15 October 2006

1127) More 'genocide' woes awaiting Turkey in US


Armenian groups and their supporters may get closer to their objective of securing US recognition, one way or another, of the alleged Armenian genocide after the upcoming congressional elections next month

Turkey, frustrated by a French National Assembly vote this week to criminalize denial of the alleged genocide of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, may have a major headache on the same issue if the Democrats score a victory in the U.S. Congress in next month's elections.

Last Thursday's vote in the French parliament was a victory for Armenian groups and their supporters, but the top-prize country for the Armenians has always been and will always be the United States. And after next month's congressional elections, they may get closer to their objective to secure, one way or another, U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide.

President George W. Bush's administration, like earlier administrations, so far has consistently declined to use the g-word in official remarks in an effort to avoid alienating Turkey. But Congress has always been Turkey's weaker side.

With the Republican Party, which currently holds clear majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, in shambles, political analysts agree it is highly likely that the Democrats will win a majority in the House in November, for the first time since the 1994 elections.

A Democratic triumph in the House or the Senate will mean major problems for Turkey in its efforts to stop genocide recognition. In the event of a Democratic victory in the House, pro-Armenian lawmakers will definitely force legislation for genocide recognition shortly after the new Congress takes office in January.

U.S. Armenians accuse the Republican Bush of failing to keep his earlier pledge for genocide recognition and backed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a strong supporter of the Armenian cause in the Senate, in the 2004 elections.

A Democratic victory in US congressional elections next month will mean more 'Armenian genocide' trouble for Ankara

Armenian groups and their backers scored a victory in France by the latest lower parliament house vote making it a crime to deny what they call the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

But the top prize country for the Armenians has always been and will always be the United States; and after next month's congressional elections there, they may get closer to their objective to obtain one way or another U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide.

President George W. Bush's administration, like earlier administrations, so far has consistently declined to use the g-word in official remarks in an effort not to alienate Turkey. But Congress has always been Turkey's weaker side.

In the Senate in 1990 and in the House of Representatives in 2000, Armenian groups came very close to victory, but it did not happen. In the latter case, for instance, then President Bill Clinton at the last minute used his personal influence to avoid a House floor vote that would certainly have recognized the genocide.

U.S. presidents issue Armenian commemoration statements on each April 24, condemning the mass killings of Armenians in the final days of the Ottoman Empire early last century. Bush, for example, in his last such statement classified the Armenian killings as a tragedy, which fell well short of Armenian expectations.

U.S. Armenians accuse the Republican Bush of failing to keep his earlier pledge for genocide recognition, and backed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a strong supporter of the Armenian cause in the Senate, in the 2004 elections.

Less than one month before the Nov. 7 congressional elections, the Republican Party, which currently holds clear majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, is in shambles.

The failing war in Iraq, last year's hurricane Katrina and most recently a sex scandal involving a Republican lawmaker, have deeply hit Bush's party. Various recent opinion polls give the Democratics a lead between 13 percent and 23 percent for next month, enough to capture control of at least one chamber.

Political analysts agree it is highly likely that the Democrats in November will win a majority in the House for the first time since the 1994 elections.

For Turkey, normally, this should not be bad news. Ankara fears U.S. military strikes on its neighbor Iran in the event an ongoing diplomatic process fails to put an end to an ongoing international crisis over Tehran's nuclear program. A defeat for Republicans in next month's elections may make it harder for Bush to move toward such a radical war decision, some analysts believe.

However, a Democratic triumph in the House, or the Senate, will mean major problems for Turkey in its efforts to stop genocide recognition.

In the outgoing House, the International Relations Committee in September 2005 approved a resolution for genocide recognition, But House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a close Bush ally, has never allowed a full floor vote.

But if the Democrats win in November, it will be Nancy Pelosi, a staunch supporter of Armenian causes, who most probably will become the new speaker.

In the event of a Democratic victory in the House, pro-Armenian lawmakers will definitely force a new legislation for genocide recognition shortly after the new Congress takes office in January.

Tom Lantos, presently the ranking Democratic member on the House International Relations Committee, is the most likely lead the committee. His position is not predictable. Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, backed Turkey in 2000 but voted for the Armenian side last year, voicing deep disappointment over what he saw as anti-American Turkish policies in the Middle East.

In any case, a strongly supported genocide recognition resolution would easily pass the International Relations Committee hurdles, and reach the full House controlled by the pro-Armenian Pelosi, who in turn normally would be expected to favor a quick floor vote.

Analysts warn that Turkey is doomed to lose any vote on any platform, so the key would be to avoid voting. Would Bush, like Clinton did in 2000, intervene personally at the last minute again to avoid a floor vote? Or would the Democrats who hate Bush turn it into a major domestic policy showdown?

The answers are not clear at this point. The only certain thing is that Turkey will have a major headache on Armenian-related matters in the event of a Democratic victory in Congress.

ÜMİT ENGİNSOY
WASHINGTON - Turkish Daily News
October 15, 2006

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