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Coffee with the 'Diplomat of the Year'

“Some years ago your Congress tried to pass a resolution condemning our treatment of Armenians,” Nabi Sensoy, the longtime Turkish Ambassador to the United States, told me Thursday. He was referring to the charges of genocide toward Armenians by his countrymen in the World War 1 era. “But Clinton called Hastert… who was then Speaker … and asked him not to do it. Now I am not sure what will happen.”

We were sipping Turkish coffee in the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles. Sensoy was out here to receive the “Diplomat of the Year” Award from the World Affairs Council that evening and his public relations people had invited me over for a chat, I think because they thought Pajamas Media might be a sympathetic audience.

In this case they were right. I don’t applaud genocide against any group in any era, but it did seem strange that our Congress was suddenly considering a statement condemning the Armenian genocide eighty or more years after the fact. It smacked of cheap electioneering. The Armenian-American population is vastly greater than the Turkish-American, Sensoy pointed out to me. He didn’t need to add that Turkey is one of our most important allies in the War on Terror. Clinton knew that when he called Hastert. Sensoy evidently was worried the result would not be the same if Bush had to make a similar call to Nancy Pelosi.

Of course, the Turkish-American alliance has never been simple, the Ambassador acknowledged. Earlier we had been discussing the latest sticking point. The Turks want us to take a stronger role suppressing the PKK Kurdish separatist rebels whose terror acts have allegedly caused 35,000 fatalities, many more than the IRA and the Basque ETA combined. This is not easy for the US because of our close ties to Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish Iraqi President, and the positive feelings about Kurdish self-determination held by many Americans, especially those in the chattering classes like Christopher Hitchens.

Sensoy had a response to the proposition of an “independent Kurdistan,” which would take a solid chunk of Turkish territory, befitting the “Diplomat of the Year”: “With a good idea, you sometimes unleash certain dynamics you cannot control … It was a good idea to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but you unleash a certain dynamic. You go with the best of intentions, but in that part of the world, you set up a dynamic.”

So it seems.

The other dynamic that is difficult to control is Islamic fundamentalism. When I asked about its rise in Turkey, Sensoy assured me, indeed guaranteed, that it was under control and that Turkey would remain secular. He did add, however, that his people are subject to a “laser beam of propaganda” coming from the Iranian mullahs just across their border. Let’s hope they can withstand it.

Roger L. Simon is a screenwriter, novelist and CEO of Pajamas Media.