03 June 2006

754) Armenian Lobby in the USA and the Struggle for the Treaty of Lausanne

In this article, the impacts of the Armenian Lobby in the US on Turkish -American diplomatic relations will be dealt with and some striking examples on the subject will be given. This article will show what kind of reactions in the US occurred to the Lausanne Treaty, what kind of slandering campaign conducted against Turkey and what kind of responses given to this within the US.

With the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923, Turkey’s foreign relations had become normal, establishing finally normal diplomatic relations with the countries which it had fought for years. At the beginning of 1925, there were Turkish ambassadors in charge in former enemy capital cities, such as London, Paris, Rome and Athens. The English, French, Italian and Greek ambassadors had also submitted their letters of credence to the President Mustafa Kemal and took their offices in Turkey.

There was only one country with which Turkey had not been able to establish normal diplomatic relations in 1925: United States of America. Diplomatic relations between Turkey and the US remained interrupted for ten years between 19 17-1927. The main reason for interruption was antagonistic campaign against the Turks conducted by the Armenian lobby and their supporters in the US. The US did not fight against Turkey and was not party to the S~vres Treaty. For this reason, it was not one of the parties of the peace treaty, signed between Turkey and Allied States in Lausanne on 24th July 1923. But, a Friendship and Commerce Treaty had been signed between Turkey and the US in Lausanne on 6th August 1923. Re-establishment of normal diplomatic relations between the two countries was suggested with this treaty. The US-Turkish Lausanne Friendship and Commerce Treaty is the theme of this paper, this must not be confused with the Lausanne Peace Treaty. The Lausanne Peace Treaty is a multilateral treaty, signed by eight countries. The Friendship and Commerce Treaty, signed in Lausanne is a bilateral treaty between the US and Turkey. Despite this, Friendship and Commerce Treaty was deemed as a part of Lausanne peace system. The Armenian lobby in the US had also aimed destroying the Lausanne peace system when they attacked the American Lausanne Treaty.

Two treaties had been signed with America on 6th August 1923. First one was Friendship and Commerce Treaty, and the second one was a treaty on extradition. The former is the most important one. The first article of this treaty was on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Turkey. The second article provided for the removal of all capitulations. Articles 3rd - 8th dealt with the conditions of corporations as well as settlement, residence and work permits of the Turkish and American nationals reciprocally. By article 9, the parties granted the “most favored nation” status to each other. The following seven articles were related with taxes, import, export duties and American ships’ passage rights through the Turkish Straits of the Bosporus and Dardanelles. Articles 17th - 27th put forward the duties and rights of the staff of the Consulates.

Turkish - American Lausanne Treaty was relatively short, consisting of only 32 articles. It did not include the various important scopes, such as boundaries and territorial disputes, military affairs, etc., which felt within the scope of the Lausanne Peace Treaty. The US was not interested in matters included in Lausanne Peace Treaty. Capitulations, interests of American education and aid organizations in Turkey, as well as freedom of passage from Turkish straits and commercial freedom were the most important issues for the US. Most of the demands of the US were accepted by the treaty. The rights given to the US in Turkey were not less than the rights submitted to the other countries. Countries like France, England and Italy accepted the removal of capitulations. It was not possible for Turkey to accept the continuation of capitulations given to the US. The US, too, accepted the total abandonment of capitulations.

The Armenian and Greek lobbies in the US had begun campaigning against the Turkish - American Treaty in Lausanne. A fresh and great antagonistic campaign started under the slogan of “No to Lausanne Treaty”. Those who conducted the “No to Lausanne Treaty” campaign, were against the abandonment of capitulations and Armenian demands. They argued that the treaty was dictated to the US, and the US would not recognize this. Turkey was not powerful enough to conduct a counter campaign. Since normal diplomatic relations were not established, there was not a Turkish Embassy, Turkish consulates or attaches in the US. There was no significant number of Turkish immigrants in the US or an important Turkish lobby beyond the Atlantic. The most powerful response against the “No to Lausanne Treaty” campaign came from the Americans themselves. They established the General Committee of American Institutions and Associations in Favor of Ratification of the Treaty with Turkey. One of the most interesting features in the “Yes to Lausanne Treaty” campaign was the complete backing by the American missionaries. Although the American missioners held the first-degree responsibility for the “Terrible Turk” image in the US and they provoked the Armenians against Turkey, they suddenly changed their anti-Turkish position and supported the US-Turkish Lausanne Treaty. The American missioners worried that their activities in Turkey would be interrupted if this treaty had not been approved by the US. The American Chambers of Commerce, which had business relations in Turkey, was among the leading defenders of the Lausanne Treaty. They prepared lengthy reports based on plentiful statistics and clearly explaining the interests of American businessmen in Turkey. They supported the immediate normalization of relations with Turkey for securing the US interests. The American businessmen worried mainly about two points: 1) Commercial volume of the US with Turkey was in a rapid decrease and other countries have been dominant in the Turkish market since normal relations had not been established. 2) In case the tension in Turkish-American relations continued, Turkey could react and take measures to limit the activities of American businessmen. The American Foreign Policy Association had established a committee for assessing the Lausanne Treaty, and this committee had prepared a report of considerable length. This interesting report, which was prepared by the professors of history, international law and international politics with the leadership of Edward Mead Earle, a History Professor of Columbia University, provided one of the strongest arguments in favor of the Lausanne Treaty. The report stated that the approval of the treaty would be not only in the interest of the US but also Near East nations, and people of the region, who had suffered a lot from the fighting for fifty years.

The negotiation on the Lausanne Treaty in the US, which began in 1923, had continued until the end of 1926. America was divided into two opponent camps. The governing Republican Party, State Department, Chambers of Commerce, and American missioners in Turkey defended the ratification of the treaty and establishment of normal relations with Turkey. The opposition Democratic Party, some parts of the Church, the Armenians and Greeks demanded the refusal of the treaty and they were against the establishment of diplomatic relations with Turkey. The Lausanne Treaty had become an issue of domestic politics. The Senate rejected the Lausanne Treaty on 18th January, 1927. The General Committee of American Institutions and Associations in Favor of Ratification of the Treaty with Turkey published a brochure bringing together the responses, and statements in the American press regarding the Senate’s decision. The examination of this brochure shows that only 17 American newspapers supported the decision taken by the Senate and 75 newspapers were against it. The American public opinion was in favor of the ratification of the treaty and they blamed the Senate, especially the Democrat senators. With the aim of preventing the reaction of Turkey to the Senate’s decision, Admiral Bristol was told to go to Ankara from Istanbul immediately. He told the Turkish authorities that the decision had been the result of quarrels of American politics, not reflecting the public and government opinion of the US. Negotiations between Dr. Tevfik Rü�tü (Aras), Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, and Admiral Bristol took three days. Finally, on 17th February 1927, after a ten-year period of interruption, a Modus Vivendi was reached for the re¬establishment of Turkish — American diplomatic relations. Thus, hindrance of the Senate was overcome. Personal relations of Admiral Bristol in Turkey and the Turkish understanding of the US position played a considerable role in the conclusion of the 1927 Modus Vivendi. Admiral Bristol mentioned that his close friendship with �smet Pa�a in Lausanne helped much to the materialization of the Modus Vivendi.

The Armenian lobby raised its voice to protest the terms of the 1927 Modus Vivendi. The Chief of the Armenian committee, Gerard-Karda�yan and other members of the Armenian lobby reacted against the agreement. Especially the decision on the re¬establishment of Turkish - American relations on ambassadorial level, and the appointment of Turkish Ambassador to Washington had exasperated the Armenian lobby. On 24th May 1927, Joseph C. Grew had been appointed as the Ambassador of the US to Ankara. The Ambassador Grew was the person who signed the Turkish - American Friendship and Commerce Treaty in Lausanne. Turkey appointed Ahmet Muhtar Bey to Washington as Ambassador. Ahmet Muhtar Bey was one of the most experienced and outstanding Turkish diplomats. He had experience over thirty years in diplomatic service. James W. Gerard, the chief of Armenian Committee saying no to Lausanne Treaty, launched a campaign against the Turkish Ambassador prior to his arrival in the US. Gerard was continuously inciting the American Press that:

“You can’t establish diplomatic relations with Turkey, the Senate had refused the Lausanne Treaty”. He argued that the Modus Vivendi challenged the Senate and it was against the Constitution. Gerard showed the Turkish Ambassador as a target for Armenian assassins. Ahmet Muhtar bey, who was the first ambassador appointed to the US by the Republic of Turkey, took office under this kind of circumstances. He probably escaped from an Armenian assassination by taking highly strict security measurements. Ambassador Ahmet Muhtar Bey stayed in Washington for seven years. These years were the years when the Turkish- American relations developed rapidly.

Retired Ambassador, Dr. Bilal N. ��M��R*
* Historian -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 3, September-October-November 2001

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