Amerikali Turk


The Impact of the 2012 US Elections on Turkey

November 22, 2012 8:12 PM

The Obama presidential victory was very positive for Turkey. President Obama has had a close personal relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan, and the US and Turkey have been close allies working together on regional and international issues, including the crisis in Syria and in the Middle East as a whole. The relationship between the US and Turkey is one of the most important American bilateral ties with a foreign power.


The fact that the Republicans have maintained control of the House of Representatives in the November 2012 election is also a huge plus for Turkey since under the Republicans (and in particular in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen), in the last session of Congress (2011-2012), there were no anti-Turkey resolutions alleging the Armenian Genocide passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee or by the full House. When the Democrats were in control of the House during the prior session (2009-2010), an Armenian Genocide resolution was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2010 (the full House, however, adjourned at the end of the lame duck session in 2010 without passing the Armenian Genocide resolution, which was in any case non-binding).


Historically, Turkey's main challenges have come from the US Congress where the Armenian and Greek lobbies have been able to influence Congressional leaders such as Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when the Democrats were in control of the House. It appears likely that under Republican control in the next session of Congress (2013-2014), anti-Turkey initiatives in the House of Representatives will not be successful.


A possible complication for Turkey is the position taken by Turkey in opposition to Israel, and in support of Hamas, in the recent Gaza crisis and the related profound further deterioration in relations between Turkey and Israel. The US Congress has traditionally been a bulwark of support for Israel; interestingly, quite the opposite of Turkey, Israel's issues with the US have often stemmed from the US Presidency, while Israel has traditionally received the strong support of the US Congress.


If Turkey continues its negative stance on Israel, there may be Congressional pressure on Turkey to restore good relations with Israel (the relations between Turkey and Israel already were at a historic low point when the Gaza crisis occurred). Restoration of good relations between Israel and Turkey is a tall order and a huge challenge to be sure.


At the end of the day, the US, Turkey and Israel have many interests in common, for example in Syria. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton adamantly defended Israel's right of self-defense while Turkey supported Hamas in Gaza. There may be a backlash in the US Congress against Turkey's attitude towards Israel, which could embolden the Armenian lobby (working toward passing an Armenian Genocide resolution by 2015) and the Greek lobby (trying to pass legislation affirming that the Greek Cypriots in the Republic of Cyprus in the South should have sole sovereignty over the entire island of Cyprus, disregarding the existence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). Turkey needs to proactively address these matters.


Turkey potentially faces pushback from Congress on Israel, but will continue to have the strong support of President Obama. Turkey needs to carefully assess the impact of its policy regarding Israel on its overall relations with the US and with the US Presidency and the US Congress. However, given President Obama in the White House and the Republicans controlling the House, Turkey appears to be well situated going forward as far as its relations with the US government are concerned.


*Mark Meirowitz is an Attorney and Political Analyst in New York