TIME FOR THE US TO TURN ITS FACE TOWARDS TURKEY

Prof. Dr. Ata ATUN

 
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 28 Temmuz 2007 Saat : 5:56


 

The recent parliamentary elections gave Turkey the chance for a fresh start on a blank page with the US — or vice versa. The damaged bilateral ties now have the opportunity to be replaced with a strong tie made of a composite material produced in the southeastern region of Turkey.

After World War II, during the era of Cold War polarization, Turkey was a faithful and dedicated member of the NATO alliance as well one of the US’s most dependable and effective allies in the region.

As an ally of the US Turkey was the closest to the Russian border and the only dependable regional power able to blockade the Russian lust toward the Muslim Middle East countries.

Turkey now has the most successful moderate Muslim democracy in the Middle East and within the Muslim world. Actually, it can be classified within the premier league of democracy, if compared with democracies in the remaining 196 countries.

Since the foundation of modern Turkey in the early ‘20s, Turkey has experienced a tiring journey toward democracy, sometimes happy and sometimes shaky. The 2007 elections now seem like a happy end-ing with a 10 percent margin of female deputies in Parliament – the biggest-ever percentage since the founding days of the republic.

The close US-Turkey relations and solidarity began on good terms and a solid basis right after World War II, and the line of the relations-versus-time graph maintained an escalating trend up until early 2000s. At that time the sympathy of the Turkish people towards Americans and the US government was high.

Upon getting into power, the Bush regime suddenly turned every-thing upside-down. Almost as if US-Turkey relations were capsized wittingly, the bilateral relations dramatically collapsed, and Turkish sympathy toward Americans and the US government was almost grounded.

Even more eye-catching is the fact that Turks now see the US as the single biggest threat to their nation’s security. They think that Turkey may be next after Iraq — or maybe third in line after Iran and Syria.

In March 2003, 90 percent of the Turkish public opposed the US invasion of Iraq. The Turkish Parliament, irrespective of the AK Party’s solid majority, voted down a measure that would have allowed US forces to use Turkey’s soil for a cross-border operation into Iraq. Stung by Turkey’s rejection, the Bush administration conducted the war in Iraq without regard for Turkey’s interests.

The Turkish people never supported the PKK — a Kurdish terrorist group — and cannot stand the cross-border terrorist attacks the PKK launches against Turkish civilians and the Turkish Armed Forces. This was the point where the US entered the picture and came to be perceived by the Turkish people as a threat to their nation’s security. They think that the US is conducting patronage of the PKK and Kurds in Iraq, supplying all of their weapon and ammunition needs. A US-backed, autonomous, and increasingly spoiled Kurdistan Regional Government poses an existential threat to the Turkish people. Failure to address the reality of a sanctuary in Iraqi Kurdistan for members of the PKK enrages even the most moderate Turks.

If a unilateral referendum on the future status of Kirkuk — a Turkish land for millennia — places it under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government, it would be quite legitimate for Turkey to act on its threat to invade northern Iraq.
Last but not least, the White House’s strategic myopia was in full display during Turkey’s constitutional crisis in April. Turkey’s demo-crats found Washington’s silence during this turmoil to be deafening.

Although policymakers in Washington seem intent on letting an important opportunity fester until it becomes a crisis, the time is now for the US government to heal the wounds. The 60th Turkish govern-ment is made up solely of the AK Party, and it is the best time for the US to undertake a major diplomatic initiative to resuscitate US-Turkey relations.

A push in the EU, a little pat on the back in Cyprus and strong support against the PKK to stop cross-border terrorist attacks from northern Iraq would be a good cure for the wounds that are on the verge of gangrene.

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