10/26 LATimes: Sponsors delay Armenian genocide vote

Sponsors delay Armenian genocide vote

They bow to fears the resolution could harm the U.S. war effort in
Iraq by angering Turkey.

By Richard Simon
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 26, 2007

WASHINGTON — Yielding to fierce diplomatic and political pressure,
congressional sponsors of an Armenian genocide resolution abruptly put
off a vote on the measure Thursday and defused a mounting
confrontation with Turkey that was threatening to hamper the U.S. war
effort in Iraq.

The decision, a swift reversal for the long-debated resolution,
disappointed supporters who two weeks ago were optimistic that the
House would approve it. "We're not going to bring it up until we're
confident we have the votes to pass it," said Rep. Adam B. Schiff
(D-Burbank), who introduced the measure. "It's going to take some

The action extricated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco)
from the clash between a powerful constituency in California and an
important U.S. military ally.

As the measure approached a vote, the Turkish government warned that
the resolution's passage could lead to a rupture in relations and
disrupt U.S. military operations in Iraq. Most of the supplies headed
to U.S. forces in Iraq are flown through Turkey. The issue also came
up as the United States was imploring Turkey not to send forces into
northern Iraq to curb Kurdish rebel attacks.

Republican opponents welcomed the delay and blamed Pelosi for a
miscalculation on an important foreign policy matter. "Fortunately,
the right decision was made before this debacle turned into a
full-blown national security crisis," said Minority Leader John A.
Boehner (R-Ohio).

The resolution's backers once counted a majority of the House as
sponsors. When it cleared the House Foreign Affairs Committee two
weeks ago, Pelosi pledged to bring it to the floor.

"When it passed out of Foreign Affairs, I thought it was finally going
to happen," said Rep. George Radanovich (R-Mariposa), a sponsor of the
resolution, which calls on the president to "accurately characterize
the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as

But support began to ebb as President Bush and Turkey escalated their
warnings and the situation in northern Iraq deteriorated. Two dozen
representatives have withdrawn their support, raising doubts about
whether it could pass.

Supporters said that Pelosi remained committed to the measure and that
they had no choice but to bow to political reality. "If this were to
come up to the floor today, it would be too close to call," said Rep.
Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks).

The resolution's backers stressed that they delayed the vote only to
buy time to rebuild political support.

Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), a co-chairman of the Congressional
Caucus on Armenian Issues, who has pressed the resolution for more
than a decade, said he was hopeful. "We have never been anywhere near
this close. Never. I don't think we're going to give up."

In a letter to Pelosi sent Thursday, four of the measure's sponsors
said they would press for passage later this year or next year. "We
believe that a large majority of our colleagues want to support a
resolution recognizing the genocide on the House floor and that they
will do so, provided the timing is more favorable," wrote Reps.
Schiff, Sherman, Anna G. Eshoo (D-Menlo Park) and Frank Pallone Jr.

Aram S. Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National
Committee of America, faxed a letter to every House member,
criticizing Turkey and expressing "disappointment, even anger, that an
ally is so brazenly threatening the security of our troops."

"We are confident that, as the confusion over these threats lifts, an
even stronger bipartisan majority will stand up against Turkey's
intimidation and vote to adopt this human rights resolution on its
merits," he wrote.

The Turkish government disputes that the World War I-era killings of
Armenians by the Ottoman Turks was a genocide, contending that both
Turks and Armenians were casualties of the war, famine and disease.
But historical evidence and authoritative research support the term,
and The Times' policy is to refer to the deaths as genocide.

Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy, who was recalled to Ankara in protest
of the House committee vote but returned last weekend, said in a
statement that he was pleased that the measure was not headed to a
floor vote. "This is a deeply complex and emotional issue that has
caused great anguish among the Turkish people," he said. "We do not
believe it is the role of the U.S. Congress -- or of any legislative
body -- to pass judgment on this historical matter."

Sensoy continued, "It is high time to use our energies to encourage
reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, and normalization between
Turkey and Armenia, something we Turks have been striving to achieve
for a long time."

Armenian American groups were not in a conciliatory mood.

"The true danger to America's interests comes from caving in to
foreign interference in American human rights policy," said Andrew
Kzirian, Western region executive director of Armenian National
Committee of America. "Turkey's threats and intimidation have caused
some members to take a second look. But as the initial fear over
Turkey's threats turns to anger, we're beginning to see a backlash."

Armenian American groups vowed to continue their grass-roots lobbying
campaign for the resolution. Jason P. Capizzi, executive director of
the Armenian-American Political Action Committee, said he understood
the political reality that bringing up the resolution at this time
would be difficult for Schiff and the other sponsors "given Turkey's
continued and desperate threats."

But he also said: "We remain encouraged and confident that this
Congress will reaffirm the U.S. record on the Armenian genocide."

A number of the resolution's supporters said its fate may depend on
circumstances in Turkey and Iraq.

"With Turkey's success to tying this thing to the war in Iraq, it's
going to be tough to disconnect those two," said Radanovich, one of
the resolution's lead sponsors. "But I think they're going to have to
be disconnected before we've got some hope of bringing it back."

The latest setback follows others.

Similar resolutions approved by the House in 1975 and 1984 did not
make it through the Senate. In 2000, a resolution was headed to the
House floor when then-Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) abruptly
called off the vote because President Clinton warned him that it could
damage national security.

Pelosi's office declined to comment on the decision other than to say
that she was deferring to the wishes of the sponsors.

Despite admonitions from top administration officials, the Turkish
prime minister and former secretaries of State, Pelosi, a longtime
supporter of the resolution, insisted a week and a half ago that she
would bring it to a vote.

Last week, however, as a number of Democratic colleagues urged her not
to, she sounded uncertain.

Radanovich said he supported delaying a vote, but he declined to sign
the letter. Asserting that Pelosi had decided on her own not to bring
the resolution to a vote, he said: "It's not in my interest to give
cover to the speaker."

John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna
College, said Pelosi had pressed House members further than they
wanted to go, "so she had to back off. The episode is far from fatal,
but it suggests that she is still struggling to master the job."

The resolution has been strongly opposed by the Bush administration.

After the committee vote, the administration and Turkey, aided by
lobbyists, stepped up efforts to persuade the House to deep-six the

Bush and military leaders personally called lawmakers.

Turkey's top general said House passage of the resolution would
rupture U.S. relations with one of its most reliable allies in the
Islamic world.

At the same time, deadly cross-border raids by Kurdish rebels into
Turkey have inflamed public opinion in the country, which has accused
the United States and Iraq of not doing enough to stem the attacks.
The Turkish parliament overwhelmingly granted the government
permission to invade northern Iraq to pursue Kurdish insurgents.

Kurdish rebels ambushed a Turkish army patrol Sunday, killing at least
12 soldiers and raising the possibility of a Turkish incursion, which
could destabilize the safest region in Iraq.

Sherman said that the high-profile Turkish campaign to kill the
resolution gave its supporters a victory of sorts: "The purpose of the
resolution is to raise awareness of the Armenian genocide. Thanks to
the Turkish Embassy, we have been spectacularly successful."


Source: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/valley/la-na-genocide26oct26,1,1437463.story?