On Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued a joint appeal to the Congress, and offered to provide House members with a classified briefing to discuss what they described as the "national security interests" at stake.
Legislators who voted for the measure defended it as a stand against state-sponsored atrocities.
"I am Jewish. I have both a moral and person obligation to condemn all acts of genocide no matter where or when they occur," said Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, in a statement. "Our nation's relationship with Turkey is important. Our relationships with all other countries are important. But our relationship with humanity matters as well. I cannot vote to deny that the horrific actions of the Armenian genocide occurred."
Turkey severed military ties with France after its Parliament voted in 2006 to make the denial of the Armenian genocide a crime. Following the U.S. congressional vote this week, Ankara ordered its ambassador in Washington to return home for "consultations," but says he has not been formally withdrawn.
"A similar reaction by the elected government of Turkey to a House resolution could harm American troops in the field, constrain our ability to supply our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and significantly damage our efforts to promote reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey at a key turning point in their relations," said Rice and Gates in the letter, as reviewed and reported by the Associated Press.
On Thursday, Gates warned of the "enormous implications" for U.S. military operations in Iraq if Turkey limited flights over its airspace and restricted access to Incirlik Air base.
"All I can say is that a resolution that looks back almost 100 years to an event that took place under a predecessor government, the Ottomans, and that has enormous present day implications for American soldiers and Marines and sailors and airmen in Iraq, is something we need to take very seriously," Gates told reporters in London.
Turkey provides significant logistical support for the U.S.-led war effort in Iraq. About 70 percent of all air cargo sent to Iraq passes through or comes through Turkey, as do 30 percent of fuel and virtually all the new armoured vehicles designed to withstand mines and bombs, according to Gates.
The legislation also comes as the Turkey's government prepares to seek permission from parliament to carry out a cross-border offensive against an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq, in retaliation for rebel attacks that have killed 29 Turkish soldiers, police and civilians in the past two weeks.
Washington has warned that a Turkish military attack across the border in Iraq could throw into chaos the only relatively stable region of Iraq.
The PKK, an armed separatist group whose goal has been to create an independent socialist Kurdish state, is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., Europe and NATO, and Turkey claims it has been responsible for more than 30,000 deaths, the majority of them civilians, when it began using political violence in the early 1980s.
Turkey conducted its last major operation into Iraq in 1997.
Turkish President and head of the Islamist ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Abdullah Gul called Wednesday's committee vote "unacceptable," and said, "Some politicians in the United States have once against sacrificed important matters to petty domestic politics despite all calls to common sense."
The Armenian resolution debate has also unleashed an aggressive lobbying campaign by Ankara, which is spending more than $300,000 a month on sophisticated public relations specialists and former Washington lawmakers to help defeat the measure.
The Turkish Embassy is paying $100,000 a month to lobbying firm DLA Piper, which is associated with former Democratic House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, and $105,000 to the Livingston Group (connected to former Republican lawmaker Robert L. Livingston), and it recently paid public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard $114,000 a month, according to records filed with the Justice Department.
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Albion Monitor October
12, 2007 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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