Turkey Goes From Pliable Ally to Thorn for US

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by AkhandBharat, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. AkhandBharat

    AkhandBharat Regular Member

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    ANKARA, Turkey — For decades, Turkey was one of the United States’ most pliable allies, a strategic border state on the edge of the Middle East that reliably followed American policy. But recently, it has asserted a new approach in the region, its words and methods as likely to provoke Washington as to advance its own interests.

    The change in Turkey’s policy burst into public view last week, after the deadly Israeli commando raid on a Turkish flotilla, which nearly severed relations with Israel, Turkey’s longtime ally. Just a month ago, Turkey infuriated the United States when it announced that along with Brazil, it had struck a deal with Iran to ease a nuclear standoff, and on Tuesday it warmly welcomed Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Russian prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, at a regional security summit meeting in Istanbul.

    Turkey’s shifting foreign policy is making its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a hero to the Arab world, and is openly challenging the way the United States manages its two most pressing issues in the region, Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

    Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”

    From Turkey’s perspective, however, it is simply finding its footing in its own backyard, a troubled region that has been in turmoil for years, in part as a result of American policy making. Turkey has also been frustrated in its longstanding desire to join the European Union.

    “The Americans, no matter what they say, cannot get used to a new world where regional powers want to have a say in regional and global politics,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Bilgi University in Istanbul. “This is our neighborhood, and we don’t want trouble. The Americans create havoc, and we are left holding the bag.”

    Turkey’s rise as a regional power may seem sudden, but it has been evolving for years, since the end of the cold war, when the world was a simple alignment of black and white and Turkey, a Muslim democracy founded in 1923, was a junior partner in the American camp.

    Twenty years later, the map has been redrawn. Turkey is now a vibrant, competitive democracy with an economy that would rank as the sixth largest in Europe. Unlike Jordan and Egypt, which rely heavily on American aid, it is financially independent of the United States. And, paradoxically, its democracy has created some problems with Washington: Members of Mr. Erdogan’s own party defected in 2003, for example, voting not to allow the Americans to attack Iraq from Turkish territory.


    Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said in an interview that economics was at the heart of the new policy. The party he belongs to, led by Mr. Erdogan, is made up of merchants and traders, who are more devoted to their business interests than to advancing Islamic solidarity.

    “Economic interdependence is the best way to achieve peace,” he said at his home in Ankara last weekend. “In the 1990s we had severe tension all around us, and Turkey paid a huge bill because of that. Now we want to establish a peaceful order around us.”

    But that vision has led to friction with Washington, particularly over Iran, Turkey’s only alternative energy source after Russia.

    “They are ambitious, and this gives them a major role on the world stage,” said a senior American official. “But there is a risk that Americans won’t understand what Turkey is doing, and that will have consequences for the relationship.”

    It is Mr. Erdogan’s confrontation with Israel, which he accused of “state terrorism” in the flotilla raid, that raised the loudest alarms for Americans. Many see his fiery statements as a sign that he has not only abandoned the quest to join the European Union, but is aligning himself with Islamic rivals of the West.

    Yet, for years Mr. Erdogan encouraged closer ties with Israel, even taking a planeload of businessmen to Tel Aviv in 2005. While the relationship has deteriorated badly in recent years — with Mr. Erdogan lambasting Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, over the Israeli military’s tactics in the Gaza campaign — Jewish leaders in Istanbul say that it is more about Mr. Erdogan’s dislike of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than his view of Israel.

    “The Jewish community in Turkey is not at all alarmed,” said Ishak Alaton, a prominent Jewish businessman in Istanbul. The tough talk, he said, is simply Mr. Erdogan’s style, an attempt to score points ahead of an election.

    Mr. Erdogan, though a pragmatist, is also a devout Muslim, a category that was once the underdog in secular Turkish society, and sympathy for the Palestinians is ingrained. He is hotheaded, with a street fighter’s swagger that becomes more pronounced in crises. He took personal offense, for example, when Ehud Olmert, then Israel’s prime minister, began without warning the bombing of Gaza while Mr. Erdogan was mediating talks between Israel and Syria.

    Shafeeq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University, argued that Turkey had stepped into a vacuum left by a failed peace process, and that it was trying to “save the Palestinians from becoming desperate again and save Israel from itself.”

    That may be so, but Mr. Erdogan’s tough talk eliminates Turkey’s place at the table as a moderator with Israel, analysts said, and also boxes in the Obama administration, forcing it into a choice between allies that the Turks are sure to lose.

    Behind the friction between the United States and Turkey is a larger question about how to approach crises in the Middle East, argues Stephen Kinzer, author of the book “Reset: Iran, Turkey and America’s Future.” Turkey calls for talks, while Washington seeks sanctions. “Turks are telling the U.S.: ‘The cold war’s over. You have to take a more cooperative approach, and we can help,’ ” said Mr. Kinzer, a former New York Times correspondent. “The U.S. is not prepared to accept that offer.”

    Turkish and American officials play down their differences, saying they share the goal of peace in the Middle East. But certain viewpoints — on Hamas and Israel’s security concerns — do seem to be throwing up insurmountable obstacles, and some see the Turkish stance as ignoring the realities.

    “The world hasn’t changed in 48 hours just because a boat was raided,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist for the Turkish daily Milliyet. “Ankara thinks it is remaking the world, but in the long run this could backfire.”

    The New york times: Turkey Goes From Pliable Ally to Thorn for US
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
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  3. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    For a country like Turkey to go from being a major NATO member and a moderate islamic country to change course like this means US/NATO alliance is also jeopardized.
     
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  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    The New Wannabe Ottomans

    The New Wannabe Ottomans

    By Victor Davis Hanson
    A Turkish Islamic group -- the "Humanitarian Relief Foundation," often associated by Western intelligence agencies with terrorist sponsorship -- orchestrated the recent Gaza flotilla. It was hoping for the sort of violent, well-publicized confrontation with the Israeli navy that later followed.

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately issued veiled threats to Israel. He then badgered the United States, Turkey's NATO patron ally, to condemn the Israeli interdiction.While the world piled on in its criticism of Israel, there was also a sort of stunned silence over the actions of Turkey, without whose help the blockade-running flotilla would never have left a Turkish port.

    Erdogan's hysterics emphasized the Islamic transformation of a once secular Turkey that has been going on for well over a decade. In 2003, Turkey forbade passage to U.S. troops in their efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq. State-run Turkish television instead aired virulent anti-American dramas, like "Valley of the Wolves," in which our soldiers appear as little more than blood-crazed killers who dismember poor Iraqi civilians.

    Lately, Turkey has reached out to Iran and Syria. Both habitually sponsor Mideast terrorist groups and have aided anti-American insurgents in Iraq. Turkey and Brazil recently offered to monitor Iran's nuclear program, sidestepping American and European efforts to step up sanctions to stop Teheran's plans for a bomb.

    Erdogan's anti-Israel attacks often match those of his newfound friends, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah's Hasan Nasrallah. Former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, remember, once blamed the Jews for starting the Crusades, and for instigating World War I to create Israel. He also described them as a "disease" that needed to be eradicated.

    What is behind the Turkish metamorphosis from a staunch U.S. ally, NATO member and quasi-European state into a sponsor of Hamas, ally of theocratic Iran and fellow traveler with terrorist-sponsoring Syria?

    The Cold War is over. Turkey no longer guards the southeastern flank of Europe from the advance of Soviet communism, lessening its importance within NATO. Its Anatolian Muslim population grows, while more secular European and Aegean Turks have lost influence. Turkey senses a growing distance between Tel Aviv and Washington, and thus an opportunity to step into the gulf to unite Muslims against Israel and win influence in the Arab world.

    Erdogan clearly identifies more with the old transnational Ottoman sultanate than with Kemal Ataturk's modern, secular and Western nation-state. Indeed, he has bragged that he is a grandson of the Ottomans and announced that Turkey's new goal was to restore the might of the Ottoman Empire.

    And so, like the theocratic Ottomans of old, Erdogan's Islamic Turkey fancies itself a window on the West, absorbing technology and expertise from Europe and the United States in order to empower and unite the more spiritually pure Muslims across national boundaries.

    Of course, Turkey tolerates no criticism about its own violations of human rights in suppressing its Kurdish population. It lectures Israel about occupied land but is silent about its sponsorship of the Turkish absorption of much of Greek Cyprus. It laments a divided Jerusalem but says nothing about the segregation of Nicosia.

    Erdogan often accuses Israel of human rights violations, but to this day no Turkish government has ever acknowledged culpability for the genocide of the Armenians. Far from it: Not long ago, Erdogan threatened to deport Armenians from Turkish soil.

    Where and how does all this end?

    Turkey's new ambitions and ethnic and religious chauvinism are antithetical to its NATO membership. The United States should not be treaty-bound to defend a de facto ally of Iran or Syria, which are both eager to obtain nuclear weapons. European countries foresaw the problem when they denied Turkey membership in the now fragile European Union, fearful that Anatolian Islamists would have unfettered transit across European borders.

    In response, the United States should make contingency plans to relocate from its huge Air Force base at Incirlik -- a facility that Turkey has in the past threatened to close. We should brace for new troubles in the Aegean region and Cyprus, as a bankrupt and often anti-American Greece is now alienated from both the United States and northern Europe -- and yet increasingly vulnerable to a return of Ottoman regional ambitions.

    Just as the Shah of Iran's pro-Western, secular transformation failed and led to the Ayatollah Khomeini's anti-Western Islamic revolution, we are seeing something similar in Erdogan's efforts to turn Ataturk's Turkey back into the theocratic sultanate that ran the Eastern Mediterranean for more than three centuries.

    If Erdogan is intent on a suicidal reinvention of Turkey into a pale imitation of Ottoman hegemony, we can at least take steps to ensure that it will be his mess -- and none of our own.
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Two (unrelated) thoughts from Paris


     
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Turkey Goes From Pliable Ally to Thorn for U.S.

    ANKARA, Turkey — For decades, Turkey was one of the United States’ most pliable allies, a strategic border state on the edge of the Middle East that reliably followed American policy. But recently, it has asserted a new approach in the region, its words and methods as likely to provoke Washington as to advance its own interests.The change in Turkey’s policy burst into public view last week, after the deadly Israeli commando raid on a Turkish flotilla, which nearly severed relations with Israel, Turkey’s longtime ally. Just a month ago, Turkey infuriated the United States when it announced that along with Brazil, it had struck a deal with Iran to ease a nuclear standoff, and on Tuesday it warmly welcomed Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Russian prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, at a regional security summit meeting in Istanbul.

    Turkey’s shifting foreign policy is making its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a hero to the Arab world, and is openly challenging the way the United States manages its two most pressing issues in the region, Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

    Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”

    From Turkey’s perspective, however, it is simply finding its footing in its own backyard, a troubled region that has been in turmoil for years, in part as a result of American policy making. Turkey has also been frustrated in its longstanding desire to join the European Union.

    “The Americans, no matter what they say, cannot get used to a new world where regional powers want to have a say in regional and global politics,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Bilgi University in Istanbul. “This is our neighborhood, and we don’t want trouble. The Americans create havoc, and we are left holding the bag.”

    Turkey’s rise as a regional power may seem sudden, but it has been evolving for years, since the end of the cold war, when the world was a simple alignment of black and white and Turkey, a Muslim democracy founded in 1923, was a junior partner in the American camp.

    Twenty years later, the map has been redrawn. Turkey is now a vibrant, competitive democracy with an economy that would rank as the sixth largest in Europe. Unlike Jordan and Egypt, which rely heavily on American aid, it is financially independent of the United States. And, paradoxically, its democracy has created some problems with Washington: Members of Mr. Erdogan’s own party defected in 2003, for example, voting not to allow the Americans to attack Iraq from Turkish territory.

    Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said in an interview that economics was at the heart of the new policy. The party he belongs to, led by Mr. Erdogan, is made up of merchants and traders, who are more devoted to their business interests than to advancing Islamic solidarity.

    “Economic interdependence is the best way to achieve peace,” he said at his home in Ankara last weekend. “In the 1990s we had severe tension all around us, and Turkey paid a huge bill because of that. Now we want to establish a peaceful order around us.”

    But that vision has led to friction with Washington, particularly over Iran, Turkey’s only alternative energy source after Russia.

    “They are ambitious, and this gives them a major role on the world stage,” said a senior American official. “But there is a risk that Americans won’t understand what Turkey is doing, and that will have consequences for the relationship.”

    It is Mr. Erdogan’s confrontation with Israel, which he accused of “state terrorism” in the flotilla raid, that raised the loudest alarms for Americans. Many see his fiery statements as a sign that he has not only abandoned the quest to join the European Union, but is aligning himself with Islamic rivals of the West.

    Yet, for years Mr. Erdogan encouraged closer ties with Israel, even taking a planeload of businessmen to Tel Aviv in 2005. While the relationship has deteriorated badly in recent years — with Mr. Erdogan lambasting Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, over the Israeli military’s tactics in the Gaza campaign — Jewish leaders in Istanbul say that it is more about Mr. Erdogan’s dislike of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than his view of Israel.

    “The Jewish community in Turkey is not at all alarmed,” said Ishak Alaton, a prominent Jewish businessman in Istanbul. The tough talk, he said, is simply Mr. Erdogan’s style, an attempt to score points ahead of an election.

    Mr. Erdogan, though a pragmatist, is also a devout Muslim, a category that was once the underdog in secular Turkish society, and sympathy for the Palestinians is ingrained. He is hotheaded, with a street fighter’s swagger that becomes more pronounced in crises. He took personal offense, for example, when Ehud Olmert, then Israel’s prime minister, began without warning the bombing of Gaza while Mr. Erdogan was mediating talks between Israel and Syria.

    Shafeeq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University, argued that Turkey had stepped into a vacuum left by a failed peace process, and that it was trying to “save the Palestinians from becoming desperate again and save Israel from itself.”

    That may be so, but Mr. Erdogan’s tough talk eliminates Turkey’s place at the table as a moderator with Israel, analysts said, and also boxes in the Obama administration, forcing it into a choice between allies that the Turks are sure to lose.

    Behind the friction between the United States and Turkey is a larger question about how to approach crises in the Middle East, argues Stephen Kinzer, author of the book “Reset: Iran, Turkey and America’s Future.” Turkey calls for talks, while Washington seeks sanctions. “Turks are telling the U.S.: ‘The cold war’s over. You have to take a more cooperative approach, and we can help,’ ” said Mr. Kinzer, a former New York Times correspondent. “The U.S. is not prepared to accept that offer.”

    Turkish and American officials play down their differences, saying they share the goal of peace in the Middle East. But certain viewpoints — on Hamas and Israel’s security concerns — do seem to be throwing up insurmountable obstacles, and some see the Turkish stance as ignoring the realities.

    “The world hasn’t changed in 48 hours just because a boat was raided,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist for the Turkish daily Milliyet. “Ankara thinks it is remaking the world, but in the long run this could backfire.”
     
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    All for the sake of 'strategic depth'

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    Thursday, June 10, 2010
    Semih Ä°DÄ°Z
    We complimented Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for the crisis management skills he displayed after the deadly raid on the “Mavi Marmara” in the Eastern Mediterranean by Israeli commandoes. We know now that he is capable of showing leadership under pressure.

    It was also this leadership that made him deny that there was a link between the Israel operation against the Mavi Marmara, and the PKK attack on the same day against the armed forces in Iskenderun which left six sailors dead.

    This was a dangerous link that was established by Hüseyin Çelik, a deputy head of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

    Observers maintained that Çelik was trying to deflect anger away from the government during the funerals of the killed soldiers. The idea was that if you could somehow blame Israel for the İskenderun attack, then angry reactions would be directed way from the AKP. This is clearly important for the government because anger at the AKP during such funerals is on the increase.

    This anger even resulted in Energy Minister Taner Yıldız receiving a punch in the face during the funeral of another soldier killed by the PKK in May. Mr. Davutoğlu nevertheless had the sense and propriety to say there was no evidence to suggest that there was such link between the two incidents. In doing so he acted responsibly and in a way that was above mere party considerations.

    But, regardless of complimenting him on his crisis management skills, one cannot help wondering where Mr. Davutoğlu’s grand vision of “strategic depth” for Turkey is leading the country. This question looms much larger now following the serious defeat his diplomacy received at the Security Council on Tuesday during the vote on sanctions against Iran.

    Turkey, along with Brazil, voted against sanctions on Iran, but 12 of the remaining Security Council members, including all five permanent ones, voted for it. Granted there is Brazil, so Ankara can say it was not totally isolated.

    But this is poor consolation given that Brazil is a country that is thousands of kilometers away from the Middle East while Turkey is viewed as a key player in the region.

    One cannot therefore see the Turkish rejection of the sanctions in the same light as Brazil’s, since the ramifications are much greater for Turkey. The greatest blow to Ankara came from Russia and China since both countries voted in favor of the sanctions.

    This was a double blow for Prime Minister ErdoÄŸan, because his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was uttering remarks on the topic in Istanbul, a day before the vote in New York, that were pleasing to the AKP government.

    But the truth is that, just as Putin was appeasing Turkey, his envoy in Vienna was telling the IAEA that the uranium-swap deal worked out by Turkey and Brazil for Iran was not sufficient to meet the demands of the international community.

    Much worse for Turkish diplomacy, though, was the fact that the AKP government could not even convince Security Council members Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina, countries to which Ankara is very close, to vote against the sanctions While Lebanon abstained, Bosnia Herzegovina acted with the majority and voted for the sanctions.

    Turkey was also unsuccessful in convincing the African members of the Security Council, Uganda, Nigeria and Gabon although much of Africa had supported Ankara’s bid for membership in the Security Council - despite Turkey’s great opening to the African continent.

    While the AKP government is now trying to convince the public that the outcome at the Security Council represents an “honorable stance” for Turkey, as opposed to the “wily and self-serving stance of the others,” there can be no doubt that Turkey’s foreign policy ship has run seriously aground this time.

    This, we believe, is the result of the AKP government disregarding a foreign policy orientation that has a century of experience behind it and its going out of its way instead to take controversial steps that make many in and outside Turkey wonder where the country is headed.

    If this is being done in the name of “strategic depth,” then the isolation that this has brought Turkey in such a crucial international platform as the Security Council is there for all to observe. If, on the other hand, this is being done to vent anger at the West in general, and Europe in particular, then the result is again there for all to observe because Ankara could not even convince non-Western countries in the Security Council to vote against sanctions on Iran.

    There is another option of course. All of this may be being done for the sake of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s personal religious and ideological mission - whatever that may be. If that is the case, one has to say he is being successful. But he also has to take note of the fact that more and more people in Turkey are beginning to question why damage is being done to Turkey’s well-established and almost institutionalized international relations.

    It is always easy to bring down edifices one may not like personally, even if these edifices are functional and serve a purpose. The question is what one replaces them with. It is clear that after the vote at the Security Council, the AKP government will be put even more under the projector light at home and abroad in order to try and understand where it is taking Turkey.

    If you were to ask us, we would have to conclude that the AKP government has allowed itself to be taken over by delusions of grandeur and has, as a result of this, painted itself into a corner on a number of foreign policy issues.

    Prime Minister Erdoğan is expressing particular animosity towards retired diplomats now, who he calls “Mon Chers,” a French term Turks use to belittle their own diplomats, implying that they are “gutless effete and good for nothing.”

    He is doing this because these people are urging caution as well as policies that are more in line with Turkey’s traditional international preferences and commitments.

    But if he listens more to the “Mon Chers” it is evident that the outcome will be much better for Turkey.
     
  8. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Turkey votes against UN sanctions on Iran. Erdogan is a hero in the Arab world. Did Turkey abandon its EU dreams? And why is it looking towards the East?

     
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  9. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    For Turkey, an Embrace of Iran Is a Matter of Building Bridges


    ISTANBUL — Viewed from Washington, Turkey and Iran are strange bedfellows. One is a NATO member with a Constitution that mandates secularism, and the other, an Islamic republic whose nuclear program has been one of the most vexing foreign policy problems for the United States in recent years.So why have the two countries been locked in a clumsy embrace, with Turkey openly defying the United States last week by voting against imposing new sanctions on Iran?

    For the United States, the vote was a slap by a close ally that has prompted soul searching about Turkey. In London on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates mused that Turkey was “moving eastward,” a shift he attributed to the European Union’s tepid response to Turkey’s application to join it.

    That is a narrative that is gaining ground: Turkey, the East-West bridge, sided with the East because it had lost its way on its path to becoming more like the West. But many here do not see it that way. Turkey is not lost, they say, but simply disagrees with the United States over how to approach the problems in the Middle East. The Obama administration chooses sanctions, while Turkey believes cooperation has more of a chance of stopping Iran from building a bomb. To that end, it has actively negotiated with Tehran over its nuclear program.

    “I would be appalled if Turkey cut itself off from the West and aligned with the Islamic world, but that’s not what’s happening,” said Halil Berktay, a historian at Sabanci University. “Turkey is saying, ‘You’ve been talking about building bridges. This is the way to build them.’ ”

    At the heart of the current friction is a fundamental disagreement over Iran and its intent. For the United States, Iran is a rogue state intent on building a bomb and crazy enough to use it. Turkey agrees that Iran is trying to develop the technology that would let it quickly build a weapon if it chose, but says Iran’s leaders may be satisfied stopping at that. “We believe that once we normalize relations with Iran, and it has relationships with other actors, it won’t go for the bomb,” said a Turkish official who works closely with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Besides, Turkish officials say, previous sets of sanctions have not worked with Iran, which continues to insist that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

    Part of Turkey’s motivation in reaching out to Iran is based in realpolitik. Iran is Turkey’s neighbor and also supplies the country with a fifth of its natural gas.

    The approach is also part of a broader policy of economic and political integration in the region that Turkey, under Mr. Erdogan, has pursued for nearly a decade. Iranians can travel to Turkey without a visa, as can Syrians, Iraqis, Russians and Georgians. More than a million Iranians travel to Turkey on vacation every year. A Turkish company built Tehran’s main airport.

    The nuclear talks were part of that effort. They culminated in May in what Turkey, and its partner Brazil, said was a commitment by Iran to swap a portion of its low-enriched uranium with other countries. Iran would ship out part of its stockpile in exchange for a form of uranium less likely to be used for weapons.

    But American officials went ahead with sanctions anyway, saying the amount to be swapped under the agreement was no longer enough to stop Iran from making a bomb.

    Months ago Iran had negotiated a similar deal with the West, including the United States, but then backed away. At the time Iran had a smaller stockpile, and swapping material then would have deprived the country of enough fuel for a bomb for about a year.

    “The prevailing sentiment in Washington is that the agreement is just another Iranian ploy and that Ankara has played into Tehran’s hands,” said Steven Cook, an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

    A Western diplomat added, “The general feeling in Washington is that the Iranians really aren’t going to negotiate away their nuclear program.”

    Turkey says it fears a nuclear-armed Iran, because it would upset the balance of power between the two countries, but it also worries that the Obama administration’s focus on sanctions — reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s rush to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, some here say — will lead to war.

    “The Western countries do things and Turkey pays the bill,” said Sedat Laciner, director of the International Strategic Research Organization in Ankara. “We don’t want another Iraq.”

    The Turkish official, meanwhile, explained the country’s rationale for treating Iran with respect. “We are saying, make them feel like they have something real to lose by going for a bomb,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Will sanctions change Iranian behavior? No. Will it stop them from further enriching uranium? It will not.”It is a risky calculation, but one that Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American writer, says the Turks are in the best position to make. Unlike Americans, Turks travel to Iran frequently and speak a language similar to the Azeri dialect spoken in Iran’s north.“Iran doesn’t want to be North Korea,” Mr. Majd said. “It would rather be as sophisticated, powerful and respected as Turkey. Building weapons, even if they could, does not get them there. Erdogan knows that.”

    The United States expressed disappointment at Turkey’s vote against sanctions last week, saying it would undermine the Obama administration’s ability to support Turkey. But Turkey’s calculation was pragmatic, some officials said. Its “no” vote did not stop the resolution, while allowing Turkish officials to work the Arab street.

    Top leaders of Mr. Erdogan’s party believe that only a Turkey that is independent from the United States will be an asset for Washington in the long run. America has a credibility problem in the Muslim world after the Bush administration’s wars, and is also seen by many as having a double standard with Israel.

    “In their own minds, they’re smarter than us,” said an American expert who helps make policy for the region. “They see us as wanting crass cheerleading. But they’re saying, ‘Look, we’re going to be more useful to you.’ ”

    But that can be very uncomfortable for the United States, for example when Mr. Erdogan’s political party hosted Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, in Turkey in 2006.

    The American expert argued that the regional rise of Turkey was not to be feared. It counters the influence of Iran in the Middle East, and as a NATO ally with a powerful economy, a vibrant democracy and relations with Israel, has something to teach the Muslim world, and it cannot play that role by being an American instrument.

    Still, he said that “the Turks are finding that the vision that they have is very good on paper, but striking the balance of being a close American ally and popular on the Arab street is awfully difficult to achieve.”
     
  10. AkhandBharat

    AkhandBharat Regular Member

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    Viewed from Washington, Turkey and Iran are strange bedfellows. One is a NATO member with a Constitution that mandates secularism, and the other, an Islamic republic whose nuclear program has been one of the most vexing foreign policy problems for the United States in recent years.

    So why have the two countries been locked in a clumsy embrace, with Turkey openly defying the United States last week by voting against imposing new sanctions on Iran?

    For the United States, the vote was a slap by a close ally that has prompted soul searching about Turkey. In London on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates mused that Turkey was “moving eastward,” a shift he attributed to the European Union’s tepid response to Turkey’s application to join it.

    That is a narrative that is gaining ground: Turkey, the East-West bridge, sided with the East because it had lost its way on its path to becoming more like the West. But many here do not see it that way. Turkey is not lost, they say, but simply disagrees with the United States over how to approach the problems in the Middle East. The Obama administration chooses sanctions, while Turkey believes cooperation has more of a chance of stopping Iran from building a bomb. To that end, it has actively negotiated with Tehran over its nuclear program.

    “I would be appalled if Turkey cut itself off from the West and aligned with the Islamic world, but that’s not what’s happening,” said Halil Berktay, a historian at Sabanci University. “Turkey is saying, ‘You’ve been talking about building bridges. This is the way to build them.’ ”

    At the heart of the current friction is a fundamental disagreement over Iran and its intent. For the United States, Iran is a rogue state intent on building a bomb and crazy enough to use it. Turkey agrees that Iran is trying to develop the technology that would let it quickly build a weapon if it chose, but says Iran’s leaders may be satisfied stopping at that. “We believe that once we normalize relations with Iran, and it has relationships with other actors, it won’t go for the bomb,” said a Turkish official who works closely with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Besides, Turkish officials say, previous sets of sanctions have not worked with Iran, which continues to insist that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

    Part of Turkey’s motivation in reaching out to Iran is based in realpolitik. Iran is Turkey’s neighbor and also supplies the country with a fifth of its natural gas.

    The approach is also part of a broader policy of economic and political integration in the region that Turkey, under Mr. Erdogan, has pursued for nearly a decade. Iranians can travel to Turkey without a visa, as can Syrians, Iraqis, Russians and Georgians. More than a million Iranians travel to Turkey on vacation every year. A Turkish company built Tehran’s main airport.

    The nuclear talks were part of that effort. They culminated in May in what Turkey, and its partner Brazil, said was a commitment by Iran to swap a portion of its low-enriched uranium with other countries. Iran would ship out part of its stockpile in exchange for a form of uranium less likely to be used for weapons.

    But American officials went ahead with sanctions anyway, saying the amount to be swapped under the agreement was no longer enough to stop Iran from making a bomb.

    Months ago Iran had negotiated a similar deal with the West, including the United States, but then backed away. At the time Iran had a smaller stockpile, and swapping material then would have deprived the country of enough fuel for a bomb for about a year.

    “The prevailing sentiment in Washington is that the agreement is just another Iranian ploy and that Ankara has played into Tehran’s hands,” said Steven Cook, an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

    A Western diplomat added, “The general feeling in Washington is that the Iranians really aren’t going to negotiate away their nuclear program.”

    Turkey says it fears a nuclear-armed Iran, because it would upset the balance of power between the two countries, but it also worries that the Obama administration’s focus on sanctions — reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s rush to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, some here say — will lead to war.

    “The Western countries do things and Turkey pays the bill,” said Sedat Laciner, director of the International Strategic Research Organization in Ankara. “We don’t want another Iraq.”

    The Turkish official, meanwhile, explained the country’s rationale for treating Iran with respect. “We are saying, make them feel like they have something real to lose by going for a bomb,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Will sanctions change Iranian behavior? No. Will it stop them from further enriching uranium? It will not.”

    It is a risky calculation, but one that Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American writer, says the Turks are in the best position to make. Unlike Americans, Turks travel to Iran frequently and speak a language similar to the Azeri dialect spoken in Iran’s north.

    “Iran doesn’t want to be North Korea,” Mr. Majd said. “It would rather be as sophisticated, powerful and respected as Turkey. Building weapons, even if they could, does not get them there. Erdogan knows that.”

    The United States expressed disappointment at Turkey’s vote against sanctions last week, saying it would undermine the Obama administration’s ability to support Turkey. But Turkey’s calculation was pragmatic, some officials said. Its “no” vote did not stop the resolution, while allowing Turkish officials to work the Arab street.

    Top leaders of Mr. Erdogan’s party believe that only a Turkey that is independent from the United States will be an asset for Washington in the long run. America has a credibility problem in the Muslim world after the Bush administration’s wars, and is also seen by many as having a double standard with Israel.

    “In their own minds, they’re smarter than us,” said an American expert who helps make policy for the region. “They see us as wanting crass cheerleading. But they’re saying, ‘Look, we’re going to be more useful to you.’ ”

    But that can be very uncomfortable for the United States, for example when Mr. Erdogan’s political party hosted Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, in Turkey in 2006.

    The American expert argued that the regional rise of Turkey was not to be feared. It counters the influence of Iran in the Middle East, and as a NATO ally with a powerful economy, a vibrant democracy and relations with Israel, has something to teach the Muslim world, and it cannot play that role by being an American instrument.

    Still, he said that “the Turks are finding that the vision that they have is very good on paper, but striking the balance of being a close American ally and popular on the Arab street is awfully difficult to achieve.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/world/middleeast/13turkey.html
     
  11. AkhandBharat

    AkhandBharat Regular Member

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    How Do You Say "Frenemy" in Turkish?

    How Do You Say "Frenemy" in Turkish?

    Recently, my colleague and good friend, Charles Kupchan, published a book called How Enemies Become Friends. In it, he argues that diplomatic engagement is decisive in transforming relations between adversaries. It is an interesting read, and the book has received some terrific reviews. Charlie might want to follow up with a new book called How Friends Become Frenemies. He can use the United States and Turkey as his primary case study.

    It is hard to admit, but after six decades of strategic cooperation, Turkey and the United States are becoming strategic competitors -- especially in the Middle East. This is the logical result of profound shifts in Turkish foreign and domestic politics and changes in the international system.


    This reality has been driven home by Turkey's angry response to Israel's interdiction of the Istanbul-organized flotilla of ships that tried Monday to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.After Israel's attempts to halt the vessels resulted in the deaths of at least nine activists, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu referred to Israel's actions as "murder conducted by a state." The Turkish government also spearheaded efforts at the U.N. Security Council to issue a harsh rebuke of Israel.

    Monday's events might prove a wake-up call for the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. Among the small group of Turkey watchers inside the Beltway, nostalgia rules the day. U.S. officialdom yearns to return to a brief moment in history when Washington and Ankara's security interests were aligned, due to the shared threat posed by the Soviet Union. Returning to the halcyon days of the U.S.-Turkish relationship, however, is increasingly untenable.

    This revelation comes despite the hopes of U.S. President Barack Obama, whose inauguration was greeted with a sigh of relief along both the Potomac and the Bosphorus. Officials in both countries hoped that the Obama administration's international approach, which emphasized diplomatic engagement, multilateralism, and regional stability, would mesh nicely with that of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party.

    The White House made it clear from the beginning that Turkey was a priority for Obama, who raised the idea of a "model partnership" between the two countries. Turkey, the theory went, had a set of attributes and assets that it could bring to bear to help the United States achieve its interests in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Naturally, as a longtime U.S. ally, Turkey was thought to share America's interests in these regions. That was the thinking, anyway.

    A little more than a year after Obama addressed the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Washington seems caught between its attempts to advance this model partnership, and recognition of the reality that Ankara has moved on.

    This desire to restore close relations with Turkey is partially based on a rose-tinted view of the alliance's glory days; even then, the relationship was often quite difficult, buffeted by Turkey's troubled relations with Greece, Ankara's invasion of Cyprus, and the Armenian-American community's calls for recognition of the 1915 massacres as genocide. Back then, Turkey was a fractious junior partner in the global chess game with the Soviets. Today, Turkey is all grown up, sporting the 16th largest economy in the world, and is coming into its own diplomatically.

    Nowhere is Turkey asserting itself more than in the Middle East, where it has gone from a tepid observer to an influential player in eight short years. In the abstract, Washington and Ankara do share the same goals: peace between Israel and the Palestinians; a stable, unified Iraq; an Iran without nuclear weapons; stability in Afghanistan; and a Western-oriented Syria. When you get down to details, however, Washington and Ankara are on the opposite ends of virtually all these issues.

    For the first time in its history, Ankara has chosen sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, demanding that Israel take steps to ease the blockade of Gaza or risk unspecified "consequences." Well before the recent crisis, the Turks had positioned themselves as thinly veiled advocates for Hamas, which has long been on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations. In public statements, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has compared Turkey's Islamists and Hamas. Implicit in these declarations is a parallel to Erdogan's own Justice and Development Party, whose predecessors were repeatedly banned from politics.

    This parallel is rather odd. Turkey's Islamists always sought to process their grievances peacefully, while the Islamic Resistance Movement -- Hamas's actual name -- has a history of violence. Ankara's warm embrace of Hamas has not only angered the Israelis, but other U.S. regional allies including Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and Saudi Arabia.

    Even in Afghanistan, there's less to Turkey's vaunted cooperation than meets the eye. Turkey was the first ally to offer troops to U.S. efforts there in 2001, and more recently, it has doubled its contingent of soldiers to almost 1,700. However, Ankara has consistently -- like other NATO allies -- refused to throw these forces into the fight, even after the Obama administration's entreaties to do more as part of the Afghan "surge."

    Ankara also took a lot of heat from George W. Bush's administration for its good relations with the Syrian regime, though the United States eventually reconciled itself to the logic of Turkey's interests in its southern neighbor. Turkey sees its ties with Syria as a hedge against Kurdish nationalism, believing that brisk cross-border trade will make everyone -- Turks, Kurds, and Syrians -- richer, happier, and less suspicious of one another. The close diplomatic ties have an added benefit for Washington: They give Syrian President Bashar al-Assad someone to talk to other than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.

    Ankara and Washington may well end up on opposite sides when it comes to the Assad regime. The Turks have been noticeably quiet about U.S. and Israeli allegations that Syria has either transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah or trained Hezbollah fighters to use them in Syria. What will the Turks do if Israel launches a preventive strike against those missiles, now believed to be on the Syrian side of the border near the Bekaa Valley -- or if the Israel Defense Forces take the fight to Lebanon, where there are 367 Turkish soldiers serving in the U.N. peacekeeping force in South Lebanon? Whatever the exact scenario, conflict along Israel's northern border seems increasingly likely. In that event, Washington will no doubt endorse Israel's right to self-defense -- and Ankara will not.

    Perhaps the biggest issue separating the United States and Turkey is Iran. There is a full-blown controversy brewing over exactly what the Obama administration communicated to Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva before the two leaders traveled to Tehran in May. There, Lula and Erdogan hammered out a deal that would shift 1,200 kilograms of Iran's low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). So far, Washington's explanation of what it did and did not tell Ankara and Brasilia is rather weak -- a perplexing lapse of communication and coordination for an administration that puts a premium on these virtues.

    Regardless of the Obama administration's mistakes, the Turkish-Brazilian deal demonstrates just how far apart Washington and Ankara are on Iran. The Obama administration sees the TRR agreement as yet another Iranian effort to split Washington, its allies in Europe, the Chinese, and the Russians, thereby forestalling a new round of U.N.-mandated sanctions, all while the Iranians continue to enrich uranium. The Turks think the deal is a promising start to the painstaking task of moving Washington and Tehran toward broader negotiations.


    The easy temptation is to blame creeping Islamization for Turkey's foreign-policy shift. There is no denying that there is an ideological component to much of Erdogan's rhetoric, especially when it comes to Israel. However, the prime minister is not the architect of Ankara's foreign policy; Foreign Minister Davutoglu is the man responsible for the country's new international activism. Bookish, soft-spoken and extremely smart, Davutoglu is not an Islamist. Rather, he correctly perceived the role Turkey can play in a much-changed world.

    The structural changes resulting from the end of the Cold War, Europe's continuing rebuff of Turkey, and the economic opportunities to the country's south, east, and north have driven Davutoglu's thinking, not the Quran. Moreover, despite the bitter political battle being played out in Turkey over the country's political trajectory, there is general agreement across the political spectrum on the direction of Turkish foreign policy. Other Turkish governments might have been more cautious about the TRR deal, but they certainly would be seeking to maintain good relations with Iran, Iraq, and Syria, not to mention Russia.

    The Obama administration has yet to grapple with the ways the structural changes in the international system have affected U.S.-Turkey relations. All the talk about strategic cooperation, model partnership, and strategic importance cannot mask the fundamental shift at hand. The stark reality is that while Turkey and the United States are not enemies in the Middle East, they are fast becoming competitors. Whereas the United States seeks to remain the predominant power in the region and, as such, wants to maintain a political order that makes it easier for Washington to achieve its goals, Turkey clearly sees things differently. The Turks are willing to bend the regional rules of the game to serve Ankara's own interests. If the resulting policies serve U.S. goals at the same time, good. If not, so be it.

    Moreover, Ankara's approach has proved enormously popular in Turkey and among average Arabs. This is why Erdogan seems all too willing to discuss Turkey's newly influential role in the Middle East at even the most mundane ribbon-cutting events, from Istanbul to the Armenian border. Indeed, it is abundantly clear that Erdogan and his party believe they benefit domestically from the position Turkey has staked out in the Middle East. Yet, it is lost on Washington that the demands of domestic Turkish politics now trump the need to maintain good relations with the United States.

    Given the mythology that surrounds the relationship, the divergence between Washington and Ankara has proved difficult to accept. Once policymakers recognize what is really happening, Washington and Ankara can get on with the job of managing the decline in ties with the least possible damage. Obama's goal should be to develop relations with Turkey along the same lines the United States has with Brazil or Thailand or Malaysia. Those relations are strong in some areas, but fall short of strategic alliances. "Frenemy" might be too harsh a term for such an arrangment, but surely "model partnership" is a vast overstatement. It's time to recognize reality.
     
  12. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Turkey: Stealth superpower

    By John Feffer

    The future is no longer in plastics, as the businessman in the 1967 film The Graduate insisted. Rather, the future is in China.

    If a multinational corporation doesn't shoehorn China into its business plan, it courts the ridicule of its peers and the outrage of its shareholders. The language of choice for ambitious undergraduates is Mandarin. Apocalyptic futurologists are fixated on an eventual global war between China and the United States. China even occupies valuable real estate in the imaginations of our fabulists. Much of the action of Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age, for example, takes place in a future neo-Confucian China, while the crew members of the space ship on the cult TV show Firefly mix Chinese curse words into their dialogue.

    Why doesn't Turkey have a comparable grip on American visions



    of the future? Characters in science fiction novels don't speak Turkish. Turkish-language programs are as scarce as hen's teeth on college campuses. Turkey doesn't even qualify as part of everyone's favorite group of up-and-comers, that swinging BRIC quartet of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Turkey remains stubbornly fixed in Western culture as a backward-looking land of doner kebabs, bazaars and guest workers.

    But take population out of the equation - an admittedly big variable - and Turkey promptly becomes a likely candidate for future superpower. It possesses the 17th top economy in the world and, according to Goldman Sachs, has a good shot at breaking into the top 10 by 2050. Its economic muscle is also well defended: after decades of assistance from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Turkish military is now a regional powerhouse.

    Perhaps most importantly, Turkey occupies a vital crossroads between Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. A predominantly Muslim democracy atop the ruins of Byzantium, it bridges the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions, even as it sits perched at the nexus of energy politics. All roads once led to Rome; today all pipelines seem to lead to Turkey. If superpower status followed the rules of real estate - location, location, location - then Turkey would already be near the top of the heap.

    As a quintessential rising middle power, Turkey no longer hesitates to put itself in the middle of major controversies. In the last month alone, Turkish mediation efforts nearly heralded a breakthrough in the Iran nuclear crisis, and Ankara supported the flotilla that recently tried to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. With these and other less high-profile interventions, Turkey has stepped out of the shadows and now threatens to settle into the prominent place on the world stage once held by its predecessor. In the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire was a force to be reckoned with, spreading through the Balkans to the gates of Vienna before devolving over the next 200 years into "the sick man of Europe".

    Today, a dynamic neo-Ottoman spirit animates Turkey. Once rigidly secular, it has begun to fashion a moderate Islamic democracy. Once dominated by the military, it is in the process of containing the army within the rule of law. Once intolerant of ethnic diversity, it has begun to re-examine what it means to be Turkish. Once a sleepy economy, it is becoming a nation of Islamic Calvinists. Most critically of all, it is fashioning a new foreign policy. Having broken with its more than half-century-long subservience to the United States, it is now carving out a geopolitical role all its own.

    The rise of Turkey has by no means been smooth. Secular Turks have been uncomfortable with recent more assertive expressions of Muslim identity, particularly when backed by state power. The country's Kurds are still second-class citizens, and although the military has lost some of its teeth, it still has a bite to go along with its bark.

    Nonetheless, Turkey is remaking the politics of the Middle East and challenging Washington's traditional notion of itself as the mediator of last resort in the region. In the 21st century, the Turkish model of transitioning out of authoritarian rule while focusing on economic growth and conservative social values has considerable appeal to countries in the developing world.

    This "Ankara consensus" could someday compete favorably with Beijing's and Washington's versions of political and economic development. The Turkish model has, however, also spurred right-wing charges that a new Islamic fundamentalist threat is emerging on the edges of Europe. Neo-conservative pundit Liz Cheney has even created a new version of former US president George W Bush's "axis of evil" in which Turkey, Iran and Syria have become the dark trinity.

    These are all signs that Turkey has indeed begun to wake from its centuries-long slumber. And when Turkey wakes, as Napoleon said of China, the world will shake.

    Out of Ottomanism
    Constantinople was once an Orientalist's dream. In his otherwise perceptive 1877 guide to the city, the Italian author Edmondo de Amicis typically wrote that old Istanbul "is not a city; she neither labors, nor thinks, nor creates; civilization beats at her gates and assaults her in her streets, but she dreams and slumbers on in the shadow of her mosques, and takes no heed".

    Turkey's first wake-up call came from Kemal Ataturk, the modernizing military officer from Salonika who created a new country out of the unpromising materials left behind by the collapsed Ottoman Empire. Decisively ending the caliphate in 1924, Ataturk patterned his new secular state on the French model: strong central power, a modern army, and a strict division between public and private spheres. This was no easy process: Ataturk brought Turkey kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

    In many ways, that kicking and screaming continued throughout the rest of that century. The Turkish military never quite got used to civilian rule. It has seized power four times since 1960. In the 1980s and 1990s, Turkish security forces killed thousands of their own citizens in a dirty war against the Kurds and the Turkish left, and subjected many more to beatings, torture and imprisonment. The country's leadership maintained a garrison mentality based on a fear that outsiders, aided by a fifth column, were bent on dismembering the country (as outside powers had indeed attempted to do in 1920 with the Treaty of Sevres).

    In the 1980s, however, economic globalization began to eat away at this garrison mentality as president Turgut Ozal attempted to reconnect Turkey to the world through export-oriented reforms and a policy of building economic bridges rather than erecting suspicious walls. During the eight-year Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), for instance, Turkey refused to choose sides, remaining a friend to both countries.

    In the process, Istanbul was transformed. It became the center of a laboring, thinking and creating class that faced both westward toward Europe and the US and eastward toward the Middle East and Central Asia. Even Central Anatolia and its key city, Kayseri, once considered a Turkish backwater, was emerging as a vital center of manufacturing. "While Anatolia remains a socially conservative and religious society, it is also undergoing what some have called a 'Silent Islamic Reformation'," went the European Stability Initiative's influential 2005 report on Turkey's new Islamic Calvinists. "Many of Kayseri's business leaders even attribute their economic success to their 'protestant work ethic'."

    By the 1990s, the "star of Islam" - as The Economist dubbed Turkey - had gone about as far as it could within the confines of the existing Ataturk model. In 1997, the military once again swatted aside the civilian leadership in a "stealth coup", and the country seemed to be slipping back into aggressive paranoia. The Kurdish war flared; tensions with Russia over Chechnya rose; a war of words broke out with Greece over maritime territorial disputes. And Turkey nearly went to war with Syria for harboring Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan.

    But that stealth coup proved a last-gasp attempt to place the uncontainable new political and economic developments in Turkish society under tighter controls. Soon enough, the military gave way again and the Islam-influenced Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, only enlarging its political base after the 2007 elections.

    Zero problems?
    Throughout the 20th century, geography had proved a liability for Turkey. It found itself beset on all sides by former Ottoman lands which held grudges against the successor state. The magic trick the AKP performed was to transform this liability into an asset. Turkey in the 21st century turned on the charm. Like China, it discovered the advantages of soft power and the inescapable virtues of a "soft rise" during an era of American military and economic dominance.

    Led by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a former academic who provided a blueprint for the country's new good-neighbor policy in his 2001 book Strategic Depth, Turkey pledged "zero problems with neighbors". In foreign policy terminology, Davutoglu proposed the carving out of a Turkish sphere of influence via canny balance-of-power politics. Like China, it promised not to interfere in the domestic affairs of its partners. It also made a major effort to repair relations with those near at hand and struck new friendships with those far away. Indeed, like Beijing, Ankara has global aspirations.

    Perhaps the most dramatic reversal in Turkish policy involves the Kurdish region of Iraq. The detente orchestrated by the AKP could be compared to president Richard Nixon's startling policy of rapprochement with China in the 1970s, which rapidly turned an enemy into something like an ally.

    In March, Turkey sent its first diplomat to Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to staff a new consulate there. Today, as journalist Jonathan Head has written, "70% of investment and 80% of the products sold in the Kurdish region [of Iraq] are Turkish." Realizing that when US troops leave Iraq, its Kurdish regions are bound to feel vulnerable and thus open to economic and political influence, Ankara established a "strategic cooperation council" to sort things out with the Iraqis in 2009, and this has served as a model for similar arrangements with Syria, Bulgaria, Greece and Russia.

    Detente with Iraqi Kurdistan has gone hand-in-hand with a relaxation of tensions between Ankara and its own Kurdish population with which it had been warring for decades. Until the early 1990s, the Turkish government pretended that the Kurdish language didn't exist. Now, there is a new 24-hour Kurdish-language national TV station, and new faculty at Mardin Artuklu University will teach Kurdish. The government began to accept returning Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq, as well as a handful of Kurdish guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

    This hasn't been an easy sell for Turkish nationalists. In December, a Turkish court banned the main Kurdish political party, and this spring the military launched repeated attacks against PKK targets inside Iraq. But the AKP is continuing to push reforms, including proposed changes in the country's constitution that would allow military commanders for the first time to be tried in civilian court for any crimes they commit.

    The elimination of this demonizing of "internal enemies" is crucial to the AKP's project, helping as it does to reduce the military's power in internal affairs. Curbing the military is a top objective for party leaders who believe it will strengthen political stability, improve prospects for future integration into the European Union (EU), and remove a powerful opponent to domestic reforms - and to the party itself.

    Only a little less startling than the government's gestures toward the Kurds has been its program to transform Turkish-Greek relations. The two countries have long been at each other's throats, their conflict over the divided island of Cyprus being only the most visible of their disagreements. The current Greek economic crisis, however, may prove a blessing in disguise when it comes to bilateral relations.

    The Greek government - its finances disastrous and economic pressure from the EU mounting - needs a way to make military budget reductions defensible. In May, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Greece and, while signing 21 agreements on migration, environment, culture and the like, began to explore the previously inconceivable possibility of mutual military reductions. "Both countries have huge defense expenses," Erdogan told Greek television, "and they will achieve a lot of savings this way." If Turkey manages a rapprochement with Armenia, it will achieve a diplomatic trifecta. The two countries disagree over the fate of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which is also at the center of a dispute between Armenia and Turkish ally Azerbaijan. Complicating this territorial issue is a long-standing historical controversy. Armenia wants acknowledgement of the Ottoman Empire's 1915 extermination campaign that killed more than a million Armenians. The Turkish government today disputes the numbers and refuses to recognize the killings as "genocide". Nevertheless, Turkey and Armenia began direct negotiations last year to reopen their border and establish diplomatic relations. Although officially stalled, secret talks between the two are continuing.

    Other diplomatic efforts are no less dramatic. When President



    Bashar al-Assad arrived in Ankara in 2004, it was the first visit by a Syrian leader in 57 years. Meanwhile, Turkey has cemented its relations with Russia, remains close to Iran and has reconnected to the Balkans. This charm offensive makes Chinese efforts in Asia look bumbling.

    Mediation central
    A friend to all sides, Turkey is offering its services as a diplomatic middleman, even in places where it was persona non grata not long ago. "Not many people would imagine that the Serbians would ask for the mediation of Turkey between different Bosniak groups in the Sandjak region of Serbia," observes Sule Kut, a Balkans expert at Bilge University in Istanbul. "Turks were the bad guys in Serbian history. So what is happening? Turkey has established itself as a credible and powerful player in the region."

    It's not just the Balkans. The new Turkey is establishing itself as Mediation Central. Teaming up with Brazil, Turkey fashioned a surprise compromise meant to head off confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program (which the Barack Obama administration managed to shoot down). Along with Spain, it initiated the Alliance of Civilizations, a United Nations effort to bridge the divide between Islam and the West. It also tried to work its magic in negotiating an end to the blockade of Gaza, removing obstacles to the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, bringing Syria and Israel together, resolving the brouhaha around the cartoon depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, and hosting United Nations meetings on Somalia.

    "Zero problems with neighbors" is a great slogan. But it's also a logical impossibility. Turkey can't embrace Hamas without angering Egypt and Israel. It can move closer to Russia only at the potential expense of good relations with Georgia. Rapprochement with Armenia angers Azerbaijan.

    Nor was Ankara's attempt to transcend zero-sum thinking an easy task during the "with us or against us" years of the George W Bush administration. In addition, there are the periodic tensions that arise around US congressional resolutions on the Armenian genocide, still a touchy issue in Turkey. Washington has indicated its growing unhappiness with Turkey's increasingly active role in the Middle East, particularly its overtures to Syria. As a result, Turkey has had to finesse its relationship with the US in order to remain a key NATO ally and a challenger to American power in the region.

    As with China, the US is willing to work with Turkey on some diplomatic issues even as it finds the country's growing influence in the region a problem. In turn, Ankara, like Beijing, is trying to figure out how it can best take advantage of the relative decline in US global influence even as it works closely with Washington on an issue-by-issue basis.

    The greatest challenge to Turkey's zero-problems paradigm, however, is its ever more troubled relationship with Israel. The US-Turkey-Israel troika was once a solid verity of Middle Eastern politics. A considerable amount of bilateral trade, including military deals, has linked Turkey and Israel, and that trade increased dramatically during the AKP era.

    But Israel's 2008 invasion of Gaza - and Erdogan's subsequent excoriation of then-Israeli president Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos - began a process that is tearing these former allies apart, while boosting support for Turkey in the Arab world. In October, Turkey canceled Israel's participation in a military exercise, throwing lucrative military contracts between the two countries in jeopardy. In the wake of the recent Gaza-aid debacle in international waters, the rift threatens to become irreparable. When Israeli commandos seized a flotilla of ships attempting to break the Gaza embargo, killing nine Turkish citizens, Turkey spoke of severing diplomatic relations.

    With Israel increasingly isolated and American mediation efforts seriously compromised, only Turkey is emerging stronger from what can now only be seen as the beginning of a regional realignment of power. Once viewed with suspicion throughout the area where the Ottomans ruled, Turkey may now be the only power that has even a remote chance of one day brokering peace in the Middle East.

    Return to Ottomanism?
    Neo-Ottomanism is not exactly a popular phrase in Turkey today. The leadership in Ankara wants to be clear: they have no intention of projecting imperial power or re-establishing the modern equivalent of the Ottoman caliphate. However, if you look at the friendships that Turkey has cultivated and the trade relations it has emphasized - Syria, Armenia, Greece, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, the Balkans - you can see a map of the old Ottoman empire reassembling itself.

    In other words, just as the AKP has turned geography to its advantage, so it is transforming an imperial albatross into the goose that lays golden eggs (in the form of lucrative trade deals). In a similar way, China has tried to revive its old Sinocentric imperial system without stirring up fears of the Chinese army marching into India or the Chinese navy taking over the South China Sea, even as it - like Turkey - also establishes friendly relations with old adversaries (including Russia).

    Still, even this amiable version of neo-Ottomanism can raise hackles. "We want a new Balkan region based on political values, economic interdependence, and cooperation and cultural harmony," Davutoglu said nostalgically at a conference in Sarajevo in October. "That is what the Ottoman Balkans was like. We shall revive such a Balkan region ... The Ottoman centuries were a success story, and this should be revived." A furor followed among some Serb commentators, who viewed this romanticized version of history as evidence of a Turkish desire to Islamicize the Balkans.

    What Turkey means by its vision of Balkan harmony may prove critical in the context of European integration. The Ottomans and Western Europe fought a succession of wars over control of the Balkans. Today, the EU and Turkey compete for influence in the region, and much hangs on Turkey's prospects for joining the 27-member European organization. Although Turkey began the process of meeting requirements for joining the union, the talks stalled long ago. In the meantime, some European leaders, like French President Nicholas Sarkozy, have spoken out against Turkish membership, while the spread of Islamophobia throughout Europe has dimmed what enthusiasm may still exist for bringing Turkey on board.

    In Turkey as well, public support for membership has declined from 70% in 2002 to just over 50% today. In fact, Turkey's turn toward the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa has in part been a reaction to the fading of the EU option. Fine, the Turks are saying, if you don't want us, we can play with others.

    And play they have, particularly when it comes to the energy game. If oil had been discovered in its territory just a little sooner, some form of the Ottoman Empire might have survived as the wealthiest energy player in history. The riches of Iraq, Kuwait and Libya all once fell within the territorial limits of its empire.

    Today, Turkey lacks energy wealth, but has worked assiduously to ensure that a maximum number of oil and natural gas pipelines flow through the country. Europe and the United States have funded a series of pipelines (like the Nabucco pipeline from the Caspian Sea) that use Turkish territory to bypass Russia and lessen Moscow's ability to blackmail Western Europe by threatening to withhold energy supplies. Turkey hasn't stopped there, however. It negotiated directly with Russia for another set of pipelines - the South Stream, which goes from Russia to Bulgaria through Turkish territorial waters, and the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline that would transport Russian and Kazakh oil from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean through Turkey.

    Turkey now relies on Russia for 60% of its energy imports and Iran for another 30%. In this sense, "zero problems with neighbors" could just as easily be understood as "zero problems with energy suppliers".

    Turkey is also a builder. Of the top 225 international contractors, 35 are Turkish, second only to China. Like China, Turkey asks no difficult questions about the political environment in other countries, and so Turkish construction companies are building airports in Kurdistan and shopping malls in Libya. Despite political tensions, in 2009 they were even involved in nine projects worth more than $60 million in Israel.

    Finally, there is culture. Like the Confucian institutes China is establishing all over the world to spread its language, culture and values, Turkey established the Yunus Emre Foundation in May 2009 to administer cultural centers in Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Egypt, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Israel. Turkish schools have sprung up in more than 80 countries. Turkish culture has also infiltrated Middle Eastern life through television, as Turkish soap operas spread the liberal cultural values of moderate Islam. "The Turkish soaps have been daring and candid when it comes to gender equality, premarital sex, infidelity, passionate love and even children born out of wedlock," writes journalist Nadia Bilbassy-Charters.

    Beyond Ottomanism
    Turkey's leaders may not themselves be comfortable with the neo-Ottoman label - in part because their ambitions are actually much larger. Their developing version of a peaceful, trade-oriented Pax Ottomanica takes in Turkey's improved relations with sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific. Turkey declared 2005 the "year of Africa" and accepted observer status in the African Union. In 2010, it has already opened eight embassies in African countries and plans to open another 11 next year.

    At the pan-Islamic level - and a Turk, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, now heads up the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, the leading international voice of Islamic states - Turkish leaders think in terms of the ummah, the global Muslim community. For some critics, Turkey's Islamic character and its ruling Islam-influenced party - as well as its recent attacks on Israel - suggest the country is on a mission to re-establish, if only informally, the Islamic caliphate. In the most extreme version of this argument, historian of the Middle East Bernard Lewis has argued that Turkey's fundamentalism will strengthen to such an extent that, in a decade's time, it will resemble Iran, even as Iran moves in the opposite direction.

    This is, however, a fundamental misunderstanding of the AKP and its intentions. Islamism has about as much influence in modern-day Turkey as communism does in China. In both cases, what matters most is not ideology, but the political power of the ruling parties. Economic growth, political stability and soft-power diplomacy regularly trump ideological consistency. Turkey is becoming more nationalist and more assertive, and flexibility, not fundamentalism, has been the hallmark of its new foreign policy.

    In 1999, US president Bill Clinton suggested that if Ankara launched a reformist movement, the 21st century could be "Turkey's century". Turkey has indeed heeded Clinton's advice. Now, Europe and the US face a choice. If Washington works with Turkey as a partner, it has a far greater chance of resolving outstanding conflicts with Iran, inside Iraq, and between the Palestinians and Israelis, not to mention simmering disputes elsewhere in the Islamic world. If the EU accepts Turkey as a member, its economic dynamism and new credibility in the Muslim world could help jolt Europe out of its current sclerosis. Spurned by one or both, Turkey's global influence will still grow.

    By all means, get that Lenovo computer, buy stock in Haier, and encourage your child to study Mandarin. China can't help but be a 21st-century superpower. But if you want to really be ahead of the curve, pay close attention to that vital crossroads between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. It won't be long before we'll all be talking Turkey.
     
  13. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Turkish Dilemma

    Once a reliable Western ally, Turkey is now going its own way in the Middle East. And nobody in Washington or Brussels knows what to do about it.

    BY JAMES TRAUB | JUNE 15, 2010

    My son wants to study a non-European language that's going to matter in the future. He has been contemplating Arabic or Hindi. But after the last few weeks, I'm thinking -- Turkish. All of a sudden, everyone wants to know about Turkey -- and it turns out almost no one does. There's no real mystery in that: Americans tend to benignly neglect other countries until they become a problem. And until just the other day, Turkey was a fun tourist destination; now it's a problem.

    Turkey has thrust itself into the American national consciousness by working with Brazil to broker a nuclear deal with Iran, which the United States viewed as unhelpful, at best; by voting (along with Brazil) against Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran; and by assailing Israel in the aftermath of the deadly attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Senior Obama administration officials have begun to worry that the West has "lost" Turkey; Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently fretted that Turkey is "moving eastward" and blamed the European Union for blocking Turkey's aspiration for membership. The Wall Street Journal editorial page goes a step or three further and accuses Ankara of throwing in its lot with the fundamentalists and the Israel-haters.


    Turkey didn't set out to be a problem. Over the course of the last decade, the country's diplomats seem to have taken a leaf from China, whose doctrine of "peaceful rise" dictated harmonious relations along its borders and a relatively low profile in global diplomacy. Turkey's policy of "zero problems toward neighbors" smoothed away conflict with Middle Eastern partners, including both Israel and Iran. Through a series of bilateral agreements, Turkey has established a visa-free zone, and it hopes to establish a free trade zone in much of the area once occupied by the Ottoman Empire -- without, as a Turkish diplomat pointed out to me, seeking to re-create Ottoman hegemony.

    But success breeds confidence and makes yesterday's modesty seem like undue timidity. Beijing, which once hid behind the skirts of the Non-Aligned Movement, now openly confronts Washington on both economic and military issues. And Turkey, no longer content to reduce friction along its borders, dreams of bringing a new order to the Middle East. "[T]he world expects great things from Turkey," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has written on this website.

    He might be wrong there, but what's clear is that Turkey expects great things from itself. Turkey may well have overplayed its hand by forcing Barack Obama's administration to choose between its two closest allies in the Middle East -- Turkey and Israel -- but Davutoglu and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appear to have decided that they would rather overplay their hand than underplay it.

    Perhaps all emerging powers reach this inflection point, where nationalistic pride almost compels overreaching. (See under: Brazil.) But Turkey is the only emerging power located in the Middle East, a region where supreme global conflicts play themselves out. A peaceful rise in East Asia is no great feat, but try living next to Iraq and Iran without antagonizing somebody. The Turks infuriated George W. Bush's administration by refusing to let U.S. troops invade Iraq through their territory. Had they acquiesced, they would have outraged their neighbors instead. Nor could Turkey's remarkably warm relations with Israel survive long at a time when the Israeli government is seen as utterly intransigent toward the Palestinians; the Gaza-bound flotilla was only the last straw. Turkey's aspirations for regional leadership virtually compelled the break with Israel. That had nothing to do with Ankara's rejection by the European Union.Turkey is also a democracy in a region where the United States is incredibly unpopular. Ordinary Egyptians hate U.S. policy, but autocratic President Hosni Mubarak feels free to ignore popular opinion. The same is true of Saudi Arabia, the United States' other major regional ally. Indeed, the central paradox of President Bush's policy of democracy promotion in the Middle East is that it might have been a disaster for U.S. interests had it succeeded among America's allies -- which, of course, it didn't. In the latest survey by the Pew Research Center, 14 percent of Turks had a favorable view of the United States. (The figure in Egypt was 27 percent.) Turkish leaders can no more afford to ignore antipathy toward the United States, or Israel, than American leaders can ignore popular anger at Iran. Instead, they have stoked that anger through increasingly fierce attacks on Israel, led by Erdogan himself. "The government in Turkey has decided that the policy of confrontation with Israel suits it both domestically and regionally," says Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    And history has propelled Turkey forward. The rise of new states has loosened the West's epochal grip on global economic, military, and political power. Additionally, the Middle East has been remade. Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, recently observed that in the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire's collapse, Arab leaders reorganized the Middle East as the Arab world; owing to the weakness of Arab states and then to the toppling of the Iraqi regime, that system has come to an end. Setting aside Israel, the big Middle Eastern powers are now the once-marginalized non-Arab ones: Iran and Turkey. And unlike Iran or any of the Arab states, Turkey has a great story to tell: not the reconstitution of the Ottoman Empire, but the rise of a democratic, free market state in the Islamic world of the Middle East. Salem described Turkey as "the only country in the Middle East actually pointing toward the future." That is what is known as soft power.

    So yes, young people: Do learn Turkish. Turkey has the world's 17th-largest economy and expects to be No. 10 before long. Some pundits and scholars would like to see the United States move toward Turkey rather than the other way around. In his new book, Reset, Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Times correspondent, argues that the three non-Arab powers of the Middle East -- the United States, Iran, and Turkey -- constitute a "tantalizing 'power triangle.'" Kinzer would have Iran and Turkey replace Israel and Saudi Arabia as key U.S. allies in the region. Perhaps the Turks entertain the same dreams.

    That's not going to happen. The White House is not going to leave Israel in the lurch, even if the right fears it and realists like Kinzer hope for it. But the real beef between the United States and Turkey is Iran: Barkey observes that Erdogan does not understand that for Obama, Iran's nuclear ambitions are a fundamental issue, not a matter of regional power. One administration official with whom I spoke said that the Turks "have a very high opinion of their role in the world" and seem blithely unaware that they are provoking a backlash on Capitol Hill.

    What then? To say that Turkey doesn't want to be a problem is only to say that Erdogan wants to have his cake and eat it, too: to court public opinion in Turkey and the region by targeting Israel, to satisfy nationalist aspirations by making a separate peace with Iran -- but not to pay a price with the United States or Europe. The Turks profess bafflement at the harsh reception their diplomatic forays have received in the West. This is either naive or disingenuous. Still, what price will Turkey have to pay? Maybe the White House won't try to stop Congress from passing a resolution accusing Turkey of having perpetrated genocide against Armenia (though it probably will). More seriously, Erdogan and Davutoglu are playing into the hands of Europeans who oppose Turkey's aspirations for EU membership. Nevertheless, they might have more to gain than lose by playing to the Middle Eastern street -- especially if they have concluded that the European Union won't accept them anyway.

    The problem for White House policymakers is different. This administration is prepared to take counsel from rising powers. This is a G-20, not a G-8, White House. "We're trying to give them their place in the sun," says the official with whom I spoke. But how can they accord Turkey its place in the sun without acceding to a view of the Middle East that Washington does not and will not accept? "When you come up with that," the official told me, "let me know."
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  14. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Turkey and the Neocons

    Posted By Stephen M. Walt Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - 5:33 PM Share

    It couldn't be more predictable. Back when Israel and Turkey were strategic allies with extensive military-to-military ties, prominent neoconservatives were vocal defenders of the Turkish government and groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and AIPAC encouraged Congress not to pass resolutions that would have labeled what happened to the Armenians at the hands of the Turks during World War I a "genocide." (The "Armenian lobby" is no slouch, but it's no match for AIPAC and its allies in the Israel lobby). The fact that the ADL was in effect protecting another country against the charge of genocide is more than a little ironic, but who ever said that political organizations had to be ethically consistent? Once relations between Israel and Turkey began to fray, however -- fueled primarily by Turkish anger over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians -- the ADL and AIPAC withdrew their protection and Congressional defenders of Israel began switching sides, too.

    Last week Jim Lobe published a terrific piece at InterPress Service, detailing how prominent neoconservatives have switched from being strong supporters (and in some cases well-paid consultants) of the Turkish government to being vehement critics. He lays out the story better than I could, but I have a few comments to add.

    First, if this doesn't convince you that virtually all neoconservatives are deeply Israeli-centric, then nothing will. This affinity is hardly a secret; indeed, neocon pundit Max Boot once declared that support for Israel was a "key tenet" of neoconservatism. But the extent of their attachment to Israel is sometimes disguised by the claim that what they really care about is freedom and democracy, and therefore they support Israel simply because it is "the only democracy in the Middle East."

    But now we see the neoconservatives turning on Turkey, even though it is a well-functioning democracy, a member of NATO, and a strong ally of the United States. Of course,Turkey's democracy isn't perfect, but show me one that is. The neocons have turned from friends of Turkey to foes for one simple reason: Israel. Specifically, the Turkish government has been openly critical of Israel's conduct toward the Palestinians, beginning with the blockade of Gaza, ramping up after the brutal bombardment of Gaza in 2008-2009, and culminating in the lethal IDF attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. As Lobe shows, a flock of prominent neoconservatives are now busily demonizing Turkey, and in some cases calling for its expulsion from NATO.

    Thus, whether a state is democratic or not matters little for the neocons; what matters for them is whether a state backs Israel or not. So if you're still wondering why so many neoconservatives worked overtime to get the U.S. to invade Iraq -- even though Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan or Pakistan -- and why they are now pushing for war with Iran, well, there's your answer.

    As I've said repeatedly, there's nothing wrong with any American feeling a deep attachment to a foreign country and expressing it in politics, provided that they are open and honest about it and provided that other people can raise the issue without being accused of some sort of bigotry. The neocons' recent volte-face over Turkey is important because it reveals their policy priorities with particular clarity, and Lobe deserves full points for documenting it for us.

    One last comment. Neoconservatives usually portray American and Israeli interests as essentially identical: In their eyes, what is good for Israel is good for the United States and vice versa. This claim makes unconditional U.S. support seem like a good idea, and it also insulates them from the charge that they are promoting Israel's interests over America's. After all, if the interests of the two states are really one and the same, then by definition there can be no conflict of interest, which means that the "dual loyalty" issue (a term I still don't like) doesn't arise.

    I hold the opposite view. I believe that the "special relationship" has become harmful to both countries, and that a more normal relationship would be better for both. Right now, the special relationship hurts the United States by fueling anti-Americanism throughout the region and making us look deeply hypocritical in the eyes of billions -- yes, billions -- of people. It also distorts our policy on a host of issues, such as non-proliferation, and makes it extremely difficult to use our influence to advance the cause of Middle East peace. President Obama's failures on this front -- despite his repeated pledges to do better--make this all-too-obvious. At the same time, this unusual relationship harms Israel by underwriting policies that have increased its isolation and that threaten its long-term future. It also makes it nearly impossible for U.S. leaders to voice even the mildest of criticisms when Israel acts foolishly, because to do so casts doubts about the merits of the special relationship and risks incurring the wrath of the various groups that exist to defend it.

    Although the United States and Israel do share certain common interests, it is becoming increasingly clear that their interests are not identical. This situation puts die-hard neoconservatives in a tough spot, as it could force them to choose between promoting what is good for America or defending what they think (usually wrongly) will be good for Israel. And insofar as prominent neocons continue to beat the drums for war, it behooves us to remember both their abysmal track record and their underlying motivations.
     
  15. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Letter From Istanbul

    By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
    Published: June 15, 2010

    Turkey is a country that had me at hello. I like the people, the culture, the food and, most of all, the idea of modern Turkey — the idea of a country at the hinge of Europe and the Middle East that manages to be at once modern, secular, Muslim, democratic, and has good relations with the Arabs, Israel and the West. After 9/11, I was among those hailing the Turkish model as the antidote to “Bin Ladenism.” Indeed, the last time I visited Turkey in 2005, my discussions with officials were all about Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union. That is why it is quite shocking to come back today and find Turkey’s Islamist government seemingly focused not on joining the European Union but the Arab League — no, scratch that, on joining the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran resistance front against Israel.

    Now how did that happen?

    Wait one minute, Friedman. That is a gross exaggeration, say Turkish officials.

    You’re right. I exaggerate, but not that much. A series of vacuums that emerged in and around Turkey in the last few years have drawn Turkey’s Islamist government — led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party — away from its balance point between East and West. This could have enormous implications. Turkey’s balancing role has been one of the most important, quiet, stabilizers in world politics. You only notice it when it is gone. Being in Istanbul convinces me that we could be on our way to losing it if all these vacuums get filled in the wrong ways.

    The first vacuum comes courtesy of the European Union. After a decade of telling the Turks that if they wanted E.U. membership they had to reform their laws, economy, minority rights and civilian-military relations — which the Erdogan government systematically did — the E.U. leadership has now said to Turkey: “Oh, you mean nobody told you? We’re a Christian club. No Muslims allowed.” The E.U.’s rejection of Turkey, a hugely bad move, has been a key factor prompting Turkey to move closer to Iran and the Arab world.

    But as Turkey started looking more South, it found another vacuum — no leadership in the Arab-Muslim world. Egypt is adrift. Saudi Arabia is asleep. Syria is too small. And Iraq is too fragile. Erdogan discovered that by taking a very hard line against Israel’s partial blockade of Hamas-led Gaza — and quietly supporting the Turkish-led flotilla to break that blockade, during which eight Turks were killed by Israel — Turkey could vastly increase its influence on the Arab street and in the Arab markets.

    Indeed, Erdogan today is the most popular leader in the Arab world. Unfortunately, it is not because he is promoting a synthesis of democracy, modernity and Islam, but because he is loudly bashing Israel over its occupation and praising Hamas instead of the more responsible Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is actually building the foundations of a Palestinian state.

    There is nothing wrong with criticizing Israel’s human rights abuses in the territories. Israel’s failure to apply its creativity to solving the Palestinian problem is another dangerous vacuum. But it is very troubling when Erdogan decries Israelis as killers and, at the same time, warmly receives in Ankara Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the bloodshed in Darfur, and while politely hosting Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose government killed and jailed thousands of Iranians demanding that their votes be counted. Erdogan defended his reception of Bashir by saying: “It’s not possible for a Muslim to commit genocide.”

    As one Turkish foreign policy analyst said to me: “We are not mediating between East and West anymore. We’ve become spokesmen for the most regressive elements in the East.”

    Finally, there is a vacuum inside Turkey. The secular opposition parties have been in disarray most of the decade, the army has been cowed by wiretaps and the press has been increasingly intimidated into self-censorship because of government pressures. In September, the Erdogan government levied a tax fine of $2.5 billion on the largest, most influential — and most critical — media conglomerate, Dogan Holdings, to bring it to heel. At the same time, Erdogan lately has spoken with increasing vitriol about Israel in his public speeches — describing Israelis as killers — to build up his domestic support. He regularly labels his critics as “Israel’s contractors” and “Tel Aviv’s lawyers.”

    Sad. Erdogan is smart, charismatic and can be very pragmatic. He’s no dictator. I’d love to see him be the most popular leader on the Arab street, but not by being more radical than the Arab radicals and by catering to Hamas, but by being more of a democracy advocate than the undemocratic Arab leaders and mediating in a balanced way between all Palestinians and Israel. That is not where Erdogan is at, though, and it’s troubling. Maybe President Obama should invite him for a weekend at Camp David to clear the air before U.S.-Turkey relations get where they’re going — over a cliff.
     
  16. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Turkey: still America’s best ally in the Middle East?

    Posted By Joshua W. Walker Friday, June 25, 2010 - 5:33 PM Share

    Listening to the Beltway rhetoric one would think that Turkey is a newly emerging threat to the United States and interests in the Middle East. The speed with which Washington has gone sour on its self-declared "model partner" is astonishing and should be cause for concern. Having just returned from Turkey and with meetings with Turkish officials, it is clear that Turkey has not suddenly "switched sides" but rather still objectively represents America's best ally. Not because Ankara blindly goes along with Western policies or is subservient to America, but because it offers the U.S. more strategic possibilities and support than any other state in the region.

    Unlike Arab allied governments which lack legitimacy among their own populations and Israel that is besieged on all sides, Turkey is a truly democratic, independent, and powerful ally to be courted, not demonized by the U.S. Today, Turkey represents a critical partner to the U.S. on its three most urgent strategic issues: Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. On Afghanistan, Turkey is better placed culturally and militarily than any other NATO ally to play a leading role in Kabul; in this respect, it is America's ideal partner on Afghanistan. The soft and hard power advantages that the Turks enjoy among the Afghan population offer a sorely needed bright spot in an otherwise dark struggle for America. On Iraq, there is renewed impetus to resolve the long-simmering Kurdish issue given the battle against the PKK and continued incursions into northern Iraq. Without Turkey's constructive engagement, America's vital interests and the future of Iraq cannot be secured. Short of coercive action, Ankara is determined to prevent a nuclear Iran and has been attempting its own trilateral diplomacy with the help of Brasila to deal with Tehran. Unfortunately, these attempts -- which were originally encouraged by the Obama administration -- have led to a divide on the means necessary for the same end goal of a nuclear weapon-free Iran.

    Given the timing of the Mavi-Marmara incident in the lead-up to the Iran sanction vote at the UN, former friends of Turkey are linking the two events and blaming the AKP's "Islamist" roots rather than looking at the tough domestic realities confronting Turkey's leaders. While the AKP has admittedly gone over the top in its rhetoric given the domestic pressures it faces from a resurgent nationalist movement and upcoming national elections, its actions speak much louder than its words. Diplomatic relations remain intact with Israel despite the killing of nine Turkish citizens (one of whom was a dual American citizen) and Turkey remains actively engaged in all of its Western commitments and institutions.

    As the two oldest democracies in the region experiencing dynamic demographic and economic growth with vastly differing consequences, Israeli-Turkish relations will continue to ebb and flow. The present crisis is serious, but it is not unprecedented. The norm for Israeli-Turkish relations is tension, contrary to the rosy pictures now being painted retrospectively about historic relations to legitimate sensational claims. The fact is that Turkey's nationalist military government downgraded relations with Israel in the 1980s and it was only as a result of domestic politics and the PKK threat from Syria that brought about the "strategic alignment" in the 1990s that was always predicated on progress toward a permanent peace and two-state solution. In this context, the role of the United States is not to take sides, but help mediate the immediate crises with a perspective on longer-term strategic objectives.

    For the United States, Turkey's newfound swagger can make it either a valuable asset or an uncertain partner. By claiming that Ankara is determined to join the Arab League or the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran axis, rather than focusing on the fact that this traditionally conservative Muslim-majority, secular democracy is still a European Union candidate and NATO ally since 1952, Washington is only hurting its own interests.

    Turkish policies can complement the United States' if framed within a broader and longer-term perspective of the transatlantic alliance that shares common goals and values even if the short-term means differ. What is needed now is not an emotional and reactional appraisal of Turkish rhetoric but one that recognizes that contributions to American and European goals may come in a new, and perhaps unfamiliar, guise that requires more, not less engagement.

    Encouraging Ankara's newfound assertiveness and diplomatic initiatives, rather than demonizing it for tactical differences, will ensure that Turkey remains a constructive transatlantic partner and committed U.S. ally in the long run. The fact is that Turkey is a rising power on the international scene as a G-20 founding member, with a European seat on the UN Security Council, and head of the Organization of Islamic Conference in one of the most critical geographies in the world. Turkey has arrived and is not going anywhere, regardless of Washington's rhetoric about "Who lost Turkey?" Or "Where is Turkey going?" Therefore, despite all of its bluster and rhetoric, Turkey remains America's most crucial ally in region.

    Joshua W. Walker is a Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy where the yearlong report on Turkish foreign policy "Getting to Zero: Turkey, its Neighbors, and the West" was recently published.
     
  17. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Under the radar rapprochement: Turkey and Iraqi Kurds

    Posted By Mara E. Karlin, Caitlin Talmadge Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 11:08 PM Share

    As if the Turkish government didn't have enough on its agenda amid the flotilla fallout, Iran's nuclear program, and plummeting relations with Washington, late last week Turkey raided Kurdish rebel hideouts in northern Iraq. Turkish warplanes allegedly bombed targets across the border and deployed elite commandos to hunt insurgents on the ground, killing more than 100 Kurdish fighters and suffering 43 losses of its own.

    The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which rules the semiautonomous region of northern Iraq where the incursion took place, has been noticeably quiet in the aftermath of this dust-up. Despite a long history of animosity, it turns out that Turkey and the KRG largely agree on the need to snuff out rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK. And the Kurdish government's silence speaks volumes about just how solid this consensus is.

    During a recent visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, we learned that cooperation against the PKK is just one of the many signs of a major rapprochement between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds over the past several years. This quiet and remarkable shift comes after decades in which Turkey sought to suppress any move toward autonomy among Iraq's Kurds, fearing that a push for independence could lead to similar aspirations among Turkey's own Kurdish population. But as Turkey's domestic policy on "the Kurdish Question" has grown more accommodating, so has its external policy toward Iraqi Kurdistan. Simultaneously, the Kurdistan Regional Government has increasingly opened its doors to foreign investment and pursued an active foreign policy largely independent of Baghdad -- including toward Turkey.

    In one of the most important signs of improving ties, this spring Turkey established a consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan -- essentially a pseudo-embassy to conduct direct diplomacy with the KRG without involving the central Iraqi government. Consulates in Erbil are hardly unique given that more than a dozen other countries have a diplomatic presence in Iraq outside Baghdad. But the historical enmity between the Turks and the Kurds makes it remarkable. Even more notable, Turkey assigned one of its star diplomats to the consular position: Aydin Selcen, a bright, smooth, and experienced operator who has served in both Baghdad and Washington. Selcen's mandate extends beyond the traditional consular duties of protecting citizens and issuing visas to include political and security issues.

    Turkey's diplomatic and business presence in northern Iraq has also surged dramatically in the last several years. More than 1,000 Turkish companies now do business in Kurdistan, an area only a bit larger than Maryland, and Kurdish officials estimate that well over half of foreign investment is Turkish -- not Iranian, American, or Chinese. As one Kurdish leader explained to us during a recent trip to the region, the Iraqi Kurds have come to see the burgeoning economic relations with Turkey as "an investment in our own security."

    Indeed, the rise in cooperation is no accident. It reflects significant political efforts by both parties to build a stable, long-term relationship based on enduring mutual interests. Both sides see economic opportunities. Both are keen to limit Iranian influence in northern Iraq. Both are wary of too much power accumulating in Baghdad. And both have a stake in protecting the region from terrorists -- notably the PKK.

    For its part, the KRG has embraced the Turkish presence. Selcen enjoys direct, high-level access to Kurdish leaders, and the Kurds have appointed Sinan Chalabi, a dual Iraqi-Turkish citizen to run the ministry of trade and industry, facilitating communication and coordination with Turkish businesses and the Turkish government. On a recent visit to Ankara, almost every key Turkish political leader made time to meet with Chalabi, again suggesting the emergence of a strategic partnership rather than a short-term tactical accommodation.

    Where is the United States in all of this? Despite its recent squabbles with Turkey, the two countries continue to engage in low-profile cooperation with the KRG. This includes U.S. participation in tripartite security negotiations and, if reports are to be believed, provision of intelligence to Turkey about the PKK positions in northern Iraq. All three governments seem to recognize the benefits of cooperation, even though the Turks clearly have a more robust diplomatic and economic presence in northern Iraq than do the Americans.

    As the United States draws down its forces in the rest of Iraq, of course, Turkish-Kurdish cooperation could stumble. Nevertheless, warming relations between the Turks and the Iraqi Kurds serve as a reminder that every once in a long while, the fault lines in the Middle East can shift beneath our feet -- even where supposedly ancient hatreds run deep.

    Mara E. Karlin is a doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and Caitlin Talmadge is a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They recently returned from the Kurdistan region of Iraq as part of a delegation formed by the Center for a New American Security.
     
  18. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

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    Turkey closes its airspace for Israeli planes

    13:53 28/06/2010 ANKARA, June 28 (RIA Novosti) - Turkey has closed its airspace for Israeli planes after ties between the two countries deteriorated following a recent raid by Israeli commandos on a Turkish aid flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea, local media said.

    "By now we have done everything which is stipulated by international and domestic law, and will further follow this way," the NTV channel quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying.

    On Sunday, Israeli media reported that Turkish authorities banned an Israeli plane with 100 military and civilian officials on board from entering Turkish airspace. The officials were reportedly heading to Poland to visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

    Turkish media said Erdogan had set forth conditions to improve bilateral ties with Israel during the G20 summit in Toronto. The prime minister reiterated Turkey's demand that Israel apologize for the attack on the Turkish vessels during the May 31 raid, which claimed the lives of 9 people and left dozens injured.

    The attack, which took place in neutral waters off the Gaza coast, has been widely condemned by the international community and has infuriated Turkey. Thousands took to the streets in Istanbul and the capital of Ankara to protest against the Israeli aggression.

    Following the raid, described by Turkish authorities as "a black spot" in human history, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Israel.

    During the G20 summit, Erdogan also urged Israel to pay compensation to the relatives of the raid victims and agree to the creation of an independent commission involving foreign experts to investigate the attack, Turkish papers said. The prime minister also demanded Israel lift the three-year Gaza blockade.

    Israel has refused to cooperate with any independent investigation over the attack, ordering a government commission and the Israeli military to conduct separate probes into the raid.

    Israel has warned that it did not allow the six-ship Freedom Flotilla to approach the Gaza coast, proposing to transport the humanitarian cargo by land instead.

    Gaza has been under almost continuous Israeli blockade since radical Islamic group Hamas took control of the enclave in June 2007. Many of the 1.5 million people living in Gaza lack sufficient supplies of clean water and other vital items.



    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2010/06/mil-100628-rianovosti04.htm
     

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