BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
In a few weeks, when high-priced Turkish lobbying firms file their mandatory reports with the Justice Department, important revelations will emerge about their behind the scenes role in pushing through Congress a bill which would give Turkish companies a monopoly for investments in American Indian tribal lands.
These reports would disclose the chain of contacts leading to the approval of Resolution 2362, the “Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act of 2011,” by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Natural Resources by a vote of 27 to 15, on November 17.
One should not be surprised to learn that this innocent sounding resolution, meant to “facilitate economic development by Indian tribes and encourage investment by Turkish enterprises,” was gliding through Congress helped by the lavish flow of funds — the mother’s milk of politics — to some House members.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in helping Native Americans to attract foreign investments, except that Congress was being asked to give preferential treatment to a single country — Turkey! Strangely, majority of the Committee members were willing to go along with this unusual and illegal request, ignoring strong warnings from the Congressional Research Service that extending special privileges to only one country would violate provisions of major U.S. trade agreements — Most Favored Nation (MFN), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and World Trade Organization (WTO).
Moreover, there was no need whatsoever for Congress to approve a pilot program for any one country, when the same Committee was simultaneously considering a more inclusive bill — House Resolution 205 — which would provide to all countries an equal opportunity to trade with and invest in Indian tribal lands. In fact, the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs testified that he had serious reservations about Resolution 2362. That is why he preferred to support Resolution 205 which would “foster the same goals…on a broader scale.” When Cong. John Sarbanes (Dem.-Maryland) tried to introduce an amendment to expand the scope of Resolution 2362 beyond Turkey, it was ruled out of order due to a technicality.
Before the vote, several Armenian-American and Greek-American organizations submitted to the House Committee letters in opposition to Resolution 2362, pointing out the impropriety and illegality of giving Turkey a monopolistic access to Indian tribal lands. These organizations raised five key objections to Congress extending special privileges to Turkey because that country:
1. Remains an unrepentant perpetrator of genocide against millions of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians.
2. Continues to blockade Armenia, occupy Cyprus, confront Israel, attack Kurds, and undermine U.S. regional interests.
3. Threatens U.S. commercial interests in the Mediterranean region.
4. Is linked to American Turkish entities suspected of involvement in illegal activities.
5. Supports Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
The possible aim of the proponents of Resolution 2362 is to pass this particular bill before the more inclusive Resolution 205 is approved, in order to give Turkey a head start and undeserved advantage over all other nations. Turkey could then strike exclusive trade deals with Indian tribes for up to 25 years, renewable for two additional terms of 25 years each, for a total of 75 years. This means that by the time companies from other countries have a chance to sign contracts with Indian tribes, Turkish firms would have snatched up the most lucrative deals, leaving the others empty-handed.
Immediately after the Committee’s adoption of Resolution 2362, Turkish Americans and the Turkish Embassy in Washington rushed to celebrate a premature victory. The Turkish Coalition of America issued a press release on November 17, expressing its joy that the Resolution was approved by the Committee, and would soon be adopted by the full House. That same night, the Turkish Embassy hosted a reception in Washington “to mark American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month and celebrate the successful passage of H.R. 2362 out of the House Natural Resources Committee.” Turkey’s illustrious Ambassador Namik Tan was personally tweeting pictures of American Indians in their native costumes as the festivities were taking place at the Embassy.
The Ambassador should be reminded that a victory celebration is premature because there are no guarantees that this defective bill would ever reach the House floor, let alone the Senate, since it grossly violates a number of U.S. trade agreements. Even if the bill receives Congressional approval, American civic organizations and many countries would file lawsuits to block this discriminatory piece of legislation.