November 13, 2007 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 401

Turkey-U.S. Relations At a Critical Juncture

November 13, 2007 | By R. Krespin*
Turkey | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 401


Turkey-U.S. relations, which have been strained for some years, have now entered a new phase, as anti-Americanism in Turkey reaches an unprecedented level. Turkey, an ally and partner of the U.S. for almost six decades, now sees the U.S. as the number one threat to its security and unity. Turkey is condemning the U.S. primarily on two counts: first, for the congressional resolution that defined the 1915 massacre of the Armenians as genocide; and second, for its failure to act against the PKK, despite Turkey's constant warnings and pleas. In retaliation, Turkey has threatened to cut its logistical support for the U.S. in the Middle East, and especially in Iraq.

With the escalation of PKK attacks from across the Iraqi border, which claimed over 50 Turkish lives in the past month alone, the mood in Turkey has changed from one of disappointment with the U.S. to outright rage. The anti-American slogans chanted in massive anti-terrorism demonstrations reflect feelings that are prevalent not only among the general public, but also among Turkey's intellectuals, politicians, and even its traditionally pro-America military.

Turks are criticizing the U.S. for supporting the Iraqi Kurds who are allegedly harboring the PKK terrorists. Moreover, they tend to adopt conspiratorial interpretations, according to which this support is part of a larger U.S. plot to redraw the map of the Middle East. With northern Iraq apparently on its way to becoming an independent Kurdish entity, and with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani speaking as custodian of all Kurds in the region, Turkey fears for its national unity and territorial integrity.

It was in this nationwide anti-PKK and anti-American climate that the Turkish parliament authorized the government, by an overwhelming majority, to send troops into northern Iraq in order to root out the PKK from their bases and training camps – in what Turkey sees as legitimate act of self defense. While the government seems interested in finding a diplomatic solution, it is urging Washington and Baghdad to take concrete measures to eliminate PKK presence on the ground.

According to media reports, the Turkish military has mobilized 100,000 troops along the Iraqi border, ready for an incursion into Iraq. But first, the military and political leaderships are waiting to see the outcome of what they deem 'a historically important' meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President George Bush, slated for November 5, 2007. Despite the skepticism and mistrust, all eyes in Turkey are now turned to Washington.

Anti-Americanism in Turkey – along with antisemitism and anti-Westernism – has steadily intensified under AKP rule, and is now prevalent not only among the Islamists, but also among the modern, anti-Islamist Turks. In these circles, anti-Americanism stems from the belief that it was U.S. support that brought an Islamist government to power in Turkey. The U.S. is condemned for protecting and sheltering Fethullah Gulen, who has been convicted of illegal Islamist activities;[1] for receiving Erdogan in the White House in 2002, when he did not yet hold any elected position and was banned from politics; and for supporting the AKP's ascent to power, allegedly in a deliberate effort to turn Turkey's secular, Western society into an Islamic one so as to create an experimental model of "moderate Islam." The anti-Islamists hold that this U.S.-created "moderate Islam" is nothing but a myth that is destroying Turkey's secular regime. They believe that democracy cannot exist without secularism, and cannot coexist with Islamism. In voicing anti-Western views, these Turks are actually targeting the AKP. Their anti-Americanism – as reflected by Turkey's mainstream media – manifests as intensified nationalism and as criticism against "pro-Islamist and/or anti-Turkish" U.S. policies.

Among Turkey's Islamists, on the other hand, Anti-Americanism takes a different form. It is usually accompanied by strong antisemitic and anti-Christian sentiment, and is similar to the hostile Islamist views prevalent in other Muslim societies. The Islamist sector is committed to the concept of the Islamic umma rather than to the Turkish nation-state. Turkey's Islamist and pro-AKP media directs more anger towards America and the secular Turkish military than towards the Muslim Kurds and the PKK.[2]

Following are excerpts from the Turkish media that reflect the anger and the harsh criticism towards America in Turkish public opinion:

Reactions in Turkey's Mainstream Media:

Turkey Must Say to the U.S.: You Are Either With Us or With The Terrorists

Just before the latest PKK attack, columnist Mustafa Mutlu of the mainstream Turkish daily Vatan wrote:[3] "Since we joined NATO in 1952, 15,000 of our soldiers have fought and died in Korea, and later in Somalia, Albania and Macedonia… We even participated in the peacekeeping operation in the Congo. We are in Germany, Gabon, Georgia, Hebron and Sudan…65,000 of our soldiers have assumed peacekeeping duties abroad. Currently they are [deployed] in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Lebanon…Yet the NATO that we supported with our lives and our blood has never stood beside us, not in Cyprus and not in our southeast [region, where the PKK is active]. Under the umbrella of NATO we supported all the countries that needed help. Now it is our most natural right to expect the same support from NATO. Not just in words… but [in action], right alongside the Turkish military!"

Gungor Mengi of Vatan wrote in an article titled "Negative Power!":[4] "When America was attacked by Al-Qaeda, President Bush said in Congress, 'Every country must now decide. You are either with us, or with the terrorists… From now on any country that supports or harbors terrorists will be regarded by the U.S. as a hostile regime'.

"But [Bush] himself was the first to break the rules and [to violate] the conditions that he himself had outlined for being regarded as an ally.

"Imagine, this savage terrorist organization [the PKK] was sheltered for years in the very lands that the U.S. invaded, right under the eye of the Americans. And now America is at the receiving end of the same warning that Bush issued six years ago [i.e. they are either with Turkey, or with the terrorists]."

Columnist Burhan Ayeri of the daily Aksam wrote:[5] "Let everyone know this: Not even a pack of dogs can cross the [Iraqi-Turkish] border without the U.S. knowing about it. The Pentagon watches from high above all the hotspots in the Middle East, especially our southeast [region]. Do you believe that our 'strategic ally' missed the 200 or 250 terrorists that crossed the border to ambush and kill our soldiers? No! They simply chose not to share the information with us.

"It is clear that 106,000 [American] weapons were given to the PKK, and to Massoud Barzani who shelters the PKK. Who is training the separatists in northern Iraq? […] The U.S. and E.U. are both the same. Their common goal is to start a Turkish-Kurdish war […]"

How Many Turks Must Die Before Bush Intervenes?

In an article titled "A Turkish-Kurdish-American Opera Bouffe" in the Turkish Daily News, columnist Burak Bekdil asked "which government should be held accountable for the immeasurable pain that the Turks are suffering." He wrote: [6]

"PM Erdogan proudly announced that he had given the Americans 'a few more days' [to deal with the PKK…], at the request of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"Then President Bush entered the picture and ordered a halt to the PKK's violence. But why now, and not earlier? Did [Bush] have a quota of dead Turks [to meet]? Did President Bush decide that PKK violence should stop because the quota had been exceeded after this weekend's attack? What was the limit? Would he have refrained from intervening 'personally' if the PKK had not attacked this weekend, but only next month? […] A State Department spokesman has said that the U.S. is Turkey's best friend. With such a 'best friend,' the Turks should be really worried…

"Secretary of Defense Robert Gates then made the opera bouffe even more hilarious, when he said that he was worried about Iraqi civilian casualties in the event of a Turkish incursion! Since when is Mr. Gates so concerned about Iraqi civilians, or about the Iraqi body count, which has reached 82,000?"

Ertugrul Ozkok, chief editor of the popular daily Hurriyet, wrote[7]: "For us, these people [i.e., the Kurdish leaders in Northern Iraq] are not regional 'prime ministers' or 'speakers'; they are harborers of the murderous gang [i.e. PKK]. Their hands too are stained with the blood of our children, who were killed in treacherous ambushes. They too will pay the price of their spilled blood. We do not fall for anyone's demagogy or time-buying tactics, be he domestic or foreign. We are beyond that stage; we have [reached] the limit and [run out of] patience. We, as a people, now have a mission. No empty words can stop us. We had been fooled for long time, but now we want clear results. We want that murderous pack routed out of our neighbors' land for good. The leaders of that pack must be turned in. […]

"Our so-called allies [i.e. the U.S.], who asked us to help them when they searched the Afghan mountains for terrorists cave by cave, cannot fool us any longer. If they don't want to remain alone in those caves, and if they want their bravest comrades-in-arm to stand beside them […], they must know that now it is their turn. If they want us there, they must be here. If the terrorists [that target them] are our [concern], the terrorists [that target us] must be their [concern]. This is how it will work from now on."

The U.S. is Implementing an Old British Plan to Redraw The Map of the Middle East

Serdar Turgut, chief editor of the mainstream daily Aksam, wrote in an article titled "Planned Chaos":[8] "The PKK is only a pawn in the big game. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed and vanished from the Middle East, Britain took a ruler and a compass and traced new countries on the map. When it designed Iraq, it was already planning to break it up. This is not a conspiracy theory. If you read the statements made by the [major] players of the time you will clearly see the plan. They foresaw the dissolution of Iraq, to be followed by the disintegration of the entire Middle East. This chaos was planned.

"Back then they already assessed what Turkey's role would be, and what the Kurds would do. Now they are preparing to redraw the maps, even if it will not happen immediately. Under this plan, the PKK is only a subcontractor. Just look at the current traffic of diplomats: On his visit to London, PM Erdogan signed a strategic partnership agreement with Britain. This agreement included revisions to the old [1926] agreement between the two countries, which determined how Iraq would be administered. Now Erdogan will meet with Bush in the White House. The PKK will not be the only item on the agenda. The entire region, including Iran and Syria, will be laid on the table. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is [now] in Britain; next he will come here to Turkey. Many changes are to be expected in our region. Because that is how it was planned."

Reactions in Turkey's Islamist Media

The U.S., Britain, and Israel Are Behind the PKK's Terrorism

In his column titled "There Is No Kurdish Problem; There Is A PKK, U.S., and Israel Problem," Ayhan Demir of the Islamist Turkish daily Milli Gazete wrote:[9] "The problem of terrorism that Turkey currently faces is not about a handful terrorists and a few tribal leaders who tolerate them. Seeing the terrorist activities in the region as independent of Britain, the U.S., and Israel can only be [described] as either ignorance or treason.

"The number of foreign agents in our southeast [region] is almost equal to the number of terrorists. The region is swarming with Britons, Americans, and Israelis. Many countries, from the U.S. to Israel, are acting against Turkey, both inside and outside our borders. Many Western countries are helping and harboring the terrorists. The weapons, bombs and mines used by the [PKK] are American, Russian, and Italian. Barzani's and Talabani's Peshmergas are being trained by Israeli experts. All this is being done with one goal in mind: to dynamite the thousand-year-old brotherhood between the Turks and the Kurds. In the face of this, we need to fight not the puppets, but those who are pulling the strings."

The PKK Terrorists Cannot Be Muslims – They Must Be Armenian

Columnist Ibrahim Tenekeci of the Islamist Milli Gazete wrote:[10] "Special efforts are being made to divide the Turks and the Kurds, who have shared a common history for a thousand years. I do not believe that any Kurd with a Muslim identity would shoot at a Turkish soldier, official, or citizen. That is why I repeatedly point out [the following]: The PKK's activities began when ASALA [an Armenian terrorist organization] stopped its attacks on Turks. [In addition,] some [PKK] terrorists who were killed were discovered to be uncircumcised, which is also significant. [Thirdly,] in the eastern parts of our country thousands of Armenians converted [to Islam] to escape deportation [– all of which implies that the PKK terrorists might be Armenian, rather than Kurdish].

"Our people know about these plots. That is why surveys show that our people see America and Israel as the greatest threat to [Turkey]. That is why these two countries are the least popular [in Turkey]. After all, we hold first place in the world in disliking and distrusting America."

Columnist Abdurrahman Dilipak of the radical Islamist Turkish daily Vakit wrote:[11] "The [main] headline of today's issue of Vakit conveyed a gruesome message. Major Y. Evirgen (ret.) and strategist Professor N. Aydin said: 'All the aircraft and ships of the Turkish military run on programs designed by U.S. companies. [The Americans] possess all the codes. The firing systems have all been modernized by the Israelis, who also did all the coding. The vehicles and technology of Turkish Intelligence were [likewise] designed by the Mossad, the CIA, and MI6. It is they who manufactured all the tapping and tracing systems, and they all have the codes. [The same is true for] the NATO anti-terrorism center in Ankara, which uses technology and coding produced by the U.S., Britain, and Israel. The technology network used by our ground forces is Israeli.' All the codes for the operation systems of our tanks are in the hands of the terrorist Israel.

"So who is it that we are going to fight with these arms that were all designed by [the U.S., Britain, and Israel]? Are we going to hit America or Israel, or the PKK – which is the pawn of America and Israel?..."

The U.S. and Israel Plan to Carve Up Turkey and Establish "Greater Kurdistan"

Columnist Hasan Unal of the Islamist Milli Gazete wrote:[12] "The terrorism directed at us by the PKK is the tactical extension of a strategic goal. The goal is to facilitate the establishment of a puppet state [ruled] by the Barzani-Talabani duo; allow them to swallow Kirkuk; and then, in the name of 'democratization,' carve out a 'Kurdish province' in Turkey. When the time is right, [this province] will be annexed to the puppet state. As this state grows, it will also demand territories from Iran and Syria.

"The ones behind this puppet state are America and Israel. If it weren't for these evil powers, the puppets would not have become so daring. Turkey will be kept busy fighting terrorism while Barzani claims Kirkuk; E.U. reforms will divide Turkey into ethnic provinces and create a large 'Kurdish province'; the borders of the future 'Great Kurdistan' will be drawn; and... all the oil, as well as the water of the Tigris and Euphrates [rivers], which will be taken from Turkey, are to be given by Israel and America to this new puppet state which will always follow their orders."

Columnist Yusuf Kaplan wrote in the Islamist daily Yeni Safak, the semi-official mouthpiece of the AKP:[13] "There is no 'PKK terrorism' anymore. The PKK is no longer a player, but only a figurehead, a decoy, a parasite. This is not a conspiracy theory. The U.S. (along with Israel and the E.U.) has great goals regarding this region, which they are trying to realize by means of the PKK and all Kurdish elements.

"It is a well-known fact that the U.S., with the support of the E.U, and Israel, is arming the PJAK – Iran's PKK – and using it as a tool against Iran. We know that the U.S. is openly supporting the PJAK because it is overtly an enemy of Iran. We know that Israel and the E.U. also benefit from this. What is not so obvious, and consequently often goes unnoticed, is [America's and Israel's hostility towards Turkey]. The U.S. and Israel and not overtly enemies of Turkey – they [are pretending] to be Turkey's 'friends' and 'allies'. But this is only a pretense.

"The U.S., Israel, and E.U. all say that they want Turkey to remain 'secular.' This is not only their wish; it is what they are 'ordering' us [to do]. The West is afraid of a Turkey that will return to its real, historical, and cultural identity, and will [become a country that] 'gives orders' rather than 'receives orders'.

"Therefore, there is no 'PKK terrorism,' but only 'terrorism of America's PKK.'"

Columnist Hakan Albayrak wrote in Yeni Safak:[14] "We challenge the U.S.: 'Hey, U.S., we gave you a base in Incirlik. We allowed you to use that base to bomb our brothers. Your missiles, which turned Baghdad's vegetable markets into meat markets dripping with blood, were launched over our air space. Turkey supplies all the needs of your occupying forces in Iraq – right down to the toilet paper. And don't forget the services we provided in Afghanistan as well. If you continue with your [present] attitude, we might just [decide to] deprive you of our services...

"I want a Turkey that will have its own projects for the region and the world. A Turkey that surpasses itself! A Turkey that dedicates itself to the unification and [prosperity] of the Islamic world!...

"I say, let us not waste Turkey's 1.000-year statehood, Iran's 2.000-year statehood, [and the merits of] Syria, [which is] the cradle of civilization, on plots to fight the Kurds. Let's unite, and bring the imperialist plots down on the heads of the imperialists."

This is an All-Out War Against Turkey; The U.S. is Arming Kurds to Kill Turks

Ibrahim Karagul wrote in Yeni Safak:[15] "The young lives that we mourn were taken in the mountains using American weapons! They are making plans in northern Iraq and in Turkey's southeast [region], plans that will determine the future of this country… Plans that will shape the borders in the region… Plans that are based on E.U. and U.S. plots…. Plans to prey on Turkey, in which the PKK and their like are used as pawns….

"That country [i.e. America] is [supposedly] Turkey's biggest ally, [yet] it is their weapons that kill our children... [Evil] companies and organizations controlled by that country [manufacture] the bombs that enter our country to explode in Diyarbakir, Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir. Hundreds of thousands of 'lost' weapons are delivered to [terrorists] in our mountains. Weapons [are delivered] to the mountains, while bombs and explosives [are delivered] to the cities.

"Whoever controls the delivery of Israeli missiles to northern Iraq also controls the delivery of weapons and bombs into Turkey. This is ugly, dirty, and bloodthirsty [arms] trafficking. This is a war against Turkey...

"They are dragging Turkey into a war, into a quagmire, because they all want a confrontation. There is nothing left to be said, and no more faith in our 'ally' [America]. The alliances have ended. [The Americans] are ending a thousand years of shared [Turkish-Kurdish] history. Those 'friends' [of ours] now want to break up our country."

If They Unite, the Muslims Need Not Fear Even Satan, Bush's Master

Columnist Huseyin Hatemi wrote in Yeni Safak:[16] "The 'neocons' are the most terrifying and dangerous terrorist organization that human history has ever seen. This scary terrorist organization engineered the 9/11 [attacks] in order to prompt the U.S. to start a war; and it succeeded in sending the American army to attack and invade first Kabul and then Baghdad. Now all their efforts are directed at Tehran.

"The ones behind the neocons are some American Jews who once [pretended to be] 'Trotskyites.' One of the founders of the 'neocon movement,' Norman Podhoretz, is now 77 and does not want to go to hell before he turns the world into hell. It is said that he was Reagan's friend and received the Freedom Award in 2004. One day last spring, he spoke to Bush for 45 minutes at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, and told him that time has come to bomb Iran. [He said that] the U.N. sanctions were ineffective and that the only solution was [launching] World War IV against Islam – or, in this evil man's words, against Islamofascism.

"Now is time for all those who have given their hearts to Talabani, Barzani, the Ba'thists, Osama bin Laden, or Ocalan to wake up. I invite everyone who believes in the prophets to awaken. In face of this impending calamity, can't we end our senseless internal animosities? We need not fear Satan, the master of Bush and Podhoretz, if we open our hearts to one another. If we unite in our love of Allah, against all their plots, and establish a Turkish-Kurdish-Arab-Persian alliance, and reach out even to friendly people from other religions that believe in Allah the Creator – who is only not the God of Jews – we can make the devil Podhoretz go to hell without turning the world into hell.

"Malignant terrorist provocateurs as low as Podhoretz have never emerged from a Muslim society."

*R. Krespin is the director of the Turkish Media Project.

[1] For more on Fethullah Gulen, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 375, "The Upcoming Elections in Turkey (2): The AKP's Political Power Base," July 19, 2007, Columnist for Egyptian Government Daily to Hitler:'If Only You Had Done It, Brother'.

[2] Some in the Islamist media go so far as to hint that the Turkish military is behind the terrorist attacks on Turkey. With the same reasoning as those who claim the U.S. carried out 9/11, they argue that the army is supporting the terrorism in an attempt to regain the power it lost with the rise of the AKP government.

[3] Vatan, (Turkey), October 11, 2007.

[4] Vatan, (Turkey), October 25, 2007.

[5] Aksam, (Turkey), October 24, 2007.

[6] Turkish Daily News, October 24, 2007.

[7] Hurriyet, (Turkey), October 24, 2007.

[8] Aksam, (Turkey), November 2, 2007.

[9] Milli Gazete, (Turkey), November 3, 2007.

[10] Milli Gazete, (Turkey), October 10, 2007.

[11] Vakit, (Turkey), October 18, 2007.

[12] Milli Gazete, (Turkey), November 3, 2007.

[13] Yeni Safak, (Turkey), October 26, 2007.

[14] Yeni Safak, (Turkey), October 31, 2007.

[15] Yeni Safak, (Turkey), October 10 and 22, 2007.

[16] Yeni Safak, (Turkey), October 29, 2007.

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