Would-Be Sultan Is Feckless Ally

President Obama marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide this week by once again carefully avoiding the use of the G word, afraid of offending our volatile  and unreliable Turkish ally.  Seven years ago candidate Obama, like his Democratic opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton, pledged support for legislation to memorializing the 1915 slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

Obama promised “as president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” He used the powerful word 11 times in a 504-word campaign statement on the subject.  And not once since taking office.

Nor has Clinton.  As secretary of state she spoke of “Armenian Remembrance Day” but wouldn't use the G word, calling that a “dangerous” door to go through.

Can you imagine the Germans bullying and threatening the United States and other countries and world leaders not to call the Holocaust genocide because they found it offensive? 

Well, that is exactly what the Turks have been doing, and it works. They have successfully intimidated American presidents of both parties.  Ronald Reagan mentioned the Armenian Genocide once, and only in passing along with the Cambodian Genocide, in a 1981 proclamation memorializing the victims of the Holocaust. No president has uttered the word since.

When Pope Francis had the temerity to refer to the Armenian slaughter as “the first genocide of the 20th century, he was denounced by Turkish leaders, who summoned the Vatican ambassador to the woodshed in Ankara and recalled their own envoy from the Vatican.

Turkey’s caustic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “condemned” the Pope and “warned” him not to make “similar mistakes again.”  There was no genocide, insisted Erdogan, just “historical incidents” “taken out of their genuine context.” I guess all those dead Armenians were just collateral damage.

Whenever resolutions mentioning the Armenian genocide were introduced in U.S. Congress, the Turks would go berserk and blame the Jews because several Jewish lawmakers were among the sponsors.   They would threaten to downgrade relations with Israel and the United States.

Jewish leaders lobbied their friends in Congress, especially the Jews, against Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide.  They acted both in response to Turkish threats as well as out of their own misguided concern that it would dilute the uniqueness of the Holocaust.  Neither one is defensible.

The resolutions never got anywhere.  The Turks had the administration, whether it was Republican or Democrat, in their pocket.  In addition, many lawmakers sympathetic with the Armenian cause were more concerned about the repercussions for Israel.  

Successive administrations have gone to bat for the Turks, warning of damage to political and diplomatic relations, including sending the Pentagon brass to the Hill to warn of the dangers to our troops, logistics and NATO operations.

Thy overestimate the value of our Turkish ally, according to a new report by a Washington think tank.

The Bipartisan Policy Center issued a study showing Turkey is no longer a reliable U.S. ally and recommends Washington "look elsewhere for a reliable strategic partner in the region." No countries were recommended.

Said the report:

"Turkey's leaders are increasingly charting a course that runs opposite that of the United States — centralizing power at home in a drive towards an Islamist, strongman authoritarianism with neither constitutional limits nor institutional checks and balances and supporting radical Sunni Islamists at the expense of peace and stability in the region,”

BPC was founded by four former Senate leaders: Bob Dole, Howard Baker, Tom Daschle and George J. Mitchell.  You can read the report here.

It's hard to agree with anything Syrian dictator Bashar Assad says, but he made one good point in a recent interviews with 60 Minutes and Russia Today when he called Erdogan a Muslim Brotherhood fanatic who wants to be the new Ottoman sultan and control the region.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.