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Florida’s House Delegation Split on Supporting President Obama’s Call to Arm Syrian Rebels

U.S. President Barack Obama lays out his strategy to defeat ISIL. September 10, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama lays out his strategy to defeat ISIL. September 10, 2014

Senate Confirms Next U.S. Ambassador to Turkey; Vote on Nominees to Yerevan, Baku Expected in December

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Managing Editor

This week, the House and Senate considered measures concerning the Armenian American community. Congress was expected to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown on September 30th, when current funding is set to expire. However, after President Obama’s primetime address on September 10th calling for the arming of Syrian rebels, the House voted on a measure to do just that and attached it as an amendment to the CR, setting up a complex and very interesting pattern of voting.

In what Roll Call described as a vote “fractured along untraditional [party] lines,” the House approved the CR 319-108, and 273-156 on the amendment to arm Syrian rebels. 143 Democrats joined 176 Republicans in support of the CR, while 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans opposed. On the Syria amendment, 159 Republicans were joined by 114 Democrats in support of the measure, while 85 Republicans and 71 Democrats opposed.

[Also on FLArmenians.com: From Crimea to Kessab: Did the West Approve the Attack on Kessab]

According to several interviews with Armenian American community leaders across the United States, an overwhelming majority support US airstrikes against ISIL. However, they do not support President Obama’s call to train and arm Syrian rebel factions, especially in the wake of the Turkish-backed rebel assault on the Christian Armenian town of Kessab, Syria earlier this year.

An analysis by FLArmenians.com reveals that House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and Congressmen Alan Grayson (D-FL), and David Jolly (R-FL) voted against arming Syrian rebels, yet supported the CR.

Republican Congressmen Ted Yoho (R-FL), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Richard Nugent (R-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), and Curt Clawson (R-FL) voted against both the amendment arming Syrian rebels and the CR. Interestingly, Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), opposed President Obama on both the Syrian amendment and the CR.

Everyone else stood with President Obama in supporting the amendment to arm Syrian rebels and for the CR.

While it is clear that Armenian Americans support the President’s vow to “destroy and ultimately defeat ISIL,” they are wary of training and arming Islamic rebel factions with known ties to al-Qaeda and that have a record of attacking Christians just like ISIL.

[Also on FLArmenians.com: U.S. State Department “Deeply Troubled” by Attacks Against Armenians in Kessab, Syria]

Florida Armenians have an important role to play in this debate. Many Armenian American families in Florida emigrated from Syria, mostly descendants of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Some still have relatives there. They are uniquely familiar with the regional dynamics and can provide critical insight into what groups truly protect and respect religious minorities, be they Christian Armenian, Assyrian, or Yezidi.

Ambassador Nominees to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey

Mills, Cekuta, Bass

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 98-0 to confirm John R. Bass as the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-FL), and Ed Markey (D-MA) submitted to the nominee questions on the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s blockade of Armenia. “We commend Chairman Menendez, and Senators Barbara Boxer, Mark Kirk and Ed Markey for their stance on issues concerning Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish-Azerbaijani blockade of Armenia, and other critical issues affecting the region,” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “Following in the footsteps of Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire who in 1915 alerted the world to the Armenian Genocide, it is important that our Foreign Service officers execute a foreign policy that appropriately reflects America’s values,” he said.

Both Florida Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) supported Bass’ nomination without question.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony from President Obama’s nominees to be the next U.S. ambassador to Armenia and Azerbaijan, Richard M. Mills and Robert F. Cekuta, respectively. Both are expected to be confirmed by the full Senate sometime during the lame-duck session, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, November 12th.

Armenian Assembly of America Annual Trustees Meeting & Banquet Honoring Former Board Chairman Michael Haratunian March 14-17, 2014

Featuring Author Dr. H. Martin Deranian, Near East Foundation Board Chairman Shant Mardirossian, South Florida Filmmaker Bared Maronian

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) South Florida Regional Council (SFRC) is pleased to announce that the annual trustees meeting and banquet will be held at the Marriott at Boca Center in Boca Raton, Florida March 14-17, 2014. Members, supporters and friends are all invited to a sunny weekend retreat packed with a wonderful lineup of events with past and present leaders of the Assembly and the greater Armenian American community.

A welcome reception will be held Friday evening, bringing together members and friends from across the country. Later, guests are invited to “Kef Night Boca,” an evening of fun, dancing and entertainment presented by local Florida Armenians.

FLArmenians Kef Night Boca 2014

On Saturday, March 15, the Assembly’s annual trustees meeting and luncheon will be held from 9:00AM-12:30PM. Following lunch, the Assembly is delighted to present three distinguished Armenian American community leaders. From Worcester, Massachusetts, Dr. H. Martin Deranian, author of “President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug,” will discuss his recent book and community efforts to have the Coolidge Rug released and displayed in Washington, D.C. Chairman of the board of directors of the Near East Foundation (NEF), Shant Mardirossian, will deliver a compelling presentation on the Armenian Genocide and efforts of the NEF to help save the survivors. Local South Florida filmmaker, Bared Maronian, will provide a presentation and clips of his award-winning film “Orphans of the Genocide,” which has been broadcast by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in several states and featured in Armenian communities across the globe. South Florida is home to some of the genocide survivors featured in the film. The Assembly is privileged to present this diverse panel of speakers to the south Florida community. Presentations will be held from 12:30PM-2:00PM and are free and open to the public.

AAA March FL 2014 Flyer2

Saturday evening, members, supporters and friends are all invited to the Assembly’s annual dinner and banquet, where former chairman of the board, Michael Haratunian, will be officially honored. A participant of the Airlie conferences that established the Armenian Assembly of America in 1972, Haratunian served as a member of the board of directors for several years including four years as chairman. See Michael’s full biography here. The dinner and banquet will feature remarks from Assembly board members, executive director Bryan Ardouny and community leaders.

Members are also invited to the 22nd annual St. David Armenian Church charity golf tournament at the Via Mizner golf and country club in Boca Raton on Monday, March 17. For more information on the golf tournament please click here or call St. David Armenian Church at (561) 994-2335.

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All Assembly events will be held at the Marriott at Boca Center. Major donor packages are available at the following levels: Benefactor ($1,000) receives two complimentary tickets to the banquet; Pillar ($2,500) receives two complimentary tickets to all events including the major donor brunch on Sunday; Torchbearer ($5,000) receives four complimentary tickets to all events including the major donor brunch on Sunday; and Guardian ($10,000) receives eight complimentary tickets to all events including the major donor brunch on Sunday.

Hotel arrangements can be made by calling 1-800-228-9290 or click here to get the special Assembly room rate of only $159.00. To RSVP for the Friday reception or the Saturday luncheon, or to book table reservations for the Saturday evening banquet, please contact Assembly SFRC Chair Carol Norigian at southflaaa@gmail.com.

Florida Armenians Weekend

Festival of the Arts Boca at Mizner Park Amphitheater to Feature Peter Oundjian

Peter-Oundjian-300xcNew World Symphony Orchestra

Featuring Conductor Peter Oundjian

& Pianist Valentina Lisitsa

Friday, March 15 – 7:30 PM

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to see Peter Oundjian, famed for his orchestra-building skills and audience engagement, perform with a top tier orchestra and acclaimed pianist.

For more information on the Festival of the Arts Boca or to purchase tickets please click here.

Florida Armenians Kef Night

Greek Bistro

The Greek Bistro
1880 N Congress Ave. Ste #190
Boynton Beach, FL 33426

Saturday, March 16 – 10:00 PM – 2:00 AM 

Tickets: $20

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Featuring Special Guest DJ George playing the finest Armenian, Greek, Arabic and Top 40 music all night long. Food and drink specials included for Florida Armenians. Parking garage directly adjacent to The Greek Bistro is recommended.

Armenian Assembly of America & South Florida Regional Council Annual Briefing & Reception

Armenian Assembly of AmericaFeaturing Guest Speaker Bryan Ardouny, Executive Director

Sunday, March 17, 2013

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

At the home of

Marta & Jim Batmasian

Boca Raton, FL

Hors d’oeuvres and Cocktails will be served

Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 14, 2013 to Carol Norigian at (561) 734-0133 or via email at cnorigian@aol.com.

St. David Armenian Church Charity Golf Tournament

25aniversaryMonday, March 18, 2013

Via Mizner Golf & Country Club

Boca Raton, FL

Rain or Shine

Registration: 10:30 AM -12:30 PM 
Dinner: 6:00 PM

18 Holes of Golf, Cart Rental, Box Lunch, Buffet Dinner and Driving Range 
Included in Registration Fee.

Golf Tickets $195 
/ Dinner Tickets $50

For more information or to register contact: 
Sonia Janian at (561) 965-2664 or 
soniajanian@yahoo.com.

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SDAC_Golf Tournament 2013