October 17, 2007

Resolution on 1915 Genocide - A Bad Idea

Several Armenian-American groups, with the surprising support of Jewish organizations, have pressured enough Congressional representatives and Senators into passing a non-binding resolution condemning Turkey's actions in 1915 against the Armenian community as genocide. While almost no one in their right mind questions the events of 1915, they should question the purpose and timing of this resolution.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was interviewed about this resolution on the weekend talk shows. He maintains that it is necessary to pass this resolution so that we do not have more genocide in the future. Perhaps they should be doing something constructive about ongoing problems – Darfur comes to mind. This appears to be a partisan political ploy to make things difficult for the Pentagon.

Anyone who has heard me comment on the Turks knows my views on Turkey. Turkey’s failure to honor a commitment to allow the United States to use Turkish territory to attack Iraqi forces from the north during the 2003 invasion caused weeks of delays getting necessary American troops into combat. The United States hoped to get forces into the Sunni triangle early on and neutralize the Sunni heartland. It was only after the Army's 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) was off-loaded and spread out on Turkish highways en route to northern Iraq that Turkey reneged on its promise to Secretary of State Colin Powell. That forced the Army to recall the entire division, re-load them onto ships and ferry them through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, around the Arabian Peninsula into the Persian Gulf, off-load them in Kuwait and move them overland into the battle from the south. These were not the actions of a reliable ally.

That said, Turkey remains an ally and is now supporting our efforts in the region. This resolution is a bad idea, and the timing is equally questionable. Why now? What is driving the urgency to pass a resolution that will not only jeopardize support from Turkey, but put at risk future support we (and others) may need.

There are several considerations Mr Hoyer and his colleagues should consider. First and foremost is American access to Turkish airspace and ports. This access directly supports our troops in Iraq. The use of the Turkish port at Iskenderun provides an alternate to the use of the ports of al-Basrah and Kuwait, which require convoys to pass through Shi’a areas of southern Iraq, which might be vulnerable to attack if there is an escalation in the current U.S.-Iran relationship from rhetoric to violence. Use of Turkish airspace shortens the air bridge distance from European bases into the region. Insulting a NATO ally also might cause loss of leverage in trying to prevent a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq to rout out PKK training camps.

The support of Jewish groups for the resolution is interesting. Perhaps these groups should consider that an insult to Turkey by Jewish groups could very well jeopardize Israeli access to Turkish airspace. That might be critical in the future if Israel decides it needs to conduct another strike on Syria or mount an operation against Iranian nuclear facilities.

So, again, Mr Hoyer, what’s the point?