H.R. 2362 was narrowly defeated on July 23, when a “suspension of the rules” vote (usually reserved for non-controversial votes with limited debate) failed to attain the required two-thirds majority. But troublingly, 220 representatives voted in favor — representing both parties and all ideological strains — with 160 opposed and 49 abstaining.
The bill could come up for a vote again at any time.
In the original version of H.R. 2362, the stated purpose was:
[To] encourage increased levels of commerce and economic investment [with Native American tribes] by private entities incorporated in or emanating from the Republic of Turkey.
It allowed for select Native American tribes to lease land held in trust by the United States:
… [for] a project or activity … in furtherance of a commercial partnership involving one or more private entities incorporated in or emanating from the Republic of Turkey.
When the bill came up for a vote, its backers were forced to offer an amended version. The phrase “or other World Trade Organization (WTO) member nations” was placed after “Republic of Turkey” in the passages above. The amended version still maintains:
[Congress] finds that the public and private sectors in the Republic of Turkey have demonstrated a unique interest in bolstering cultural, political, and economic relationships with Indian tribes and tribal members.
Also: removing “barriers” and encouraging a “more robust relationship” between “Turkish and Indian tribal communities” is “in the interest” of “the United States-Turkey relationship.” The “interest” is not defined.
The bill, in both its forms, severely limits federal oversight of the investment projects, and does not even require the Department of the Interior to approve the leases. The term of the leases could stretch 75 years, effectively tying the hands of future administrations: presidents would come and go, but Turkey would have a semi-permanent foothold in America’s heartland.
The amended version of H.R. 2362 continues to single out Turkey for special treatment, and if passed would serve as an official U.S. government endorsement of Ankara.
In the past, special considerations by the U.S. for Turkey were well-deserved. Hill staffers grew accustomed to doing favors for a secular, pro-Western Ankara that was a key strategic ally to Washington and its allies in the region. But all that changed with the ascension of Erdogan’s AKP party in 2002. A small sampling of recent events:
- Turkey refused to allow U.S. troops to reach Iraq via Turkish territory in 2003.
- Turkey refused to back UN sanctions on Iran, meant to halt its nuclear weapons program.
- Prime Minister Erdogan has said “Iran is our friend,” and “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization.”
- Erdogan invited the Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite warload Muqtada al-Sadr to Turkey for “political discussions.” Sadr, whose militia is believed to be responsible for the deaths of countless American soldiers in Iraq, stopped in Iran on his way to Turkey.
- The Turkish government supported a flotilla of ships that violently attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, ruled by the terrorist group Hamas. Israel’s blockade was declared legal by the United Nations.
- Erdogan halted trade with Israel and threatened to invade Cyprus after an American-based company partnered with Israel to begin gas exploration in Cypriot territorial waters, which is adjacent to Israeli gas fields. Turkey then initiated military exercises aimed at threatening both Israel and Cyprus.
- Erdogan defended Sudanese President Bashir, who faced worldwide condemnation for the genocide in Darfur. Erdogan’s rationale: “A Muslim can never commit genocide. It’s not possible.”
- According to Middle East expert Barry Rubin, the “AKP has repressed opposition in Turkey, arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy.” Very recently, 326 military officers were convicted of conspiracy to overthrow Erdogan’s Islamist government.