(October 30, 2019 / JNS) The U.S. House of Representatives passed on Tuesday both a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide and a bill to enact U.S. sanctions against Turkey for its incursion this month into northern Syria.
Reps. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), Jim Baird (R-Ind.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) voted against both measures.
“I believe accountability for human-rights violations, especially ethnic cleansing and genocide, is paramount,” said Omar in a statement explaining her vote. “But accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight. It should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics.”
She continued, “A true acknowledgment of historical crimes against humanity must include both the heinous genocides of the 20th century, along with earlier mass slaughters like the trans-Atlantic slave trade and Native American genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of millions of indigenous people in this country.”
In addition to Omar, Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) voted “present.”
JNS has reached out to their respective congressional offices for comment.
In 2009, Johnson opposed a resolution recognizing the genocide. “I don’t acknowledge; I was not around,” she said.
Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) voted against it.
JNS has reached out to their congressional offices as well.
“There’s no denying that horrific atrocities were committed against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire in the midst of the confusion and carnage of the First World War,” Cole told JNS. “But I think we need to be careful not to allow tragedies of the past to complicate and endanger lives of Americans engaged in critical work in a dangerous and volatile region.”
“The United States has long been on the right side of history in acknowledging and condemning the Armenian genocide,” he continued. “However, we need to preserve our ability to work with others who have different views of the past. In my opinion, though well-intentioned, this resolution makes that more difficult.”
“I have continually supported the protection of threatened religious and ethnic minority groups abroad,” Meadows told JNS. “The genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and others at the hands of the Ottoman Empire deserve continued recognition and condemnation—as the U.S. government has done before—and should not be forgotten.”
However, he continued, “because of potential retaliation that could endanger our allies and troops in the immediate future, it was troubling to see this vote come as the United States just worked out an agreement for a ceasefire and safe zone in Syria.”
Explaining his vote against the resolution, House Rep. Pence, whose brother is U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, said, “I have a lot of confidence in the president and the administration knowing what to do in Turkey, and I didn’t want to interfere.”
Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told JNS:
“At this point, both Trump and Erdoğan hope that there will not be a veto-proof majority in the Senate, giving the former yet another opportunity to shield the latter from sanctions. If Erdoğan continues on his current trajectory, however, he will become an increasing liability for Trump, who could at one point choose to abandon him as abruptly as he abandoned America’s Syrian Kurdish partners.”
Former Pentagon official Michael Rubin told JNS that while recognizing the genocide was “the right thing to do—some recent archival documents make clear that it was genocide, and not merely tragedy born from fog of war,” the issue is about timing.
“The genocide should be recognized on its own merits, not because we are mad about Turkey’s ethnic cleansing in northeastern Syria,” he said.
In addition to Omar, Pence, Baird and Cole, Gosar, Reps. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Rick Allen (R-Ga.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.), Michael Guest (R-Miss.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) voted against it.
JNS has reached out to their congressional offices for comment.
“President Trump already has the authority to impose sanctions on Turkey, and he has not been shy about use of this tool. I trust that he will use sanctions again if needed,” Cole told JNS. “But I cannot support a measure that would further drive Turkey into the arms of Putin.”
‘Growing bipartisan reaction to Erdoğan’s policies’
If enacted, the House bill, passed in response to Turkey’s incursion a few weeks ago into northern Syria after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew U.S. forces from the region—a move that has been criticized by many as a betrayal of U.S. allies including the Kurds, who have long helped the United States fight the Islamic State—would, among other things, sanction senior Turkish officials involved in the operation, which has reportedly displaced more than 200,000 people; ban most U.S. armed sales to Ankara; and blacklist Turkish national bank Halkbank, which was indicted this month by the United States for allegedly evading U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Christians United for Israel applauded the passage of the sanctions legislation.
“We are very pleased the House of Representatives has passed legislation sanctioning Turkey for its invasion of Syria. Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey aligns itself with our adversaries, makes common cause with terrorist organizations and attacks our allies,” said CUFI founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee in a statement. “Put simply, the [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan regime is no ally at all and should be treated as such. These sanctions are a good step. Now it is time for the Senate to act.”
A similar Turkey sanctions bill in U.S. Senate has been introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (R-N.J.) have introduced their own legislation to sanction Turkey.
McConnell, however, last week urged caution on such legislation.
“I’m aware there is some appetite on both sides of the aisle to quickly reach for the toolbox of sanctions,” he said. “I’m open to the Senate considering them,” though he said the Senate should consider the option carefully.”
The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League applauded the resolution’s passage.
“The Turkish government refuses to even acknowledge it, but today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a historic resolution to officially recognize the #ArmenianGenocide. We stand with Armenians the world over in this important struggle,” tweeted AJC.
The Turkish government refuses to even acknowledge it, but today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a historic resolution to officially recognize the #ArmenianGenocide.
We stand with Armenians the world over in this important struggle. https://t.co/M4h9QiZpaH
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) October 30, 2019
“Thank you to the House of Representatives for passing a bipartisan resolution stating that the U.S. officially recognizes the Armenian Genocide and encouraging education about it. We hope to see action soon on the Senate companion measure as well,” tweeted the ADL.
Thank you to the House of Representatives for passing a bipartisan resolution stating that the U.S. officially recognizes the Armenian Genocide and encouraging education about it. We hope to see action soon on the Senate companion measure as well. https://t.co/PRMnA7hBuu
— ADL (@ADL) October 29, 2019
The Republican Jewish Coalition took no stance on either measure, its spokesperson, Neil Strauss, told JNS.
“It is critically important for America to join the dozens of countries who have recognized the Armenian genocide, and acknowledge the more than 1 million lost over a century ago at the hands of the Ottoman Empire,” said Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director Halie Soifer in a statement. “As Jews, we understand the pain of losing an entire generation and stand in solidarity with Armenian Americans impacted by this dark chapter of history. It is never too late to acknowledge the enormity of this loss and wrongdoing and to reaffirm the promise of ‘never again’ bearing witness to genocide.”
“The timing of the two [measures] and the near-unanimous support they have garnered indicate that they were driven to a large extent by the growing bipartisan reaction to Erdoğan’s Syria policies, and to a lesser extent by a similar reaction to Trump’s appeasement of Erdoğan,” Ayken Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told JNS.
“At this point, both Trump and Erdoğan hope that there will not be a veto-proof majority in the Senate, giving the former yet another opportunity to shield the latter from sanctions,” he continued. “If Erdoğan continues on his current trajectory, however, he will become an increasing liability for Trump, who could at one point choose to abandon him as abruptly as he abandoned America’s Syrian Kurdish partners.”
However, “Turkey has been a poor NATO ally for years, but this sanctions bill is unacceptable interference with military policy that is the purview of the Commander in Chief,” Jewish Policy Center senior director Shoshana Bryen told JNS. “It demands that US special operations forces be deployed to Syria and be in the company of Kurdish forces, but abdicates congressional responsibility to declare war. Our soldiers would be deployed without a declaration of war and without a militarily achievable goal.”
“The genocide in Armenia is a fact,” she continued. “However, Congress chose to recognize that fact in conjunction with – thought not in the same bill as – the sanctions on Turkey. If I were Armenian, I would be irritated to know that my history is relevant only when the United States House wants to punish Turkey.”
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