Relations With Turkey
With Tulin Daloglu
Washington Correspondent, Star TV
Wednesday, March 5, 2003; 11 a.m. ET
The cooperation and assistance of Turkey is central to U.S. plans for military confrontation with Iraq. The failure to obtain it, culminating in a vote by the Turkish Parliament rejecting a plan to allow U.S. troops to use bases in Turkey (Turkey Rejects U.S. Use Of Bases, Post, March 2, 2003), has been one of the U.S.'s biggest diplomatic stumbling blocks. Though another vote is likely, the rebuff is the latest blow to American efforts to gain international support for war against Iraq.
How does Turkey see the U.S. in this conflict? Where did American diplomacy go wrong in trying to gain Turkey's support? Will the alliance be mended? Tulin Daloglu, Washington correspondent for Turkey's Star TV, was online Wednesday, March 5 to talk about U.S.-Turkey relations, Turkey's government and the outlook for war.
Daloglu has been the Washington correspondent for Star TV since August 1999. A former BBC reporter and producer in Turkey, her last assignment in the country was covering the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's trial on the island of Imrali. She served as a translator to the deputy chief of mission of the American Embassy in Ankara during the 1996 quick transit operations, in which almost 500 Iraqi Kurds were evacuated from Iraq. She also ran for a Parliament seat during the 2002 Turkish general elections. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The transcript follows.
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washingtonpost.com: Good morning, Tulin, and welcome. Turkey is obviously extremely important to the U.S. in terms of strategic presence for troops in any military confrontation with Iraq. The U.S. has negotiated heavily with Turkey in an effort to secure and smooth that relationship -- particularly with the offer of assistance with the EU. Where was the misstep?
Tulin Daloglu: This is a great question to start with. Although the economic aid package was one of the very crucial pieces of the whole deal, it was not the only thing. The Turkish Parliament was asked for the deployment of the U.S. troops even before the UN Security Council reached a decision. Russia, France and Germany are strongly supporting that there should be more time given to the inspectors rather than going to war. So, with the lack of the second resolution which will stand as the stamp of the legality of this operation, the Turkish Parliamentarians felt that they were asked to give a decision before the UN decides for war.
Second, since 9/11 people in the U.S. feel like they are at war and their country is like a battlefield. This is not the same perception shared by the Turks. They know what terrorism is. They lived with it for more than 15 years and they take these attack one at a time. So, they don't regard themselves at war as do the Americans feel on this side of the Atlantic.
Third, Turkey is going through a serious economic difficulty, and the time is not something that they would choose.
Fourth, I suspect the most important misstep was on the selling of this war. The majority of people in Turkey against a war in Iraq but that is not to say they are supporting the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. They simply don't understand what evidence the U.S. has to attack Iraq today.
Finally, the U.S. officials have not shown the needed interest to Turkey. The Secretary of State Powell only visited Turkey once since the war talks started and, I should also add that none of the high level U.S. officials gave any interviews to the Turkish media. This created an atmosphere where Turks thought that the U.S. is not respecting their sacrifices. One Turkish person speaking to our microphone said, "We don't want to be the legionnaires of the U.S. I feel so great today that the Parliament said 'no' to the U.S. But, I don't know how we will sacrifice economically for that decision. Yet, I hope they reverse the decision before the war starts."
Pittsburgh, Pa.: In the U.S. people are not aware of the possible consequences of the war over Turkey.
What are the concerns Turkey has except for the majority of the public opposition to war?
Tulin Daloglu: The concerns are: The flood of refugees from Iraq to Turkey; increase in the oil prices (the ruling party in its fourth month in power has increased the oil prices at least 10 times already); increase in the currency values and the interest rates. These will have direct effect on Turkey's economy. Politically, Turkey is concerned of an establishment of a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. Most Turkish officials do raise their concern that the attack in Iraq can open the Pandora's Box and that the whole region can easily fall in turmoil.
Chesterfield, Mass.: How do you see the upcoming elections affecting Turkey's stance on U.S. deployment from Turkish soil? Thank you.
Tulin Daloglu: I assume you mean the election on Sunday, which will allow the ruling party's chairman be elected. He called the lawmakers to take steps not to satisfy their daily emotions but toward the country's future. And today he received a great support from the top Turkish general that if the U.S. opens a northern front that will minimize the cost of the war and the casualties and Turkey will get the necessary help with any economic fallout. It seems that the vote will come once more to the Parliament and if it does, it seems it will pass this time.
washingtonpost.com: A story yesterday in the Post (General Dismisses Rebuff by Turkey) detailed the response of Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, who said he is prepared attack "with or without Turkey." How is this stance, and the apparent willingness of the U.S. to take what amounts to unilateral action, viewed in Turkey? Does it appear to be a sign of commitment to a cause, or bluster?
Tulin Daloglu: I think, if the U.S. is decisive to go to war in Iraq, the general has no other choice but to say that they will be successful with or without Turkey. However, when you talk to them privately, you get a sense that Turkey's noncooperation will cause true concern to their military plans. So, this is why they are still holding on to their hopes and although there have been many deadlines that came and passed by with no decisive answer, they are still willing to give another deadline. Coming to the other question, the U.S. officials have made it very clear that they will not allow any unilateral action by Turkey into Northern Iraq. However, at this time, they really don't speculate on what will happen, if Turkey crosses the border. I haven't heard anyone commenting on that specific possibility, yet.
Long Beach, Calif.: The latest opinion polls from Turkey indicate 19 out of 20 people [are] against the U.S. attacking Iraq with a "coalition of the willing." Do you feel the Turkish attempt to exact concessions and loans was a good example of democracy? Do you think the vote was a triumph of democracy?
Tulin Daloglu: Many people in Turkey was troubled by the way how this economic aid package came to the public scene. Even the caricatures published on the U.S. media truly hurt the national pride of the Turkish people. I do say that because we did a story on it. And what we found out that there was a great relief once the Parliament rejected the approval of U.S. troops. They said "Now they will understand that it was not all about money."
However, when we look at the political scene, after a long time, we do see a single party government in Turkey. They had the majority of the seats and if there were to be a party decision to vote on behalf of this decision, today, it would be accepted. Traditionally, that is the way how parties decide on certain votes in the Parliament. However, what we see is that a change in the tradition and a new democracy. It is true democracy now and people should respect it. Again, this decision seems to be reversed soon again with this new democratic atmosphere and should be respected, too.
Charlottesville, Va.: France, Germany and Belgium originally vetoed initiating NATO defensive protection for Turkey on the grounds that they did not want to act as if war was a foregone conclusion. Now, after the uproar that resulted from that seemingly heartless decision, Turkey's own parliament is voting on those very same grounds. Do you see their desire to obtain protection, but not to provide support, on the same grounds, as a double standard, or a simple shift in policy?
Tulin Daloglu: Well, Turkey is Iraq's neighbor. If the U.S. goes to war in Iraq, the Turkish military officials are concerned that Saddam Hussein can also attack Turkey. I think, I would say that I respectfully disagree with the premise of the question, because human life wherever it is should be respected equally. So, whether Turkey allows the deployment of U.S. troops or not, its civilians need protection and they should get it.
Herndon, Va.: Can you explain the Turkish position on an independent Kurdish state?
Tulin Daloglu: Both the Turkish military and the political body is against an establishment of an independent Kurdish state. They do see that can cause an uprise among its 12 million Kurdish population and can lead to the wills of separating land from Turkey. However, since the first Gulf War, through the permission of the usage of Incirlik Airbase for the Northern Watch operations, there is almost an independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. The generals seem to hesitate in their bargaining with the U.S. this time, because they don't want to see this finalize in an independent Kurdistan. So, when you look at the overall debate and the negotiations, this seems to be the most important subject for the Turkish side and it seems that there is a "trust" issue between the two governments.
Cumberland, Md.: Since you indicated that the lack of an 18th UN resolution troubled Turkey, will they still vote to support the war if the U.S. goes ahead without the 18th resolution?
Tulin Daloglu: At this time, "YES."
Washington, D.C.: Ms. Daloglu,
Do you believe that if the U.S. had more aggressively pushed for Turkey's membership in the EU that the outcome of the parliament vote on the placement of U.S. troops on Turkish soil might have been different?
Also, it my hope as an American that the U.S. will recognize the strong friendship and allegiance Turkey has shown over the years and not adversely judge Turkey on the basis of this single incident.
Tulin Daloglu: I am talking both to the U.S. officials and the Turkish officials in order to understand how this ongoing debate will effect the two countries future relation. The Turkish officials do hope that the U.S. will not forget what Turkey has done for them. Recently, Turkey has commanded the ISAF in Afghanistan more than six months. Turkey allowed the usage of Incirlik air base which allowed to contain the Iraqi regime for the last 12 years and there are so many others. However, when I talk to the U.S. officials in Washington, I do hear them saying, "We have supported them for the last 50 years in NATO. And this is the first time we did really ask them to help us and look what they are doing. This will not be forgotten in Washington easily and the relations will be damaged in the long term." These are the typical reactions I hear but still we need to wait and see the ultimate resolution of this debate.
Harrisburg, Pa.: What are the internal political risks the Turkish government faces if it allows American troops to invade Iraq from Turkey. What would the proposed American economic assistance do for the Turkish economy, and how do the Turkish people view this offer?
Tulin Daloglu: Most political analysts do suspect that the party in power has lost a lot. There are some U.S. analysts who suggest that this is actually a strategic game played by the secularist against the Islamists. They say as the military kept silent and did not show any direction to the people, it let the whole responsibility to the shoulders of Justice and Development Party. And the Turkish public opinion is 98 percent against a war in Iraq. So, with this circumstance, the analysts say that any decision against the will of the people will let the party in power to lose. Still, today, top military general spoke for the first time in support of the ruling party's position and the deployment of the U.S. soldiers in Turkey. So, in the end, Justice and Development Party can be the big winner. We all need to see these developments as they unfold.
Stockholm, Sweden: Is there any secret agreement between Turkey and the U.S. about Iraqi Kurdistan?
Do you think that the U.S. is ready to destroy the relatively democratic administration in Iraqi Kurdistan just to get help from Turkey against Saddam? How can Iraq be free (as President Bush said) without the freedom of the Kurdish people in Iraq?
Tulin Daloglu: If it is secret, I don't know it as a journalist. However, what I do hear both from the Turkish officials and the Kurdish officials that they have doubts about the U.S. plans. An official from the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party told me yesterday that they believe the U.S. has sold them for one more time and that they will fight for their freedom and rights. He also said that they will resist against any Turkish military presence in Northern Iraq. Frankly, I do not know what kind of assurances Turkey has got from the U.S. during these negotiations. All I know is that a Pentagon official saying me that "Once these military debates were finalized both sides were happy and satisfied. And that he couldn't believe how the Turkish generals let the decision be rejected at the Parliament." This is all I know about it -- so far.
Northern Virginia: I know the Turkish Parliament voted (correctly so) not to allow U.S. troops to use Turkish bases to prosecute an "as of now" unjustified war against Iraq despite the fact that the Bush administration offered a bribe of billions of dollars. Don't you think it would be a terrible mistake if somehow, through additional arm-twisting by the U.S. government, your Parliament held a second vote that gave in to American pressure and allowed U.S. troops to use Turkish bases against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people of your country? After all, the Bush administration is hungry to wage this war and kill thousands of already suffering Iraqi civilians under the guise of bringing "democracy" to Iraq. Shouldn't the democratic will of the Turkish people prevail? Don't misunderstand my antiwar sentiments as pro-Saddam. I would love to see that bas***d roasted on a slow fire.
Tulin Daloglu: Well, if there is going to be a war in Iraq, Turkey doesn't regard its decision to stop this war. And the Turkish officials made it so clear that if there becomes a war in Iraq, Turkey will be effected by it severely. So, the choice as they say is between "bad and worse" and in this case they want to choose the "bad." So, it seems in order to control the economic fallout and have a say in the post-Saddam Iraq, Turkey should allow the U.S. troops deployment. That is what I am hearing from the Turkish officials.
Washington, D.C.: Can you give me a sense of the relationships between the parties in the Turkish parliament? Is the ruling party's power that tenuous, and could support of the U.S. mean trouble for it?
Tulin Daloglu: The ruling party is coming to power for the first time. Most of the lawmakers are elected for the first time and it is an untried party and government. However, their roots come from former Islamist parties. The other party is the oldest party in Turkey's political life -- Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi. It is mostly known as Ataturk's party and they take the pride in protecting the Republic's secular and democratic nature against Islamists. So, there is a real political fight going on. And, they are calculating that a support for the U.S. war in Iraq will cause the loss of the Islamic party in the coming elections.
Cumberland, Md.: Will Turkey resubmit the question of U.S. troops to another vote, and if so how soon?
If they delay too long, the vote will be meaningless, so do they feel some pressure to speed this second vote up?
Tulin Daloglu: Let me take this as the last question and thank you all for these great questions.
Yes, it seems that Turkey will vote for the deployment of the Turkish troops at the Parliament again. We just don't know when -- yet. I assume the finality at the UN Security Council will open the way for Turkey to finalize its decision. Also, there will be a legislative bi-election this Sunday which will allow the Chairman of the ruling party be the Prime Minister. So, it seems like the vote might come after Sunday.
And for the second part of your question, I am not hearing any U.S. official telling that the deal is off and we switched to Plan B. What I am hearing is that they are also willing to wait to see whether the last Saturday's decision was the final decision or not. However, next week seems very crucial.
Thank you all, again.
That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.
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