A draft US congressional resolution that would have recognized the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman-era Turkey as genocide has been tabled after the White House, the US military and the Turkish government convinced many original supporters of the measure that its adoption would irreparably damage US-Turkish relations.
The bill appeared to be on track for approval after it passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 10. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The Armenian community and their lobbying groups in Washington have been pushing for such a resolution for years without success. This year, though, all the pieces seemed to be in place: The new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a longtime supporter of Armenian-American causes, and Democrats, who generally are more supportive of genocide recognition, are in the majority. At one point, 227 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives had signed on as cosponsors, suggesting that the resolution would pass if it came to a vote.
But the closer the resolution came to success, the more Turkey and the Bush administration fought against it. All eight living former secretaries of state came out against the measure and President George W. Bush spoke publicly against it. The day after it passed the committee, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Washington, and Turkish officials threatened to cut off cooperation in Iraq. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Iraq, met privately with several members of Congress to try to convince them to withdraw their support.
In the days after it passed the committee, 11 of the bill's original co-sponsors removed their support from the bill and other cosponsors publicly said they would not vote for it. On October 24, four of the measure's most vocal supporters wrote to Pelosi, asking her not to bring the measure to a full vote. "We believe that a large majority of our colleagues want to support a resolution recognizing the genocide on the House floor and that they will do so, provided the timing is more favorable."
The forcefulness of the opposition to the genocide recognition turned the tide against the measure, said one Congressional staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The [Democratic House] leadership said
Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.