Monday, September 13, 2010

More roller-coaster US-Turkey relations on horizon?

There are already less than two months left for the November midterm elections in the United States. The Tea Party, a fiscally and culturally conservative political movement that has been changing the political scenery in this primary season, proved that its messages are as operative as they can be following the Alaskan primaries last week.
The star of the movement, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008 general elections, endorsed an unknown candidate, named Joe Miller, who ended up beating incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski. Palin also is taking a trip to Iowa for a Republican fund-raiser this week, a state that is first to hold a contest in the 2012 presidential campaign.
Glenn Beck, right-wing radio and TV commentator, also attracted hundreds of thousands of people last weekend for his “Restoring Honor” rally, and was joined by Palin in Washington. The excitement that is going on among Republican voters reminds us of Obama rallies just two years ago. Obama, who came to power to change “business as usual” in Washington, is now being accused of being the biggest obstacle on the correct course of the country, by this crowd.
The political analysts and poll numbers show us that the Democrat Party will have to endure serious losses in November. The terrible state of U.S. economy has been hitting the Obama administration the hardest, and brings down his and his party’s approval ratings and morale. While Obama hosted the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington this week for “direct talks,” he did not even get his due credit for the achievement. The American public wants their president to focus on fixing the economy now, and nothing else.
Even closing the chapter on the Operation Iraqi Freedom, a nicer name for a war that caused more than 100,000 Iraqis and 4,000 American troops to die, was not as glorious as one would have expected.
The weakening Obama presidency has already some and is expected to have more upshots regarding its potency to fully control the foreign affairs, including the one with Turkey. One of the negative effects of growing skepticism over Turkey’s posture in the region, was reported first in the Financial Times, which argued that there is a healthy opposition in the U.S. Congress against selling arms to Turkey, a message that was delivered to Turkish PM Erdoğan by Obama.
During my long conversations with the senior staff this week from the Armed Services Committee at the House of Representatives, I was told that the U.S. Navy has a goal of replacing or building 313 ships before the fiscal year of 2018, and currently it is well below these numbers. And that is why the subcommittee chairs have been reluctant to decommission any ships to other foreign countries, including Turkey.
Arms sales decisions to foreign countries of the U.S. administration are to be approved by the House of Representatives’ Foreign Relation Committee, and so far the committee’s officials have been non-responsive to inquiries over the issue. Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Mr. Namık Tan, denied news reports that claimed there was an arms embargo on Turkey or there is a serious crisis between the two countries.
Nevertheless, the opposition comeback in the November elections will leave a feebler executive branch in power and this will not to Turkey’s advantage. We already are witnessing a U.S. administration that is having difficulty countering moves or actions that keep coming from the Congress over Turkey affairs. The biggest burden for the Obama administration of this congressional resistance so far is the block on president’s ambassadorial appointment to Turkey.
Turkish diplomatic sources stated very recently that they collected optimistic impressions during their meetings in Washington over the ambassadorial stalemate, and that they are expecting this veto to be lifted when Congress reconvenes, as opposed to those D.C. insiders who still bet on otherwise.
On the other hand, there has been an apparent rapprochement between the state of Israel and Greece in recent times, the leaders of the countries visited each other’s capitals, and for some experts, the honeymoon between the two was to rock Turkey’s balance in the region. While there is plenty argument over the effectiveness of such an alliance against Turkey, the lobby forces of both countries in the U.S. are forging their relations.
The American Jewish Community, or AJC, sent an eight-member group to both Greece and the Greek Cyprus just last week, and had high-level meetings in both countries. In Greece, the group met with Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos, State Minister to the Prime Minister Charalambos Paboukis; in Greek Cypriot with President Demetris Christofias, Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, and senior Defense Ministry officials in Cypriot.
I talked to David Harris, the executive director of AJC this week and asked him whether AJC’s recent visit to these countries and better relations with the Greek lobbies should mean that the AJC and other Jewish lobbies are converging their strength with Greek forces. The American Hellenic Council ran full-page ads in the New York Times last month and was able to match those of Jewish and Hellenic messages and demands in the same title: “Time for Turkey to ‘Flotilla’ its troops off Cyprus.”
Mr. Harris stated that AJC’s visits to those countries did not happen for the first time, and denied such claims that they are ganging up against Turkish interests in Washington, and added that currently the AJC does not take a position on a possible Cyprus reunification resolution if it were to come to a committee vote.
Leading co-sponsor House members of the previous Cyprus reunification resolutions from 2007 have avoided giving updates on the matter so far, considering the House is still in recess. According to Ali Cinar, vice president of Assembly of the Turkish-American Association for Northeastern region, there is a very little chance for such resolutions to come to the relative committees for a vote before the November elections. Cinar believes that congressional members will be too busy on their campaign trails to talk about the local economic issues and how to create more jobs rather than spending time to collect more signatures for matters that sound like international affairs.
Taniel Koushakjian, director of the grassroots for the Armenian Assembly of America, argued the opposite. “I beg to differ on the subject and would argue that for the same exact reasons, members of Congress will be more open to pass such resolutions, such as the Armenian "genocide" resolution, to satisfy particular constituencies that in return would vote for them as a whole block,” he said. And this is why his organization will continue to push hard for the resolution.
The hot summer of Washington was unusually busy for Turkey watchers for a number of reasons. Now that Turkey, a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, took over the council’s presidency Wednesday and will head high-level U.N. meetings during its one-month term, and the international diplomacy season opens up its curtains, along with the U.S. Congress coming back from its recess, the U.S.-Turkey relations might continue to look like a roller-coaster experience for all of us.
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Guest - Daniel
2010-09-06 00:03:31
 Turkey has sided with Iran´s dictatorial regime, with Hammas and Hezboola terrorists, with Syran´s despotic and war mongering regime, and with the Sudanesee regime despite the true Genocide being committed in Darfour. I would say it is high time to remove Turkey from Nato, and all associations with decent democracies. Some people would say that it is juts Erdogan and his government but it seems to me that any country that would elect such government, clearly indicate that it is not a reliable partner of the western democracies and the civilized world. Turkey certainly has the right to choose its path, but others would be fools not to take notice. 
Guest - Mark
2010-09-05 23:23:24
 It is a shame that Israel and AIPAC are in control of the American government. The entire world condemned Israel for the Flotilla raid with in international waters. There are over 40 UN resolutions against Israel and the US has used its VETO on 90% of those resolutions. It is the United States and Israel who is alienated not Turkey. Even the UK PM criticised Israel’s raid on the flotilla. The world is changing, there is a new world order occurring, and Turkey is a part of this new order. 
Guest - Omar
2010-09-05 00:51:51
 As I think that Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Mr. Namık Tan is not up to the task at this troubled time! He has never met with any member of APIAC and infuriated American Jews telling them that Hamas must take the final solution on Israel! 
Guest - Gary
2010-09-05 00:39:05
 On the “bright” side, the current Turkish government improved its friendship with HAMAS, much to the displeasure of the Palestinian Authority and most of the Arab countries. Would it win the government more sympathies among the Turkish voters? Unlikely, but the elections will tell. I also think that the Flotilla affair was a large miscalculation. By the time the Turkish-Israeli relations improve, the Greeks, Armenians, Kurds and Cypriots will be able to score massive political gains they couldn't dream of a few month ago. Turkey had and still has lots of friends in Washington, including AJC, but their hands are tight for obvious reasons until at least the next Turkish elections. 
Guest - kologlu
2010-09-05 00:33:04
 I fully agree this article is very good and informative! I am not sure who is to be blamed for 'flotillia incident" but I think that Mr.Erdogan`s violent and anti- Israel rithoric and actions scared up all Jews around the world! His speeches reminded them the worst times of Nazi-German terror against Jews! And Jews will never forget and forgive Mr.Erdogan! Mr.Obama was 100% right when he said to Erdogan to stop making inflammatory speeches! But unfortunately it was too late! The huge damage for Turkey has done! 
Guest - B. Baronian
2010-09-04 21:18:39
 What Turkey does not understand is that Turkey is not a player on the World Stage and probably will never be....! That's a simple fact of politics. So all these songs and dnaces Turkish politicians are performing are basically totally useless for Turkey...Sooner or later Turkey will be dropped from the list ....and no one will pay attention to Turkey and its new allies. 
Guest - selmo
2010-09-04 15:47:41
 Good article ! Very explanatory, concentrating up most on facts on the ground, leaving for the reader to decide about the effectiveness of the Turkey Foreigner Policy My conclusion ? Erdoğan miscalculated his steps 

Spirit of diplomacy prevails in Washington

Friday, August 27, 2010
The Turkish diplomatic delegation’s “routine” meetings with U.S. officials were concluded Tuesday evening. Within only two days, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and his team of high-level diplomats had more than a dozen meetings in which they were able to sit and talk with officials from the U.S. Treasury, Department of Defense, State Department, the White House and various groups of influential Washington players.
Turkish diplomatic sources familiar with the meetings appeared to be satisfied with the course of the meetings. The officials were aware of the “negative” climate especially in the U.S. Congress against Turkey, mainly because of Turkey’s Iran and Israel policies, in which the president’s nominee for ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, is currently blocked.
The same diplomatic sources also explained Turkey’s assumed role over the Iranian conundrum and stated that Turkey sees itself as a facilitator between the U.S. and Iran. “Turkey is not taking sides and not defending anyone,” the diplomatic official said. Instead, “Turkey tries to bring the sides together” and “facilitate or help to facilitate the nuclear negotiations between parties,” and Turkey will not be an active negotiating player as part of the Vienna group or P5+1, the same sources added.
A delegation from the U.S. Treasury Department visited Ankara last week “to ask Turkey not to trade with Iran,” the officials confirmed, and to better organize with Ankara the sanctions regime against Iran. However, Turkey made its stance clear to the U.S. delegation in Ankara and during the meetings in Washington that it does not see itself as bound by the additional sanctions packages that have passed in the U.S. Congress or in others.
The diplomatic sources also confirmed that the perception that Turkey is drifting away from the West seems to be the biggest worry about Turkey in the U.S. Congress, which is currently in its August recess.
When I contacted the U.S. State Department and wanted to hear their description and observations of the meetings, a U.S. State Department official also gave an upbeat description and wrote to me that “positive and constructive meetings” were held with the Turkish counterparts in which “a wide range of issues of mutual interest were discussed.” The official closed by stating: “Turkey is a strategic partner and ally of the United States. We cooperate closely on a wide range of issues including regional stability, Afghanistan, Iraq, energy security, economic growth and combating terrorism.” The engines of the relationship from both countries, the diplomatic actors, therefore, concluded that they had beneficial and useful encounters.
Sinirlioğlu’s meeting with various Jewish groups in Washington also went well, according to sources who participated in the meeting, which according to one participant ended with “smiles and good wishes.”
According to Turkish diplomatic sources familiar with the content of this meeting, the Turkish side conveyed the message to these organizations that Turkey still sees Israel as “a friend,” and the current issues between the countries as “disagreements between friends.” “Nobody tried to convert one another, even if there were disagreements during the meeting” said one witness. The Turkish delegation also wanted meeting attendees to know Turkey still believes that the current problems with Israel arise because of the current Israeli government’s policies.
Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander PR Group and a businessman in New York who deals with the effects and results of the strained relations between the two countries in various capacities, stated the opposite: “The source of the tension in the U.S. Congress toward Turkey is because of the Justice and Development Party [AKP’s] policies” argued Friedlander. He predicted that the Turkey-Israel relationship will continue to deteriorate and the anti-Turkey climate in Congress will strengthen, “as long as the AKP pursues its current hostility against Israel.”
One of the leaders of the growing Turkish-American community contacted me following my column last week and stated that they have had an extremely difficult time engaging with the Congressional members and their staff for some time, primarily regarding Turkey’s dealings with Iran and Israel. The leader, who quite often visits and meets with Congressional representatives, stated that some of the members of Congress’ Turkey Caucus might leave the group in the near future. “We are tired of facing the same questions over Turkey’s axis,” said the official. “[It’s] not only Armenian genocide resolutions, but there is an increased lobbying effort in the House for new resolutions that call on Turkish soldiers in northern Cyprus to leave the island.”
Mr. Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish Coalition of America, or TCA, wrote in response to the question of whether their organization is having the same difficulties while dealing with Congress. "TCA is working every day with the Turkish-American community to ensure that members of Congress and their staff understand the importance of the U.S.-Turkey relationship in the context of its more than 60-year duration as well as our nations' bilateral cooperation on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and many other troubled spots in the world.” McCurdy said, “TCA has led five U.S. government delegations to Turkey so far in 2010 to help correct inaccuracies and misunderstandings regarding the U.S.-Turkey relationship.” McCurdy concluded by saying, “TCA is mindful of recent challenges, but is confident that all parties will work together in the spirit of peace and mutual cooperation."
I had a chance to interview George Friedman, CEO and founder of Stratfor, a global strategic company, following a conference on Afghanistan in Washington, D.C., and asked whether Turkey’s seemingly siding with Iran would hurt its standing and balancing act in the region. Friedman plainly said he does not believe that Turkey is siding with Iran, but “wants to be a mediator between the U.S. and Iran, just like it tried between Syria and Israel in the recent past.” Friedman said one cannot mediate “if one is not willing to sit down closer to, at least to one side.”
Stratfor recently published a study paper on Turkey, titled “Turkey’s Power Struggle,” in which the Gülen movement’s activities are examined intensively, from its recruiting practices to how to maintain lifelong ties with its followers in different Turkish institutions and its own fight for “jockeying for power in Turkey.”
Friedman further argued that he believes Turkey will reach its synthesis at the end of this power struggle and a new social contract will be written in which the Islamists and seculars compromise. “Because,” Friedman reasoned, “as an outsider, I don’t see stark differences between them. Especially in foreign affairs, they sound very similar.” And both will understand that neither can be eliminated in Turkey.
The spirit of diplomacy thrived in Washington this week at a rather difficult time, forging the relationship without resorting to arguments and conflicts through mostly staying on matters of bilateral interests to both parties. 
If a new contract were to be written in Turkey, as Friedman foresees, at the end of today’s internal fight, this spirit is needed the most.
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Guest - Uri D.
2010-08-30 07:07:39
 Nobody is fooled in the US, AKP is acting against the US and in favor of Iran; this is a major Turkish mistake, clearly seen by the west. 
Guest - musa
2010-08-30 06:18:22
 Perseus, you sound like a giddy school girl who just got tickets to go see the latest boy band. Don't get overly excited. 
Guest - kologlu
2010-08-29 20:56:24
 This visit is a small step in a right direction, but one thing is clear enough that the Turkish way to the heart of Congress leads through Jerusalem! The next step would be reinstate our embassador in Israel and get rid of our Turkish ambassador in the USA Mr.Tan who compromised himself in the eyes of Jewish lobby refusing to meet it and calling for final solution with Hamas! After that, the Congress might send the American ambassador to Turkey! And if Turkish side conveyed the message to Jewish organizations that Turkey still sees Israel as “a friend then Turkey must settle, the flotillia incident, in a friendly way with Israel as the friends do, not to handle it on International arena! 
Guest - Perseus
2010-08-28 06:44:18
 If you think all is forgiven in Washington DC because Turkey sent their Foreign Ministry Undersecretary over to bow and scrape before the US Congress you could not be more wrong. The anger at Turkey is deep and profound. AKP party has turned a lot of former supporters into opponents. Turkey's actions and, what's more, it's words will take a long time to forget. Erdogan and Davutoglu have irritated the wrong folks in Washington DC. 

De-facto sign of current US-Turkey relations

It is the first time in the history of the U.S.-Turkey diplomatic relationship that a U.S. Senator blocked the president of the United States’ ambassadorial nomination to Ankara.
 It was the first time in the U.S. Congress’ history when the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs conducted a special hearing on Turkey to discuss whether Turkey’s axis is indeed shifting and the country has been dramatically changing, just a couple of weeks ago.
 It was a rare occurrence last week, certainly for the first time in quite some time, that the U.S. Department of State held a publicly announced high-level policy discussion on Turkey which was chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the participation of senior State officials. For vivid observers, the summit was to signal to Congress that the State Department is not standing by idly about what is going on in and with Turkey.
 Well-placed sources in Washington tell us that the U.S. State Department has been seriously disappointed by the Turkish administration’s conduct of business for sometime. One senior State Department official made the news again last week when the “ultimatum” story appeared in the Financial Times, a story that revealed some of the points of disagreement in a meeting held by President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan on the sides of the G20 meeting a couple of months ago in Canada. The White House actually denied the headline of the story, said there was “no ultimatum” and stayed mostly quiet about the context of it.
The bilateral meeting in Canada was described as one of the best yet between the two leaders in the following days by Turkish senior administration officials in off-the-record talks and it was reflected accordingly in the Turkish press at the time.
The State Department and the White House both were not happy with these “almost perfect” depictions of the meeting by the Turkish side which I noted in this column at the time. The U.S. foreign affairs team wanted from the beginning for the Turkish public and press to be aware of the “differences and disagreements” between the two countries and state in the background that the Turkish side was not doing a great job while reflecting the true state of affairs between the countries.
Still, there is also a synchronizing problem between the White House and the State Department over handling Turkey affairs. On the one hand, the White House is extremely vigilant in not publicly criticizing Turkey; on the other the Foggy Bottom pushes a more sturdy approach. The atmosphere at the State Department has not been friendly to Turkey, a source who has meetings with the State Department officials said this week, while it was described as “always helpful” other times.
 Sen. Sam Brownback sent his letter to the secretary of state on Monday morning, in which he laid out why he disfavors the new nominee to Turkey post, Francis Ricciardone.
 Brownback’s letter talked heavily about Ricciardone’s past service, especially when he was the ambassador in Egypt between 2005 and 2008, and accused him being too friendly with Egyptian government officials and having a distant relationship with the opposition groups. The letter also puts forward some other sticking points about his past service in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Ricciardone’s inoperative relations with opposition groups in Iraq before the war. So, the senator concludes, in a critical year like 2011, when there is general election in Turkey and the secular forces have a chance to make a comeback, Ricciardone is not the right person, despite his “extensive diplomatic experience.”
 Sen. Brownback’s letter also briefly touches on the shift of axis discussion and writes, “I am also concerned that we have not fully considered the ramifications of a Turkish tilt toward Iran and away from Israel, and I will give those issues some attention before the Senate reconvenes in September.”
 One former high-level State Department official who has vast knowledge about the issues that are touched on in the letter described these allegations as “serious” and “wide-ranging, implicating the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration's commitment to democracy promotion, the responsibility of professional diplomats who carry out directives from more senior political appointees and the future of U.S.-Turkey relations. The Senator shares a frustration with many of us over the meager return on investment of the Bush Administration's democracy promotion agenda.” The letter makes it clear that the Senator, and those other Senators who think alike, have some strong reservations against Ricciardone, not just any.
The insiders in the Beltway however, following the release and seriousness of the letter, painted even a darker picture about the prospective of the confirmation. One well placed source, who knows a lot about what is going with the Senate Republicans said, “There is very stiff GOP opposition to Ricciardone and there is ‘nothing specific’ that the administration can do to resolve things...i.e. there is nothing they can do.”
Another source, who is also closely watching the unfolding confirmation saga, commented that Brownback’s ties with New York’s hawkish Republicans and the strong Jewish lobbies likely played an important role in the blocking decision. “This is a payback time,” an observer annotated the situation. “The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has continuously hurt Israel’s standing in the region, and the opposition in the Senate could be well determined to go on with this fight for quite some time.”
I asked PJ Crowley, assistant secretary of state and spokesman of the State Department, on Thursday about the nomination impasse. Mr. Crowley acknowledged that there is not only one senator who has issues with the Ricciardone nomination, but “there might be others who have raised questions as well.” Crowley also stated that, he doesn’t know whether the secretary called the senator’s office over the issue and described the current relationship between the U.S. and Turkey as “friends,” “NATO allies” and “a country like with many other countries around the world, the U.S. government has agreements and disagreements with.” A very cold and spiritless characterization when one considers Erdoğan’s calling the same relationship “at its historical pinnacle point” just a couple of days ago.
 The Turkish Foreign Ministry delegation headed by Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu is visiting Washington this week, for the second time in a row without receiving the U.S. counter-party delegation in Ankara. Sinirlioğlu is sure to deal with many of the disagreements between the countries during his high-level meetings. However, contrary to some of the news reports, Mr. Sinirlioğlu’s visit cannot effectively “advocate” for Ricciardone at a time when the main reservation against Ricciardone is his possible “too” good and close relations with the current Turkish administration, which Mr. Sinirlioğlu represents.
The diplomatic intricacies of international affairs are not always easy to read, especially if one party of any bilateral relationship tries hard to limn the relationship in various colors than what it really is. The U.S. is now de facto lacking an ambassador in Ankara. And this is a crystal clear sign of the state of affairs between the U.S. and Turkey, whichever way one wants to look at or depict it.
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Guest - Barney Yaeger
2010-08-23 01:34:12
 As a casual observer to events in the midle east and Turkey in particular, I've been puzzled by the kid glove treatment Erdogan and has "moderate" islamic party has received in the past .... not the toughening we see now. It looks to me like the U.S. State Dept has finally caught on to the danger of allowing the myth of moderation obscure the real signs that Erdogan was engineering a "velvet coup" and attempting to return Turkey to the good old Ottoman Khalifate days. 
Guest - Tolga Akcakir
2010-08-22 20:45:18
 The US refuses to extradite PKK terrorists to Turkey, and allows them to exist in northern Iraq. The US is obligated to erradicate all terrorist groups from Iraq under internatonal anti-terror aggreements, yet it allows PKK to flourish in Iraq. The US also allows anti-Turkish hate groups like ASALA, ANCA, and various other Armenian, Greek, and Greek Cypriot groups to exist in the US and spread hatred and propaganda against Turkey. The US Congress allows these groups to pass racist and one-sided resolutions insulting Turkish people and culture. The US should close all of these terror groups down, and not allow its Congress to be hijaked by anti-Turkish hate groups, but it doesn't. These do not seem like the actions of a friend or ally to me. 
Guest - tuerki
2010-08-22 03:15:58
 great observations.. very few talk about this dark picture of DC.. 
Guest - Jamshed kharian-pak
2010-08-22 01:44:00
 Each Usa président swears onthe Bible! When it comes thé Muslim countries they préfers secular! what a cercus-play! Country like a TURKEY understans your machinations! Nochance sionists-juifs LOBY they kidnapped USA-american peoples freedom but TURKS are notsleeping means nomore! Citizens of USA they begins to understands who is killing theirs chiliderns 
Guest - Victor
2010-08-21 21:37:54
 It is a shame that every country in the world MUST watch out for USA, and literally be a slave to it IF it wishes to survive politically and/or economically! Turkey is NO exception. The US government has one objective, and it is to protect "the ONLY true democracy in the Middle East, namely Israel, REGARDLESS of the circumstances!" Some of these senators yell and scream about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkey, but when they are asked by reporters of TV shows to point at one of these countries on the map, they can't even do so! Just the other day, after spinning a moderate size globe for about ten seconds, a democratic senator said; "Well, I cannot locate Afghanistan on the globe because I do not have my reading glasses with me!" The reporter offered the senator his own glasses, but he refused the offer saying; "Well, see, my prescription is very special, your glasses won't do!" The reporter had no choice but to let him of the hook! Many of these illiterate guys just go with the flow! 
Guest - Cautious
2010-08-21 19:59:53
 Not rocket science. Politicians take every opportunity to make things difficult for their opposition. In this case the American public currently isn't happy with Turkey's support of Iran and probably thinks the approach to flotilla debacle could have been better handled. The Republican's will try and make this a big deal but the American public doesn't really care who the Ambassador is so it's a non issue. 
Guest - Jerome
2010-08-21 07:57:16

 This is the first time that Turkey is even mentioned in the news with anything as crutial as friendship. As a regular American, I have always considered Turkey as a democracy and friend of the US. However, lately the news has been about Turkey's hatred for Greece, Armenia and Israel. It also conveys their friendship with world terrorists groups such as IHH, Hamas, Hesbolla and those countries supporting them such as Iran. Turkey does not look so good to us regular Joes in the US. You are becoming religious finatics...something very sensative in the us for not only Muslims, but Christians and Jews alike. I hate to see you go that way.