, to quote Robert Frost (in the famous poem,“The Road Not Taken”), “two roads diverged in a wood”, and Turkey needs to choose its future direction very carefully, since the direction it chooses will make “all the difference” and that difference will affect Turkey regionally and globally.

Originally appeared on www.turkishny.com on December 29th 2009
 
My First Time in Turkey – İlk Defa! PDF Print E-mail

Having studied Turkish for over a year, I have always felt a strong connection to Turkey and its culture. I finally made the trip there in August and it was extraordinary. I’d like to share some of my impressions and insights. My wife and I recently visited Turkey but we were only in İstanbul (sadece İstanbul’da).

Professor Stephen Kinzer in his book Crescent and Star – Turkey Between Two Worlds observes that Turkey is very much like Rakı, the popular drink which is clear when first poured, but when water is added, as is the fashion, it becomes cloudy. Turkey is mystical and magical, a country full of excitement and many contradictions. Even now, as I think of Turkey, its beauty and the warmth and the hospitality of its people, Turkey draws and beckons me back in my thoughts and hopes that this will be the first of many trips to this amazing country.

 

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