Turkish Daily News
Today is Tuesday, March 22 2005 12:39 pm GMT+2 updated at 12:00 P.M.
Mehmet Ali Birand: Go to Damascus, but also decide on Ýncirlik
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
I will be in the United States this week. I was invited by the famous Emory
University. I will make a few speeches, while listening to Americans. In
other words, I will be sharing with you my impressions of America. However,
I need to say that all does not seem well
Mehmet Ali BIRAND
I left Istanbul last weekend. I visited New York and then went to Atlanta.
I was invited by one of the most respected universities in America, the
Emory University. I will attend conferences for four days. Turkey will be
the dominating topic in meetings held with academics and students. I will of
course also meet with a friend from CNN in Atlanta.
I will not be the only one who will talk, but I also intend to get a sense
of what Americans are thinking.
As you know U.S.-Turkish relations are experiencing some trouble again.
The state of affairs is not that good. The time of “misunderstandings” is
over. As Milliyet daily’s Sami Kohen, who recently returned from Washington,
wrote, Turkey is no longer the “trusted and loyal ally.” Kohen has the best
sense in these matters. He does not exaggerate and always tries to put a
positive spin on the issues.
The tension in bilateral relations is not one sided. Both Ankara and
Washington are to blame. Let’s first look at Turkey.
Disagreeing with Washington and not doing what we are told may gain one
some domestic credibility, or even sympathy. But if this is kept up for too
long and the necessary precautions are not taken, we will be forced to pay a
If it continues unchecked, all of a sudden we come to realize that our
relations with the IMF are not like it used to be. One sees that they are
not as forgiving as they were and international banks charge higher interest
rates for loans.
The time comes and one notices that the White House is not as enthusiastic
in defending Turkey when the Armenian bill is submitted to the U.S.
Congress. If the Armenian genocide allegations are passed by the Congress,
Turkey’s power to resist these claims decreases significantly.
You may also see that you are pushed out from all the developments going
on in the Middle East. You realize that everywhere you go you are the
outsider and the unwanted guest, whose advice is not wanted.
Turkey does not need to do acquiescence to every U.S. wish. This is not a
debate about “submissiveness or revolt.”
The problem we are faced with is Ankara’s failure to display the necessary
sensitivity on matters important to Washington. This failure may be
intentional. Unfortunate statements, unnecessary comments and strange
stances are angering the George W. Bush administration and the State
The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman coming out and making a
statement that implies, “It would be good for President Ahmet Necdet Sezer
to cancel his trip to Syria,” is no coincidence. The ambassador making it
clear that he is uncomfortable with the anti-American statements made by
high officials, especially politicians, does not happen every day. We
shouldn’t be surprised to see American journalists, who were briefed by the
U.S. Embassy in Ankara, writing harsh articles.
What all this means is that the relations are deteriorating rapidly and if
the necessary precautions are not taken, the situation can become very
It’s easy to resolve this problem:
If we are willing to put a stop to this vicious circle, it is very easy to
repair relations between the two countries. A little more sympathy and
caution may be enough.
Americans are saying that it’s about time Turkey chose one side.
When the Turkish government accuses Israel of conducting state terrorism,
delays issuing friendly warnings to Damascus to withdraw from Lebanon and
even then tries to use covert means to do that, supports Iran and alleges
that American troops in Iraq are guilty of genocide, Washington naturally is
up in arms.
They don’t want Turkey to be too friendly with such countries. They want
good relations with Turkey to continue and for it to become a force for good
in the region. However, Ankara fails to do either.
Make up your mind on Ýncirlik:
The state of the Ýncirlik military base is often cited as an example.
For the past few months, Turkey has been asked to broaden the use of
Ýncirlik for humanitarian reasons. Ankara has failed to make up its mind.
The government says the military is in charge, while the military says it is
the government’s responsibility. No one seems to be able to do something due
to doubts felt against the United States.
The tension mounts while nothing is being done.
However, we need to do something soon.
If the president is to go to Damascus, let him. However, his stance there
needs to reflect a policy. The Ýncirlik issue should not be pushed to the
sidelines. It is also important for the members of the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP), from the very top to the very bottom, to learn to
keep their tongues in check.
We don’t have any other option but to choose a side and initiate our
policies. In other words, some fine tuning is called for.
However, as I said earlier in the article, Ankara is not the only side to
blame. The Bush administration is also to blame for the current state of
affairs. I will write about that tomorrow.
Let’s not forget that the clock is ticking.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress