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Turkey: The fourth wave is coming / US relations

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 PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2006 11:14 am    Post subject: Turkey: The fourth wave is coming / US relations Reply with quote Back to top

ANN / Groong

Turkish Daily News, Turkey
Nov 17 2006

The fourth wave is coming
Friday, November 17, 2006

Turkish-US relations may receive a fourth blow in early 2007, and the
consequences may be severe.

Murat Yetkin

On the same day when Land Forces Commander Gen. İlker
Başbug announced France had been put on a military black
list because of an Armenian law passed in the French parliament,
Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Ergin Saygun was in the United States.

One of the reasons he was there was to have talks with U.S.
officials on new defense projects. For instance, a U.S. proposal to
sell C-17 transport planes to meet Turkey's needs until the A-400
transport aircraft project -- a European venture Turkey is also
involved in as a producer -- is realized, is one of the issues being
discussed. The C-17 is the new tactical transport aircraft that the
United States began to put into service in the 1990s to replace the
ageing C-130. The giant F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project, for
which a preliminary agreement was signed during Defense Minister
Vecdi Gonul's recent trip to the United States, and the attack
helicopter project, which is a never-ending story now, are also on
the agenda. The scope of Turkey's military relations with France,
which Başbug declared to be on the black list, is not big,
but the scope of military and defense relations with the United
States is very big. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) widely relies on
the United States and NATO for equipment and technology. The rate of
dependence is estimated to be 50-60 percent as far as the land forces
is concerned. In the air forces, the rate goes up to as high as 80

Military sanctions against France for its passage of the Armenian
bill would not seriously harm Turkey. Such sanctions somehow
alleviate the anger culminating in society against France and perhaps
flatter the nation's vanity. But one should think how the TSK defense
capabilities would be affected if the United States is also put on
the black list by the same token. Would back-stair diplomacy
solutions of "buy it from Russia, buy it from China" be a remedy for
the technology and weapons vacuum that would emerge?

These questions may be bothersome, but they deserve to be asked.

Turkish-U.S. relations are heading fast to a new shak-eup over the
Armenian issue. The Democrats' victory in the U.S. congressional
elections of Nov. 7 will have an impact on Turkey, notably vis-a-vis
Iraq and, linked to Iraq, the Kurdish issue. Therefore, the entire
world is waiting for the uncertainty in the United States to be

However, there is one political element that is not uncertain for
Turkey. Nancy Pelosi, who is to become the new Democratic speaker of
the House of Representatives -- as well as the first woman to get
this position -- has promised to her voters in San Francisco,
including many Armenians, to push for a bill for recognition of the
Armenian allegations of genocide when she has the power to do so. Now
she has the power.

The policy of the Turkish governments over the past years aimed at
making the U.S. presidents postpone a vote in the House on such a
bill in an act of outdated lobbying that puts all the eggs in the
same basket, is about to run aground. Pelosi is known as a politician
so partisan that she would take pleasure in rejecting any request
from President George W. Bush on that matter, even if she personally
did not like the idea of having such a bill passed.

In March and April of 2007, when the presidential election process
gets under way in Turkey, efforts to pass a bill on recognition of
the alleged Armenian genocide will be at their peak in Washington.
There is little doubt that it will be passed if a vote is held.

This situation, according to experts, will be the fourth and
perhaps the biggest blow to hit Turkish-U.S. relations. We had the
Johnson letter crisis over Cyprus in the 1960s, then the arms
embargo, again over Cyprus, in the 1970s, the March 1 reversal on
Iraq war and the Sulaimaniya incident in the early 2000s and now the
Armenian issue.

Can Turkey's decision to take the issue to international
arbitration after doing nothing for years and preparations to take
the matter to The Hague save the situation? It seems impossible
without finding channels into U.S. domestic politics.

Perhaps for this reason, Saygun is visiting think tanks in
Washington and explaining Turkey's position, particularly on Iraq.
(One should not leave aside the fact that the prime minister of Iraq,
where the U.S. invasion is faltering, is in Turkey now.) After
disagreements with the United States over Iraq and the outlawed
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in recent months, he is trying to
influence the new Iraq policy that Bush will announce from the
military angle. U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson has been doing
a similar job by explaining Turkey's importance and the criticalness
of the situation to major U.S. think tanks. A non-official meeting of
Turkish-American parliamentarians organized by Istanbul deputy Egemen
Bagiş, who has recently joined the executive ranks of
the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), will take place this

Will all these prevent the fourth wave from wreaking havoc on
relations like a tsunami? Probably bigger efforts on a bigger scale
are needed.
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