Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Doubts Raised Over American Ambassador to Turkey

Last year, after Senator Sam Brownback placed a hold on the nomination of Frank Ricciardone to be ambassador to Turkey, President Obama sent Ricciardone to Turkey as a recess appointment. Brownback’s reasons for his hold were well-founded. During Ricciardone’s posting in Egypt, he sought to ingratiate himself so much to President Hosni Mubarak that he crippled Bush’s democratization drive and ultimately undercut American interests. Wherever one stands on the wisdom of Bush’s transformative diplomacy, declaring Mubarak so popular that he could win elections in the United States is not something any American Foreign Service officer should do and keep his job.

Ricciardone needs to be confirmed by the Senate by the end of the year if he expects to keep his job. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) appears ready to put a hold on the diplomat because the envoy refuses to acknowledge the Armenian genocide.

Ricciardone deserves to have his posting curtailed, but it would be a shame to do so on the Armenian issue: To allow Armenian Americans to hold up an American envoy to Azerbaijan or Turkey would be as wrong as Turkish or Azeri Americans to hold up an American envoy to Armenia.

If the Senate sinks Ricciardone’s nomination, they should do so for a simple reason: He has failed to promote American interests in Turkey. Rather, he has undercut them. He has downplayed the mass arrest of Turkish generals which has gone beyond serious allegations criminality and has more to do with the Islamist prime minister vendetta against secularists, telling Congress that institutions matter more than individuals. But when secularists are not allowed to serve at senior levels, it matters. When the head of Turkey’s intelligence service favors Iran over the United States, it matters.

If institutions matter more than individuals, it’s time to bring Ricciardone home and replace him with a new ambassador. Ricciardone struck out on Iraq, where he counseled the rehabilitation of Saddam Hussein. He struck out on Egypt, where he lionized Mubarak. And he struck out on Turkey, where he fiddles while secularism burned. Three strikes should be more than enough for an out.
Source: Commentary

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