10/11 Zaman: Chances for Iraq incursion to grow if Armenian bill passed

Chances for Iraq incursion to grow if Armenian bill passed

The possibility for a cross-border operation into Iraq to hunt down the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists would increase if the US Congress passes a resolution backing Armenian allegations of genocide at the hands of the late Ottoman Empire, officials and analysts said.

Egemen Bağış, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) who is having talks in Washington with two other lawmakers in the US Congress and the administration against the resolution, said the resolution would make it hard for the Turkish government to continue close cooperation with the United States and resist calls from the public to go after the PKK terrorists who have mounted deadly attacks on Turkish soldiers in recent weeks, according to The Associated Press.

"If the Armenian genocide resolution passes, then I think that the possibility of a cross-border operation is very high," İhsan Dağı, a professor of international relations at the Middle East Technical University and a regular columnist for Today's Zaman, said.

Turkey has previously said it would prefer that the US and its Iraqi Kurd allies in northern Iraq crack down on the PKK but warned it would take the matters into its own hands if no action is taken. Supporters of the resolution have been trying to counteract Turkish warnings that passage of the resolution would harm bilateral relations with arguments that Turkish-American relations were too important to Turkey for the government to scuttle.

But these warnings come amid the Turkish government's ongoing efforts to send a motion to Parliament to authorize a cross-border operation into northern Iraq, which should it occur could seriously upset US efforts to stabilize the country. Many in the US also fear that a public backlash in Turkey could lead to restrictions on crucial supply routes through Turkey to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the closure of İncirlik, a strategic air base in Turkey used by the US Air Force.

Bağış underscored that possibility. "Let us not forget that 75 percent of all supplies to your troops in Iraq go through Turkey," he was quoted as saying by the AP. The resolution calls on the US administration to ensure that the alleged genocide is reflected in the US foreign policy. Turkey categorically rejects genocide charges and says the relations will receive a deep blow if the resolution passes.

Strong appeal from Bush, Rice, Gates

Turkish and US officials exerted last-ditch efforts before a planned vote of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee late yesterday. In a statement, President George W. Bush strongly opposed the resolution, saying it would do "great harm" to ties with key ally Turkey and urging the Committee members to oppose it. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates also issued a joint appeal at the White House just hours before the committee was to vote on the measure.

"The passage of this resolution at this time would be very problematic for everything we are trying to do in the Middle East," Rice said, adding that the measure would be "very destabilizing to our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan because Turkey, as an important strategic ally, is very critical in supporting the efforts that we are making in these crucial areas." Gates said the United States relies heavily on Turkey for resupplying US forces in Iraq.

President George W. Bush was to make a statement later asking Congress not to support the resolution.

On Tuesday, President Abdullah Gül warned of "serious troubles in the two countries' relations" if the measure is approved.

"I have been trying to warn the lawmakers not to make a historic mistake," Bağış said. A measure of the potential problem came in a warning the US Embassy in Ankara issued Tuesday to US citizens in Turkey, a key NATO ally.

"If, despite the administration's concerted efforts against this resolution, it passes committee and makes its way to the floor of the House for debate and a possible vote, there could be a reaction in the form of demonstrations and other manifestations of anti-Americanism throughout Turkey," the statement said.

Armenian-American interest groups also have been rallying supporters in the large diaspora community to pressure lawmakers to make sure that a successful committee vote leads to consideration by the full House. The resolution seemed to have enough support on the committee for passage, but the majority was slight and some backers said they feared that Turkish pressure would narrow it further. Most Republicans were expected to vote against the resolution.

On Tuesday, Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, sought to shore up support in letters to the committee's chairman, Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos of California and its ranking Republican member, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. "We have a unique opportunity in this Congress, while there are still survivors of the Armenian genocide living among us, to irrevocably and unequivocally reaffirm this fact of history," Ardouny claimed.


Source: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=124464