• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Congressmen Talk Turkey

    At a Washington, DC, press conference held by Members of Congress in support of Israel, Turkey received its taste of changing attitudes on Capitol Hill after sponsoring a flotilla to breach Israel’s blockade of the terrorist organization Hamas-run Gaza strip.

    Congressmen warned that Turkey’s break from its traditionally warm relations with Israel in exchange for cozying up with the United States’ public enemy number one – Iran – could result in a  chill in its relations with the American government, according to The Jerusalem Post.

    At the same time, Turkey pulled out all the stops in its diplomatic and media attacks on Israel, recalling their ambassador, reducing their diplomatic representation, freezing the implementation of past Turco-Israeli economic agreements, and placing an embargo on Israeli weapons – all of which took a serious toll on Turkey’s most reliable partner in the Middle East. Turkey-Israel relations, warm and cozy until the Islamist AK Party came to power in 2002, are now in their terminal stage.

    While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stirred the anti-Israeli sentiment since the 2002 election, and especially after the landslide victory in 2007, things really came to a head in January 2009.  At the Davos Economic Forum , Erdogan attacked the 87-year-old president of Israel, Shimon Peres,  calling him a “murderer” because of Israel’s anti-terrorist operation in Gaza. Erdogan then demonstratively stormed from the podium.

    Erdogan, of course, ignored the fact that Shimon Peres has always been a life-long dove who pushes for a peace settlement with Palestinians and a two-state solution, and also that the Israeli  presidency is a ceremonial position. Erdogan’s attack, crass and unprofessional, nevertheless gained him a lot of voter support, with throngs of fans coming to the airport to greet him.

    The launch of the “peace flotilla” was Turkey’s deliberate move to send already bad relations with Israel into a death spin. Erdogan masterfully used the opportunity granted by Israeli marine commando’s inept attempt to take control of the MAVI MARMARA, to staunchly put Turkey into the camp of Hamas supporters – and Israel’s opponents. Having Ankara in the same camp as Iran and Syria will radically change the geopolitics of the Middle East.

    Turkey used to be a staunch member of NATO, a stalwart friend of the Israelis, a nation that aspired to join the European Union. But under Erdogan and his AK Party, its direction is quite different.

    Erdogan is buying Iran time to develop its nuclear program by negotiating the Iran-Turkey-Brazil enriched uranium deal, rejected even by Russia and China, and by voting against UN Security Council sanctions that even Moscow and Beijing supported.

    It does not have to be that way, U.S. Congressmen are saying to Erdogan. There is nothing wrong with Turkey wanting to develop ties with its Islamic neighbors, especially as Iran becomes a dominant voice in the region. But if ties with Israel are worth sacrificing for Turkey, this sends an unmistakable message to Washington. The Ayatollah Khomeini-authored call of “Death to Israel” is heard in the street of Istanbul. It also has the second half: “Death to America.”  And the United States and its moderate Arab allies will not sit idly if the Turks and Iranians are planning to divide up the Middle East.

    What the Turks did not predict, though, was the U.S. Congress backlash they’d received on Capitol Hill. Congressmen are promising Turkey that they would pass legislation blaming the Ottoman Empire for the Armenian massacres in 1915-1923 and calling it a “genocide” – something all prior U.S. Administrations have opposed due to the warm relations and a strong alliance with Turkey.  Is this the result Mr. Erdogan intended? The U.S. Congress won’t be alone: parliaments around the world, including France and Russia, have already recognized the genocide.

    Given that congressmen like Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Peter King (R-NY), Elliott Engel (D-NY), and other self-described friends of Turkey are concerned about the Turkish AKP government policy, and that Jewish and Armenian organizations may start working together on the genocide issue – it may be time for Turks to take a pause and think its policy through. While the relations between Turkey and the West is long and illustrious, the consequences for harming that relationship can also be difficult, if not tragic, for both sides.

    Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Congressmen Talk Turkey

    1. Ed says:

      Armenian Genocide is not an article of trade.

      The truth about Armenian Genocide is that it is true. Every single politician in the White House is well aware of the fact of Armenian genocide. US should have the moral and strength to call genocide, GENOCIDE

    2. West Texan says:

      I'm sure Mr. Erdogan is fully aware Egypt shares Israel's concern about Hamas. Such propagandized actions by Turkey's AK leader doesn't address Arab players allied with Israel and the US. Which brings up America's current foreign policy in the region. Nevil Chamberlain demonstrated a far better grasp of European threats than Obama does of the Middle East. Sort of scary when one considers the prior facilitated WW II.

    3. Pingback: Congressmen Talk Turkey « Citizen Gravity

    4. Rich says:

      Stop treating the Armenian genocide as a political football! It's a human rights issue not to be bargained away for political motives or as "pay back", that is despicable!

      This should have been passed decades ago but a number of Congressman, and pro-Isreali lobbys worked against this human rights issue.

      Pass the Armenian genocide legislation because it's the right and moral thing to do!

    5. Phantom says:

      Another Neocon hack job article, warning Turkey that Congress might pass the Armenian Genocide resolution if the Turks don't stop misbehaving. These people are using the murder of 1.5 million innocent humans as a bargaining chip. Of course, there's nothing new about Neocons and the right-wing Israeli govt. having no shame. They'll use the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust and anything else as a political bargaining chip. Nothing is off limits to these people.

    6. Memphisman says:

      The problem with Turkey is that is spoiled. They got away with a horrific genocide and managed to silence it in many countries and government. This has given them carte blanche to act erratically and irresponsibly with minorities and in foreign affairs. It is high time to pass this resolution and put Turkey in its place… or else we keep feeding the monster.

    7. Hans Singerbahn says:

      Such a one sided, culturally self-influenced article….

      In addition, I am overwhelmed with the ignorant surprises shown by the West analysts and policy makers when Turks reacted to Israel after the flotilla incident.

      All this was on make for Turks, after years of humiliation at the hands of EU top dogs such as Sarkozy and Merkel. In a never experienced fashion, EU leaders publicly criticize Turkey for being "culturally different" thus unqualified to be part of the continent, not realizing that European Continent is, in fact, not shaped as a Cross.

      On top, supposed to be a friend of Turkey, the US, had been pushing out resolutions after resolutions critical of Turkey with the influence of minority lobbies, mostly Armenians and Greeks. One can easily see after a quick keyword of "Turkey" in Congress' website that , majority of resolutions that has the word Turkey is either celebrate Thanksgiving, or to criticize "Turkish allies" and their history. Thus, as we can see, the US policy makers have been mostly hostile to Turks from the beginning of the alliance in 1950s anyways. The only thing that stopped a full assault on the US's this NATO ally was the fact that Turks kept good relationship with Israel until now; a relationship that Israel took for granted until they provided false positive when Erdogan attempted to broke a deal in Palestine. So, if the question is who started this fire, the answer is simple; EU and the USA.

      On Israel, perhaps AKP was more pro-active in reacting against, yet, it was hardly the only one. Israel is being crticized by almost every aspect of political spectrum globally. Turks happened to be on the wrong time and wrong place.

      It is illogical to attack every country or person who crticize Israel and call them anti-semitics. Israel is not teflon covered. And nothing Mr Cohen writes on this site can make it so neither.

    8. Pingback: Turkey is the Key | NO LIES RADIO

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×