Since 2003 the American authorities have been unhappy due to the ‘accretion’ of anti-Americanism in Turkey. It is not easy for the Americans to fully understand the main reasons behind the recent Turkish scepticism towards the US and the Bush Government sometimes blamed the Turkish government for the US image in Turkey. Some neo-cons and some of the American Jewish Institutions even blamed current Turkish government of being hostile to the West and being anti-Semitic. According to these criticisms, Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) was the responsible from the accretion of the anti-Americanism among the Turks. Since the approach grounded on the hypothesis that Justice and Development Party was Islamist, charges recent matters to the government. Actually, this approach is not new and exceptional for the US policies towards the Muslim world. The US makes out a case for the failure in Iraq that the Baghdad government does not make legal regulations in the Iraqi parliament. Similarly for its image in Afghanistan the US blames the Karzai government of not being successful in explaining to its own community that how well works US has made in Afghanistan. Pakistan is another example. Americans accuses Pakistan Government for the recent increase in religionist terrorism in the country. Examples can be enhanced. In other words, Americans do not like to question their own policies and mistakes. They choose the easy way and accuse the others for all kind of failure in the region.
If we come back to Turkey, the Americans accuse the Erdogan Government of “leading on hostility to West or not to be able to prevent” emanates from the hyperbolic governmental assumption. Americans are biased when they look at the ‘East’, that these countries can not be democratic and pluralistic. They think that the governments in these countries have absolute power over the society. According to them, in the countries like Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Egypt there is no real civil society, there is no such a thing as public opinion. In those countries, according to the American politicians, government (or another unit) prescribes something and the community obeys to this. Eventhough they are bemused about Turkey’s position, it is understood that they at the end see Turkey in the Eastern country category. However, the truth is very different from this Dark Age’s bias.
First of all, anti-Americanism and opposition to the American Middle East policies is not peculiar to Turkey. In Turkey, as is the same for the entire world, President Bush’s Middle East policies annoy the society. Furthermore, Turkey in contrast to South Korea or Mexico or any other countries is the only country that fully exposed to the almost all bad effects of the US regional politics. It is neighbour of Iraq, comparatively close to Afghanistan. Palestine is very close to Turkey. The American policies in the Middle East destabilise the region surrounding Turkey, and undermine Turkish national interests.
Significant distrust growths dramatically between Turkey and US since 2003. Sticking all the responsibility to the one group in Turkey is not possible. Because, almost all political parties both left and right wing are sceptical and critical about the US. Almost all opposition parties blame the Erdogan government of being Americanist while some of the American politicians accuse Mr. Erdogan of being anti-American. According to the secularist-leftist RPP (Republican People Party) and ultra-nationalist NMP (Nationalist Movement Party) Tayyip Erdogan and his party are in America’s service. Many opposition groups repeat that Prime Minister Erdogan helps America in realising its plans in the Middle East, and also Erdogan does not act as a nationalist.
It should not be forgotten that, anti-Americanism of RPP was reached to its peak level when the Motion of March 1 2003 (1 Mart Tezkeresi) was rejected. Thus, thanks to the RPP’s strict opposition, the US could not use the Turkish territories in incursion of Iraq. While a limited number of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) MPs were against the Motion, the Republican People’s Party was against it almost without a loss. Indeed, after the rejection of the 1 March Motion, serious problems existed between Deniz Baykal, head of the RPP, and the US. Besides Mr. Baykal went too far so that he accused Americans for the cabals against him. We do not see different picture when we look at the other powerful opposition party NMP. Devlet Bahceli leader of the Party for instance says that the cross-border operation against the PKK terror bases in Iraq is not enough, despite to the American’s warnings Bahceli wants to go further in Iraq, Bahceli also criticises the US as supporter of the terrorism against Turkey. In addition, we should remind that these two parties are considered as the main stream parties in Turkey.
It is a fact that there is a growing mistrust between Turkey and the US. However I think the real reasons are not the US Middle east policies or the Turkish Governments’ mismanagement of the crisis. Turkey is a pragmatic country. For example, though Turkey is not happy with the Israeli policies in Palestine and in Lebanon, Turkey-Israel relations have reached its peak level during the conservative AK Party years. The real reason behind the problems is the American failure in keeping its promises to the Turks. The Americans first promise for something and then they failed to keep their words, and they disappoint the Turkish people:
Firstly, Turkey lived a big disappointment on Cyprus issue. Americans promised on some issues during the United Nations (UN) Annan Peace Plan negotiations. The US openly declared that if citizens of Turkish Republic Northern Cyprus say ‘yes’ to the Annan Plan, the embargo that lasts for the years was said to be taken off. However, on behalf of say ‘no’, the US (and EU) was said to be punished. This was a clear promise. Turkish side by saying ‘yes’ with the overwhelming majority did voted for the consolidation of the island. However, Greek side voted for ‘no’ with the overwhelming majority. Turkey and Cypriot Turks waited from US to keep its promises. However, since then US and EU followed delaying tactics. Greeks who said ‘no’ to the Annan Plan were not punished, in contrary on one hand they have been accepted as a full member of the EU, on the other hand their effectiveness have not been decreased but also increased. Embargos and isolations on Cypriot Turks continue with the harshest type. All this process did damage the trust of Turkish community to the US and the EU.There was already a suspicious attitude in Turkey against the West. Some marginal groups were advocating that West tries to destroy Turkey, whatever Turkey makes; the negative attitude of the West to Turkey will not be changed. Moreover, those marginal groups were right on the Cyprus issue by the public opinion.
The second important beat came in Iraq. US tried to punish Turkey for the rejection of the Motion in March 1, 2003(tezkere). There were big gap between the words and the actions against Turkey which was keeping Turkey out of Iraq consciously. US acted as it has hidden agenda in Iraq. Eventhough Turkey supported US logically, militarily and politically, Turkish community was never sure of the US’ definitive goals. Americans while talked about the integrity of Iraq, they always acted toward movements that will separate Iraq in three parts, at least will create a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. The difference between words and practice has been noticed by the Turkish public opinion.
Undoubtedly, the worst thing was the detain tactics of US on PKK terror. From the beginning US declared that Iraq will not be safe place for PKK terrorists, personally President Bush and his government ensured Turkey for the matter. The existence of the PKK in Iraq was said to be destroyed; at least it would not be let to shelter. However, by the time, the existence of the PKK in Iraq increased rather that decreased. While the number of terrorists reached 5000 in about 3 years, number of the terror camps exceed 20. In every occasion, the US authorities gave promises to Turkey but never kept. While it is hard to anticipate the number of ‘terrorists’ US soldiers killed in Iraq that is under the US government, no single PKK terrorist has been captured or harmed by the US troops in Iraq. In a country where every day dies more that 100 people, even one PKK terrorist was not hurted. Neither American nor Iraqi governments arrested any one for being PKK terrorist though the terrorist organisation had offices even in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. However, the US President, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence and other American high-ranked officers continued to give promises to the Turks that they can not keep. They today still continue to do so. While Americans continue to ensure the Turks by gibing promises they never keep, the Turkish security forces capture American weapons in the PKK camps. Captured PKK terrorists claim that the arms were given to them by the Americans. It is written by the excessively respected authors in the US and Israeli press that the PKK was financially and technically supported by the US and Israel. While Turkish Intelligence reports say that Americans regularly meet with the PKK, the respected British newspaper Daily Telegraph writes that US official authorities visit the PKK camps regularly. In brief, if we put in this way the US obviously lies to Turkey. At least the Turkish layman thinks so. Americans, who do not (or cannot) keep their promises and attitude in contrary, also use the expressions such as “we understood how importan the borders of Turkey are” or “we understand the sensibility of Turkey” that make the Turks crazy. If it is limited with the understanding that the importance of the Turkey’s borders or the sensibility of Turkey for such a long time, either understanding of the US is very limited or there are more serious problems in the US side regarding the Turks. While every day couple of Turks become an innocent victims of terrorism, the US still continues to give promises and says that they understand the importance of the Turkish borders.
Lastly, the Armenian issue makes matters more multiplex. The US again gave promises and continues to give. However, in the atmosphere that matters are in peak the US House Foreign Affairs Committe have preferred to discuss almost a century ago rather than today and alleged Turkey with the worst crime in the world. The communal clashes and massacres of Kurds and Armenians invoiced to Turkey as genocide. Before the voting, President Bush and his team gave many promises by saying that the proposal will not be passed. It was even told that President Bush personally called Mrs. Pelosi and many other influential deputies. However, Mrs. Pelosi says “nobody called me before the voting”. In that sense Mr. Bush continues to confuse Turkish people.
In conclusion, image of the US that a country does not keep its promises grow stronger in Turkish land. Americans think that their promises will be forgotten in short time. However, in contrast to their view the memory of Turkish community is not that much weak. It is right that Turkey is pragmatic, however, never forgets. Turkey always notes enemies and friendly countries somewhere. Nobody in Turkey did forget the Letter of Johnson and the arms embargo of the US against Turkey during the 1970s. You will see that nobody will forget these days as well. The US endangers the relations with the one of the most important and most loyal alliances for the short term interests. Besides, the responsibility belongs to the Americans but not to the Turks for the bad image of the US in Turkey.
19 October 2007
Translated by Habibe Kader and Mesut TUZCAN