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AP: Israel factor could derail Armenian genocide resolution

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The House is preparing to condemn the World War I-era genocide of Armenians by Turkey. The AP has a good story on the politics of the resolution that points out that Israel is as usual a factor in our foreign policy. (Though note that in this instance, many of the good actors, including Adam Schiff and Hillary Clinton, are strongly pro-Israel. So no, these matters are not simple.)

In 2007, when the House Armed Services Committee passed such a resolution, Turkey recalled its ambassador, and U.S. officials feared the Turks might cut off American access to a Turkish air base essential to operations in Iraq. After lobbying by Bush administration officials, the resolution was not considered by the full House.

A positive vote by [Howard] Berman’s committee would send the resolution to the full House.

The U.S. still wants Turkey’s support for its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also is pressing Turkey, which holds a rotating seat in the U.N. Security Council, to support penalties against Iran, Turkey’s neighbor.

The committee is strongly pro-Israel, and prospects for passage could be affected by rising tensions between Turkey and Israel, as well as Turkey’s relatively warm relationship with Iran. In the past, Turkey and Israel had friendlier relations, and Israel had quietly lobbied against the resolution.

For decades, Armenian-American groups have sought congressional affirmation of the killings as genocide. Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

This year, some Armenian groups and lawmakers are expressing optimism on the resolution’s prospects, noting that Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton all supported recognition when they served in the Senate.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who introduced the resolution for consideration, said he sees more favorable conditions than in 2007.

"Last time we had President Bush calling lawmakers at their homes to oppose the resolution," he said.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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