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06/20/2002

Turkey

When I was over in Turkey a few weeks ago, the Turkish Daily
News ran an extensive two-part story on “The Strategic
Importance of Turkey after Sept. 11.” Written by Saban Kardas,
it is an excellent treatise on the issues facing Turkey as it
attempts to find its way into the European Union, as well as the
problems faced by the inevitable action the United States will
take against Iraq.

As I’ve written often in StocksandNews, mostly in my “Week in
Review” columns, Turkey is vital to any success the West will
have over the coming years in the war against terror. It is also an
extremely complicated country, with more than its share of
internal conflict, but we all should hope it rises to the occasion
over the next few years and, just as importantly, that our leaders
in Washington and the E.U. support them as necessary. On this
latter point, I have serious doubts that everyone “gets it.”

This is one situation where I feel compelled to quote extensively
from Mr. Kardas’s piece in order to best convey the position of
those in power and of influence in Turkey today.

-----

“The first effect of Sept. 11, which contributed to Turkey’s
position, was a growing acceptance towards the Turkish
approach to the fight against terrorism in international relations.
Turkey itself had long struggled against separatist terror and
political Islam in a domestic context. Since the 1970s, Turkey
has been engaged in fighting against terrorism and continues to
be one of the major targets of terrorist activities. During the last
two decades the Kurdish issue, especially, involved cross-border
aspects and became of international concern. Therefore, one part
of the Turkish strategy to deal with this problem was to seek
international cooperation in fighting against terrorism. In this
regard, successive Turkish governments endeavored to convince
European countries to limit the activities of various Kurdish,
leftist and Islamist organizations.

“On the other hand, Turkey did not hesitate to resort to the use or
threat of force outside its borders, as in the case of Turkish
incursions into northern Iraq, or relations with Syria. Turkey
even tried several times to bring the terrorist issue onto the
NATO agenda. Turkish activities to this end were hardly
welcomed by its neighbors, nor by its Western partners; as a
result, Turkey could not raise the necessary international support
in its own fight against terrorism. To the contrary, these issues
have constantly been a point of tension and disagreement in
Turkish foreign policy throughout the 1990s.”

---

[On Turkey and its status as a role model for the rest of the
Muslim world.]

“The war against the Taliban and the al-Qaeda was, in a political
and intellectual sense, also a war against a militant, reactive, anti-
Western, or anti-American, interpretation of Islam. The protests
against American operations and support for bin Laden in some
parts of the Islamic world created fears that the developments
might lead to a so-called ‘clash of civilizations,’ or a ‘Christian-
Muslim confrontation.’ Therefore, the American administration
tried to use every opportunity to prevent such a negative
interpretation of the American role and to deliver a message that
this was not a war against Islam. As concrete proof of this point,
the inclusion of certain Muslim countries into the international
coalition appeared to be necessary. Within this light, Turkey
emerged as a valuable asset for American policy.

“ Turkey’s support for the coalition was proof that the war was
not a Muslim-Christian confrontation. Second, the Turkish
model was offered as an alternative to a Taliban version of Islam.
That means, Islam and modern values are compatible with each
other, and it is possible to reconcile Islam within a modern,
Western-style, democratic and secular system.

“ Yet this argument is also controversial in some aspects. First,
Turkish ambitions in this direction are not new and we have
enough evidence to judge how they are perceived in other parts
of the Islamic world. Turks themselves are proud of being the
only secular country in the Islamic world; and from time to time,
Turkey is offered as a role model from the outside as well. Yet,
it is also true that Turkey’s perception of itself as a model cannot
go beyond being an illusion, and these ideas cannot penetrate
into other Muslim societies. Arab countries’ criticism of the
secular Turkish model, and other problems dominating Turkish-
Arab relations are no secret. In this sense, any fundamental shift
in the perceptions of other Muslim societies, which would ease
the objections to adapting a Turkish style system, cannot be
observed. To the contrary, considering the growing anti-
American feelings it is hard to expect that such a role for Turkey
would be welcomed. It might even widen the existing gap
between Turkey and other Islamic societies.

“Second, from a philosophical point of view, the main problem
with this argument is the question of whether it is possible at all
to transform a society from the outside. As long as domestic
enthusiasm for reform is lacking, the international pressures or
influences have limited effect. To be able to influence a society
from the outside, international actors must have strong linkages,
which would enable them to exert pressures stimulating a change
in the behavior of the domestic actors. For instance, if we
remember Turkish – EU relations, despite the existence of strong
linkages, there is still a resistance to change coming from the
Turkish establishment. Considering the lack of linkages, societal
differences and geographical distances between Turkey and other
Muslim societies, one wonders how Turkey may influence other
Muslim countries.”

---

“Previously, Turkey was perceived as a model for the economic,
social and political transformation of the (countries in the
region). This time, the role expected from Turkey is in
militaristic and strategic terms.”

[Which brings us to the opinion on Turkish – American
relations.]

“There (had been) a strong belief in the United States that
supporting moderate Muslim countries, which oppose terrorism
and extremism, was the key to winning the war on terrorism.
The Turkish model, which embeds Islam within a secular system,
was the best candidate to fit this role. Moreover, Turkey’s
geographical location made it indispensable to the international
coalition against terrorism. As a result, Turkish–American
relations, which were characterized by ups-and-downs
throughout the 1990s, have received renewed interest

“From Turkey’s perspective, the revival of strategic relations
with the United States implied several potential developments,
and consequently Turks expected more rigorous U.S. assistance
in a number of areas [Support against terrorism, particularly
as it pertains to the struggle against the Kurds, removal of
obstacles against arms sales and transferring technology, U.S.
support for Turkey’s position on Cyprus, and the EU]

“ Just to give one example, we can look at the proposals to
increase trade volume between Turkey and the United States.
The idea of increasing economic ties with the United States
is not new, and has been on the agenda since the Gulf War. To
compensate Turkey’s losses in the war, there was a discussion
about how the United States could help Turkey. Then president
of the country, Turgut Ozal, (raised the argument), ‘We don’t
want direct financial aid, what we need is more trade with the
United States. For this, the United States should abolish textile
quotas and other barriers to trade.’ Yet once the war was over,
Turkey’s demands were forgotten and Turkey was left alone to
deal with its economic problems. The result Turkey’s losses in
the last ten years due to the Gulf War and the Iraqi embargo have
amounted to $35 billion.”

[What has happened since Sept. 11 is the Bush Administration
and Congress still have yet to pass legislation that would
establish closer economic ties between the two countries.]

“Therefore, in assessing Turkish-American relations, one has to
bear in mind the fact that U.S. policies can shift easily because of
different factors affecting U.S. policy making, such as lobbying,
Congress and internal American debates on how to conduct U.S.
foreign policy. At the moment, there are many supporters of
Turkey in the Bush administration (ed. Cheney and Rumsfeld),
but this cannot be taken for granted forever, and there is still
strong opposition within Congress against Turkey. The
expectation of full, unqualified U.S. support for all the issues
mentioned above is therefore overly optimistic, and the
developments so far prove this observation.”

[And that sucks. The damn special interests in the U.S.,
particularly on trade policy, do our efforts against terrorism great
harm.]

---

[On Iraq]

“It is time to move to the final issue, which is somewhat
problematic, even for the advocates of Turkey’s strategic
importance. Turkey’s geographical location was its main asset,
but at the same time, it also produced Turkey’s greatest
headache: Iraq Even before (Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech),
extending the military operations against Iraq was on the U.S.
agenda This, inevitably, brought Turkey to the fore once more,
due to its strategic value in a future war against Iraq.

“Turkey strongly opposed a possible extension of the war against
Iraq. Before Sept. 11, the current Turkish government had been
trying to normalize relations with Iraq, despite U.S. opposition,
in order to compensate for the economic losses from the Iraqi
embargo. Therefore, the U.S. intention to intervene in Iraq was
an unwelcome development. Yet, the real problem lies
somewhere else. There is a fear that the operations against Iraq
and the turmoil created by a post-Saddam Iraq might have
serious repercussions for Turkish security. Turkey is worried
that the war against Iraq might end up with the breakup of Iraq
and the establishment of a Kurdish state in the northern part of
Iraq. Such a possibility would, from the Turkish perspective,
encourage Kurdish separatist elements within Turkey. For this
reason, Turkey’s main priority is that Iraq should remain one
nation.

“Yet, it appears that once an operation against Iraq starts, it
would be almost impossible for Turkey to keep itself outside. In
such a situation, the nightmare is that the Turkish army might be
forced to occupy northern Iraq to prevent the emergence of an
independent Kurdish state there, and affect the post-Saddam
political developments in Iraq. Moreover, needless to say, a war
against Iraq would hit Turkey hard economically, and result in
the flow of Kurdish refugees into southern Turkey with
unwanted security implications, as happened during and after the
Gulf War.”

-----

What it all boils down to is the following. This is Turkey’s time
to rise to the occasion. For that to happen, it needs bold political
leadership, and, unfortunately, right now there is a crisis in this
regard, as the president is sick and basically incapacitated.

But the West, particularly the U.S., must step up and commit to
help Turkey following the dismantling of Iraq. True, long-term,
Saddam’s exit will be the best thing for the region, but the U.S.
has a history in this region of reneging on our promises (see the
aftermath of the Gulf War in Iraq itself).

Additionally, it is hard for those in the West to appreciate the
problem Turkey has with its Kurdish minority, a people spread
over not just Turkey, but also Syria, Iran and Iraq (and one
which, historically, can make zero claim to independence).

Bottom line, Turkey will be there for us, just as they are in
Afghanistan right now, but it will be a travesty if we don’t step
up to the plate and ensure that the aftermath of all our actions is
not a chaotic one for this vital country. You can also see how in
just this one instance, if we fight the war on all fronts as we
should, the costs are going to be staggering.

Hott Spotts returns next week.

Brian Trumbore


AddThis Feed Button

 

-06/20/2002-      
Web Epoch NJ Web Design  |  (c) Copyright 2016 StocksandNews.com, LLC.

Hot Spots

06/20/2002

Turkey

When I was over in Turkey a few weeks ago, the Turkish Daily
News ran an extensive two-part story on “The Strategic
Importance of Turkey after Sept. 11.” Written by Saban Kardas,
it is an excellent treatise on the issues facing Turkey as it
attempts to find its way into the European Union, as well as the
problems faced by the inevitable action the United States will
take against Iraq.

As I’ve written often in StocksandNews, mostly in my “Week in
Review” columns, Turkey is vital to any success the West will
have over the coming years in the war against terror. It is also an
extremely complicated country, with more than its share of
internal conflict, but we all should hope it rises to the occasion
over the next few years and, just as importantly, that our leaders
in Washington and the E.U. support them as necessary. On this
latter point, I have serious doubts that everyone “gets it.”

This is one situation where I feel compelled to quote extensively
from Mr. Kardas’s piece in order to best convey the position of
those in power and of influence in Turkey today.

-----

“The first effect of Sept. 11, which contributed to Turkey’s
position, was a growing acceptance towards the Turkish
approach to the fight against terrorism in international relations.
Turkey itself had long struggled against separatist terror and
political Islam in a domestic context. Since the 1970s, Turkey
has been engaged in fighting against terrorism and continues to
be one of the major targets of terrorist activities. During the last
two decades the Kurdish issue, especially, involved cross-border
aspects and became of international concern. Therefore, one part
of the Turkish strategy to deal with this problem was to seek
international cooperation in fighting against terrorism. In this
regard, successive Turkish governments endeavored to convince
European countries to limit the activities of various Kurdish,
leftist and Islamist organizations.

“On the other hand, Turkey did not hesitate to resort to the use or
threat of force outside its borders, as in the case of Turkish
incursions into northern Iraq, or relations with Syria. Turkey
even tried several times to bring the terrorist issue onto the
NATO agenda. Turkish activities to this end were hardly
welcomed by its neighbors, nor by its Western partners; as a
result, Turkey could not raise the necessary international support
in its own fight against terrorism. To the contrary, these issues
have constantly been a point of tension and disagreement in
Turkish foreign policy throughout the 1990s.”

---

[On Turkey and its status as a role model for the rest of the
Muslim world.]

“The war against the Taliban and the al-Qaeda was, in a political
and intellectual sense, also a war against a militant, reactive, anti-
Western, or anti-American, interpretation of Islam. The protests
against American operations and support for bin Laden in some
parts of the Islamic world created fears that the developments
might lead to a so-called ‘clash of civilizations,’ or a ‘Christian-
Muslim confrontation.’ Therefore, the American administration
tried to use every opportunity to prevent such a negative
interpretation of the American role and to deliver a message that
this was not a war against Islam. As concrete proof of this point,
the inclusion of certain Muslim countries into the international
coalition appeared to be necessary. Within this light, Turkey
emerged as a valuable asset for American policy.

“ Turkey’s support for the coalition was proof that the war was
not a Muslim-Christian confrontation. Second, the Turkish
model was offered as an alternative to a Taliban version of Islam.
That means, Islam and modern values are compatible with each
other, and it is possible to reconcile Islam within a modern,
Western-style, democratic and secular system.

“ Yet this argument is also controversial in some aspects. First,
Turkish ambitions in this direction are not new and we have
enough evidence to judge how they are perceived in other parts
of the Islamic world. Turks themselves are proud of being the
only secular country in the Islamic world; and from time to time,
Turkey is offered as a role model from the outside as well. Yet,
it is also true that Turkey’s perception of itself as a model cannot
go beyond being an illusion, and these ideas cannot penetrate
into other Muslim societies. Arab countries’ criticism of the
secular Turkish model, and other problems dominating Turkish-
Arab relations are no secret. In this sense, any fundamental shift
in the perceptions of other Muslim societies, which would ease
the objections to adapting a Turkish style system, cannot be
observed. To the contrary, considering the growing anti-
American feelings it is hard to expect that such a role for Turkey
would be welcomed. It might even widen the existing gap
between Turkey and other Islamic societies.

“Second, from a philosophical point of view, the main problem
with this argument is the question of whether it is possible at all
to transform a society from the outside. As long as domestic
enthusiasm for reform is lacking, the international pressures or
influences have limited effect. To be able to influence a society
from the outside, international actors must have strong linkages,
which would enable them to exert pressures stimulating a change
in the behavior of the domestic actors. For instance, if we
remember Turkish – EU relations, despite the existence of strong
linkages, there is still a resistance to change coming from the
Turkish establishment. Considering the lack of linkages, societal
differences and geographical distances between Turkey and other
Muslim societies, one wonders how Turkey may influence other
Muslim countries.”

---

“Previously, Turkey was perceived as a model for the economic,
social and political transformation of the (countries in the
region). This time, the role expected from Turkey is in
militaristic and strategic terms.”

[Which brings us to the opinion on Turkish – American
relations.]

“There (had been) a strong belief in the United States that
supporting moderate Muslim countries, which oppose terrorism
and extremism, was the key to winning the war on terrorism.
The Turkish model, which embeds Islam within a secular system,
was the best candidate to fit this role. Moreover, Turkey’s
geographical location made it indispensable to the international
coalition against terrorism. As a result, Turkish–American
relations, which were characterized by ups-and-downs
throughout the 1990s, have received renewed interest

“From Turkey’s perspective, the revival of strategic relations
with the United States implied several potential developments,
and consequently Turks expected more rigorous U.S. assistance
in a number of areas [Support against terrorism, particularly
as it pertains to the struggle against the Kurds, removal of
obstacles against arms sales and transferring technology, U.S.
support for Turkey’s position on Cyprus, and the EU]

“ Just to give one example, we can look at the proposals to
increase trade volume between Turkey and the United States.
The idea of increasing economic ties with the United States
is not new, and has been on the agenda since the Gulf War. To
compensate Turkey’s losses in the war, there was a discussion
about how the United States could help Turkey. Then president
of the country, Turgut Ozal, (raised the argument), ‘We don’t
want direct financial aid, what we need is more trade with the
United States. For this, the United States should abolish textile
quotas and other barriers to trade.’ Yet once the war was over,
Turkey’s demands were forgotten and Turkey was left alone to
deal with its economic problems. The result Turkey’s losses in
the last ten years due to the Gulf War and the Iraqi embargo have
amounted to $35 billion.”

[What has happened since Sept. 11 is the Bush Administration
and Congress still have yet to pass legislation that would
establish closer economic ties between the two countries.]

“Therefore, in assessing Turkish-American relations, one has to
bear in mind the fact that U.S. policies can shift easily because of
different factors affecting U.S. policy making, such as lobbying,
Congress and internal American debates on how to conduct U.S.
foreign policy. At the moment, there are many supporters of
Turkey in the Bush administration (ed. Cheney and Rumsfeld),
but this cannot be taken for granted forever, and there is still
strong opposition within Congress against Turkey. The
expectation of full, unqualified U.S. support for all the issues
mentioned above is therefore overly optimistic, and the
developments so far prove this observation.”

[And that sucks. The damn special interests in the U.S.,
particularly on trade policy, do our efforts against terrorism great
harm.]

---

[On Iraq]

“It is time to move to the final issue, which is somewhat
problematic, even for the advocates of Turkey’s strategic
importance. Turkey’s geographical location was its main asset,
but at the same time, it also produced Turkey’s greatest
headache: Iraq Even before (Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech),
extending the military operations against Iraq was on the U.S.
agenda This, inevitably, brought Turkey to the fore once more,
due to its strategic value in a future war against Iraq.

“Turkey strongly opposed a possible extension of the war against
Iraq. Before Sept. 11, the current Turkish government had been
trying to normalize relations with Iraq, despite U.S. opposition,
in order to compensate for the economic losses from the Iraqi
embargo. Therefore, the U.S. intention to intervene in Iraq was
an unwelcome development. Yet, the real problem lies
somewhere else. There is a fear that the operations against Iraq
and the turmoil created by a post-Saddam Iraq might have
serious repercussions for Turkish security. Turkey is worried
that the war against Iraq might end up with the breakup of Iraq
and the establishment of a Kurdish state in the northern part of
Iraq. Such a possibility would, from the Turkish perspective,
encourage Kurdish separatist elements within Turkey. For this
reason, Turkey’s main priority is that Iraq should remain one
nation.

“Yet, it appears that once an operation against Iraq starts, it
would be almost impossible for Turkey to keep itself outside. In
such a situation, the nightmare is that the Turkish army might be
forced to occupy northern Iraq to prevent the emergence of an
independent Kurdish state there, and affect the post-Saddam
political developments in Iraq. Moreover, needless to say, a war
against Iraq would hit Turkey hard economically, and result in
the flow of Kurdish refugees into southern Turkey with
unwanted security implications, as happened during and after the
Gulf War.”

-----

What it all boils down to is the following. This is Turkey’s time
to rise to the occasion. For that to happen, it needs bold political
leadership, and, unfortunately, right now there is a crisis in this
regard, as the president is sick and basically incapacitated.

But the West, particularly the U.S., must step up and commit to
help Turkey following the dismantling of Iraq. True, long-term,
Saddam’s exit will be the best thing for the region, but the U.S.
has a history in this region of reneging on our promises (see the
aftermath of the Gulf War in Iraq itself).

Additionally, it is hard for those in the West to appreciate the
problem Turkey has with its Kurdish minority, a people spread
over not just Turkey, but also Syria, Iran and Iraq (and one
which, historically, can make zero claim to independence).

Bottom line, Turkey will be there for us, just as they are in
Afghanistan right now, but it will be a travesty if we don’t step
up to the plate and ensure that the aftermath of all our actions is
not a chaotic one for this vital country. You can also see how in
just this one instance, if we fight the war on all fronts as we
should, the costs are going to be staggering.

Hott Spotts returns next week.

Brian Trumbore