Tuesday 14 January 2003

Tough decisions for bankrupt Turkey

by Eric Margolis

The Bush administration is arm-twisting Turkey's new government to allow the U.S. to deploy up to 80,000 troops in eastern Anatolia, whose mission will be the invasion of northern Iraq.

Turkey's government, led by Justice and Development Party chairman Recep Erdogan and Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, are caught between Iraq and a hard place. Ninety percent of Turkey's 67 million citizens strongly oppose any attack on Iraq.

Erdogan's moderate Islamic party recently won a landslide election victory due to public anger over the devastated economy, corruption and resentment against the heavy-handed role of the intrusive Turkish military, which has long been the real "deep power" behind a thin facade of democratic government, and opposition to war against Iraq. Erdogan, the most popular and promising Turkish leader in decades, has gotten off to a commendable start by trying to settle the thorny Cyprus problem by backing the current, sensible UN peace plan, and normalizing relations with old foe, Greece.

But U.S. pressure on Turkey, NATO's faithful eastern bastion, keeps mounting. Bankrupt Turkey is being offered $18 billion U.S. in new aid, on top of $16 billion given over the past two years, plus $400 million to build new military bases in Turkey, cut-rate aircraft, and new weapons systems. The Bush administration is warning Turkey it will no longer have America's support in its efforts to enter the EU if Ankara does not cooperate. Pentagon No. 2 Paul Wolfowitz and State Department heavyweight Marc Grossman are heading efforts to enlist Turkey in the impending war.

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