Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Turkey opens taxation chapter, urges EU to play the game by its rules

Hurriyet Daily News
June 30, 2009

ISTANBUL - Turkey on Tuesday opened negotiations on taxation reform in its long-running bid to join the European Union, and urged the 27-member bloc to drop political considerations and "play the game by its rules."

At membership talks in Brussels, senior EU and Turkish officials opened talks on taxation, one of the 35 policy negotiating areas -- or chapters -- all would-be members have to complete prior to joining.

Ankara has now formally opened 11 chapters. Eight other chapters have been frozen since 2006 due to a customs dispute with Greek Cypriots.

France is blocking another five chapters directly linked to EU membership.

Turkey's European affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, told a news conference that Ankara was aware of its responsibilities in the process and urged the EU to respect its obligations.

"Turkey is prepared to play the game by its rules, but when new rules are introduced to the game while the game is going on, this creates reaction," he was quoted by AFP as saying.

"We expect the EU to abide by its commitments for a fair and sustainable negotiation process and reaffirm its political will to help further our objectives," he said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with their Austrian colleagues, favor some kind of special relationship with Turkey which falls short of full membership.

"Turkey expects to join the EU as an equal member with all the rights and obligations this will imply," Bagis said.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, told the conference the opened chapter is "an important chapter and a significant one on Turkey's path towards the European Union."

But he warned: "There are several benchmarks that need to be met before chapter 16 can be provisionally closed."

Kohout said Turkey would have to align its laws with EU standards on value-added tax and excise duties, and eliminate "discriminatory" levies on alcohol and imported tobacco.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oregonian primes business ventures in Turkey

By: Jill Rehkopf Smith
The Oregonian
June 24, 2009

Irl Davis, a Raleigh Hills resident whose Oregon roots stretch back to a Tygh Valley homestead in the 1870s, is one of 15 worldwide representatives of the Investment Support and Promotion Agency of the Republic of Turkey's Prime Ministry. His territory covers 11 western states.

Davis, 60, majored in electrical engineering technology at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. In 1984 he began manufacturing electronic components in China, selling them to 17 different countries. In 2002 he started Global One, a consulting firm that helps small and mid-sized businesses expand into emerging markets overseas.

He made his first close connection with Turkey through a Turkish employee at one of his Chinese plants. He landed his job with the prime ministry after setting up a trade mission to Turkey for Washington state.

Americans, in general, have been updating their image of Turkey since April, when President Barack Obama visited the predominantly Muslim country and highlighted it as a model secular democracy.

Until then, Davis said, many people free-associated Turkey with "camels and veils."
The Oregonian recently sat down with Davis at his home in Raleigh Hills. His comments have been edited for length and clarity:

How did Obama's visit to Turkey affect your work?

Obama has opened a lot of doors -- and not just one way either. In the last few months, we've had more activity out of that region. All these people from these different countries in the Middle East are extremely optimistic.

Your website describes Turkey as strategic. Why more so than other countries?

It always has been strategic. Think about the Silk Road and why it's there, why Istanbul is there in the first place. It's a bridge between east and west. You have over a billion customers within a couple hour flight. In Istanbul they have a Microsoft office that takes care of 80 countries.

Is it a problem that Turkey is not yet in the European Union?

Turkey is given all the rights of the European Union but is still not a full-fledged member. Your tariffs are very attractive...Foreign businesses are utilizing the free-trade zones in Turkey. Within these zones, foreign companies can take advantage of reduced or no tariffs. Setting up a remote factory within these zones allows the company to import raw goods to this location, manufacture the finished product and then export it to various countries in the EU without tariffs.

Isn't this a bad time to be expanding overseas, in the middle of a recession?

(In a recession) you can do one of two things. You can cut back expenses or you can increase revenue. It's time to look at places where we can increase our revenue. People are saying, 'Maybe I should ... take our product and sell it from Turkey into these areas and maybe even then tap into the 70 million consumers already in Turkey because they're young, they're progressive.

Can you describe some of the cultural differences that you help businesses navigate?

A lot has to do with styles of negotiation. Northern Turkey would be more the western European style of negotiating: Let's cooperate together, let's figure out what's the best thing to do as a team. Down south would be more (bargaining style): They start at 4 and you start at 1. In China, there's winners and losers ... For an American, knowing that right up front, it's up to us to make it look like (China wins). You have to frame the negotiation 'This is good for China' before you even get into it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Turkey says normalization talks with Armenia are underway

June 24, 2009
Hurriyet Daily News

ISTANBUL - The talks aimed at the normalization of relations between Ankara and Yerevan continue at various levels, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, ruling out recent reports suggesting the suspension of the agreed road map with Armenia.

"We are discussing all issues with Armenia, and what is important is principles we set," Anatolian Agency quoted spokesperson Burak Ozugergin as telling a press conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

Ozugergin said there was also an ongoing process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and both processes were affecting each other.

Turkey and Armenia agreed in April on a "road map" deal for U.S.-backed talks that could lead to the normalization of ties and the opening of their border, which Ankara closed in a show of support to Baku in 1993 after Armenian occupation of Azeri territories in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Turkish officials, however, have said Turkey will not open its border with Armenia before the neighboring country ends its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, reassuring Azeri leaders that Ankara's efforts to reconcile with Yerevan would not undermine the country's interests.

Recent media reports questioned further progress in talks between Turkey and Armenia. Even EU South Caucasus envoy Peter Semneby said in an interview published last week Turkey has taken a "tactical step backwards" on normalizing relations with Armenia because of fierce domestic reaction to the move.

Ozugergin said the road map would be made public when the conditions are suitable, adding he had already said that the two countries have agreed on some principles.
He said Turkey was supporting a solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute through peaceful means, and a positive course of the process would contribute to peace and stability in the Caucasus.

The spokesman also said Turkey would support any positive development or step in the Minsk process.

"Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem will restore stability in the region, and make it sustainable," Ozugergin said.

Ozugergin also said Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu might meet foreign ministers of other countries, including his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian, on the Greek island of Corfu during an informal meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, this weekend.

OP-ED: Free to Be a Kurd

June 24, 2009
The New York Times


ISTANBUL — On hillsides across southeastern Turkey, you often see the national slogan — “Happy is one who can say I am a Turk” — in giant letters that can be read from miles away.
The slogan was coined in the 1920s by modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as part of an effort to create a national identity out of the ashes of a bankrupt empire.

But that’s not why the message was written on the southeastern hills. The people who live there are not Turkish, but Kurdish.

And for the last four decades, the Turkish government has been telling them that there is only one acceptable identity in this country — that of a happy Turk.

Turkey’s long struggle with the Kurdish issue is a painful episode involving blunders, victories, and, along the way, plenty of abuse from all sides.

Since 1984, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been waging a bloody guerrilla war for an independent Kurdish homeland. Ruthless and dogmatic, the PKK has wreaked havoc, killing civilians and soldiers in terror attacks across Turkey. (The death toll stands at about 30,000.)
Turkey’s fight with the PKK tainted our political system and clogged our minds for decades, and made Ankara even more resistant to Kurdish demands for political and cultural rights.

All that is changing.

Armed with new self-confidence and higher democratic standards, the Turkish government has quietly crafted a bold initiative to persuade the PKK to surrender in return for political representation and, eventually, an amnesty. The deal has the potential to put an end to one of the deadliest conflicts in this region.

After thousands of casualties and decades of guerrilla warfare, there is now an awareness at the highest levels of the Turkish body politic that the Kurdish issue is not simply a terror problem — that a solution has to include reforms that go to the heart of Kurdish identity.

Accordingly, Ankara recently lifted an archaic ban on the Kurdish language and started aid programs for underdeveloped Kurdish regions. State-owned television has launched a Kurdish-language network, and the Higher Education Board is working to open institutes for Kurdish studies. It has become de rigueur for politicians to do a public mea culpa over the past.

The next steps are still a little hazy. There is talk of changing the Constitution — particularly the definition of citizenship, which is currently defined as Turkishness — and there is a consensus in the government to return the original Kurdish names to towns and villages.

But the hearts-and-minds campaign is only one side of the coin. The real challenge is dealing with the PKK. Senior government officials privately admit there have been discussions with PKK leaders based in northern Iraq through Iraqi Kurds and other intermediaries to convince them to surrender in return for an eventual amnesty.

Remarkably, the initiative has not been vetoed by the Turkish military. It has received support from the media and even a tacit nod from Turkey’s main opposition party. Still, officials in Ankara have yet to make a public case for the strategy, which so far has been only quietly whispered in the corridors of power.

Yet what happens within Turkey is only one part of the equation. Turkey’s efforts can only go so far if not matched by support from Iraqi Kurds, who control the areas from which the PKK operates, and from Washington, the ultimate guarantor of the region.

Having been in the business of terrorism for too long, the PKK will not easily accept any deal offered by Ankara. Its leadership is fractured and cut off from the reality of the modern world. It will need to be pressured militarily and logistically.

Iraqi Kurds could help by repatriating the thousands of pro-PKK Turkish Kurds who have been living for years in the Mahmur refugee camp across the border in Iraq, and by moving ahead with a planned pan-Kurdish conference.

In turn, if Turkey can channel the PKK into a legitimate political force, it can once again become the protector of Kurds in northern Iraq, as it was for a decade after the Gulf War. That would free Washington from worrying about the security of the Kurds once U.S. forces withdraw.

And if President Obama put his weight behind Turkey’s initiative, it could become the first real overseas success story of his administration.

This could be the year we leave one of the bloodiest Middle East conflicts behind. But the window of opportunity is short.

Asli Aydintasbas is a columnist for the Turkish daily Aksam.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today's Zaman Interview with Former New York Times Istanbul Bureau Chief Stephen Kinzer

Stephen Kinzer, former chief of The New York Times bureau in İstanbul from 1996 to 2006, has said Turkey has started to handle its domestic and regional problems in a more democratic and peaceful way as the world has been evolving in the same direction, and in this world, there is no longer any military control of politics.

“The role of the military in Turkey has changed a lot. And it has to change more because in relation to what the world wants, armies do not participate in politics,” said Kinzer in İstanbul, where he was conducting research for his next book dealing with US relations with Iran, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Kinzer pointed out that the new US administration under President Barack Obama will support civilian democracy in Turkey in a stronger way.

“I certainly think that there will be no covert encouragement for the military to continue to play a role. For example, after the March 2003 vote about the Iraq war, one American official [former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz] went on television and said, ‘I was disappointed that the military didn't step up and play a role.' This was terrible. It's almost like encouraging a coup. You won't hear that anymore,” said Kinzer, who after completing his assignment to Turkey published “Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds.”
According to Kinzer Turkey can become a regional power, and this can benefit the United States as well.

“When [Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu goes to Pakistan, for example, he is able to talk to every faction. There are no doors closed to Turkey. But there are doors closed to America,” he said and added that “Turkey can talk to people we can't talk to. The strategic identity for Turkey that Davutoğlu sees fits in very well with Obama's foreign policy ideas.”
Kinzer expanded on the topic and more for Sunday's Zaman.

You reported from Turkey at the end of the 1990s, and you've been observing the country since then. What have you found striking in those years?

The 1990s were something like a lost decade for Turkey. There were weak coalition governments that were not able to implement coherent policies; violence in the Southeast was at a very high level; Turkey was fighting most of its neighbors; and the country just seemed adrift. Now a lot of it has changed.

What are those changes?

First of all, you have a strong government with broad popular support. Second, since 1999, when the EU accession project took on momentum, Turkey has had a framework for reform. The new government, at least in its early years, was much more committed to reforms. We used to hear from the so-called secular parties that “we must move ever closer to Europe and we must democratize.” But they did not do it. Certainly after 1999, you really saw democratization and modernization in this country. This country is now probably more democratic than it has ever been. It's also a great step forward that the “Cumhurbaşkanı” [president] would stand up and say, “The Kurdish problem is our number one problem.” You would not have heard that in the 1990s. We have gone from a time when a Kurdish kid in Diyarbakır could not even ask for “çay” [tea] in the Kurdish language to a time when you have a Kurdish TV station, and the university in Mardin is going to have a department of Kurdish language and literature. The other big change I see is Turkey's role in the world.

How do you think Turkey's role in the world is changing?

Ever since the days of Atatürk [Gazi Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey], Turkey looked mostly inward. There were some reasons for that. In the Kemalist period, Turkey was so primitive, had no roads, no schools and no hospitals. So there was so much work to do inside Turkey that they couldn't think about the world. And secondly, Gazi always wanted to calm the fears that they were going to try to build a new Ottoman Empire. That was important for that time. But now the whole [Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu project has something very important for Turkey.

What does it have?

Turkey is now looking at the possibility of becoming a regional power, and over the long run, even a global power. That's why it's opening up embassies in Latin America and Africa. But I see it going more or less in concentric circles. You want to have zero problems with neighbors, and then you can have a more regional influence, and it could go from there. I like the Turkish approach of promoting the idea of diplomacy, compromise, resolving problems with negotiations: “Let's try to get Israel and Syria together. Let's try to get America and Iran together. Let's try to get Russia and Georgia together.” Turkey has a unique ability to talk to different sides in conflicts. The strategic identity for Turkey that Davutoğlu sees fits in very well with Obama's foreign policy ideas. So Turkey's relationships with Europe and America have crossed over. If you went back to the beginning of this decade, the EU had just blessed Turkey and given it a chance to begin the accession process. Right after that George Bush was elected; as Europe was embracing Turkey, the US was bombing places. That made Europe the ideal partner. Now they've changed positions. Europe is not so friendly to Turkey, and I can see why Turks don't want to be so positive toward Europe. Meanwhile, America has emerged as a far different kind of player in the world that wants to resolve problems through diplomacy. It means the beginning of a new, close phase of cooperation between Turkey and the United States.

Do you think Turkey's diverse relations with a range of countries in the world would be all fine with the Obama administration?

Yes, I do. I don't think it was fine with the Americans all the time. We didn't like it when Turkey was talking to Iran. But Turkey didn't care and said, “We're going to talk to Iran anyway.” Now we like the idea that Turkey talks to Iran. That's why Davutoğlu's project and Obama's policies are very much in line. They can help each other.

Do you think relations could have been disastrous if the Republicans were in power in the United States?

Yes. For example, during the presidential campaign, John McCain was talking about the circumstances under which he would bomb Iran. Anybody who bombs Iran is doing something bad for Turkey. Look what happened with Iraq.

Now such threats come from Israel…

The relationship between Israel and the United States may also be changing.

In what way?

The relationship between the United States and Israel is developing. And I still feel that it is unlikely that Israel would take some hugely dramatic and radical step in the Middle East, like bombing Iran with the realization that America was 100 percent against it. If America says that “we don't like it but after all Israel is its own country,” that's kind of a signal, then, maybe Israel will do it. But if the United States makes it very clear that “we do not want you to do it,” which is what we are saying to Israel, then, it is hard for Israel to do it.

You referred to Davutoğlu's foreign policy project of zero problems with neighbors. It has not been entirely achieved yet. What is your view of the most important unachieved problems in that regard?

Armenia, Cyprus and the Kurds. We were waiting for a big breakthrough on the Armenian issue, but it didn't happen. Obviously, there was a push back from Azerbaijan. However, Davutoğlu has told journalists that Turkey has not given up on this. That has a deadline every year because of the genocide resolution in Washington. We cannot get to next April 24 and still not have this resolved. The problem is how to bring Azerbaijan into the equation. This is an obstacle in Davutoğlu's achieving his diplomacy, compromise, negotiation policy in the world. When he goes out and tells Israel, for example, “You don't want to bomb Hamas. You want to talk to Hamas. You want to negotiate,” naturally they say, “What about you?” I love this phrase “Yurtta Sulh Cihanda Sulh” [Peace at Home, peace in the World]. But America and Turkey each have one half. America has peace at home. When we have conflicts in America, they are always peaceful. Turkey should learn from that. But we are warlike in the world. We need to learn from Turkey. Turkey has peace in the world. So each of us has half.

Why do you think the Kurdish issue is one of the most difficult to address?

Because it requires such a change in mindset with everything we've been told up to now. The policy still in the minds of most Turks has been “we must kill every terrorist.” We have to get past that. Kurds are brother citizens of the Turkish Republic. Every citizen has rights. They should be applied equally to all. There is also this existential fear in the Turkish soul that comes from the “Sèvres Syndrome.” One thing you see all through Turkish history is that Turkey does not stay isolated from the currents in the world. Even under Sultan Selim III, the French Revolution had an impact here. Then in the 19th century, the democratization in Europe had an impact here. This ideology of positivism in Europe really affected Mustafa Kemal and also had a negative effect in the 1930s. Europe embraced racist nationalism and the suppression of minorities. That also had an influence in Turkey. Then, after World War II, the United Nations was founded; countries were supposed to be more democratic. That's when we had the first election, multi-party system and [late Prime Minister Adnan] Menderes came in. In the 1980s and the early 1990s, the Cold War was ending, and countries were opening up to the market economy. There was Turgut Özal. Now the world is getting to a point where we want to resolve domestic conflicts democratically and peacefully. Turkey cannot remain apart from this.

You also said that Turkey is trying to become a global power and opening embassies in far-off places such as Latin America and Africa. There are also a lot of Turkish schools in those areas. What do you think of these?

I guess you can argue that there is going to be an Islamic component to this project, and this might be the best Islamic component you could have. Again, this requires an evolution in Turkey. But Turkey is playing a stabilizing role. As for Turkey really having an influence in Africa or in Latin America, we are a long way from that yet. Let's work on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, etc. Once Turkey establishes itself in the region, then we can think about bigger projects. But if you look 50 years ahead, if Turkey can succeed, it's reasonable. However, the upper limit is Turkey resolving the problems in the neighborhood. You've got to get those. As long as the Kurdish conflict is not solved, and Armenia and Cyprus are not solved, the amount that Turkey can do in the world is limited.

Are you following the Ergenekon investigation?

How can you not? When it started, it was positive for many Turks. Some corners of the carpet are being turned up and the dirt underneath is being brought to light. But it seemed to run a bit out of control. I am wondering if it is being used politically by some people. It is good as long as it is kept within the limits that evidence proves and it doesn't just become a witch hunt against people with different ideas.

What did you think when you heard about the document published recently by Taraf daily allegedly detailing a smear campaign organized by the military against the ruling party and the Gülen movement?

I found it very troubling. I don't think we know the whole story yet. So there are three possibilities. Either it is a project of the General Staff or it is a project of someone in the army who is not connected to the General Staff or it is a fake. There is now journalism that brings it to light - - it's good.

Considering the fact that the military used to be so untouchable in the past -- as you know very well from the 1990s when you were here…

Yes. The role of the military in Turkey has changed a lot. And it has to change more because in relation to what the world wants, armies do not participate in politics.

The United States has been supporting the Turkish military…

That was true in the past.

What has changed now?

Support for civilian democracy is going to be ever stronger under the Obama administration. We will not subordinate our desire for democracy to our desire for security.

Do you think we will see some concrete steps concerning US relations with the Turkish military…

I certainly think that there will be no covert encouragement to the military to continue to play a role. For example, after the March 2003 vote about the Iraq war, one American official [former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz] went on television and said, “I was disappointed that the military didn't step up and play a role.” This was terrible. It's almost like encouraging a coup. You won't hear that anymore.

Interview published June 21st, 2009. Available online: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=178650&bolum=8

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies and Armenian Deaths

Huffington Post
June 5, 2009

On April 24, 2009--Armenian Remembrance Day-- President Barack Obama issued a statement "remember[ing] the 1.5 million Armenian [deaths] in the final days of the Ottoman Empire." The President stumbled.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and the number of Armenians who are claimed by Armenians and their echo chambers to have died in an alleged World War I genocide. Almost a century later, the number of deaths they assert oscillates between 1.5-2 million. But the best contemporary estimates by Armenians or their sympathizers were 300,000-750,000 (compared with 2.4 million Ottoman Muslim deaths in Anatolia). Further, not a single one of those deaths necessarily falls within the definition of genocide in the authoritative Genocide Convention of 1948. It requires proof that the accused was responsible for the physical destruction of a group in whole or in substantial part specifically because of their race, nationality, religion, or ethnicity. A political or military motivation for a death falls outside the definition.

Immediately after the war, when events and memories were fresh, Armenians had no incentive to concoct high casualty figures or genocidal motivations for their deaths. Their objective was statehood. Armenians were encouraged by the self-determination concept in President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, (while conveniently forgetting that they were a minority in Eastern Anatolia where they hoped to found a new nation). Armenian leaders pointed to their military contribution to defeating the Ottomans and population figures that would sustain an Armenian nation.

Boghus Nubar, then Head of the Armenian Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference (1919), wrote to the French Foreign Minister Stephen Pichon: "The Armenians have been, since the beginning of the war, de facto belligerents, as you yourself have acknowledged, since they have fought alongside the Allies on all fronts, enduring heavy sacrifices and great suffering for the sake of their unshakable attachment to the cause of the Entente...." Nubar had earlier written to the Foreign Minister on October 29, 1918, that Armenians had earned their independence: "We have fought for it. We have poured out our blood for it without stint. Our people played a gallant part in the armies that won the victory."

When their quest for statehood shipwrecked on the Treaty of Lausanne and annexation by the Soviet Union in 1921, Armenians revised their soundtrack to endorse a contrived genocide thesis. It seeks a "pound of flesh" from the Republic of Turkey in the form of recognition, reparations, and boundary changes. To make their case more convincing, Armenians hiked the number of deaths. They also altered their story line from having died as belligerents against the Turks to having perished like unarmed helpless lambs.

Vahan Vardapet, an Armenian cleric, estimated a prewar Ottoman Armenian population of 1.26 million. At the Peace Conference, Armenian leader Nubar stated that 280,000 remained in the Empire and 700,000 had emigrated elsewhere. Accepting those Armenian figures, the number of dead would be 280,000. George Montgomery of the Armenia-American Society estimated a prewar Armenian population of 1.4-1.6 million, and a casualty figure of 500,000 or less. Armenian Van Cardashian, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1919, placed the number of Armenian dead at 750,000, i.e., a prewar population of 1.5 million and a post-war figure of 750,000.

After statehood was lost, Armenians turned to their genocide playbook which exploited Christian bigotries and contempt for Ottoman Muslims. They remembered earlier successful anti-Ottoman propaganda. United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the war, Henry Morganthau, was openly racist and devoted to propaganda. On November 26, 1917, Morgenthau confessed in a letter to President Wilson that he intended to write a book vilifying Turks and Germans to, "win a victory for the war policy of the government." In his biography, "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story," Morgenthau betrays his racist hatred toward Turks ("humanity and civilization never for a moment enters their mind") and unconditional admiration for Armenians ("They are so superior to the Turks intellectually and morally.").

British Prime Minister Gladstone's histrionic figure of 60,000 Bulgarian Christians slaughtered in 1876 captured the imagination of the west. The true figure later provided by a British Ambassador was 3,500--including Turks who were first slain by the Christians.

From 280,000-750,000, Armenians initially raised their death count to 800,000 to test the credibility waters. It passed muster with uninformed politicians easily influenced by campaign contributions and voting clout. Armenians then jumped the number to 1.5 million, and then 1.8 million by Armenian historian Kevork Aslan. For the last decades, an Armenian majority seems to have settled on the 1.5 million death plateau--which still exceeds their contemporary estimates by 200 to 500 percent. They are now testing the waters at 2.5-3 million killed as their chances for a congressional genocide resolution recede. It speaks volumes that champions of the inflated death figures have no explanation for why Armenians on the scene would have erred. Think of the absurdity of discarding the current death count of Afghan civilians in the United States-Afghan war in favor of a number deduced in the year 2109!

Armenians have a genuine tale of woe. It largely overlaps with the tale of tragedy and suffering that can be told by Ottoman Muslims during the war years: 2.4 million deaths in Anatolia, ethnic cleansing, starvation, malnutrition, untreated epidemics, and traumatic privations of war under a decrepit and collapsing Empire.

Unskewed historical truth is the antechamber of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. That is why the Government of Turkey has proposed an international commission of impartial and independent experts with access to all relevant archives to determine the number and characterization of World War I deaths. Armenians are balking because they are skeptical of their own figures and accusations.

*Bruce Fein is a resident scholar at the Turkish Coalition of America.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama Boosts US Image, Approval Doubles in Turkey

June 4, 2009

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, June 4 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has boosted his country's image abroad by six points since his election in November with a 22-nation poll on Thursday showing 42 percent of people expressing a favorable view of America.

As Obama prepares to speak to the Muslim world in Cairo in a bid to repair tattered U.S. relations, the Ipsos/Reuters survey showed a 25 point jump in favorable views of America in Turkey, the only majority Muslim nation polled, to 49 percent.

The poll was taken between April 14 and May 7, shortly after Obama visited Istanbul and met with religious leaders as part of a bid to unite moderates of faiths against extremism.

"This suggests that any sort of strategy to engage with the Muslim world puts a premium on him as the messenger and going there and talking to them," said Clifford Young of Ipsos Global Public Affairs, the international market research and polling company that carried out the online poll of 22,000 people.

"There's this very positive Obama effect and he is contributing significantly to increasing the U.S. credibility around the world," he said.

In India, where the Muslim population is a minority but still one of the largest in the world at 140 million or double the number of Turkish Muslims, the positive view of America rose one point to 73 percent, while in China, where there are about 20 million Muslims, it rose eight points to 42 percent.

Obama, whose father was Muslim and who lived as a boy in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, hopes to mend a U.S. image damaged by former President George W. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the treatment of U.S. military detainees.

He visited Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and met with King Abdullah. On Thursday the first black U.S. president will speak to the Muslim world when he gives an address in Egypt.


An Ipsos poll of 7,000 people in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan in March found that an average 48 percent had a favorable view of Obama, while 33 percent had a positive view of the United States.

Obama's Middle East trip and planned Cairo speech drew condemnation from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who said in a taped message that the U.S. leader had planted seeds for "revenge and hatred" towards America in the Muslim world.

"A six percent improvement in six months at the global level -- that's fairly significant," Young said. "Obama's especially having an effect in those countries that had the most doubt about the United States."

"We're seeing a honeymoon effect," Young said. "That doesn't necessarily mean it has to decline, it means it has to be reinforced with concrete actions on the ground."

Along with Turkey, six other countries posted double digit rises in favorable views toward America -- France, 13 points to 39 percent, Belgium, 12 points to 36 percent, Germany, 11 points to 31 percent, The Netherlands, 11 points to 27 percent, Canada, 10 points to 44 percent, and Spain, 10 points to 43 percent.

Only three of the 22 countries polled did not record any increase in the positive image of America -- Russia remained unchanged at 18 percent, the lowest ranking, while in Poland it dropped four points to 48 percent, and the Czech Republic fell one point to 35 percent.
Ipsos polled people in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, India, Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, and Britain.

The 22 countries polled make up 75 percent of the world's gross domestic product.Respondents in the online poll were recruited and screened, the survey said. The results are then balanced by age, gender, city population and education levels. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent

Turkish-American Group Blocks Pro-Genocide Bill

Today’s Zaman
June 3, 2009

The Turkish-American Legal Defense Fund (TALDF) has announced that a bill called the Justice for Genocide Victims Bill, which was introduced by California Assembly member Paul Krekorian, has been blocked by California Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin de Leon.

The bill, known as Assembly Bill 961 (AB 961), was introduced in early 2009 by Assembly member Krekorian, a Democrat elected to the California state legislature in 2006. Krekorian tried to persuade the assembly by saying that AB 961 would prevent California from awarding contracts to companies that have profited from genocide. However, TALDF insistently objected to the bill and presented to the assembly two separate written statements explaining why they oppose the bill.

“The United States as a whole maintains a single foreign policy as authorized by the Constitution. The individual states may not intrude upon or compromise this policy. The framers of the Constitution recognized that the peoples of the several states must sink or swim together, and that in the long run, security and national interests are made by the union and not in a foreign policy Tower of Babel. The intent of AB 961 to create a foreign policy for California makes it unconstitutional,” said one of the statements introduced to the Committee on Business and Professions and the Committee on Judiciary of the California State Assembly.

TALDF has expressed pleasure at the fact that the rejection of AB 961 has actually sent a message to all of the states that no individual state, according to the Constitution, should deal with foreign policy.

TALDF, founded last year, assists Turkish-Americans with their constitutional citizenship rights.
Meanwhile, the English-language Asbarez newspaper reported recently that Senate Bill 234 (SB 234), authored by California Senator Mark Wyland (R-northern San Diego County) is now on its way to the full Senate floor for consideration. Known as the Genocide Awareness Act, the bill instructs the California State Curriculum Commission to consider the inclusion of an oral history component in its already mandated genocide education curriculum.

Asbarez noted that Turkish Coalition of America board member Bruce Fein traveled from Washington, D.C., in an effort to undermine SB 234 as well as AB 961.