Turkey Can Play a Stabilizing Role

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Hassan Tahsin, [email protected]

Published — Friday 22 July 2005

Last Update 22 July 2005 3:00 am

Political analysts speak of a crisis of confidence between Turkey and the United States as evident in anti-American sentiments among the Turkish people. The latest survey showed that between 75 percent and 82 percent of Turks hold hostile sentiments toward the US. This is an extremely high rate. And some 33 percent of Turks believe Washington poses a threat to world peace.

Turks in general are discontent with the US as a result of the strong American backing for the Kurds in Iraq. This issue constitutes a source of embarrassment for the government in Ankara. Another source of contention is Washington’s illogical demands aimed at pressuring Turkey into reviewing its relations with both Syria and Iran.

The American pressure is part of the Greater Middle East strategy through which Washington seeks to divide the region and impose its will on its countries. Such a trend carries with it great threats to Syria and Iraq and is thus rejected by the Turkish people who sympathize with both countries.

The situation from the American point of view could be summarized as follows:

• Washington considers Iran one of the “Axis of Evil” countries, accusing it of seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and of sponsoring terrorism.

• Syria is classified by America as a state sponsoring terrorism and one that has acquired weapons of mass destruction smuggled from Iraq.

• The present Turkish government has Islamic roots despite claims that Turkey is a secular state. It has large interests with the US as well as with Syria and Iran. Washington would like to use these interests to further its own objectives.

This shows that Turkey could play a strategic role in resolving regional issues politically and through direct diplomatic means, given its long history in the region.

Can Turkey play such a role and act as a peace coordinator taking the region to the shores of safety, or would the US oppose any such role for fear of losing an important ally? Also, isn’t allowing Turkey to play this role much better than exercising political pressure by threatening military action against international legitimacy?

I believe Turkey under the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is qualified to play this role for several reasons:

First, there is the huge volume of trade with Syria and Iran running into billions of dollars. Through joint economic cooperation Turkey could open the way for initiating a political dialogue to address regional problems including the dispute between the US and Syria and Iran. The Erdogan government considers the economy as a top priority in its foreign policy.

Second, Turkey, Syria and Iran share a common interest when it comes to the Kurdish problem. An opportunity could present itself for the three countries to coordinate directly among themselves on this issue.

Arab and other Middle Eastern countries want a united Iraq and are opposed to the establishment of a separate Kurdish state. The presence of a Kurdish state across the Iranian border is something unacceptable to Tehran.

Third, Turkey views any escalation in the region as a source of instability. If the situation deteriorated into war, as happened in Iraq, this could greatly harm Turkey’s interests and further encourage terrorism. Turkey itself is a victim of terror. Everybody remembers the Istanbul bombings of November 2003.

These and other reasons could drive Turkey to adopt the role of a mediator to spare the region further disasters. There are some indications that the US is preparing for a new adventure if the situation got further complicated over Iran’s nuclear programs and Syria’s refusal to submit to American pressure.

The US must realize that allowing Turkey to play such a role would benefit Washington more than will be the case if Washington adopted a hostile approach.

Any problems with Syria and Iran should be resolved peacefully and not through military force. Washington must put an end to its arrogance and muscle flexing for the world wants peace and love and not wars and destruction.

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