Congress Votes, Turkey Listens

Guest poster (and blogless friend of MountainRunner) LeftEnd comments on HFAC's recent decision.

Yesterday’s move by the House Foreign Affairs Committee to recognize the Armenian Genocide is chock full of consequences. Today, Turkey recalled its ambassador for consultations back in Ankara. The Turks are careful to point out that this is not a permanent recall of any kind, but instead is par for the course after a “development” such as this one.

Regardless, this could pose a huge problem for U.S. foreign policy. Turkey – perhaps more than any other country in the region – has the ability to soft balance against the United States. Because of the unpopularity of the planned invasion of Iraq, they – along with the Saudis – refused the U.S. request to use their territory for American ground troops. As Robert Pape describes, while it didn’t affect the outcome of the invasion, it did force the Pentagon to alter strategy.

Now the United States needs another favor from the Turks, and yesterday’s vote ain’t gonna help.

Among the most underreported stories of the past week was the ambush in southeast Turkey that killed 13 Turkish soldiers. The attack, allegedly carried out by Kurdish rebels, has stirred Turkish public opinion to a fever pitch. The Prime Minister is speaking about an invasion into Iraq proper as a fait accompli, despite the strong opposition by the United States.

The day before this vote, U.S. diplomats had a leg to stand on when pleading for continued patience on the part of the Turkish military. The day after, well, not so much.

So here we have it. A procedural vote by a few dozen House Members on a random Wednesday afternoon is having huge ripple effects on the other side of the world. The resolution itself won’t see a full House vote until mid-November at the earliest, and its chances in the Senate are apparently not good. Still, the perception in Turkey is that U.S. foreign policy is siding with the Armenian side of the story.

We have to ask ourselves whether the 27 Members who supported the measure really did enough homework to understand what it was they were really voting for.