Daniel Nichanian describes the candidates’ positions on Armenian genocide recognition and relations with Armenia, which are remarkable for how genuinely different they are. McCain has been a consistent foe of recognition and has tended, like the Bush administration, to tilt towards Azerbaijan. In contrast, Obama has been a supporter of recognition and better relations with Yerevan. To some extent this is a function of the much weaker sympathies on the right for the Armenian Diaspora and their concerns, and this is then complicated by traditional pro-Turkish and anti-Russian attitudes, both of which McCain has in abundance. The Turkish-Israeli alliance provides an additional source of political pressure on politicians in Washington. Less remarked on during the war in Georgia was the fact that Armenia, partly by inclination and party out of necessity, is Russia’s closest ally in the Caucasus and also heavily dependent on Russia for its trade and energy supplies. “Pro-Israel” supporters of the Turkish alliance and those with obsessive hostility for Russia are not likely to be good friends of Armenia, and so it has been ever since Armenian independence. For all of the exaggerated talk about how influential Armenian-American lobbying groups are supposed to be, they are regularly outmatched by even more powerful and entrenched interests.
The reason that the recognition resolution was not successful last year will be the same reason why Obama will unfortunately end up capitulating to Ankara’s threats. Until all or nearly all American forces are out of Iraq, Ankara will be able to continue using its bases and supply routes as leverage to force the next administration to kill the resolution yet again, and once again many supporters of recognition will change their positions rather than be portrayed as having cast a vote that allegedly jeopardizes a military mission. Whether or not Obama genuinely believes recognition is appropriate and necessary, I’m sorry to say that I don’t see how it is politically possible for him to be able to maintain some reduced force in Iraq and also dare the Turks to cut off the northern supply routes.
Because he will be coming into office with the (undeserved) reputation of being too dovish, and because of his truly short time in office at the federal level, it would be incredible and entirely out of character for a new President Obama to risk starting off his administration with a move that will alienate Turkey. I find the idea of being blackmailed by an “ally” in such a fashion to be disgusting, as I said earlier this year on this blog and in my column, and I would support Obama if he pressed ahead with genocide recognition, but for all the reasons I laid out earlier this week about how Obama operates I think we all know that this is not going to happen. It would be genuinely impressive if he proved me wrong on this point.