WILLIAM DROZDIAK: Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to what I think will be a fascinating discussion on the fast-changing nation of Turkey and the implications for the rest of the world.
We're delighted to have two prominent experts to steer our discussion. Henri Barkey is a visiting scholar in the Carnegie Middle East program and a professor at Lehigh University. He has served as a member of the State Department's Policy Planning staff, working on issues in the Middle East.
And we also have with us today Hugh Pope, a distinguished journalist for many years in the region, based in Istanbul, who is now the Turkey-Cyprus project director for the International Crisis Group and is here on a book tour promoting his latest work, entitled "Dining with al-Qaeda."
I'm Bill Drozdiak, president of the American Council on Germany, and I used to work with the Washington Post and used to cover this part of the world, so I've retained a strong interest in this field.
Just the usual ritual: Please turn off your cell phones, Blackberries, et cetera so that it doesn't interfere with our sound system. And this discussion will be on the record. I'll try to lead a conversation among the three of us for about 25 minutes and then I'll turn to the audience for questions before we end this program sharply at 9:00.
Well, let me start with a general question, staring with Henri, and then I'll turn to Hugh. The key question of our time, I think, is where is Turkey going? We've seen evidence of a turning away from the West in the disaffection with the negotiations with the European Union, some evident signs of anti-Americanism caused by the invasion of Iraq and of course the recent flap with Israel. Are we seeing a more neo-Ottoman foreign policy where Turkey now is seeking to become -- turn its attention elsewhere and is no longer tied so much to the West?
HENRI BARKEY: Thank you for inviting me. The simple answer is Turkey is not moving away from the West, but it is a more complicated and more nuanced issue in that this government -- and I want to make a distinction between this government and previous ones, and maybe the establishment in Turkey, and that is that it's a very, very ambitious government that wants to make Turkey what they call, in their lingo, a central power, which I really believe means a global power.
They think that Turkey, in the past, has punched in well below its weight, which I think is true, and now they are trying to do exactly the opposite. So you see a very aggressive foreign policy. Turkey is trying to move not just into the Middle East but also elsewhere in the world.
There is not -- when you talk to Turkish officials now, especially the prime minister and the foreign minister, there is not a problem in the world that the Turks cannot handle for us -- North Korea -- (inaudible) -- you name it; Georgia, Sudan. Very soon they will fix some problem in South America that we haven't heard about.
But the truth is that this is a government that has a very big vision for itself, and it is partially driven by religion and culture and partially by, I would say -- to a great extent I would say even ego. I mean, they think they can do things that we cannot do. They think that because of their history, the Ottoman Empire, because of the cultural relationship with the rest of the world, that they have a window to the rest of the world.
This said, it doesn't mean that they're moving away from the West. Europe is still the most important economic relationship. Turkish goods mostly go to -- 50 percent of Turkish exports to go Europe. NATO -- what makes the Turkish -- this government's actually ability to play a bigger role in the world is precisely its presence in NATO and its membership or candidate status with the European Union.
Those two are two fundamental building blocks of their foreign policy. Without that, they would not have the clout that they have now. But I would also argue that at least as far as the Middle East is concerned -- and I'll end on this -- is that they, I think, see themselves as the new power in the Middle East, that they will essentially make the order, or design the new Middle Eastern order, whatever the new Middle Eastern order emerges.
And we can talk about this later, but when you look at what they have been doing in the Middle East, it's very much influenced by their belief that they are the most important country in the region, the most powerful country in the region, the one country that has relationships with everybody, and the one country that now people listen to.
DROZDIAK: Hugh, do you see their ambition to be the leader of the Muslim world, and will they be able to achieve that ambition, given the traditional enmity that they've had with Arabs?
HUGH POPE: I think that Prime Minister Erdogan sees himself as a national champion, first of all, and I do think, though, that AK Party does have the ambition that you're talking about where sometimes one goes in to see a minister and he says, Erdogan was actually speaking for the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, which is a talking point obviously that's frequently used by the Islamic Republic of Iran and sometimes other figures in the Muslim world.
And I think that tends to undermine the ability to actually be that, because if there is one thing which turns Arab governments off and other Islamic governments off, it's someone trying to be their political leader.
However, I do think there is a wish in the Arab world and the wider Muslim world, for someone who can speak up for their concerns -- their search for dignity, a wish for someone to say something about what's going on in Israel, Palestine. And I think in that sense they can be a spokesman up to a point for those concerns of that constituency. At the end of the day, what is the Islamic world? It's very difficult to define.
And I would just say one more thing about what Henri was saying about the ambition of Turkey. I absolutely agree that they do have an ambition, but let's not just link it to AK Party.
What's been going on with Turkey's regional policy was started basically after the end of the Cold War, was reinforced by the governments that followed -- for instance, Ismail Cem, foreign minister between 1997 and 2002 -- articulated and even wrote down almost all of the policies that are now being followed by AKP -- to do the engagement for the Muslim world, deal with problems of foreign policy, and he even went on joint missions for Palestine with the Greek foreign minister to symbolize what they could do if they normalize relationships with neighbors.
So, the AK Party has picked that up and run with it, and I think there's a lot that is positive about what they're doing. The West has manifestly failed to make sense or stability in the Middle East.
What Turkey is doing now is very interesting in the details. It has defined visa and travel agreements with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Libya in the last year. Iranians have been able to visit for years without an agreement.
This means that Turkey is a regional point of attraction. There are one-and-half million Iranians visiting Turkey every year. The question -- perhaps we'll discuss Iran later, but the question of who is influencing who is very interesting when you see that every 10 years however many -- 15, 20 million Iranians will have visited Turkey and seen what a fairly successful, progressive democratic secular government can do in a country that's very like that.
Another thing they've done is the free trade area. Most of these are bilateral agreements at this point, but free trade is something which they are expanding now to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan. All will be in one trading area. This is explicitly linked to the early experience of the EU by AK Party leaders, and I think that in that sense Turkey is showing a really interesting example, and it's reinforced by joint cabinet members, with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and I think they're doing it with Jordan and they're negotiating with Libya.
These are all things which show a potential for progress in the Middle East because, after all, the main problem with the absence of democracy and so forth in the Middle East is the lack of stability and prosperity, and I think Turkey's initiatives address both of those things. And whether it can be called Islamist or neo-Ottoman, I think you have to put it in context, because the main beneficiaries of the normalization of Turkey's region since the Cold War are Russia and Greece.
I mean, trade with the Middle East is always only being less than a quarter of Turkey's exports, and that was -- 10 years ago it was only 10 percent; 20 years ago it was about 22 percent; now it's about 19 percent. But I think it's important to keep in proportion where Turkey is going. If you look at any airline map you'll see that there's thick black lines connecting Istanbul with almost everywhere in Europe, and the lines to the Middle East are one a day, two a day, maybe three. The most frequent flight in Turkey to the Middle East are the four flights a day between Tel Aviv. There's only two to Damascus.
Henri, let's turn to Iran. It was mentioned that Turkey has had strong ties commercially and even political dialogue with Iran, and recently Prime Minister Erdogan, I think when he met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called him "my good friend," which has stirred some consternation in the West.
Is Turkey playing a useful role in serving as the conduit for dialogue with Iran? Is it driven by, again, its desire to be a global influential power filling the void, where the West has not had much influence, or is there something more Islamist that is being driven and the suspicions that many people have that Erdogan and his party want to take Turkey toward a much stronger Islamist line and change the nature of that society now that the military establishment has been so weakened?
BARKEY: There is a way in which -- I mean, we cast Turkey's role in the Middle East in the sense that let's, for argument's sake, say that they want to be the premier Sunni power in the Middle East, which means that they have to have good relations with the Iranians as well. That doesn't mean they have to be necessarily cordial, but if they want to influence the Iranians, they want to have a certain relationship.
The problem is that they have gone essentially -- and this is the one place where the U.S. and Turkey are having a very serious difference because they've gone somewhat too far in terms of saying, oh, we trust the Iranians to have a peaceful nuclear program. This stuff about the West is talking about that they may be weaponizing is nonsense because the Iranians have told us that the program is peaceful. So they have essentially given -- or helped the Iranians publicly and given the Iranians some breathing room when it comes to negotiations with the Europeans.
Now, the other problem for us here is that we hear essentially two very different messages from the Turks. One is what I just said, the public view that Iran is okay, and in fact the problem is Israel and not Iran. But behind the scenes, what they tell us at the foreign ministry level -- and even it turns out this week, this past weekend, by the Turkish president to a visiting delegation of Americans that included Mort Abramowitz, that if Iran is going for nuclear weapons, then we need to stop them right.
And we, the Turks -- they say to us -- we're doing our utmost to convince the Iranians not to go nuclear. So it's very hard to essentially pinpoint the Turks on this issue because they are essentially telling us two very diametrically opposing things. The problem is going to come if the sanctions resolutions comes at the U.N. Security Council.
The Turks have a seat at the U.N. Security Council. They're not going to vote in favor of sanctions. If we're lucky, they will abstain. And if they don't, then we'll have a very, very serious crisis, but I don't think they will vote against sanctions.
But the problem here is that every time you talk to Erdogan or Davutoglu, the foreign minister, about the Iranian nuclear program, the response is almost as if you pressed a button: The problem is not Iran; the problem is Israel. Israel has weapons; Iran doesn't have weapons.
Of course, the issue is different, as we know. There is the question of the NPT. One country is a member of the NPT; the other one is not. But what makes people worry about that approach is that you never hear Erdogan talk about Pakistan, which is actually a neighbor of Iran and has nuclear weapons and has actually a defined nuclear program and has tested nuclear bombs. You will never -- when you push them, they will never, essentially, talk about Pakistan, and the refrain is always the same.
So that's what creates essentially the problem with Erdogan and Davutoglu, the minister; what is it they're trying to do?
And, look, underneath all this, yes, there is an element, if you want, of cultural bias on the part of the Turks, this government, that they feel much more comfortable with Islamic countries than they feel with others. And to some extent that's perfectly normal. I mean, we shouldn't be surprised by that. But it is also guiding the -- at least at the superficial level, their impulses and their policies.
DROZDIAK: Hugh, do you have some thoughts that you want to add to that on Iran?
POPE: If you go into the bowels of the Foreign Ministry in Ankara, they have a sophisticated joining of these two irreconcilable positions that Henri has skillfully laid out, and that is they say, look, we know that Iran wants nuclear weapons, but we also know that the whole of Iran wants them. It's not just Ahmadinejad and the gang. Most Iranians think it's a great idea.
DROZDIAK: They've been pursuing it since the days of the shah.
POPE: Exactly. And the question then arises, how are you going to stop them? And as far as the Turks can work out, the United States has no way of stopping them. An Israeli raid might delay the program by a couple of years maybe, and probably more likely it will unite the Iranians behind the wish to get it even faster to stop any further Israeli intervention.
And the Turkish argument is, okay, let's integrate Iran into our world. Let's try and persuade them that they don't need nuclear weapons. And let's -- I've told you about the Iranian tourists but they're also trade. Turkey is trying to bind Iran into the system.
Now, I say it's a sophisticated argument because it's a bit unrealistic because Iran is an extremely difficult country to do business with in the best of times, and Turkey itself has seen two major contractors ripped out of its hands by the Revolutionary Guards in 2004 with not even really an apology -- the cell phone contracts and the Imam Khomeini Operations contract.
And these two countries have always been regional rivals. Iran has voiced a mild interest in joining Turkey's regional EU-style project as long as it can be an equal partner. But I think that since the world actually is powerless to stop Iran, I would say it is worth listening to the Turks on their ideas for trying to actually bring the Iranians on board as a society and try and bypass the regime that way since actually trying to hit the regime on the head hasn't hardly worked for the last 30 years, has it? And so I have some sympathy for their point of view.
BARKEY: Look, I don't disagree about in terms of bringing the Iranians on board -- the Iranian society on board. The problem that the Turks have created a little bit for us is that look at the reaction following the June 12 elections in Iran. The Turks have gone out of their way to praise the democratic elections in Iran.
I mean, they have essentially ignored the green movement. They've ignored all the changes that are going on. They have essentially backed the regime against the people. I think ultimately they're going to pay. If there is a regime change in Iran through peaceful means, I think the Turks may pay a price for it ultimately -- I should say the Turkish government will pay a price.
They have not -- there are a lot of society-to-society exchanges and the government has facilitated that, but at the government level they have been very vociferous through Ahmadinejad and Khomeini, and that is, to some extent, the problem for the United States as well.
DROZDIAK: Let's discuss something even perhaps even more controversial, at least from the Turkish standpoint, and that is the relationship with the Kurds in Iraq and where that -- where the connection to Baghdad is going.
If the United States starts pulling its troops out of Baghdad, given the likelihood that that will happen over the course of the next year or two, what role can Turkey plan in terms of helping to stabilize the situation in Iraq?
POPE: I think that Turkey has already made a great reconciliation with the United States over Iraq. If you remember, Turkey disagreed intensely with the plan to invade Iraq in the first place. Wolfowitz came to try to dissuade them otherwise but he was not listening to the Turks, and on the first of March 2003, the Turks refused to cooperate through the parliamentary vote to allow the United States to go into Iraq through the North, through Turkey.
This set up the stage for four years of very bitter relations between the United States and Turkey, ending up at one point with I think 9 percent support for the United States in Turkey, largely because Turkey -- the United States was perceived as supporting the creation of an independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. The U.S. consistently underestimated Turkey's sensitivity on this issue.
Finally, the Bush administration got the message in 2007 and switched the policy around to cooperation with Turkey, persuading the Iraqi Kurds to collaborate with Turkey too. That has had an extremely positive dynamic in Iraq.
Turkey has always encouraged its businessmen to go and invest, to do business in Northern Iraq. Some products are 80 percent Turkish in cities in Northern Iraq. Turkey supplies electricity. Turkey acts as a conduit for oil, if the Iraqis can agree amongst themselves on how to export it, also on whether to export it as it comes through Turkey.
And now, this month -- these days a Turkish consul general has been appointed to Arbil. This is a remarkable breakthrough, and Turkey has also succeeded in having good relations with almost all the Iraqi factions and has gone out of its way, especially to try and make sure that the Sunnis integrate with the political system.
I think there is an argument saying that Turkey is one of the United States' most important friends among the neighbors of Iraq, and in this sense here again we get to Iran. I mean, Turkey's aim is also to make sure that Iran doesn't try and -- (inaudible) -- in Iraq, and in that sense, in political terms, Turkey is once again on the U.S. side of the argument.
DROZDIAK: Henri, do you think the better relationship with the Iraqi Kurds has taken the steam out of Kurdish secessionist movement in Turkey?
BARKEY: Well, yes. There is no question that the Turks have made a 180-degree turn when it comes to Northern Iraq. I mean, for the longest time they actively opposed our policy in Iraq. They worked very hard to undermine the Kurdish region in the north.
And it isn't just because that the Bush administration changed its policy on Northern Iraq. I mean, I think the change was not as significant as -- I think as you put it, that I think it's a realization in Turkey that their own Kurdish problem is so serious that it cannot be solved militarily.
Finally, there is a consensus even within the military -- the current chief of staff -- or Turkish military chief of staff has said it now in many different venues privately, but publicly he has hinted that they cannot solve the domestic Kurdish problem militarily, that they need to look for another solution.
And the other solution runs through Northern Iraq because, historically speaking, the better Ankara relations have been with Northern Iraq, the quieter Turkish Kurds have been. There is a very strong linkage between Turkish Kurds and Iraqi Kurds.
So, does this mean that the secessionist movement in Turkey is over? I think it has been -- it has been over for a long time. I don't think that the bulk of the Turkish Kurds ever wanted to secede. What they wanted was some very basic, fundamental rights, from the use of language to recognition of their identity.
I'll just give you a couple of examples. I mean, with all that's going on that the government has tried to do recently in terms of a domestic Kurdish opening, which is stuck at the moment -- simple things. Somebody, the other day, spent six months in jail for propaganda because at the demonstration he whistled. A young woman was convicted the other day for a year-plus in jail because she sang a song in Kurdish at the rally.
So, the truth is that the domestic repression against Kurds, despite the government's opening this year or start of last year towards the Kurds, is continuing. But what has taken the edge off it is precisely the fact that Turkey's relations with Northern Iraq have gone better.
And Iraqi Kurds, for many, many years, have wanted to develop that relationship because the Iraqi Kurds also understand that in the environment they live in, that their best ally is still Turkey, even though the Turks repress Turkish Kurds, because through Turkey they can go to Europe, through Turkey they can reach the United States, through Turkey. I mean, the market and the future essentially for them is the West.
Who else do they have around them? The rest of Iraq, Iran and Syria, right? Well, remember, they are completely land-locked. If they have gas and oil to export, they're going to export through Turkey.
So there are many, many ways the Turks offer them a way out. The Turks also offer them essentially a sense of protection against the rest of the Iraq. So that relationship is something that Iraqi Kurdish leaders wanted. Very often they mismanage that relationship. I'm not saying that they were angels in this. But the Turks finally understood that that relationship is important, and by opening, as you said, a consulate in Arbil that basically is saying, for the first time, yes, we recognize that there is a Kurdish entity in Northern Iraq and it is different than the rest of Iraq.
And this, in a way, it's a revolution. I mean, remember, in 1980 if you were in Turkey and you said Kurds, they would have said, Kurds, what Kurds? They didn't exist. They didn't exist in Turkey, didn't exist in Iraq, didn't exist in Syria or Iran.
So it's actually a rather dramatic change, right, and the credit goes essentially mostly to this government but I also think that the military is finally starting to see the light.
DROZDIAK: Before turning to the audience for questions, I just -- Hugh, since you have been working so much on the Cyprus question, given that changing the nature of the foreign policy of the Erdogan government and the recent crisis in Greece, the desperation of Papandreou's government to solve its economic problems, is there any hope that these changes could galvanize this frustrating conflict in Cyprus and finally resolve it once and for all?
POPE: I think, having written three reports on Cyprus in the last two years, it did feel a bit like hitting my head against a brick wall. And I have to say that you're right. In the last three weeks, four weeks, a few extraordinary things have happened on Cyprus, which have made my antennae quiver, and hope that finally the two sides -- the two principal sides of the Greek Cypriots and the Turks at the end of the day have realized that they are getting very close to hitting the wall because the talks -- while the two leaders on Cyprus have quite a good understanding, we're not progressing because neither was moving off first base in terms of real negotiating. Understanding is one thing and agreeing to it is another.
And today actually they are about to set out how much. They have agreed, and I understand that the document is going to be substantial, but I would just draw your attention to some things that have happened.
The Greek Cypriot archbishop has visited the north -- the occupied north of the island, having written a letter to Erdogan for the first time since 1974. And he didn't make a fuss about it; in fact, he talked in rather complimentary terms of Erdogan.
The Greek Cypriot government has said that it will consider a multinational forum in which the Turkish Cypriots are there too. This is brand new. And I was invited to a meeting where I saw Erdogan tell Greek Cypriots -- three journalists and three -- one ex-official, one former central bank governor and one academic -- listen, we are serious. We want to do a deal. We will withdraw our troops if there is a deal. Please believe us; we do not -- our plan A is not to make an independent republic of -- independent Turkish republic of North Cyprus.
The Greeks Cypriots who were there melted. It was extraordinary to see the impact of what direct contact -- first direct contact between a Turkish prime minister and Greek Cypriots of any stature in 40 years. And, given the fact that everyone is trying to bring these two sides together so that they can discuss the key things that the Greek Cypriots and the Turks worry about, which are things about guaranteeing the future of Cypress and so forth, the Treaty of Guarantee -- I won't go into that.
We're very close to a deadline and there's an election on April the 18th for the Turkish Cypriot leader. He may lose. If he loses, it's going to be very difficult to restart the negotiations.
And I should have prefaced this all, but Turkey's EU process is stuck on Cypress. There is no way they can carry on with opening chapters and negotiating unless they solve it. If he gets reelected, we will have a few more months anyway, but the key thing is if Turkey and the Greek Cypriots can break through at some level to start really talking about the issues they care about, then I think there is a real chance we can see something very new on the Cyprus question.
DROZDIAK: Okay, fine. Well, let's open it up to questions from the audience. Please identify yourself and direct you question to one of our two speakers. Yes, over here?
QUESTIONER: Yeah, Maurice Sonnenberg. You haven't touched upon the internal struggles within Turkey. My Turkish friends, who tend to be somewhat concerned -- very concerned, some of them -- about the religious aspects of what's going on in Turkey, and the pressure that's being put on that part of the community, could you discuss this a little more, please?
DROZDIAK: Henri, do you want to start?
BARKEY: Turkey is going through a major transformation and it's a very complex one. This political party, AKP, is really the product of economic reforms that happened in the 1980s where, for the first time, you had a new bourgeoisie emerge in Anatolia that is conservative, that is pious, but it is also very market-oriented. And as a result, they carried this body to power.
So it does have, shall we say, a pious conservative bent to it, but at the same time, you also have to realize that for the longest time, since the inception of the republic, that the Turkish regime or the Turkish state has been a very ideological state. There are very few societies like Turkey, or old Turkey if you want. It's not Korea, Cuba, China and Iran, which are so ideological.
And you had a very stultifying, very static-oriented system in Turkey where the judiciary and the military essentially ran everything. This is crumbling now, but it's also crumbling because -- not just because of AKP coming to power; it is also crumbling because the military has made mistake after mistake after mistake. I mean, there is a reason why military officers should never become politicians and they should never run countries. I mean, you really see it in Turkey. And so, they have essentially made the problem for themselves bigger.
This said, as much as this government in Turkey, or this political party, it's not a classical liberal party in the sense that we understand liberal parties. That is to say, it is market-oriented. It is ferociously market-oriented. Part of its foreign policies have been by opening markets. But in terms of cultural mores and domestic, shall we say, party democracy, it's not a liberal party.
But this is true to some extent of all Turkish parties. All Turkish parties are run by one person, and it happens to be usually a man -- by one man, who decides everything. So, in that sense, it has been insensitive to some of the concerns of the secularists, especially women, that this is not the same thing as some people in Turkey say -- oh, my gosh, Sharia is coming through the back door; they're going to impose the veil; they're going to do this; they're going to -- Turkey is a far more dynamic, far more -- it's a country of 70 million. I mean, it's one-fourth of the United States in terms of population.
Think about it. There's all kinds of people in that country. So you have the whackos and the religious fundamentals and such, but this party reflects an authoritarian reality that has finally come to the surface. There's going to be a clash; there is no question, but it's going to take some time for it to settle down.
DROZDIAK: Hugh, you've lived there on the ground. What are your thoughts on the internal situation?
BARKEY: I think that your friends are very sensitive because of the personal impact of this transformation. I mean, people are getting jobs now who never used to get jobs. You know, a woman in a head scarf was fine to be a cleaning lady, but a woman in a head scarf actually doing something of import is something they could not cope -- it is also a kind of class issue.
There is also this very strong sense in the government of opening up markets, and it's all about these people by and by, the AKP, saying, right, well, it's our turn. Now our people are going to get the jobs, the contracts and so forth.
And for many decades, a different group of people have been the main beneficiaries of a very state-dominated structure. Now you have a very different group of people beginning to make money, and you can even see it in the Istanbul Airport -- what do you call -- the VIP lounge. There's completely different faces in there now.
And that's what the sensitivity is coming from is a new group of people who were invisible to most people in the cities -- the urban bourgeoisie of the '40s, '50s and so forth. There's a very new group of people who are saying, hey, we're here now.
DROZDIAK: Yes, Frank?
QUESTIONER: Frank -- (off mike) -- Patton-Boggs (ph). You've talked about a number of dimensions of Turkish international policy but one in particular we, I think, still need to cover, and that's relations with the United States. They've suffered. We're at an all-time low. How do you put them back on track? What are the guideposts of an improved relationship with Turkey?
DROZDIAK: All right, Henri, do you want to start?
BARKEY: I could --
(Cross talk, laughter.)
BARKEY: I'm kidding. Look, I actually think the Turkish-American relationship is not as bad as people claim it to be. We happen to have a crisis now of the Armenian genocide resolution that was passed in the House International Relations Committee and the Turks have now pulled back their ambassador.
There is a little bit of -- the Turks are upset because they think the Obama administration has not pushed very hard on Congress. The truth is this administration decided -- came in with almost -- on the Turkish front, with one major agenda issue, and that was to open up the border with Armenia and have an Armenian-Turkish -- (inaudible).
In part, it has to do with the fact that the president, the secretary of State, speaker of the House, the vice president, everybody, believe in the genocide resolution. So, for them, if they could get some movement on Turkey-Armenia, then all these other problems, and some of their domestic problems, will also be resolved.
And the Turks, initially, to avoid the president using the "G" word, the "genocide" word last April, agreed to signing these protocol, and then they had cold feet and they started backtracking. They tried to put in preconditions on the ratification of the protocols, and that has, to some extent, angered the administration.
But if you take this Armenian issue aside for a moment, and -- (inaudible) -- but there is also Iran -- but, look, on Iraq, as we've mentioned earlier, I mean, the Turkish change on the Iraqi policy is so significant -- I mean, the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would be much, much, much, much harder if the Turks were still -- had taken a -- shall we say a belligerent attitude towards Northern Iraq. We would have had very serious problems and maybe thought about maybe even leaving troops behind, which would have created all kinds of problems.
On the EU, the U.S. has been very supportive. On a whole range of issues the Turks and Americans worked very well together. But, you know, this Armenia thing is casting a long shadow and we also, in the period -- this is March 30th and April 24th is coming; this is the day that the Armenians commemorate the genocide -- it's always been a very tense period.
DROZDIAK: Could you add to that, but also address maybe the defense establishment? The Pentagon has long had very close relations with the Turkish military, and now that we see the military establishment diminishing in influence, has that been affected?
POPE: Yes, it certainly has. I'll just add something to what Henri was saying, that it sounds strange to people that the Armenian issue can be so important, but when you ask the American ambassador in Ankara what are his problems with Turkey, it's basically number one, Armenia; number two, Armenia; number three, Armenia.
And if you go to a dinner party at the British ambassador's house, the Turkish president's main foreign policy man and the American ambassador were literally jumping out of their chairs, running out of the room and coming back to dinner. It is such a third-rail issue. It touches everything in the relationship.
So everyone should remember how important that is because what's strange about the Turkey-U.S. relationship is that it's a very much state-to-state relationship. It's not a big trading relationship; it's not a big people-to-people relationship. And the two states generally want -- the government, they generally want to get on quite well with each other.
The EU relationship is an enormous people-to-people relationship where you have problems at the government level, so you have that difference. And a big part of the state-to-state relationship in the past was the military. I mean, in the 1960s, the main source of traffic in the streets of Ankara were American military buses, and that has gradually diluted of course after the end of the Cold War significantly. How many bases were there in Turkey? There were 30 American bases at one point?
It was a very significant thing. It was guarding one-third of the -- (inaudible) -- with the Warsaw Pact. So that whole military aspect has very much diminished from the past, but did attitudes change? It's a bit like the Israelis also had a very strong relationship with the Turkish military, for ideological reasons, and because they believed that, like most of the Arab states, that the military could deliver the Turkish government.
But that's not the case anymore, and when, in March, the Turkish parliament voted against letting American troops through Turkey to Iraq, that was a huge shock to the Pentagon. And apparently -- I've been inside the Pentagon, but apparently American generals took it very personally. They thought they had been betrayed.
So, instead of helping Turkey whenever they could, they started undermining Turkey whenever they could, and that became -- and who knows what whispers they may have given to the Turkish generals who are currently on charges of fostering coups? These are people that I know to have been extremely close to the American Pentagon.
I mean, what was going on there? Will we ever know? Will the court clear this up? But one thing is for sure is that if the United States is counting on the military delivering Turkey for them anymore, it's gone. The Turkish military is back in the (barn ?) and I can't see them coming out in the medium term.
The only time they will do is if we go back to the chaotic system of the 1990s where no government seemed to have more than 10 percent popular support. At that point, the Turkish army becomes the representative of the silent majority in Turkey and then perhaps a relationship with them will be important. But I just don't see that in the near future.
BARKEY: There's one thing I wanted to agree quite strongly with Hugh. The relationship between the United States and Turkey essentially changed radically with the advent of the AK Party -- with the AK Party coming to power.
The notion that we still have a good relationship with the military I think is wrong, in part because one of the unknown parts of the story is that -- Hugh was relating -- when the Turkish parliament voted against allying American troops from crossing the border from Turkey into Iraq, the main opposition actually came from the military.
On the Wednesday before the vote was going to be taking place, the commander of the land forces gave an interview -- his name wasn't used but everybody knew who he was -- was that we don't want the American troops to cross through Turkey.
And when you look at the relationship between the Turkish military and -- the Turkish military has become actually quite anti-American, in part because of what Hugh was saying earlier, the belief that the United States went to war in Iraq to create a Kurdish state.
Again, one of the four senior commanders of the Turkish military during that period, after he retired, gave an interview. He said, well, you know, the United States decided back in 1998 -- this is the Clinton administration -- when they invited Talibani and Barzani, the two Kurdish leaders, to Washington to negotiate a peace deal to invade Iraq. So, before 9/11, before George Bush, we had already decided. I think the relationship between the military and -- the mil-to-mil relationship is not what we think it is.
And there's another thing that Hugh hinted at, which was actually very important. Hugh was talking about the prime minister talking to a Greek Cypriot journalist, et cetera, et cetera -- we will withdraw the troops from Northern Cyprus. The Turkish military would never go along with something like this.
MR. : In 2004 they agreed to the Turkish position on the Alantan (ph), which would have been an eventual --
POPE: But -- because of the -- partly because the change in the relationship between the military and the -- okay, the balance in Turkey has changed in ways for the military.
So there is no reason for us to essentially support the military against a government that actually has done very well in Cyprus, has done well on Iraq, has done -- so there are other issues we don't agree with.
DROZDIAK: Okay, more questions. Yes, way in the back there.
QUESTIONER: (Inaudible.) I would like you to elaborate a little bit more on the Armenian genocide issue because even if this year that, you know, goes away, it will eventually come back next year, the following year. What do you think Turkey's approach should be, and how do you think the United States can help and handle this complicated issue?
DROZDIAK: Okay, Hugh, do you want to --
POPE: Turkey should implement the protocol, the protocol it negotiated with the Republic of Armenia -- an excellent, balanced document. They make the genocide issue go into a place that's going to be a bilateral government-to-government with a group of experts called the "historical sub-commission" will discuss the issue and will allow the two narratives to at least get closer to each other, at least show some movement.
And Turkey has already moved a long way from the denial of 10 years ago when it was completely taboo, so now it's an openly discussed issue in Turkey, and that's the dynamic that has to be supported.
And, similarly, in return, as it were, the constructive ambiguity of the protocols was that Turkey would not insist on withdrawals from Nagorno-Karabakh before they're actually normalized with Armenia. That way, the whole genocide debate can be moved into a much more civilized place. In my case, civilized is that when Congress puts out these actually slightly inaccurate legislative declarations about history, if it just handles -- it hands the whole issue back into the nationalists.
The Dashnaks and the nationalists in Turkey are delighted, and the constructive, sensible people who managed to negotiate those two protocols -- the Armenian and Turkish government officials who did a great job in winning each other's confidence to do that, and all the people -- all the middle ground that was behind them is damaged.
So I think that the United States should do what it can to help the protocol. It already did a lot last year and I think that Hillary Clinton's intervention, along with the Russians and the French, to get the protocol signed, was for me one of the key moments of the year last year. And it's not lost. They can be -- they can go back there, but especially the AK Party leaders of Turkey have to get realistic about what they can do.
They can't force Armenia to withdraw from places in Nagorno-Karabakh just because they want to, just because Azerbaijan wants them to. It's a very complicated situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
BARKEY: I was just -- I mean, I agree, but unfortunately, Turkey is now in full election cycle. There is going to be an election in Turkey in about 14 months from now, and I find it very difficult that anything will move during this period because AK Party wants to build up its, shall we say, defenses against nationalists where it thinks it's going to lose votes to.
So I don't think much is going to happen in that sense, and it's unfortunate. But the protocols are the way to go about it. It is possible that we might see the Armenians pull out of the protocols but maybe a year from now we'll be able to come back to it again after the elections.
DROZDIAK: Okay. Yes, you had a question, in front here?
QUESTIONER: Ralph Buultjens, New York University. Would you address the current status of Turkish-Israeli relations and the prospects for the future?
DROZDIAK: Yeah, Hugh, go ahead and start on that.
POPE: Everyone talks about Turkish-Israeli relations. It's like it's a strategic alliance that has been rock solid usually and now is in danger. That's not the case. Turkish relations with Israel have always fluctuated greatly. And the key dynamic in what makes them fluctuate is how Israel is treating the Palestinians.
When Israel treats the Palestinians badly or unjustly or, at least in Turkish perception, unfairly, then relations go down very badly after the 1967 war, after the 1980 declaration of Jerusalem as the capital, after the 2004 incident in Gaza, and especially after a thousand Palestinians were killed in Gaza in January of last year. That is what pushes Turkish-Israeli relations downhill.
There was a golden period in the 1990s where everyone was very hopeful. And why was that? Because the Oslo Process made everyone think that Israel wanted to come to a deal with the Palestinians. And in 1992, Turkey, for the first time, appointed an ambassador to Israel, and the Turkish army went a bit ahead of the government in 1996 and thereafter, signing military cooperation agreements, which Israel was very happy about.
But when did that all end? When Sharon took his walk around the Dome of the Rock, that's when it all went down. And since then it has not recovered. You know, I don't think it's lost. I think that the bureaucrats looking after the relationship are keeping it going, and everyone knows -- even the AK Party are keeping their contacts open with Israel. There has been no -- there was no withdrawal of the ambassador during the latest spat.
You know, if it should happen that Obama can push the Arab-Israeli process into a better-seeming place, I think we'll see that Arab-Israeli relationships go up again. Now, to me that's been what makes the relationship go up and down.
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
POPE: Yes. They cancelled one aerial exercise but then afterwards they did a naval exercise together. They just delivered six of those Heron drones, and the delays were not because of any political aspect; it was because Turkey wanted to do some of the manufacturing of the cameras itself and they were too heavy and the thing had to be redesigned. They just delivered the rest of the M-60 tanks, which they have been refurbished -- though not very many new agreements on the military stuff, but that's because the general relationship has gone flat. Turkey can weapons from elsewhere now.
DROZDIAK: Okay, we just have a few minutes -- a few more questions. Ambassador Murphy?
QUESTIONER: What could cost the AK Party the election next time? Could it lose?
BARKEY: I don't think it can -- it depends on what you mean by losing. I mean, it will still be the number-one party in Turkey, in part because there is no position in Turkey. The two opposition parties, one is an extreme nationalist party that has only one issue, and essentially it's anti-Armenian, anti-Kurdish, and it seems when those fronts go badly, from the nationalist perspective their votes go up.
But the tragedy of Turkey is that the Social Democratic Party, which is supposed to be the opposition, is -- I don't know what to call it. It's not a political party; it's a one-man show where the guy gets up in the morning and decides what he wants to say. And basically if this is white, he'll say it's black because the government said it's white.
They have no party. They have no agenda. They have -- you know, on the issues like the European Union, on the relations with the United States, domestic economic issues, they have made absolutely -- they have said nothing; there's no program.
So, when the voters go to the polls next time and they look at their choices, if these are their choices they will still vote for the AKP. And there is a small chance that the AKP may not get a majority of the seats in parliament, but I actually don't think that's possible. They're there to stay until a real opposition party emerges with a real agenda.
DROZDIAK: Hugh, is there any hope for a secular opposition developing into --
POPE: The problem is that the opposition -- you're absolutely right, Henri -- the leader, and all political party leaders, do not want democracy in their parties, and the impact of that is that no one wants to get involved in politics who is young and dynamic.
Erdogan wins with the AK Party since he controls an extraordinarily vote-getting machine in all the cities, starting in Istanbul, which is the biggest city, obviously. And the social democrats have shown no interest whatsoever in developing their own door-to-door vote sort of setting network, and that's because young people are told by their parents, don't get into politics; it's dirty. And it is a kind of business decision to get into politics.
And also, if you show any initiative, you are likely to be crushed by these powerful leaders. And so, until they've changed the party law to make it a more European party law -- and that means changing the competition and changing the election law -- that would open up politics to the same changes that we've seen in other areas of Turkish society -- democratizing changes in Turkish society where participation is very strong in business, participation in the new generation of associations in Turkey -- a very vibrant scene in all kinds of areas in Istanbul.
But that has not happened in politics because the legal framework still supports these kind of party dictatorships where what I bet actually effectively happens in a Turkish election is you elect a dictator for five years, if you're lucky to get one who gets a majority in parliament.
DROZDIAK: Okay, yes, in the back there.
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.) I'm a student at Bard College. Turkey has been compared recently to China, India and Brazil, these rising powers. How accurate do you think that this comparison is? And do you think that Turkey can actually follow in these countries' footsteps and maybe become as important to the United States as those countries are?
DROZDIAK: Henri, that sort of takes it back to --
BARKEY: I think -- Turkey is not part of the BRIC, so it's not Israel, it's not Russia, it's not India or China. It is a rising power, there is no question about it, and the Turks today have the 17th-largest economy in the world, which may enable them now to be part of the G-20. And if the trends goes on, very soon Turkey will be the 10th-largest economy in the world -- not going to happen.
But there is a way in which, because the Turks are taking a greater role in international affairs, they now have more of a voice on issues from climate change to global warming and all these related issues. But it's a long way from becoming India or China, so we should not exaggerate that influence.
POPE: Yeah, I would just add that I think that Turkey would be best advised to join Europe, because I don't believe the Turkish leaders currently actually, at the end of the day, would sign a treaty. They want the process but the end is still an open question: Would we join?
I mean, Europe, if it wants to become a rival of China, Russia, India and Brazil, that's the bloc that Turkey needs to be part of, and that's the bloc that Turkey had been integrating with rather slowly for the past 60 years. That's where Turkey's real interest lies, and that's what will make it a powerful voice in its region as well, because that is the example that the rest of the region wants to follow.
DROZDIAK: Okay, briefly, one last question here.
QUESTIONER: I'm John --
DROZDIAK: Would you take the microphone and introduce yourself?
QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm John Brademas. I served for 22 years in Congress. My father was born in Greece. I'm the first Greek-American elected to Congress. I'm sitting here looking at a portrait of a Greek-American -- (off mike).
When the Turks invaded Cyprus, I led the fight over in Congress to impose an arms embargo on Turkey because --
DROZDIAK: We need just a brief question because we only have a minute left.
QUESTIONER: Against that background, can you tell me how you see the situation in Cyprus, say 10 years from now?
DROZDIAK: Okay, thank you.
POPE: If they do a deal, it's now shown that with seven years there will be 10 percentage points added to the Cyprus economy just by doing the deal and just by imitating what happened between Greece and Turkey after normalization between the two countries -- a huge boom in trade, in tourists going both ways, big Greek banks buying Turkish banks, all the fruits of normalization. That's the plus side.
If they don't do it, everyone loses. I cannot see anyone trying to do a fifth round of U.N. talks and bi-communal, bi-zonal solutions. If these two leaders, who get on very well, can't do it, no one is going to try and do it anymore, and that means Turkey loses, loses the E.U. perspective. That goes into the deep freeze. Greece loses because Turkey will become more prickly in the Aegean, and we all know what that means.
It means that Greece will have to spend more money sending up F-16s to challenge Turkish planes, such that the Turkish Cypriots will probably be scattered to the four winds. They're already only half of the population of the north of the island -- about 150 (thousand) of the 300,000 people there.
And they already have their European parcels. They'll leave you -- the Greeks Cypriots will be left with an almost fully Turkish north of the island -- it's already practically Turkish -- and the Greek Cypriots will lose terribly because it's already seeing the Greek -- young Greek Cypriots of any talent are already leaving the Greek Cypriot side because it's a little ghetto; it's a gated community at the far eastern end of Europe. It's not connected to anything.
The Turkish economy is half of the whole MENA Region. That's where the future is. That's where Cypriot growth can come from. That's where some sense of belonging to the region can come from for the Greek Cypriots.
They will have Turkish troops in the center of their capital indefinitely. They will never get back to -- (inaudible) -- that resort. They would get 8 percent of Cyprus back if they sign a deal but they won't get it back without the deal. Their ideas of getting compensation for their houses will also be left to some very vague institution in the north of the island. So, if there is a moment to do the Cyprus deal, it's now.
DROZDIAK: Henri, any final thoughts?
BARKEY: No, I agree with Hugh. I mean, this problem has been going on for too long. I don't think it captures people's imagination anymore, and the status quo will be frozen if there is no deal.
DROZDIAK: Well, thank you for leading a fascinating discussion. We're grateful for your presence here today. Please join me in -- thank you. (Applause.)
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