Thursday, December 02, 2010

Imponderable Turkey heads to Lisbon summit

Friday, November 12, 2010
For over a week, the White House team of policy actors has been in Asia for meetings and visits at a time Washington is going through a post-midterm election rehabilitation session.
One of the results of the historic midterm election earthquake that just happened is to bring President Barack Obama’s policy and legislation making limits under the spotlight, at the same time the administration is stepping back from its solid campaign promise not to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
On the other hand, even though the NATO summit will be held in Lisbon, Washington has been occupying itself with countless discussions and panels to analyze possible scenarios.
In that sense, if nothing else, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, unpredictable foreign affairs posture when it comes to deciding on big issues brought a mixed amount of surprise and unexpectedness to Turkey’s image and also makes the country relevant to many other wider U.S. foreign policy discussions that are not directly linked to the bilateral ties of the U.S.- Turkey.
A considerable amount of this mixed of unexpectedness has been injected into the U.S.-Turkey relations as well, which consequently elevated the relations to a roller coaster ride in 2010.
This week, at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, while assessing the future of the U.S.-Turkey relations, three of the panelists who were arguing different points of views over Turkey, agreed on one point, namely that of the improbable posture of Turkish foreign policy heading to the Lisbon summit.
During the discussion, Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, compared the AKP’s democratization path to a mixed bag, in that on the one hand the AKP administration had enabled Turkey to live through the best democracy ever in its history, but on the other, that authoritarian aspects constantly hang over the country, as evidenced by the administration going after political opponents using the Ergenekon investigations or levying inexplicable tax fines on the outspoken press.
While Cook stated that he found Turkey’s mixed bag is “positive” overall and has a potential for better days as a democratic country ahead, another panelist at the same discussion, Soner Çağaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, repeatedly argued that the new constitution, which the AKP promises to produce, would be a litmus test to prove if indeed AKP is for liberal democracy and the country is indeed going in a positive direction.
Çağaptay, while analyzing the referendum results, pointed that the 42 percent of dissent in the country cannot be digestible or wished away by the other chunk. Therefore, for Çağaptay, the new constitutional discussions could be a launching pad for the new social contract in which all parts of society can be represented.
Michael Werz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank that can be described as the think tank most closely linked to the current White House, painted a very favorable picture of Turkey’s “mixed bag.”
Werz noted the tremendous changes that are occurring in Turkey. Werz concluded that these changes are not about the Islamic revival in the country, but have merely resulted in a large amount of energy being “unleashed” after it gathered within Turkey during the Cold War. Werz insisted that most of today’s power struggle in Ankara was due to newly rising Anatolian entrepreneurs, who now want more say in the ruling class, as well as more foreign markets to expand in the Levant.
While the Lisbon summit looms, this week I also sat down and talked with Daniel Fata, a former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy from 2005 to 2008, who was a key advisor to both secretaries of defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates in that capacity and was responsible for developing and executing earlier version of the NATO missile shield.
Fata argued that a new “strategic concept” that tries to illustrates who the threats that NATO alliance will face over the next decade and is expected for approval by the member states has some uncertainties to handle.  The Afghanistan situation, how to approach Russia and continuing financial crises are some of the monumental issues that Fata argued makes it extremely difficult for the alliance members to concentrate on the strategic concept on top of sharp budgetary constraints.  
Fata, as one of best experts over the old and new missile versions of the NATO shield, defended Turkey when answering a question about Turkey’s dealing with Iran.
“Turkey is approaching Iran and its nukes problems very realistically. They are living in the neighborhood. They avoid saying or doing anything that would make them a target. However, Turkey also does not want Iran to go nuclear. So they are trying to find a constructive role preventing a crisis from happening that would threaten them, concern them. However the Americans did not like some of the new Turkish rhetoric,” Fata said, adding that some of Turkey’s activities over the year seemed to block the P5+1 negotiations getting a better and more effective result.  
Fata, when asked to make a prediction what Turkey would do next week, said that according to his interactions with people who are involved with the discussions or know about them, “things are going in the right direction,” meaning that Turkey is getting ready to be part of the shield. However, Çağaptay, argued at the CAP panel that even though the AKP may approve of the plans, during the system’s implementation phase, the AKP most likely would bring bureaucratic difficulties into play to not deploy the system.
Iran and P5+1 talks
At the State Department this week, P.J. Crowley, assistant secretary and spokesman for the State Department, had to encounter quite a few tough questions about Turkey’s role in upcoming Iran and P5+1 negotiations. Dodging several questions on Iran's offer to resume talks in Turkey, Crowley finally had to leave the door ajar for a potential role for Turkey to play.
“If we are successful in getting a process going, not just one meeting but a series of meetings and a serious engagement on the nuclear issue and other issues, we can envision that there will be many potential locations for this series of meetings,” Crowley said.
So, just a week before the Lisbon NATO summit, a very small light at the end of tunnel has appeared for Turkey to play a hosting role for the P5+1 meetings.
It was also obvious in Washington this week that the U.S. officials do not want to bring Turkey into the talks.
Iran's request to include Turkey into the meetings could be a critical step, yet the beginning of a very slippery road, in which Turkey can be cast as an "enabler" actor for the Iranian nuclear program in the longer term, once more.
Though in the short term, if Turkey hosts even some of the West vs. Iran meetings, that would be a big victory for the Turkish side.  
We will just watch and see in the coming weeks how determined is Washington not to let Turkey grab this role.
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Guest - ilker/cyprus
2010-11-14 18:03:54
 Turkey will use a excuse not to have the missile shield to protect israel.Turkey stands to lose to much.The zero problems policy with its neighbours would be seen as a joke and a threat to Iran,Russia,syria, the neighbours that Turkey wants a free trade zone with and has signed agreements with russia to build nuclear plants and with iran to supply gas and oil useing turkey to supply the eurozone turkey would risk loseing all this trade with its neighbours just to protect israel.I have said all along Turkey will leave nato or be pushed out and it will happen next year after the elections.Turkey should not be taken for granted any longer said president Gul.Turkey is changing weither the west likes it or not its up to the west to keep turkey or not.So far the Germans and french are very hostile to wards turkeys membership they may regret they actions. 
Guest - ilker/cyprus
2010-11-14 17:46:34
 The Turkish president said recently on the bbc. that Turkey is commited to nato and to the eu membership.The german foreign minster guido westerwelle stated recently that turkey will join the "club of democracies" Turkey has been offered a privileged partnership which it dont want.So to all those turkey haters @paul ponem and @ john from london read em and weap. The Turkish president Gul also said turkey even when excepted it might change its mind and not join.You might think turkey would be crazy not to join but Gul could be right and turkey being the hub for europes energy needs could be better off outside the union that way the union will have to pay turkey for the transit of their energy ie gas and oil and useing its airspace and ports etc being a part of the customs agreements with the union means turkey loses out to the union on these transit charges.Maybe thats why Gul has said we might not join after all.Its the european union who will need turkey as a partner. 
Guest - Jon from London
2010-11-14 15:45:06
 The Turkey of Ozal (arguably the most positive "CEO" that the country has had since Ataturk) is unfortunately no longer the Turkey of today. While Turkey was, until the end of the Soviet Union, an asset to Nato, the question really is : is it an asset (a Nato asset) today ... The answer is in the heads of the other nato leaders, and not necessarily is their acts in Lisbon (which is not about the expulsion of Turkey). It does seem unlikely that a country friendly to Iran, and Syria, and hosting Hamas people, and the indicted President of Sudan would TODAY be "chosen" to become a member of Nato. That is the logic I think. I suspect that while the Status Quo is that Turkey is there. when this becomes estranged from the reality .... then after a while reality wins out, whatever the status quo. 
Guest - Paul Ponemi
2010-11-14 01:33:53
 Germany will never allow Turkey to become a full EU member. Mind you, there are countries in the EU now who I would question whether they are fit countries for EU membership. While I do not believe Turkey should be allowed into the EU, I would explore how the EU could improve its relationship with Turkey with a view to binding Turkeys economic interests to those of the EU and finding a way for both Turkey and the EU to mutually profit from a balanced trade relationship. It is certainly not in the interest of the EU to spurn the most secular Muslim state with a population of 70 million plus and turn it into a hotbed of fanatical fundamentalism. After all of this, my point is, Turkey also must say no to NATO shield.. why not? 
Guest - ManInTheMIddle
2010-11-13 23:45:38
 Turkey must be directly involved in the forthcoming talks between Iran and 3 EU + 3 without any hesitation. In fact Turkey deserves to be part of Iran's nuclear negotiations much more than Britain and Germany for the obvious reasons. The Turks "live in the neighborhood" and their input and collaboration with Iran in terms of the latter's economic and security needs and interests are immense. What rights do England and German have to be part of the negotiations? Does anyone know? As babadog has aptly pointed out, Turkey has been a steadfast defender of Western interests throughout the cold war, and now that it is over, Turkey needs to look after its own interests. Plain and simple. On the issue of the so-called missile defense, the 500 ton guerrilla in the room is not Iran, but Russia. Russia considers the "shield" as a threat to its national security and I'm sure Turkish officials are well aware of that. I'm surprise others are not talking about that! 
Guest - babadog
2010-11-13 00:46:53

 Turkiye has raised the bar and its own profile in the area to a considerable extent and so much so that it is beginning to worry the Israelis, the neo-cons in the USA and the right wing openly racist elements inside the EU with whom we are supposed to be an accession candidate. Turkiye is much better able to defend its interests primarily because we have men of calibre and vision like Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ahmet Davutoglu, Bulent Arinc, Babacan.....the list goes on I am prous and pleased to say,at the helm. The missile shield is basically there to protect Israel not Turkiye or any other country for that matter and as such if Turkiye is going to endorse such a system to be located on Turkish soil then it has the right to negotiate terms, and also to ask for revenue and controlling power locally.We have defended Europe from the USSR as a front line nuclear power for decades too cheaply with little or no reward.The price now is much much higher to compensate. 

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