Turkey’s Bait and Switch

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) after he addresses the Turkish parliament April 6, 2009 in Ankara, Turkey.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (R) after he addresses the Turkish parliament April 6, 2009 in Ankara, Turkey.

This April, Turkey’s leaders succeeded in preventing President Barack Obama from honoring his promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide on the false premise that Ankara would normalize its relations with Armenia, but only if the U.S. president broke this high-profile human rights pledge.

A classic example of bait and switch.

First the bait: In the weeks leading up to April 24, Turkey lured the Obama Administration with the prospect of a win-win Armenia-Turkey “road map” that would, without preconditions, lead quickly to the opening of the last closed border in Europe. Ankara’s price tag for ending its illegal blockade: the president’s refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Once the hook was set, Turkey kept the U.S. government on the line long enough to accomplish its main aim of securing the complicity of yet another U.S. administration in their longstanding campaign of genocide denial.

The State Department publicly welcomed Turkey’s stated willingness to normalize its bilateral relations with Armenia without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe.

On April 24, as has been widely reported, the president broke his pledge.

Then came the switch: Within hours after April 24, Turkey, having dodged the most serious threat it had faced of U.S. recognition in years, moved the goalposts down the field, claiming that the normalization of ties with Armenia, which it once held out as being only days away, now required Azerbaijan’s approval and the resolution of the longstanding Nagorno-Karabagh conflict.

Today, more than a month and a half after April 24, it’s painfully clear that Turkey’s preconditions are just a pretext for maintaining the status quo, and equally obvious that Ankara has no intention of honoring its commitments, now or in the near future.

The facts bear this out, at the cost, sadly, of U.S. credibility:

Despite the repeatedly stated U.S. position of no preconditions, Ankara has, very publicly, set preconditions—namely a third country’s approval and the settlement of a longstanding regional conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabagh.

Despite the U.S. position that Turkey should move within a reasonable timeframe to normalize relations and lifts its blockade of Armenia, Ankara has yet to take even a single meaningful step in this direction.

Let’s look at the balance sheet.

For Turkey

Turkey’s leaders, through clever manipulations of U.S. expectations, accomplished their primary goal of blocking American recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and, in the process, fostered the artificial appearance of flexibility without, in reality, having made any concessions at all.
It’s a win as well for Turkey’s Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists, who make millions by delaying, derailing, and defeating U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

For the United States

President Obama, at the expense of his reputation and America’s moral standing, broke his crystal-clear public pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
The State Department, at the cost of American diplomatic credibility, supported Armenia-Turkey normalization without preconditions and within a reasonable time frame, only to have Turkey set preconditions and entirely ignore the urgent need for timely action.

For Armenia

Armenia’s leaders banked on Turkey’s sincerity in seeking normalized ties and the lifting of Ankara’s blockade, only to have the diplomatic tables turned by Ankara against Armenian Genocide recognition efforts and the prospect of a durable resolution of the Karabagh conflict.
For Armenian Americans

Armenian Americans worked hard as citizens to help elect Barack Obama based, in large part, on his clearly stated and oft-repeated pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, only to have him, under pressure from a foreign government, break this solemn pledge as president.


This April, Turkey clearly succeeded in manipulating U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide. Its leaders have made no secret of the success of their bait and switch diplomacy, even boasting to their electorate about having used this clever tactic to once again block American recognition.
Turkey has made its choice; now as Americans we must make ours.

Get America back on the right side of this human rights issue. Join with the ANCA in urging President Obama to restore American credibility as the leader of the genocide-prevention movement by:

1) Immediately honoring his solemn pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and

2) Actively supporting legislation before Congress to properly condemn and commemorate this crime against humanity.

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  1. Manooshag said:

    Hye, re your article ‘Bait/Switch': Having read, cannot recall where, (I thought I’d seen a quote in an old book I own TRAVELLERS’ BOOK OF QUOTATIONS by Peter Yapp (RKP) wherein countries are listed and the comments (from over the centuries) as in the case of Turkey, were enlightening. Examples:

    “I wish Europe would let Russia annihilate Turkey a little – but enough to make it difficult to find the place again, without a divining-rod or a diving bell”.
    Mark Twain, THE INNOCENTS ABROAD, 1869.

    “Turkes are ful of brags
    And menace more than they can wel performe.”
    Christopher Marlowe, TAMBURLAINE, Part 1, c 1587

    “Before World War I Turkey was known as the ‘Sick Man of Europe';
    now it is almost terminal case.”
    Richard Nixon, THE REAL WAR, 1980

    However, I cannot find/recall the quote/article which said , in effect:
    Turkish leaders make/sign agreements knowing full well having signed agreements (with Westerners)
    and, knowing full well, that they will never pursue nor abide by any such agreements…..
    It appears this still exists….

  2. Sarmen said:

    The bait and switch strategy is a well practiced tactic of deception that has not only proven itself effective within the diplomatic corridors of bureaucracies across the globe but also within the boardrooms of many corporations every day. Bait and Switch is not new.

    The question is not why Turkey utilized this underhanded tactic. It’s why did our folks in Armenia fall head over heals for it this time?? In other words what was the offer they couldn’t refuse?



  4. satenik said:

    When was the last time, in the living memory, Turkey ever honoured any promise?I am in full agreement with Sarmen.

  5. Talin said:

    I agree with George! Both Obama and Hillary will not be able to put a spin on this one. They were ‘played’ and if they haven’t realized that yet, they aren’t as smart as they seem. I don’t care what perks Turkey or anyone else is offering them to turn a blind eye, but there can be no price tag when it comes to credibility!

  6. Kris said:

    There is no way that the government of Armenia was naive enough to fall for this bait and switch. Almost every Armenian in America was very well aware that Turkey had absolutely no real intention of opening the border or engaging in any real dialogue. The question is why did the government of Armenia go along with the ‘road map?’
    Also, there has been absolutely no evidence of Obama or Hillary having any qualms with the actions of Turkey. They have not recognized the genocide, they have lowered aid to Armenia, broken the military parity agreement and have now nominated a genocide denier to a top post. At least Bush was our adversary by looking us straight in the face, Obama does it with a smile pretending to be our friend. Oh Samantha Power where have you gone?

  7. Gor said:

    To Kris, who asks, “Oh, Samantha Power, where have you gone?”
    I think I can answer that question.

    Samantha Power has now become the very sort of person whom she criticized in her book, A Problem From Hell: someone who has joined the establishment and who will:
    1. Not use the G word.
    2. Not explain or apologize to Armenians or anyone else for her and Obama’s (and Biden’s and Clinton’s) failure to use the G word as they promised.
    3. Go along, for whatever reason, with what her boss (Obama) says and does with regard to not acknowledging the genocide.

    I should note that Power’s husband is Cass Sunstein, a longtime close friend and confidante of Obama. Samantha Power has apparently been bought off.
    If that is NOT the case, let Power say so and leave the government so she can speak her mind, whatever that may be.

  8. Alex Postallian said:

    We have known the turks are the greatest LIARS in history,in Europe it is well known.THAT IS WHY THEY HAVE NOT BEEN ACCEPTED IN THE E.U. That is history 101.In America a politician is a politician.You know when he lies: He moves his lips.That is 101 in politics.You cant make it any more simple!!! The biggest influence are the companys over here doing business with the JERKS, I MEAN THE turks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. ArmenAryatsi said:

    “Armenia’s leaders banked on Turkey’s sincerity.” Since when have the Turks and Turkey showed sincerity about Armenia, Armenians and our issues in general?!?! Haven’t we all learned about Turkey’s “sincerity” for the past hundreds of years or so living alongside with these people!? Haven’t we all known about their dream about a “Great Turanic State,” the goal of which includes wiping Armenia off the face of the map?
    This was a catastrophic mistake made by Serj Sarkissian and his cohorts. They are even ready to settle the Artsakh issue at the expense of the Artsakis!!! This administration has conducted a very damaging foreign policy for Armenians and Artsakis.

  10. Katia said:

    By Katia Karageuzian on June 9th, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Hi Aram,
    Obama “thinks” he can handle the Turks. The Turks’ deceitful tactics are genetic.., what bothered me THE MOST was that we, the “Armenian government” with all the gruesome experience and knowledge that we have of the Turkish character, fell ONCE MORE in their trap. This was the part that was inexcusable for me. WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER THAN THIS, and refused to have taken part in this “road map” bait deal, of all things right before Obama was in a bind to follow a campaign promise that the American Armenian community had worked so hard for. It breaks my heart to say this, the Armenian side decided to be the “weakest link” in this… yet again. We needed to show restraint. We needed to play hard ball. I felt that we had the upper hand, and then… catastrophe… We are supposed to learn from our mistakes. We know we can never trust Turkey. And as far as the American stance goes, I recommend that every American Armenian read the book “Vahan Cardashian, Advocate Extraordinaire for the Armenian Cause”, to understand what America’s historical stance has been vis a vis the Armenian cause. Ten years after the Genocide and WWI, the U.S. government bartered the Turkish Armenian lands for oil revenues, and assigned the post of Turkish Amabassador to a war criminal who was involved in the Armenian massacres. So who can we trust more? Ideally, we should ONLY TRUST OURSELVES.

  11. Katia said:

    Also,… I know it is such a cliche that “unified, we can conquer”… But it is so true here. Although both as Armenians in Armenia and Armenians in the diaspora, we are undeniably proud of our history, we are not really on the same page when it comes to our foreign politcs, and that is hurting our cause. Armenia found itself in an advantageous position where the U.S. governement put pressure on Turkey to open its borders and lift its sanctions, directly because of the efforts of the Armenian American lobby (chiefly the ANCA). The least Serj Sarkissian’s administration could have done was to consult with the Armenian Americans, the group that made this happen, as well as all Armenian leaders in Armenia and around the world before going into talks with a country that shows absolutely no remorse for its horrific international human rights violations. To gain any respect around the world, we need to first VALUE EACH OTHER. Our ventures with trusting others have so far been very costly. It would be most helpful to do a study of character analysis of Armenians in Armenia vs Armenians in the Diaspora. These two groups have undeniable differences demographically, in backgound experiences, and also different socioeconomic needs. These observations will help us define our common interests and needs, and will help us organize a more effective dialogue about our philosophies and thoughts about our place in the world, so that we can then together present a unified front for our cause. We have to together, come to terms with the fact that SEEKING JUSTICE FOR 1.5 MILLION OF OUR PEOPLE WHO WERE MERCILESSLY MASSACRED IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF ALL OF THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE, AND OF ALL OUR LEADERS.