Thursday, January 25, 2007

How the "genocide" debate will die in Washington

Periodically, the US Congress discusses a bill that would recognize an "Armenian genocide". And every time, the President gets to shoot it down (if it makes it that far). The President has to -- Turkey is an important ally for so many reasons, and the US recognizing a genocide would really, really piss off Turkey.

This reminds me of the China MFN (Most Favored Nation) debates in the US in the 90s. Every year, the Congress would debate China's trade status. And every year, the President would shoot any anti-China bills down, if they made it all the way to his desk.

Everyone went home happy. Senators and Congressmen could look good back home, tough on China and all. But normal relations with China would continue anyway.

Now with Nancy Pelosi heading the US House, there's fear here in Turkey that the "genocide" debate in the US will swing against Turkey.

I don't think so. In fact, I suspect it will go the other way, and the President will end the debate permanently. I bet it'll happen much like the China MFN debate happened in the 90s.

Congress will debate the "genocide" issue, Pelosi will use her newfound powers to usher a "genocide" bill to the President's desk, and then, like the President did with China MFN in the 90s, the President now will veto it and find a way to put a permanent stop to the annual debate. Relations with Turkey are just too important to keep taking such a big risk.

Interestingly, the Hrat Dink murder in Istanbul last week gives some really good breathing room for this to happen,

Spurred at least in part by the murder, there is now some talk in Turkey about Turkey and Armenia establishing more normal relations with each other.

I don't put a lot of stock in conspiracy theories, because I think the world is usually more random and unplanned than we like to think it is.

However, because of the murder's timing, Ankara's potential overtures towards Yerevan can be painted with the Hrat Dink brush -- "We are doing this because we are all brothers", Ankara can tell the Turkish people. Having the move painted with the "outsiders made us do it" brush would go down really bad in Turkey, especially in an election year.

So the Dink murder gives Ankara cover to establish ties with Yerevan, and those new ties give the US President cover to kill the "genocide" bill (because look at this other healing that's going on). And when Congress mysteriously can't muster the strength to override the veto, Senators and Congressmen (and definitely Pelosi) can still look good back home. They at least tried to get the "genocide" recognized, and hey, look what happened because of it, we scared Turkey into recognizing Yerevan (or so Pelosi can tell the Armenians in her state).

And so it ends.

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