Amerikali Turk


Trouble Brewing for Turkey in US House of Representatives

(6 votes, average 4 from 5)
November 29, 2012 10:13 AM

There is potentially big news with impact for Turkey as a result of the announcement that Congressman Ed Royce will replace Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as Chair of the US House of Representartives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

This is the committee that passed the Armenian "genocide" resolution in 2010 (the bill died in the "lame duck" session of the House at the end of 2010 and was never passed by the full House).

Under Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen (and Republican control of the House), the House  Foreign Affairs Committee took no action against Turkey's interests during the last term of Congress (2011-2012). No hearings or action on the Armenian "genocide" resolution took place in the House Foreign Affairs Committee during the 2011-2012 term of Congress.

It was thought that with continued Republican control of the House in the coming 2013-2014 term, Turkey would not be faced with a recurrence of the Committee's passage of an Armenian "genocide" resolution that so significantly disrupted US-Turkish relations in 2010.

However, the appointment of Congressman Ed Royce as Foreign Affairs Committee Chair is a completely new and highly significant development. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen was term limited as chair of the Committee and had to step down from the chairmanship,  so Congressman Royce will take over the committee chairmanship commencing with the new House term. Congressman Royce has been co-chair of the Armenian caucus in the House and a member of the House Hellenic Caucus. In the past, he has supported Armenian "genocide" bills as well as legislation which in effect urges the re-unification of Cyprus (ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriots living in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).

Royce has also been heavily involved in advancing legislation pressuring Turkey to return religious properties.

We can surely expect the House Foreign Affairs Committee under Congressman Royce to take up the Armenian "genocide" issue (as well as other issues related to Turkey) in the coming session.

One saving grace for Turkey is the continued control of the House by the Republicans - and that the Speaker of the House is John Boehner, and not Nancy Pelosi who is an ardent foe of Turkey.

Another good factor for Turkey is that former committee chair (and ranking Democratic member) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Howard Berman (who shepherded the Armenian "genocide" resolution through to passage in the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2010) was defeated in the November 2012 elections and will not be returning to Congress.

This illustrates how US domestic and party politics can influence foreign relations with Turkey, a major US ally.

I want to reiterate that even if the House Foreign Affairs Committee passes the Armenian "genocide" resolution in the upcoming session, that resolution would be non-binding and would hopefully, under the Republicans, never make it to the House floor for a vote. Militating against that is the possibility that the House will take Turkey to task for its policies towards Israel (and use the Armenian "genocide" resolution as a wedge - or leverage - against Turkey) which means that Turkey must rapidly put its relations with Israel in order.

Finally, the members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs should realize that our bilateral relations with Turkey are managed by the US State Department, and that passage of legislation detrimental to Turkey such as the Armenian "genocide" resolution by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the coming House session would again severely disrupt US relations with Turkey, a major US ally and partner in forging a stable Middle East.

Mark Meirowitz is an attorney and political analyst in New York.