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Between a rock and a hard place

On the question of whether or not to recognize the Armenian massacres in the early 20th century as genocide, the Obama administration is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand, throughout the campaign both Obama and Biden were strong supporters of recognizing the events as genocide. In a statement posted on his official website on January 19, 2008, Obama writes:

The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Obama’s recent appointment of Samantha Power, a fierce supporter of the Armenian claims, to a senior foreign policy job at the White House has fanned fears across Turkey that he will follow through on his campaign promise, either by using the term "genocide" in his statement on April 24 (the anniversary of the violence) or through the passage of new legislation recognizing the Armenian claims.

On the other hand, any action the Obama administration takes towards such recognition with undoubtedly spark crisis between Ankara and Washington at a time when Turkey’s support is increasingly important to U.S. foreign policy.

As the U.S. prepares to withdraw from Iraq, Turkey’s support is crucial not only as a likely transit route for U.S. personal and equipment, but also as a stabilizing force in northern Iraq. Turkey also provides an important counterweight to Iranian influence in the region. In addition, following Kyrgyzstan's recent order that the U.S. vacate an air base on its territory that is a transit point for 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo each month to and from Afghanistan, the U.S. air base at Incirlik, Turkey could take on a greater role.

So what’s it gonna be? Will Obama follow through on his campaign promise, or will he do as many other U.S. presidents before him have done — pursue the biggest gain for U.S. foreign policy to the disappointment of the Armenian Diaspora?