02 September, 2007

Turkey and the U.S.

Just some random thoughts on Turkey that I am late in posting.

It was interesting to hear the commentators talk about the Gül Presidency and what
it means for Turkey. I say "was" because Gül and the election quickly dropped off the U.S. news radar. This discussion and analysis on The Newshour last week between Söner Çağaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, and Bülent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, seems to be typical with one side seeing it as the end of Turkey as we know and the other taking a wait-and-see attitude.

I am not Turkish and I am not an expert on Turkish politics, but in the U.S. when you call somebody an "Islamist" you are essentially equating them with Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who are for most Americans are the poster boys for Islamic extremism. So far as I can tell, Gül doesn't seem to belong in that club and doesn't appear to be applying for membership. It strikes me as somewhat amusing, and sad, that I've had people here ask me if I am afraid about going to Turkey "now that the Islamists have taken over the government."

I have read commentators who blame the rising number of Turks with unfavorable views of the U.S. policy on some sort of conservative Islamic resurgence. However, it may be much simpler. Many Turks I talked to wanted to know why the U.S. government and military would not let Turkey deal with PKK camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. They asked why the U.S. was allowed to deal with its terrorists, but Turkey was forced to sit by idly. Some expressed a feeling of being used by the U.S. for very little in return.
The news earlier this month about guns from the U.S. intended for Iraqi forces ending up in Turkey, even being used in criminal activities there according to the Turkish government, will certainly and understandably not help things.


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