Wednesday, March 29, 2006

25th annual conference of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) in Washington

The Wayne Madsen Report
March 28, 2006

The split between traditional conservatives and neo-conservatives was extremely apparent at the 25th annual conference of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) in Washington. Originally established as a carbon copy of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), ATC not only emulated AIPAC in its lobbying strength on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch, but strategically allied with it on a number of issues common to both Turkey and Israel. These included support for Operation Desert Storm and military cooperation between Israel and Turkey. However, with the U.S. invasion of Iraq without Turkish support, all that has changed.

Past recipients of ATC awards are a "Who's Who" of the neo-cons, neo-libs, and their supporters of which Washington, DC is teeming with infestation: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Richard Holbrooke, Al Haig, Eric Edelman, Newt Gingrich, William Perry, William Cohen, Tom Lantos, and Marc Grossman. Another award recipient was Princeton Professor Bernard Lewis (who once compared Iraqi con artist Ahmad Chalabi to Kemal Ataturk).

The ties between ATC and the neo-cons are still relatively close, but the neo-con rhetoric is frosty about Turkey's Islamist-oriented government. Yesterday morning, ATC hosted a panel in which several leading neo-cons laid blame for the current state of U.S.-Turkish relations on the Ankara government. Marc Grossman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and the recently-retired Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (who is now a senior Vice President for the Cohen Group of former Defense Secretary William Cohen and whose name has come up as one of the possible sources of Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA identity to Dick Cheney's office), said that chilled U.S. relations with Turkey are based on the Iraq and Iran issues. He said, "Turkey needs to support the creation of an Iraqi government regardless of March 1, 2003 and the steps taken to get rid of the dictator." Agreeing with neo-con policy analyst Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Grossman said it was "too bad Turkey did not participate more robustly with the U.S. in Iraq." Pletka said that the rhetoric from Ankara on Syria and Iran "will set the U.S. at odds with Turkey." Pletka emphasized George W. Bush's "Freedom Agenda" in the Middle East in the wake of "911," an agenda that targets Iran and Syria as much as Iraq.

US-Turkish relations: "Golden Age" of Turkish-Israeli-neocon cooperation is over

Dr. Coner Cagaptay, the Director of the Turkey Program with the Israeli-supported Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), said there is no longer synergy between the U.S. and Turkey because of two major reasons: a shift in Turkish public opinion regarding the United States and a gap in foreign policy relations between the two countries. As is typical with the neo-cons, they do not blame Bush for this turn of events. Cagaptay said the current Turkish government has "done a bad job of explaining U.S. policy and motives" to the Turkish people. He iterated that Turkish foreign policy is "pro-status quo" and the Bush administration is "pro-dynamic change."

The bottom line is that the "Golden Age" of U.S.-Turkish relations are over unless Turkey accommodates the neo-con new world order. However, what the neo-cons fail to understand is that Turkey's decision to avoid the U.S. military misadventure in Iraq was due to the wishes of the democratically-elected Turkish Parliament. In typical neo-con fashion, these dangerous right-wingers only agree with democracy when votes go their way. If not, they demonize the new government (as is seen currently with the Hamas government in Palestine and the government of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in Iran). The Turkish government has been placed in the same category by the neo-cons.

It is one thing to alienate the Turkish civilian political establishment. But it is quite another to create friction with the Turkish military -- the traditional guarantor of Kemal Ataturk's secular constitution and check on Islamist tendencies. However, relations between the Bush administration and the Turkish military establishment have also grown chilly. Murad Dural, the chair of the defense committee of the Turkish-US Business Council (TAIK), criticized the U.S. in the wake of 911 for pursuing isolation in defense matters. He said it created the "impression that the U.S. only looks out for its own." A major bone of contention is the production of some 100 U.S. Joint Strike Fighters for Turkey at a cost of $100 billion, excluding the maintenance contracts. Turkey's defense ministry and General Staff complain this deal, as well as others, treats the Turkish defense infrastructure as a nuisance and not as a full partner. Turkey is looking for equal treatment from the United States. One senior Turkish military officer said if full treatment is not forthcoming, Turkey is prepared to look elsewhere for jet fighters and Russia was not ruled out, especially if it produces fighters, as is planned, that are fully interoperable with NATO standards.

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