Archive for the ‘Armenian’ Category

Turkey’s identity crisis

October 23, 2007

By Ralph Peters
USA Today
October 23, 2007 

The eastern quarter of Turkey isn’t Turkish. It’s inhabited by Kurds, the descendents of tribesmen whom the Greek soldier and author Xenophon encountered in those mountains 2,500 years ago — more than a thousand years before the first Turk arrived.

If a referendum on independence were held today, Turkey’s Kurds, who make up about 20% of its 73 million people, would vote overwhelmingly to secede from the shrunken empire Ankara inherited from the Ottomans. That’s part of what Turkish saber-rattling on the border with northern Iraq is about — the fear that even an autonomous Kurdistan-in-Iraq threatens Turkey’s territorial integrity because the region’s Kurds might view it as the core of a Kurdish state.

For its part, Washington fears a Turkish-Kurdish conflict that would further destabilize the entire region — just when Iraq shows glimmers of hope.

No regional government ruling over a Kurdish minority has ever allowed an honest head count, but estimates give the Kurds a population of 27 million to 36 million, spread across portions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the Caucasus. Up to 14 million of these people without a state reside in Turkey.

In addition to its determination to preserve its eastern frontier, Turkey faces internal political challenges that propel the huge Turkish military — with more than 500,000 active-duty troops — toward an intervention in northern Iraq.

The immediate justification for a parliament-authorized move across the border is Turkey’s allegation that the PKK (The Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a Marxist organization that has employed terror, continues to attack soldiers and civilians inside Turkey. The remnants of the defeated PKK, a few thousand men and their families, have taken refuge in Iraq. Turkey claims it wants them handed over — knowing such a course is politically impossible for any Kurdish leader.

PKK a weak threat

Ankara’s allegations suffer under scrutiny. One need have no sympathy for the PKK to recognize that the organization has been shattered by Turkey’s anti-terror campaign. Its aging members encamped in Iraq have begged asylum from their fellow Kurds (who find them an embarrassment). With pressure from all sides for Iraq’s Kurdish officials to “do something” about the rump PKK, the last thing most of its members intend is to give the Turks an excuse to cross the border.

Why attack now?

Because Turkey’s generals are desperate to revitalize their image at home. Humiliated by the repeated electoral successes of Turkey’s Islamist party the AKP, the army, which views itself as the defender of the secular state, has seen its stock decline in the political marketplace.

In the past, the Turkish military would have staged a coup. That remains a longer-term possibility, but there’s now a sense that popular support for military rule would not be as strong as in the past, when Turkey’s economy was moribund and terrorism haunted the streets of Istanbul. The military has been a victim of Turkey’s success.

The generals view a foray into Iraq as a double win — a body blow to Kurdish aspirations and a chance to rally Turks around the flag. Though an invasion would anger the United States, Ankara feels it has Washington over a barrel, given the United States’ need for access to Incirlik Air Base and the criticality of Turkish supply routes and airspace to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As for Europe’s reaction, the Turks believe it would amount to no more than a few white papers filed away in Brussels.

Over the years, I’ve personally found Turkish generals and diplomats irrational on two subjects: The Armenian genocide (as we saw again in the recent fuss about the House resolution) and the rights of Kurds anywhere to enjoy independence. These topics invariably ignite fiery lectures from Turkish officialdom: The mouths are open, but the ears are shut.

Turks face embarrassment

Yet, a potential problem that the Turkish military does not appear to have grasped is that a move into northern Iraq might not go as smoothly as the generals intend. Well-armed and determined, Iraq’s Kurds would resist any major invasion, and the mountainous region is ideal for defensive fighting. For all the on-paper strength of the Turkish military, it could suffer a significant embarrassment in Iraq.

A military disappointment — it needn’t be a debacle — in Iraqi Kurdistan would profoundly alter Turkey’s internal balance of power. The army has thrived on the perception of its invincibility.

A botched cross-border move would damage its all important image, further empowering the political Islamists, who’ve already subverted many of the laws and values the military inherited from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the father of modern Turkey).

Success would fail

On the other hand, should a Turkish military operation succeed, it could excite a land-grab mentality that could draw in Iran, further destabilizing the region. And a Turkish attack on Iraqi Kurdistan — a remarkably successful experiment in self-government — would incite waves of anti-Turkish terrorism, rather than reduce the terrorist threat.

For their parts, Iraq’s Kurdish leaders seek to build good relations with Ankara, by policing the PKK and granting concessionary terms to Turkish businessmen in the hope that shared profits will reveal shared interests. Nobody — not the PKK, other Kurds, the Iraqi government or the United States — wants to see a Turkish military adventure.

In the end, such an invasion wouldn’t really be about the future of the PKK — which has none — but the future of Turkey. Ankara’s military, pledged to defend the state that Ataturk built from the Ottoman ruins, could thoughtlessly hasten its deterioration and decline.

Ralph Peters is a member of USA TODAY’s board of contributors and the author of the recent book Wars of “Blood and Faith.”

The path to a better Middle East goes through Ankara

October 22, 2007

What Ms. Pelosi seems to have missed….

The Wall Street Journal
Saturday, October 20, 2007

Some day, we may look back on this week as a turning point in America’s relations with its closest Muslim ally, Turkey, and perhaps for the entire Middle East. Unfortunately, only a seer can say whether it’ll be a turn for the better.

The ructions over the House’s foray into Ottoman history and Turkey’s threat to invade northern Iraq don’t look good. But clear-eyed leaders will spot an opportunity in this crisis to renew an alliance for this difficult new era. American and Turkish interests overlap, and the countries need each other as much as they did during the Cold War.

The more sober politicians in Washington and Ankara understand this. Wednesday’s parliamentary approval of a possible Turkish incursion to chase down Kurdish terrorists in their Iraqi hideouts was remarkable for its restraint. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waited more than a week after the latest strike by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (or PKK) killed 13 Turkish soldiers to bring up the measure. No democratic government could ignore such attacks and the growing public outrage.

The Turks have also ruled out any rash move into northern Iraq. Ankara would prefer that the Iraqi Kurds and U.S. squeeze the PKK hiding in the Qandil mountains and avoid the risks of launching its own incursion. The vote this week is a wake-up call from the Turks–not least to the Iraqi Kurds, who have an opening to improve ties with their most important neighbor.

Meanwhile, with uncanny timing, Congressional Democrats this week were about to stick a finger in Turkey’s eye. Whether the massacres of up to 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 constitute “genocide,” as a nonbinding House resolution declares, is a matter for historians. In the here and now, the resolution would erode America’s influence with Ankara and endanger the U.S. effort in Iraq. Worse, Mr. Erdogan’s ability to work with Washington would be constrained by an anti-American backlash.Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the week promising to bring the resolution to the House floor. But she is now having second thoughts–if not out of good sense, then because her rank-and-file are peeling away as they are lobbied against the anti-Turk resolution by the likes of General David Petraeus. Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert tabled a similar resolution when asked by President Clinton in 2000, and we’ll soon see if Ms. Pelosi will do the same for a Republican President.

The PKK also reads the papers, and its leaders timed their attacks on consecutive weekends this month as the resolution moved through the House. The Marxist separatist group, whose 20-year war has claimed almost 40,000 lives, would love to divide the U.S. from Turkey. Unless managed right, the Turkish response this week also imperils improving bilateral ties between Ankara and Baghdad; the countries had only recently signed a counterterrorism pact. In Turkey itself, PKK support is dwindling, and Mr. Erdogan’s ruling party swept the Kurdish-majority areas in July’s elections.

To avoid the trap set by the PKK, the U.S. needs to press the Iraqi Kurds to act against them. This doesn’t have to hurt America’s friendly dealings with the Kurds. But someone has to remind Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, that the PKK poses a grave threat to the economic boom and stability of northern Iraq. His aggressive rhetoric toward Turkey, and the Kurdish peshmerga militia’s disinterest in cracking down on the PKK, gives the wrong impression of complicity with the terrorists. With typical bluster, Mr. Barzani yesterday said he’d fight the Turks–hardly helpful.

Short of declaring war on the PKK, the peshmerga could easily cut off supply lines of food and arms into the Qandil mountains. The Turks want the U.S. to nab a few big PKK fish, which is easier said than done. But Ankara isn’t unreasonable to expect to see more of an effort. In return, its troops can stay on their side of the border.

This hasn’t been an easy year for Turkey. For most of it, Mr. Erdogan and his neo-Islamist party fought a cold war with the country’s secular establishment, led by the military. His commanding election victory in July ended that political crisis, only to see Congress and the PKK distract anew from his primary task, which is building the Muslim world’s most vibrant free-market democracy.Turkey wants a unitary, stable and prosperous Iraq, and should know that any wrong moves in the north could jeopardize that. The Turks unabashedly support Israel’s right to exist and can’t abide a nuclear Iran. On these and other issues, Ankara is an indispensable partner for America. Mr. Erdogan is expected to meet President Bush next month to discuss Iraqi Kurdistan and probably the Armenian resolution. The U.S.-Turkey friendship is too important to let it be ruined by parochial politics in either country.

Related:

Pandering Pelosi-crats

Iraq and Turkey See Tensions Rise After Ambush

Pelosi: Our Candidate for “Catch and Release”

Relevantly, Bush soldiers onward

October 22, 2007

Donald Lambro
The Washington Times
October 22, 2007

George Bush was asked last week whether he had become irrelevant in the decisions of government, a question posed before in previous presidencies.

The suggestion came from a reporter at a White House news conference who must have been out of the country for most of the year — because the president clearly remains a force to be reckoned with in the twilight of his second term.

If the Democrats thought they were going to come charging into power in January and impose their agenda on the Republican minority and the administration, they were sorely mistaken.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071022/COMMENTARY05/110220009/1012/
COMMENTARY

Support Wanes in House for Genocide Vote

October 17, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 — Worried about antagonizing Turkish leaders, House members from both parties have begun to withdraw their support from a resolution backed by the Democratic leadership that would condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago.

Almost a dozen lawmakers had shifted against the measure in a 24-hour period ending Tuesday night, accelerating a sudden exodus that has cast deep doubt over the measure’s prospects. Some made clear that they were heeding warnings from the White House, which has called the measure dangerously provocative, and from the Turkish government, which has said House passage would prompt Turkey to reconsider its ties to the United States, including logistical support for the Iraq war.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/
2007/10/17/washington/17cong.html?_r=
1&hp&oref=slogin

Turkey: U.S. Congress Could “Ruin Strategic Relationship”

October 14, 2007

By C. Onur Ant, Associated Press Writer 

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey’s top general warned that ties with the U.S., already strained by attacks from rebels hiding in Iraq, will be irreversibly damaged if Congress passes a resolution that labels the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide.

Turkey, which is a major cargo hub for U.S. and allied military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations and warned that there might be a cut in the logistical support to the U.S. over the issue.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told daily Milliyet newspaper that a congressional committee’s approval of the measure had already harmed ties between the two countries.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071014/ap_on_re_mi_
ea/turkey_us;_ylt=Aqd2Vi_WRaJd20vfvO1WxE2s0NUE

Torture? Well Intentioned Hearts Hurting the Nation?

October 11, 2007

Let me get this straight: the House Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday labeled Turkey a country that fosters “genocide” for acts of barbarism committed around 1915 by the failing Ottoman Empire which has nothing to do with Turkey today.  Isn’t this like convening a Nazi war crimes trial in Berlin today and putting the leadership of Germany on the stand?

Despite the fact that the President of the United States warned the House committee that their vote may harm relations with one of the key (and one of the ONLY predominately Islamic) U.S. allies in the war against terror, the committee voted to label Turkey a nation that supports genocide.

Now Ankara has withdrawn its ambassador from Washington.

Proud now, Mister Lantos?

Rep. Tom Lantos, the Chairman of the committee and several others are good and honorable men; and they have been under intense pressure from their Armenian-American constituents, most of whom reside in California, Nancy Pelosi’s home state.

Have we lost sight of the “big picture” to gain local state votes?

Is Mr. Lantos just seeking Armenian-American votes or does he really care about our men and women fighting a war; and the support that sustains them via Turkey?

I have a few problems with the committee’s actions.

First, both sides engaged in horrendous acts of lawlessness as the Ottoman Empire dissolved and World War I transpired. The facts are that evil was rampant on both sides and it is difficult to tell which side was worse. Second, the label of “genocide” now, almost 100 years later, gains us what? A good feeling? And third, everyone knew this labeling would offend Turkey; an ally we can ill afford to lose.  Seventy percent of U.S. supplies going to the war zone go through Turkey. Finally, this act has the potential to harmfully impact U.S. troops engaged in the field.

Even though we usually stand with human rights advocates foursquare, we deplore this committee action.

Which brings us to former President Jimmy Carter.

Proclaiming to the world that the U.S. has committed torture gains what?

The former president has just supported a position fostered by Osama bin Laden and others among the people who want to destroy America. Even if Mister Carter’s well intentioned accusations are accurate; it would have been better to hold fire until after the smoke of war cleared. Mister Carter, instead, while hawking his book on radio and TV shows, has sided with the terrorists and the enemy.

Ann Coulter has been accused of making bombastic statements while selling her latest book.  Now, knowingly or unknowingly, it doesn’t matter, you can add Jimmy Carter to Ann’s club.  And didn’t President Carter draw a lot of heat when his last book laid out a very problematic account of the Middle East?

President Carter is an honorable man; but he himself admits he was broke when he left the White House so he wrote a book.

Sometimes good intentions and a big heart can stand in the way of the nation’s objectives.

If we cannot stand together a little better on the big issues, we cannot beat Al Qaeda. Or anyone else.

–Submitted to Peace and Freedom by a concerned citizen.

Related:
Jimmy Carter: Human Rights Godsend Will Criticize Even His Own USA

Torture Policy Undermines U.S. Interests

Turkey recalls US ambassador for talks

October 11, 2007

By C. ONUR ANT, Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey ordered its ambassador in Washington to return to Turkey for consultations over a U.S. House panel’s approval of a bill describing the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

The ambassador would stay in Turkey for about a week or 10 days for discussions about the measure, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman.

“We are not withdrawing our ambassador. We have asked him to come to Turkey for some consultations….”

Read it all:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071011/ap_on_re_mi_ea/turkey_us_genocide;_
ylt=AsbTVA6Ew.9JCx9b.TxCMLKs0NUE

US lawmakers back Armenian ‘genocide’ bill, Turkey warns of risks

October 11, 2007

by Jitendra Joshi

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US lawmakers defied strident warnings by President George W. Bush by voting Wednesday to label the Ottoman Empire’s World War I massacre of Armenians as “genocide” sparking condemnation from Turkey.

To cheers and applause from emotional Armenians, including elderly wheelchair-bound survivors, the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee voted for the resolution by 27 votes to 21.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20071011/ts_afp/
uspoliticsarmeniaturkeyhistory_071011074005