Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Turkey as a Regional Power

October 23, 2007 20 30 GMT
By George Friedman
If Turkey is on its way to become a regional power as the article below says, it is more important for the world to stand up to the Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide. Turkey will only seek stability through domination. It already knows which ropes to pull to get its own way. America was largely behind making Turkey what it is today. America is now reduced to begging Turkey to keep the regional stability. What a reversal in fortunes this is. And this is just the beginning. If this is not a wake up call for America I do not know what is.
[...]it is difficult to imagine that the Turks won't move into northern Iraq and re-establish the sphere of influence and security they had during the Saddam Hussein era. The United States is working furiously to satisfy Turkey by taking responsibility for controlling the PKK. It is not clear whether the United States can deliver, nor is it clear whether the Turks are prepared to rely on the United States. Some move into Iraq is likely, in our mind, but even if it doesn't happen in this particular case, tensions between Turkey and the United States will remain. More important, Turkey's willingness to play a secondary role in the region is declining.

[...] the Turks did not want a rupture with the United States -- given that the relationship has been the foundation of Turkish foreign policy since World War II. The refusal of the European Union to admit Turkey in particular made it necessary for Ankara to preserve its relationship with Washington. Therefore, although the invasion was problematic for the Turks, they have cooperated with the United States, allowing a large portion of the supplies for U.S. troops in Iraq to come through Turkey.

[...] Turkey's perception is that it already is dealing with the post-war world, one in which an increasingly bold Iraqi Kurdistan is pursuing a policy of expanding Kurdish autonomy by facilitating a guerrilla war in Turkey. The PKK's actions in recent weeks confirm this view in their mind. They also believe they cannot deal with the Kurdish challenge defensively, and therefore they must defend by attacking. Hence, the creation of a security zone in Iraq.

From the Kurds' point of view, if there ever was a moment to assert their national rights, this is it. However, their highly risky gamble is that the United States will not chance an anti-American uprising in Iraq's Kurdish areas and so will limit the extent to which Turkey can intervene. Moreover, with the United States at odds with Iran, it might support a Kurdish uprising there. Hence, though the stakes are high, the Kurdish gamble is not irrational.

The Kurds in Iraq are correct in their view that the United States does not want conflict in the one area in Iraq that is not anti-American. They also are correct that this is a unique moment for them. But they are betting that the Turks don't recognize the danger and thus will place their interests second to those of the United States -- which is more concerned with stability in Iraqi Kurdistan than with suppressing attacks in Turkey's Kurdish areas. Although this might have been true of Turkey 10 years ago, it no longer is true today. The U.S.-Turkish relationship has flipped. The United States needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the United States -- for reasons beyond getting supplies to Iraq.

[...] Turkey and Iran have a common interest in preventing an independent Kurdish nation anywhere, the more the United States supports the Iraqi Kurds, the greater the danger of an Iranian-Turkish alliance. At the moment, that is the last thing the United States wants to see, which is why the resolution on Turkish responsibility for Armenian genocide in the U.S. Congress could not possibly have come at a worse moment.

[...] Turkey is the heir to the Ottoman Empire, which at various points dominated the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Caucasus and deep into Russia. Its collapse after World War I created an oddity -- an inward-looking state in Asia Minor. Cautious in World War II and strictly aligned with the United States during the Cold War, Turkey played a passive role: It either sat things out or allowed its strategic territory to be used.

The situation has changed dramatically. [...] Turkey should be viewed as a rapidly emerging regional power -- or, in the broadest sense, as beginning the process of recreating a regional hegemon of enormous strategic power, based in Asia Minor but projecting political, economic and military forces in a full circle. Its willingness to rely on the United States to guarantee its national security ended in 2003. It is prepared to cooperate with the United States on issues of mutual interest, but not as a subordinate power.


Its current stance on the Kurdish issue is merely a first step. What makes that position important is that Turkey is pursuing its interests indifferent to European or American views. Additionally, the reversal of dependency between the United States and Turkey is ultimately more important than whether Turkey goes into Iraq. The U.S. invasion of Iraq kicked off many processes in the world and created many windows of opportunity. Watching Turkey make its moves, we wonder less about the direction it is going than about the limits of its ambition.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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