In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dated Aug. 16, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) enumerated the reasons that prompted him to place a hold on Frank Ricciardone’s nomination, saying that the latter is not “the right Ambassador for Turkey at this time—despite his extensive diplomatic experience.”
Sen. Brownback’s letter, acquired by the Armenian Weekly this afternoon, included a critique of Ricciardone’s diplomatic record, with emphasis on issues related to democracy building and supporting opposition groups in Iraq and Egypt.
“My concerns about Ricciardone’s work on Iraq and Egypt lead me to similar concerns about his approach to a number of issues in our relationship with Turkey,” Sen. Brownback noted in his letter. He then noted that the ruling AK Party “is moving away from its secularist roots” and highlighted the importance of not ignoring the secularist political opposition in Turkey.
“Next year’s pivotal elections provide an opportunity for the secularists to demonstrate their strength, and we cannot let our desire for a strong bilateral relationship translate into de facto support of the ruling party, especially if we have reason to believe that opposition parties are in danger of being marginalized,” Sen. Brownback argued.
In the concluding paragraph of his letter, Sen. Brownback expressed concern that the U.S. has not fully explored the possible consequences “of a Turkish tilt toward Iran and away from Israel.”
The Senator’s letter did not make any direct reference to Turkey’s relations with Armenia, contrary to what Fox News had reported earlier, quoting a spokesman at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who had said of the motives of Sen. Brownback: “I’m not going to get into it. It’s all about Armenia.”
Many Armenian Americans, however, believe this is yet another opportunity for the U.S. administration to engage in a closer scrutiny of U.S.-Turkey relations and, in particular, the U.S. government’s decades-long pattern of caving in to Ankara on human rights, regional issues, and genocide denial.
In the words of ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian, Sen. Brownback’s hold on Francis Ricciardone’s nomination “highlights the pressing need for the U.S. Congress—and all concerned elements of American civil society—to carefully reexamine whether our national interests and international standing are served by constantly caving in to Turkey on human rights, regional security, and genocide denial.”