Armenia: Between Iraq and a Hard Place

As coalition and Iraqi forces struggle to fight insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, the Democratic-controlled Congress has decided now would be a good time to infuriate one of our most important allies in the region, Turkey.

On January 30, 2007, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced a resolution that condemns as genocide the systematic killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during World War I by the Ottoman Empire. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) followed suit on March 14, introducing an identical version in the Senate. Of Schiff’s original 235 co-sponsors, 17 later withdrew their support. On October 10, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved the resolution.

Turkey, heir to the Ottoman mantle, expressed outrage. As this goes to press, President Bush is urging congressional leaders to kill the resolution.

Of the 21 congressmen opposing the measure, 8 were Democrats. Of the 27 in support, 8 were Republicans.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Chris Starling, a national security affairs fellow at the Hoover Institution, explained the importance of this issue: “Losing the support of Turkey would pose significant logistical challenges for the U.S. military in Iraq.”

Raffi Mardirosian, president of Stanford’s Armenian Students’ Association, said members of the club were “very happy to see this resolution pass” the committee and that they will be even happier when it passes the full House and Senate.

Mardirosian went on to say that the “revisionists are being driven to the margins of political influence.”

“Very few serious historians who have examined the evidence doubt that the 1915 massacre of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was a case of genocide,” said history professor Norman Naimark.

However, Naimark draws a distinction between what is historically true and what should be done today. “I don’t believe a Congressional resolution is the right way to discuss history.”
A senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Naimark added, “The timing of the proposed resolution, of course, could not be worse, given the critical juncture in the Iraq conflict, but also in European-Turkish and U.S.-Turkish relations.”

Mardirosian disagreed. “Our need for allies in the Middle East will not stop in the foreseeable future,” he said, pointing out that Washington has “used this excuse for decades.” Ankara, he continued, “needs to come to terms with the events of the past.”

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