Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Are the Neocons Attacking Turkey?

At it again, but now messing with Turkey and an explanation for all those nasty articles coming from Michael Rubin . . .

From Avni Doğru in Foreign Policy In Focus(excerpt):
Some neoconservatives in Washington are obsessed with attacking Iran before President Bush leaves office at the end of this year. Hence, they have been pushing the Bush administration for increased economic and political isolation of Iran in order to weaken its current regime. Crucial to this plan is the support of Turkey, a traditional U.S. ally and an increasingly critical player in the region.

But to the enormous frustration of the neoconservatives, such an attack does not align with Turkey's interests given its newly enhanced regional ties, maturing democracy, and new foreign policy. Instead, Turkey plays the negotiator role and favors diplomacy and direct talks to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

With neoconservatives pressing for an attack on Iran and Turkey maneuvering to play a mediating role, which way will U.S. policy swing?

. . . .

Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, and Michael Rubin, three leading neo-con writers, have published pieces equating Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with far-right ultra-nationalist politicians such as France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, Austria’s Joerg Haider, and even Osama bin Laden. They have accused the AKP and Erdogan not only of having a hidden agenda to turn Turkey into an Islamic state, but also of paving the way for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution by Fethullah Gülen, a prominent religious leader known for his moderate and progressive views. Moreover, Rubin defended both the case to shut down the ruling AKP and the coup launched by the Turkish military last year as democratic. These accusations and assertions against the AKP government were harsher even than those made by the government’s own critics. Rubin’s arguments went largely ignored in Washington, since they are in clear conflict with U.S. foreign policy. However, they were more than enough to rally his friends in the Turkish military.

In addition to attacking the Erdogan government, Rubin claimed that Massoud Barzani, the president of the Regional Kurdish Government in Iraq, of selling U.S. arms to the Kurdish separatist group PKK. Rubin even went as far as to boldly suggest that Turkey should capture and imprison Barzani next to PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in the Turkish island prison of İmrali in order to stop the PKK terror. Once again, although not taken seriously in Washington, Rubin’s arguments were applauded in Turkey by the hawkish wing of the military general staff. His surreal arguments were reflected as “American expert opinion from Washington” in Turkey’s anti-AKP media outlets to create an illusion of international support for their cause.

The neoconservative campaign has had two main goals. The first has been to team up with non-democratic powers within Turkey, primarily some circles within the military as well as the state and the political system, to oust the democratically elected government. A less democratic Turkey with a more dominant and politically active military would be more susceptible to neocon pressure to support a U.S. attack on Iran. The second goal has been to strengthen the Israeli-Turkish alliance by boosting the influence of the more Israel-friendly military circles within the Turkish politics. Not surprisingly, in order to strengthen the position of the military in Turkish society, the neoconservatives have not hesitated to support something the Bush administration has been desperate to avoid: opening another front in the Iraq War by supporting a possible Turkish incursion into northern Iraq to hunt down PKK terrorists.

. . . .

The teaming up of U.S. neoconservatives with pro-military and anti-AKP circles in Turkey in an effort to topple the Erdogan government is self-destructive and has little chance of success, given popular support for a stronger and more pluralistic democracy in Turkey. Moreover, such neoconservative manipulations taint the image of the United States in Turkey, even at a time now when the Bush administration is distancing itself from many neoconservative positions.

The Bush-Erdogan summit in Washington in November 2007 marked the beginning of a new era in U.S.-Turkish relations. The Bush administration put pressure on Congress to squelch a resolution calling on Ankara to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, and Turkey got a more sympathetic audience for its security concerns related to the PKK in northern Iraq. Both sides now keep communication channels open in order to avoid the kind of dips in relations that have taken place in the past.

It is in the U.S. interest for Turkey to play an expanded peacemaking role in the region. But for Turkey to do so, it must continue on its current path of democratic reform. By supporting the military’s return in Turkey and a more hardline approach to Iran, U.S. neoconservatives want to turn the clock back on Turkish reform and plunge the entire region into even greater chaos.
For the full article, click here.

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