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Turkey Loses American Support ... 03/20/2003
Turkey Loses American Support
By "Horse-Trading" Over Iraq

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Ignoring the fact that more than 90% of the Turkish public is opposed to a
U.S.-led war on Iraq, the newly elected Islamic leaders of Turkey, who
themselves are against an American attack on a neighboring Muslim country,
were too tempted to pass up the opportunity of pocketing billions of dollars
from the United States in return for allowing American troops to invade Iraq
from Turkey.

In order to maximize the amount of money Turkey would receive from the
American government, the inexperienced but greedy Turkish leaders dragged
out the negotiations and engaged in an elaborate "horse-trading" with the
Bush Administration. At the end, by a narrow margin, the Turkish Parliament
voted down the American request as well as their lavish gift.
The Turkish refusal greatly irritated Pres. Bush, Vice President Dick
Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Deputy Secretary of Defense
Paul Wolfowitz. They had invested a considerable amount of time and effort
in trying to convince the Turkish leaders to comply with the American
demands. The U.S. officials became more aggravated when the Turks refused to
consider a more modest American request for overflight rights, something
that even the recalcitrant French had agreed to provide.

Reflecting U.S. displeasure, various American newspapers lambasted Turkey
with commentaries, editorials, and cartoons. In one cartoon, a Turkish
belly-dancer was trying to charm Pres. Bush out of his money. In another
cartoon, the cafeteria of the U.S. Congress had renamed the "Turkey"
sandwich, the "Liberty Bird" sandwich. For the first time, the most
pro-Turkish American newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, had a few choice
words for Turkey. On March 5, 2003, the Journal published a commentary by
Ismail Cem, the former foreign minister of Turkey, accusing Turkish leaders
of repeatedly misleading American officials about their intent to cooperate
with the U.S.  Cem said that Tayyip Erdogan, prior to his appointment as
Prime Minister, during a visit to the White House, gave Pres. Bush the
"misleading impression" that Turkey would go along with U.S. war plans. Cem
said that Turkish government officials had similarly misled Wolfowitz during
his recent visit to Ankara.

Had the Turkish officials cut their "horse-trading" short or had advised the
Americans earlier that they would not comply with their demands, the
Pentagon could have devised a different war plan, not counting on Turkey as
a second point of entry into Iraq. Having been misled by false Turkish
assurances, more than two-dozen U.S. warships became stranded for weeks on
the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Turkey, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers
of $1.5 million dollars a day. The U.S. military, in total exasperation,
finally rerouted these warships to Kuwait. The Pentagon announced that
Turkey's refusal to open a northern front to Iraq would prolong the war, and
result in increased U.S. casualties.

On February 21, 2003, The Wall Street Journal in an editorial titled, "The
Turkish Bazaar," castigated Turkey for its intransigence and greed.  The
Journal related the response of a Turkish Minister who was asked a year ago
"if his government would support a U.S. effort to disarm Iraq." The Minister
had pretentiously replied, "we'll be with you whoever you want to invade."
The Journal fittingly observed: "That stalwart commitment is now in
question, as the Turks dicker with President Bush over how much they'll help
the U.S.-led war effort.... The dickering now over price...has the feel of
late-innings extortion." The WSJ advised Turkey to accept the billions of
dollars offered by the U.S. and "join the cause." It even issued a warning
that "a decision not to help the U.S. wou ld certainly damage Turkish
standing in Washington. The new rulers in Ankara should understand that some
of their best American friends now work in the Bush Administration. Members
of Congress, who write trade and aid legislation, will be far less
forgiving."

Turkey's refusal was also a slap in the face of 38 pro-Turkish members of
U.S. Congress, including Robert Wexler and Tom Lantos, who had addressed a
joint letter to the Turkish government requesting that Turkey allow US
troops on its territory, and promising in return, support and assistance in
the future.

In a second editorial titled, "Ankara's Real Friends," the Wall Street
Journal, on March 14, 2003, practically begged Turkey to cooperate with the
U.S. on Iraq. The Journal disclosed that the Turks were able to capture the
Kurdish militant, Abdullah Ocalan, "with decisive assistance from American
intelligence." The WSJ, in desperation, suggested that "the U.S. help in
arresting Ocalan ought to be worth at least air rights for American bombing
runs in Iraq. Even the French are allowing overflight rights, so Turkey is
the only NATO country now denying them."

The Turkish leaders did not even respond to repeated U.S. requests for
overflight rights, hoping that they would get more lavish gifts from the
Americans. Given their habitual bazaar mentality, the Turks kept on
bargaining until the United States got fed up and withdrew its generous aid
package from the table. The Turks not only ended up holding an empty bag,
but also managed to alienate their closest friends and supporters in
Washington. This would have a lasting negative effect on U.S.-Turkish
relations, creating a unique opportunity for the pursuit of the Armenian
Cause in the U.S. Congress.

But seeing that Pres. Bush is about to attack Iraq without any Turkish help,
the Turks may yet jump on the bandwagon at the eleventh hour, in order to
ingratiate themselves to the Americans, and get their undeserved share of
the spoils of war.
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