Are U.S.-Turkey Relations in Trouble?

After a resolution on genocide, the damage may already be done

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On Thursday we explored the politically controversial measure before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee to formally recognize as genocide the Turkish government's 1915 killing of up to a million Armenian civilians. The committee has since passed the measure, leading a furious Turkish government to recall its ambassador. The White House urged the committee not to proceed, and the entire House would have to approve the measure for it to become formal, which is unlikely. But is the diplomatic damage already done?

  • Who Wins Today  The Washington Note's Steve Clemons says it's the diaspora of Armenian refugees, who fled in masses during the genocide and many of whom arrived in the U.S. "It is difficult to fathom how today's developments will help Turkey and Armenia move forward. Rather, today's vote is the triumph of diaspora politics over serious foreign policy."
  • Stupid and Short-Sighted  The Wall Street Journal scoffs, "So much for the new era of U.S. appreciation for the sensitivities and cultural nuances of America's allies." They write, "Turkey is one of the few NATO allies that has substantially increased its troop presence in Afghanistan, and has responsibility for security in Kabul. Turkey also has an important influence over events in Iraq, which this weekend holds national elections that will affect the pace and ease of American withdrawal."
  • Bad For Everyone  The Guardian's Bulent Aras fumes, "The genocide bill simultaneously harms Turkish-Armenian normalisation and the intensified peace attempts to solve the Karabakh problem. It is for the benefit of the US, Turkey and Armenia to pursue constructive policies for the normalisation process."
  • Non-Recognition Has Consequences  The Weekly Standard's Philip Terzian dissents, "as a half-Armenian American with paternal family members who perished in the Genocide, permit me to make a few observations." While U.S. recognition is bad politics, "it must be acknowledged that the persistent Turkish attitude of denial, denigration, and outright misrepresentation about the systematic Ottoman massacre of Christian Armenians... has had the inevitable effect of infuriating Armenians and hardening their determination to force Turkey to come to terms with its historic past. The fact that governments which should know better--notably our own, and Israel's--have been willing to accede to Turkish threats and intimidation has only deepened the resolve of Armenians to force the issue."
  • Childishness On Both Sides  The New Atlanticist's James Joyner sighs, "It's difficult to gauge who's being sillier here: The Turks for being unable to admit that which has been obvious to everyone else for decades or the U.S. Congress for banging this drum every year over an incident that transpired nearly a century ago and that has zero bearing on the United States except that bringing it up alienates an important ally."
  • Israel Lobby At Work  That's Media Matters' MJ Rosenberg's theory. "That battle is now being carried to Washington. 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."
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