June 05, 2007

Turkey must build a deterrent image

TDN editorial by Yusuf KANLI

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Are we still discussing the ‘legitimacy’ of a Turkish incursion, or have we started considering how we can build a deterrent image that may prevent the use of force? Remember the example of Syria...


Meeting with the European Union Troika Monday Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül must have had difficult times in explaining why despite the overwhelming parliamentary majority of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) he could not be elected as the eleventh president of the country.

He as well must have had great difficulty in finding a convincing reason why the AKP failed to lift the chains on free speech by amending the controversial Penal Code Article 301, though both he and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had promised their European colleagues that the problem would be solved “soon.” On Cyprus, most probably he defended the argument that although he and Erdoğan engaged in a trade off and pledged to open up Turkish ports and airports to Greek Cypriots in exchange of first getting a date and later starting accession talks due to the failure of the EU to deliver its own pledge of ending Turkish Cypriot international isolation they just could not do it.

Naturally, the EU Troika must be rather unhappy to what they heard from Gül on all those issues and most likely expressed their heartfelt sympathies for his failure to become the president of the secular and democratic Turkish republic. That was the message at least that we received from the joint press conference held at the end of the meeting.

The EU bid of Turkey, unfortunately, is no longer the most prominent issue on Turkey's agenda. What the EU Commission or individual member countries think on any issue is not of great concern for the administrators or ordinary people of this country nowadays. There are of course various factors for that. The most prominent one of those factors is the growing distrust in the country that it will ever become a member of the union for that praises must go to German leader Angela Merkel as well as the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Of course, we have to concede as well that because of the domestic political tumult we have been passing through we have become a very inward-looking society.

Perhaps after the parliamentary elections and if we manage to elect a president sometimes later this year we may achieve normalcy in the country and start concentrating once again on our strategic objectives, like the EU membership of this country.

Turkey's agenda

Though EU is not high on Turkey's agenda, Turkey is indeed high on EU's agenda because of the domestic developments here but more so because of reports that patience of Turks regarding the continued presence of separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members in northern Iraq has started to run thin and that war drums were taken out of depots and swords have been sharpened.

Gül told the joint news conference Monday that he told EU Troika that Ankara has every right to take measures against the PKK presence in northern Iraq and against the terrorist activities directed at Turkey from northern Iraq.

The statement of Gül indicated that the Turkish government is still discussing the “legitimacy” of a possible Turkish intervention – which under U.N. charter will be a legitimate act of self defense – and has not yet either produced the required political will nor has started a comprehensive study on what might be the scope of such a Turkish intervention.

From a military viewpoint Turkey's cross-border operation into northern Iraq on separatist hideouts on Mount Kandil has long been a necessity and such an operation will provide Turkey with some successful results, but a political decision is needed to undertake it.

We have stressed many times in this corner that as a matter of fact, we believe that a unilateral Turkish action in northern Iraq could produce very daring consequences as long as the U.S. presence there continues and the United States opposes such actions by Ankara. However, that being said, Turkey cannot leave its security to the mercy of either the U.S. or some feudal Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq either.

Turkey is a big country and big countries often achieve their strategic objectives without firing a single bullet but by demonstrating its deterrent capabilities. Compared to the “sacking” incident of 2003, the recent statement of the military regarding insolent treatment of some Turkish military elements in northern Iraqi town of Suleymaniyah was an honorable move by a big state.

We should of course try to avoid taking on the U.S. presence in northern Iraq, but has not the time come to let Americans worry whether they should take on the Turkish army – an ally of almost 50 years – just for the sake of some feudal allies in northern Iraq. Why cannot Turkey speak with Washington's language and say “You are either with us, or our enemy.”

This is not just a matter whether we should enter northern Iraq or not... We as well know it well that past almost two dozen cross-border operations could not solve this problem. A new operation may not bring about the result we have been expecting. Yet, the issue goes further than that. Do we have a government which is aware that it is the government of a proud nation and a big country?

Only than, we may have some diplomatic openings towards resolution of this and other problems without feeling the need to resort to use of force. Let us all remember the Syria example and how the separatist chieftain was rooted out from there...

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