AYDINLIK TÜRKİYE'NİN HABERCİSİ
The mirror has cracked
The Turkish government, under the leadership of Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is now ready to accept Washington's demands. So it seemed from the outset. The articles that appeared one after another in prominent U.S. papers have played an important role in turning the tables for the Bush administration. The Turkish media's harsh criticism of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party government has also helped. Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. defense secretary, repeated his accusation that the Iraqi insurgency was Turkey's fault. Several U.S. papers related the story that Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is selling like hotcakes in Turkey. Some deputies and a minister have defected from the AK Party after accusing the prime minister of mismanagement. One more strike, and the U.S. will gain what it expects from Turkey.
But, what exactly does the U.S. expect from Turkey?
Turkey, without a doubt, is an important country in a region ripe for modernization. It's a part of the Muslim world, it has a prominent place in the Middle East, and, at the same time, it's aspiring to become a member of the European Union. Nor should we forget the Turkic-speaking countries of Central Asia whose people feel sympathy towards the Turks. Since the Turks have traditionally always been hospitable to other nations, many in the area stretching from the Adriatic Sea to the Chinese border would claim a certain affinity with them.
When the U.S. decided to make regime changes in the Middle East, the neocons in Washington placed Turkey in the most prominent position in their war planning, so it seems. In the first phase of the war on terror, Turkey sent its troops to Afghanistan. A large Turkish contingency is still there, and the coalition forces (International Security Assistance Force, ISAF) are led by a Turkish general.
Something terribly wrong happened afterwards, which has made Washington suspicious of Mr. Erdogan's sincerity. The Turkish Grand National Assembly (Parliament) agreed to give some assistance to the U.S. for the enlargement of the existing base in Incirlik, together with some new military facilities on the Iraqi border, but parliamentary deputies rejected a separate resolution to allow the U.S. Fourth Mechanized Infantry Division to use Turkey as a stepping stone for its moving into Iraqi territory.
Whether Turkey's eagerness in Afghanistan had sent the wrong signals to war planners in Washington, or Mr. Erdogan himself failed to make clear his party's strict adherence to democratic principles when he visited Washington before the war, is beyond me. Mr. Erdogan was not yet prime minister when the issue was debated in Parliament, and, after Parliament's rejection, the AK Party did everything in its power to rectify the situation. A resolution to send Turkish troops alongside U.S. troops was adopted and passed by the Parliament, and had the provisional government in Iraq been amenable, the Turks would have been in the Iraqi mess up to their necks now. The Kurds of Iraq put their foot down and didn't allow a Turkish presence there.
Well, this isn't the whole story. Those of you who fly as frequently as me will be able to testify that Turkey is a transfer point for U.S. soldiers from Iraq. Turkish airspace is open to U.S. military jets, and the most active base in the area is still Incirlik. Turkey, after Parliament's decision to say "no," did everything to calm down Washington's fury, short of accepting U.S. troops in its territory, and sending its troops to fight alongside U.S troops in Iraq.
What else could Turkey do to please Washington?
How about accepting a mechanized infantry division to be stationed in Turkey, this time for using it against Syria or Iran? Military planners in Washington seem to be thinking that Turkey is again needed as an invasion route for their next steps in conquering the world.
Mr. Erdogan has started to give out strong signals that he can deliver this time. He hopes to drop by the White House in May, on his way to his Berkeley-educated daughter's commencement, for a lengthy discussion. He seems to have been persuaded to side with the U.S. after some negative developments forced him to think twice about his, and his country's, future.
I have no party bond, no regard for personal benefit other than my own country's, have no hidden agenda and couldn't care less if anybody calls me names. I am a free sprit, and, as such, I would suggest the opposite be done: Turkey should stay away from becoming entangled with U.S. war plans in the region. Turkey, as an ally and good friend of Washington, offers clear advantages to the U.S., whereas Turkey as a part of U.S. war plans would be taken as a toll of the U.S., a U.S. stooge.
If Turkey sides with the U.S. as closely as the Pentagon wants, it will lose its newly gained regard in the eyes of the global public as a full-fledged democracy. Since the result can only be obtained by putting a lot of pressure on its parliamentary group, the AK Party may not maintain its unity. The U.S. would gain a friend in arms but it would lose a priceless ally, whom it could turn to when it needs, as an example of a working democracy in a region full of U.S. stooges.
Mr. Bush should understand, and urge the others around him to act accordingly: Turkey as a safeguard of peace is more precious than Turkey as a war party.
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