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Turkey's Role in Iraqi Regime Change

Author: David L. Phillips, Executive Director, The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
July 23, 2002
Financial Times


From Mr David L. Phillips.

Sir, of all Iraq's neighbours, Turkey would benefit most from a normal regime in Baghdad ("Prophesying war", July 18). To this end, Turkey's participation is essential to removing Saddam Hussein.

But so far Turkey has been reluctant to endorse regime change in Iraq. It would prefer business as usual, regardless of who rules in Baghdad. The situation will change only when Ankara is convinced that the US is serious about the removal of Mr Hussein, at which point Turkey will seek to secure its interests.

Ankara needs cash to see itself through the current political crisis. The US can help by providing economic incentives, such as rescheduling Turkey's Dollars 4bn external debt, approving the proposed Dollars 228m aid package and eliminating tariffs on textiles and other exports. Turkey is desperate to recover up to Dollars 40bn in lost revenues from economic sanctions on Iraq since the Gulf war. The US should develop a commercial agreement expediting cross-border trade and

energy transport, to be implemented as soon as a new government takes power in Iraq.

Ankara is also concerned that the realisation of a federal democratic republic in Iraq would destabilise the region by inspiring unrest among Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin. It insists that Iraq be maintained as a unitary state and that its future constitution adequately preserve central government institutions as a bulwark against separatism.

The principle of state sovereignty, however, is a two-way street. Turkey must avoid using its concern for the human rights of Iraq's Turkoman minority as a pretext for meddling in Iraq's internal affairs.

David L. Phillips, Center for Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, US

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