Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Resolution Saga Continues, Erdogan Points to "Jewish Lobby"

Prime Minister Erdogan said today that Ankara has no plans to send Turkish Ambasador to the United States Namik Tan back to Washington until it receives a clear signal that the resolution is dead. On Friday, the Obama Administration announced that it had reached a deal with American congressional leaders that would stop the resolution in its tracks. However, for Ankara, this is apparently not enough. Upon Tan's return this week, the government continued to issue strong rhetoric, for which there is no doubt a public demand. Fighting "genocide" resolutions is one of the few things that pulls otherwise polarized Turkish politicans together. Suat Kiniklioglu, the AKP's deputy chairman for external affairs, threatened major consequences" should the resolution pass the full United States House of Representatives.

Provocatively, the prime minister pointed his finger at Washington's Israel lobby. (Hurriyet Daily News refers to the Israel lobby as the "Jewish lobby," a term the prime minister also presumably used, but which is inaccurate.) Erdogan said the attitude of Israel lobbyists had changed. While this is indeed the case, it is not accurate to say the Israel lobby "supported" the resolution; rather, they did nothing to stop it, in some cases possibly giving a greenlight to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who otherwise might have voted against the resolution (see, for example, the positon of the Anti-Defamation League and the use of the resolution by AIPAC and other organizations to pressure Turkey on its position on Iran and Gaza). From Washington-based journalist Jim Lobe in the Asia Times:
In 2007, the Foreign Affairs committee approved a similar "genocide" resolution. However, it was never referred to the floor of the house due to intense opposition by the administration of president George W Bush backed by the powerful "Israel Lobby", which has frequently intervened in congress on Turkey’s behalf since the late 1980s when Ankara and Israel began building a strategic alliance.

But Israeli-Turkish ties have become increasingly strained in recent years, particularly since Israel's "Cast Lead" military campaign in Gaza, which Erdogan strongly denounced in a heated exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in late January last year, just days after the offensive had ended.

A number of subsequent incidents, most recently the apparently deliberate televised humiliation in January by Israel's deputy foreign minister of Ankara's ambassador in Tel Aviv, have added to the strains.

Indeed, some analysts in the US and in Turkey suggested that the resolution's passage was due as much to the Israel Lobby's failure to oppose it, as to the Obama administration's delay in coming out against it. Several key lawmakers who are considered close to the Lobby, notably Gary Ackerman, Brad Sherman and committee chair Howard Berman, spoke in favor of its approval.

"In the past, the pro-Israel community has lobbied hard against previous attempts to pass similar resolutions, citing warnings from Turkish officials that it could harm the alliance not only with the United States but with Israel ...," noted the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Friday.

"In the last year or so, however, officials of American pro-Israel groups have said that while they will not support new resolutions, they will no longer oppose them, citing Turkey's heightened rhetorical attacks on Israel and a flourishing of outright anti-Semitism the government has done little to stem," it asserted.
And, for a look at the victors of Thursday's vote, see Omer Taspinar's column in Today's Zaman. According to Taspinar, Armenian lobbyists (who want to stay in business) and Azerbaijan (which wants to see no rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia until Nagorno-Karabakh is settled) won significant points Thursday. With the protocols now dead in the water, the resolution is likely to keep coming up, and lobbyists will be there to push for and pull against it. Azerbaijan had already successfully appealed/threatened the Turkish government to tie Nagorno-Karabakh to ratification, and the deal is most certainly imperiled. I would also add Turkish ultra-nationalists and anti-American elements inside Turkey to the list of winners as both groups successfully used the resolution in appeals to their core groups. The Turkish government is claiming the resolution has greatly damaged ratification in Turkey.

For more talk in Washington, see former Ambassador to Turkey Mort Abramowitz's interview with the Center for American Progress' Middle East Progress, especially on the status of the protocols. According to Abramowitz, the Turkish government did not adequately prepare for Azeri opposition, instead hoping something would come from American and Russian efforts to settle Nagorno-Karabakh. For Abramowitz, the "real question is can the Turks move forward without doing something for the Azeris?" For my analysis of the Turkey-Armenia-Azerbaijan triangle, which the protocols should have done more to take into account from the beginning, see Jan. 24 post.

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