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April 16, 2002

Dr. Ara Sanjian Speaks at the University of Michigan-Dearborn

 

Dearborn, MI--Room 1013 of the College of Arts, Sciences and Letters overflowed with students and faculty on April 15, 2002, to hear Dr. Ara Sanjian's on-campus lecture at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. For over an hour, Dr. Sanjian's presentation on "Turkey and Her Arab Neighbors, 1953-1958," which was sponsored by the Armenian Research Center, kept the assembled audience's rapt attention. Dr. Sanjian was introduced by Dr. Dennis R. Papazian, the director of the Armenian Research Center, who also thanked Dr. Camron Amin, who offered his Ottoman history class as a venue for the lecture.

Sanjian's talk was based on his book Turkey and Her Arab Neighbours, 1953-1958 (Archive Editions, 2001). He explained the reasons behind Turkey's seeking the establishment of a regional anti-Soviet defense pact incorporating its Arab neighbors, in what became known as the Baghdad Pact. Only Iraq, said Sanjian, was interested in entering such a pact with Turkey. Ankara's attempts to bring in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all failed, leaving Turkey in a difficult political situation. Hence, the toppling of the pro-Western government in Iraq through a revolution in July 1958 was some sort of "blessing in disguise" for the Turkish government, in that it helped Ankara to distance itself from its alliance with Iraq and henceforth disentangle its alliance with NATO from its awkward relations with the neighboring Arab states, a policy that lasted for the next few decades. Since he was talking to the Ottoman history class, Sanjian paid particular attention to how memories of the Ottoman past shaped the mindsets of Turkish and Arab politicians and public during the period under review, in the process noting that Iraq at this time was led by veterans of the Arab revolt of 1916 against Ottoman rule, and were suspicious of Turkey's motives.

A twenty minute question and answer period, dominated by UM-D faculty questions, then followed the lecture. One interesting point brought out by Dr. Sanjian in the process was that the Baghdad Pact was not analagous to NATO, a formal military alliance directed against a single threat, and was more than a consultative framework such as the UN or the Arab League. This lecture was the first of two which Dr. Sanjian delivered in the Detroit area. The second presentation, on "The Armenian Quest for Nagorno-Karabakh" and jointly sponsored by the Armenian Research Center and the Hagopian Family Foundation, took place on Tuesday, April 16, 2002, at Hagopian World of Rugs.

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