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Op-Ed: Obama/Biden and Turkey
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
December 8, 2008—No. 78 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: Obama/Biden and Turkey

WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed by Gene Rossides appeared in the National Herald, Hellenic Voice, and the Greek News.

Obama/Biden and Turkey

By Gene Rossides

November 25, 2008

All Americans should be hoping that the Obama administration and the Obama/Biden team have a successful term in office because that would mean an economic recovery on the domestic front and an end to the U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan and more successes regarding Al Qaeda.

A number of commentators are giving President Elect Barak Obama advice on various issues, domestic and foreign. On the foreign front former National Security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski in a recent op-ed urged Obama to deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Others have given advice on Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, and Sudan as key front-line issues.

For what it is worth, I have a few suggestions for President Elect Obama regarding second level issues, namely, Cyprus, the Aegean, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Halki Theological School. These issues have a common denominator, Turkey.

It is my contention that success in dealing with the Turks on these secondary issues would be enormously helpful to the Obama administration in its dealings with the front-line issues because fundamental to all these issues are the rule of law and democratic norms.

Standing up to the Turks, halting the appeasement of the Turks and the double standard on the rule of law for the Turks, will send an important message to Iran, North Korea, the Taliban and Al Qaeda as well as to the Israeli and Palestinians.

How does the Obama administration do this? There is no magic involved. The process is well-known. The process is the application of appropriate diplomatic, economic and political pressure on Turkey.

The question is whether the Obama/Biden team will have the political will to act.  I believe they could have the political will to act if they fully appreciate that the benefits of a fair and viable Cyprus settlement will not only create a sound strategic situation for the U.S. in Cyprus and a better relationship between Greece and Turkey and remove a major obstacle to Turkish membership in the EU, but will have a positive impact on the front-line issues of Iran, North Korea, the Taliban and Al Qaeda and could favorably impact the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Having the political will to act involves at least two initial positions the Obama/Biden administration must take to demonstrate the seriousness of its purpose, namely, the removal of all Turkish armed forces, estimated at over 40,000 troops, and the return to Turkey of the estimated at 180,000 illegal settlers/colonists under the Geneva Convention of 1949.

Diplomatic pressure on Turkey would include no invitations for Turkish officials to visit their counterparts in the U.S. until Turkey commits to remove its illegal troops and settlers now.

Political pressure on Turkey would include getting other nations, particularly Britain, a guarantor power, and the European Union of nations to advise Turkey to get its illegal troops and settlers out of Cyprus and let the Greek and Turkish Cypriots negotiate a settlement by Cypriots free from outside pressure.

Economic pressure on Turkey would include the halt in any economic assistance including loans; a halt in any military assistance and acquisitions; and informing Turkey that it will withdraw all existing economic benefits, such as textile quotas, if Turkey does not cooperate. It would also include no assistance from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank until Turkey’s illegal troops and settlers are removed from Cyprus.

Vice President Elect Joe Biden has, during his Senate career, often called for the removal of Turkish troops from Cyprus as a necessary precondition to proper negotiations. On July 26, 2007, Senator Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated: “Turkey should begin the withdrawal of troops from Cyprus. The presence of those forces is neither justified nor necessary and complicates efforts to return the island to a state of lasting peace…Since 2003 there have been millions of peaceful crossings at the Green Line that separates the island’s two communities. Cypriots of all ethnicities have clearly demonstrated their ability to co-exist.”

Turkey’s U.S. Foreign Agent Lobbyists

During the presidential campaign both Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain make statements showing concern about lobbyists. Obama told the Democratic National Convention Committee to stop taking money from currently registered federal lobbyists. He stated on June 5, 2008: “I have sent a strong signal in this campaign by refusing the contributions of registered federal lobbyists and [political action committees]…They do not fund our campaign and they will not fund our party.”

Now all lobbyists are not bad. Many, if not most, serve a useful purpose in presenting the views of constituents or employers to our elected officials.

There is however a form of lobbying that is in my judgment harmful to the interests of the United States, namely, the hiring by foreign governments of former U.S. representatives and senators as foreign agents of that government to lobby the Congress and Executive Branch officials.

Presently, Turkey has on its payroll Dick Gephardt, former Democratic majority leader of the House of Representatives and Dick Armey, former Republican majority leader of the House. Both are registered with the Department of Justice as foreign agents for Turkey. Turkey pays Gephardt $1.8 million for himself and others and Armey several hundred thousand dollars annually.

My suggestion to President Elect Obama is that he refuse to meet with Gephardt or Armey and not allow his cabinet officers and his staff to meet with them. Such a position would strike a real blow at the odious practice of hiring former U.S. officials to represent foreign governments seeking money and favors from the U.S.

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.