"Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday relations between Turkey and the United States are in danger over a resolution branding as genocide massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One.
Referring to ties with the United States and the Armenian bill, Erdogan, with a Turkish idiom used to describe relations, said: "Where the rope is worn thin, may it break off."
The crowd of supporters broke into applause.
Ankara is a crucial ally in the region for Washington, which relies on Turkey as a logistical base for the war in Iraq. But U.S. popularity has hit rock bottom in Turkey because of the war and perceptions that the United States is failing to stop Turkish Kurdish rebels using north Iraq as a base from which to attack Turkey.
"This is as much about domestic politics in Turkey as it is in the United States," Turkish commentator Semih Idiz said." Reuters
The present Republic of Turkey was founded in the ’20s as a specific repudiation of the policies and practices of the Ottoman Empire. That empire was a multi-cultural, multi-national conglomeration welded together by the Ottoman Turks out of the wreckage of the previous multi-cultural and multi-national empire that had existed on the same ground. That was the Eastern Roman Empire usually known as the Byzantine Empire.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former Ottoman officer created modern Turkey to form a "homeland" for the Turkish speakers of the Ottoman state. The victorious Allied powers seem to have intended to carve Anatolia and Thrace up into colonial enclaves just as they carved up the Mesopotamian and Levantine parts of the Ottoman state. Ataturk prevented that by raising a nationalist army and using it to drive Greek and other Allied forces out of what is now Turkey. The republic that he formed said that all its residents were Turks, and insisted on that identity. Most of the inhabitants of the new Turkey were ethnic Turks, but there were enough Greeks and Kurds (in the east) to cause a permanent problem. Most of the Greeks left under an exchange of populations agreement with Greek Prime minister Venizelos, but the Kurdish problem lingers on to bedevil the Turkish state. American sponsorship of near independence for the Iraqi Kurdish north has created an opportunity for anti-Turkish Kurdish guerrilla action against Turkey from bases in northern Iraq. The Turks are understandably unhappy about this and are likely to enter Iraqi Kurdistan to suppress the Kurdish PKK guerrillas. There is little that the US can do that will dissuade the Turks from this any more than the US could be dissuaded from entering Mexico if Mexican guerrillas were conducting analogous raids in the Southwestern US. Hmmm. That sounds familiar.
Now we have the ludicrous spectacle of the House of Representatives voting "symbolically" to declare that the genocide conducted under the rule of the Ottoman "Young Turk" government nearly a hundred years ago was what everyone knows it was (probably today’s Turks most of all). For today’s Turks this was a crime committed by a government that no longer exists, a government that their present republic itself specifically rejected in its foundation documents. The Turks are not of a mind to accept the responsibility for this crime. They believe, correctly I think, that if they accept the term "genocide" applied to this crime, then the Republic of Turkey will become a target of increasing demands including reparations. The Germans of today may want to do penance over the Holocaust but the Armenian Genocide is not something that Turkey accepts as its fault.
Practical effect? Most supply into Iraq goes in overland, but some portion goes in by air. The airbase at Incirlik, Turkey (Adana) and the use of Turkish airspace are important to that flow of traffic. There has also been some talk of late of using a land route through Turkey out of Iraq if necessary.
Perhaps the "all politics is local" crowd in Congress should think about unintended consequences before it votes on bills. pl