Opinion | Columnists

How the lobbies work in US

The US is a country of immigrants. As such its politics is unique with numerous ethnic and religious lobbies trying to influence US policies.

  • By Mohammad Akef Jamal, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:02 November 19, 2007
  • Gulf News

The US is a country of immigrants. As such its politics is unique with numerous ethnic and religious lobbies trying to influence US policies.

Last October, relations between the US and Turkey turned sour after the US Foreign Relations Committee of the House of the Congress passed a resolution on the "genocide" of Armenians committed during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

The non-binding resolution says the deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians from Ottoman territories from 1915 to 1923, resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million of them, which amounts to "genocide".

The Turks strongly reject the genocide label, insisting that there was no organised campaign against the Armenians and that many Turks were also killed in the chaos and violence of the period.

The Armenian government and Armenians around the world, including the Armenian-American lobby, have been pressing for international recognition of their contention that their people were the victims of genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

The Armenian lobby is noticeably active in New Jersey, Michigan and California. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents these areas, is a strong supporter of the Armenian cause.

The 10,000 member Armenian Organisation in the US is a highly effective group which allocates the sum of $250,000 annually to keep the Armenian question alive. Turkey was unable to neutralise the activities of this organisation by launching a counter activity reflecting its views.

Unprecedented

In an unprecedented outcry over the adoption of Resolution 106 by the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Ankara threatened to distance itself from American military efforts in Iraq and warned that it would carry out raids on Kurdish rebels in Iraqi Kurdistan for their anti-Turkey activities. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a House committee that the resolution's consequences on the war in Iraq would be "quite dire".

Any Turkish military action against activists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Iraq has the potential to destabilise the region.

Turkey feels let down by the US since Washington has also failed to exert pressure on the Iraqi government to rein in Kurdish rebels.

Turkey has also threatened to close the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, which is used by the US in its war efforts in Iraq. The US is worried about the repercussions of this crisis.

Israel on its part took a cautious stand. Tel Aviv does not want to antagonise Turkey, which was the first state in the Middle East to recognise Israel as a state and with whom it has close military ties for the past 20 years. It calls for direct negotiations between Turkey and Armenia to solve the "genocide" issue.

For the time being, Pelosi might postpone the Bill on the genocide issue in the interest of US-Turkey relations. Such a step can also improve the strained relations between the two countries. If that happens, then it will be a victory for Turkey.

Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.

Gulf News
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