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The Armenian-American Lobby and Its Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy

Abstract

Most of the few studies and press articles dealing with the U.S. Armenian lobby have tended to insist on this lobby’s successes, regarded as impressive and disproportionate. This has generated a few problems in its global understanding, especially with regards to its impact on U.S. foreign policy, and has contributed to shape a generalized perception of a “small” lobby, capable of considerable influence on U.S. foreign policy. The main goal of this article is to question this common perception in order to propose a more accurate evaluation of this lobby. Mostly thanks to its influence in Congress, it has succeeded in getting positive results, particularly concerning U.S. financial assistance to Armenia. However, it has also experienced some failures, particularly on issues related to Turkey or American energy policy.

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Notes

  1. “‘Armenia Lobby’: Unfair Attack,” Washington Post (Editorial), August 17, 1996; Marc Lacey, “Oil, Politics and a Blacklist,” New York Times, March 2, 2000; John Brady Kiesling, “Reining in the Ethnic Lobbies,” Huffington Post, December 20, 2007; Fred Hiatt, “When special interests block national interest,” Washington Post, December 19, 2011.

  2. The most significant are: Ambrosio (2002); Anderson Paul (2000); Gregg (2002); Grjebine (2007, 2008); King and Pomper (2004).

  3. Other parameters, such as its capability of financing political campaigns, to impact public opinion, to make alliances with other groups or politicians, etc. can be important too.

  4. In the Armenian case, the unfailing support of Senator Robert Dole, the Republican candidate for the Presidency in1996, to the Armenian lobby, finds its origins in the ties he had built during World War II with an Armenian doctor who eventually allowed him to recover in good conditions of serious wounds.

  5. “Comparison of 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and Political Organizations,” About Advocacy: Getting Started, Alliance for Justice (www.afj.org), July 2007, http://www.afj.org/assets/resources/resource1/Comparison-of-501C3S-501C4S.pdf.

  6. In practise though, this status allows these 501(c) (3) organization to lobby, especially when there is no expenditure of money by the organization for the purpose of attempting to influence legislation (Tenenbaum & Pallasch, Undated).

  7. “Exemption Requirements - Section 501(c) (3) Organizations,” Charities & Non-profits, Charitable Organizations, irs.gov , page last reviewed or updated: December 7, 2009, http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id = 96099,00.html.

  8. According to “Senate Legislative Transparency and Accountability Resolution” (S.RES.525) of 2006, and “527 Reform Act” (H.R.4975) of 2006.

  9. Data available on the website of the US Census Bureau at the following address: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid = ACS_10_SF4_B01003&prodType = table.

  10. “Experience Engaging Diaspora Communities – Armenia,” Confidential Cable, US Embassy in Armenia, November 17, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09YEREVAN797_a.html.

  11. Martha Boltz, “The Civil War’s only Armenian soldier to be honored,” Washington Times, September 20, 2011.

  12. See: Saideman 2002.

  13. Peter Micek, “Armenian Americans Battle Bush Over Genocide Recognition,” Pacific News Service , May 19, 2004.

  14. Christian Armenians belong, in large majority, to the Armenian Apostolic Church, whose center is in Echmiadzin, near Yerevan. Some Armenians (probably about 5%) belong to the Armenian Catholic Church, and others (about 5% too) are protestant. It is to note that, in the US, the share of Protestant Armenians might be higher, and it is very possible that some Armenian Americans do not belong to any church.

  15. “Armenia’s Opponents to Protocols Ratchet Up their Rhetoric,” Confidential Cable, US Embassy in Armenia, September 30, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09YEREVAN687_a.html.

  16. A few other Armenian organizations seem to lobby as well, but their importance, resources, and influence make them much less significant than the ANCA and the AAA. Among these other organizations, we can mention the US-Armenia Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC), sometimes referred as Gerard Cafesjian’s, “private” lobby. G. Cafesjian is a famous Armenian American businessman and philanthropist and the USAPAC was created in 2007 by the Cafesjian Family Foundation and was then active for a few years.

  17. Garo Adanalian, “Pursing the Armenian Cause in the 21st Century: An Interview with Sharistan Ardhaldjian,” Armenian Weekly Online, May 2001.

  18. However, relations between ANCA and Armenia have been non-existing between 1994 and 1998, because of banishment of the FRA in Armenia by Armenia’s first president Levon Ter Petrosian due to tough tensions between FRA and the regime.

  19. Author’s interview with Arman Kirakossian, Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia and former Armenian Ambassador to the US, June 6, 2008, Yerevan, Armenia.

  20. Author’s interview with Aram Hamparian, ANCA Executive Director, November 2008, by e-mail.

  21. “The Armenian-American Political Action Committee (ARMENPAC) mourns the passing away of Hovnanian,” Azad-Hye.net, September 4, 2007.

  22. “Comparison of 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and Political Organizations,” About Advocacy: Getting Started, Alliance for Justice (www.afj.org), July 2007, http://www.afj.org/assets/resources/resource1/Comparison-of-501C3S-501C4S.pdf.

  23. “Vision and Mission,” AAA Web site, http://www.aaainc.org/index.php?id = 86.

  24. “About the ANCA,” ANCA Web site, http://www.anca.org/ancaprofile.php.

  25. Author’s interview with Aram Hamparian, ANCA Executive Director, June 12, 2007, Washington, DC.

  26. “About the ANCA,” ANCA Web site, http://www.anca.org/ancaprofile.php.

  27. This sentence appears at the end of all, or most of, AAA’s Press Releases. See, for exemple: “Armenian Assembly’s Annual Trustees Meeting and Banquet to Be Held in Boca Raton, Florida, March 14–17, 2014,” Press Release, June 23, 2014, AAA Web site, http://www.aaainc.org/index.php?id = 1029&type = 98.

  28. “After Years of Denial, Foxman Recognizes Genocide,” Asbarez, May 23, 2014.

  29. “Position Papers,” Bay Area Armenian National Committee (ANC-SF), http://www.ancsf.org/files/ANC_Position_Papers.pdf, 17 pages, p. 4.

  30. Author’s interview with Aram Hamparian, ANCA Executive Director, June 12, 2007, Washington, DC.

  31. See: Anderson Paul, 2000.

  32. Marilyn W. Thompson, “An Ex-Leader in Congress Is Now Turkey’s Man in the Lobbies of Capitol Hill,” New York Times, October 17, 2007; Michael Doyle, “Obama marks Armenian tragedy but doesn't say ‘genocide’,” McClatchy Newspapers, April 24, 2009.

  33. April 24 is the commemoration day of the Armenian Genocide.

  34. “Statement of President Barack Obama on Armenian Remembrance Day,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, April 24, 2009, April 24, 2010, April 24, 2011, April 24, 2012, April 24, 2013, April 24, 2014.

  35. “Official: Armenian genocide resolution unlikely to get full House vote,” CNN.com, March 6, 2010.

  36. See: Ambrosio 2002; Zarifian 2006.

  37. The AAA remained relatively quiet on this issue and even, in some occasions, supported Richard Hoagland nomination. Maura Reynolds, “Armenian Genocide Question Hits Home”, Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2007.

  38. Matthew Bryza, very active in the State Department during George W. Bush mandates, was nominated ambassador to Azerbaijan by Barack Obama in 2010. Democratic senators Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez, close the Armenian lobby, put a “hold” on his nomination and, although Bryza was still sent to Azerbaijan with a recess appointment by the president, he was never confirmed and had to leave his post on year later.

  39. 36 of them, including Nicholas Burns, Ian Brzezinski, Robert Kagan, Thomas Pickering, Juan Zarate, or Damon Wilson, wrote a letter to a few senators to express their support to Matthew Bryza.

  40. Fred Hiatt, “When special interests block national interest,” Washington Post, December 19, 2011.

  41. Julie Corwin, “US: Confirmation Row Shows Power of Diaspora Lobbies,” RFE/RL, August 2, 2006.

  42. John Broder, “U.S. Drops Armenian Men from List of Visitors Who Must Register,” New York Times , December 19, 2002.

  43. “Landmark US House Resolution Presses Turkey to Return Stolen Christian Churches,” ANCA Press Release, December 13, 2011.

  44. “ANCA backs bid to block arms sale to Turkey,” Tert.am, November 8, 2011.

  45. “ANCA: No Free US Frigates for Turkey,” Armenian Weekly, January 7, 2013.

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Zarifian, J. The Armenian-American Lobby and Its Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy. Soc 51, 503–512 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-014-9816-8

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Keywords

  • Armenian lobby
  • Ethnic lobbying
  • American foreign policy
  • Armenia
  • Turkey
  • Armenian National Committee of America
  • Armenian Assembly of America