Please find below a letter from the American Hellenic Media Project (AHMP) as published by The Washington Times.

(For "fair use" and educational purposes only)



August 10, 1998


Taking Turkey to task for exploiting Western largess

From start to finish, Amos Perlmutter confuses strategic potential with present certainties in his July 27 commentary, "Turkey's Strategic Significance." Using an overly simplistic analysis, Mr. Perlmutter ticks off a litany of areas in which Turkey could be an asset to the West. A more critical examination reveals that, in contrast, Turkey has and always will act in its own interest and that those interests, based on an aggressive, imperialist history and a lack of democratic tradition, are most often at war with the objectives of the Western alliance.

Mr. Perlmutter castigates Washington for "shamelessly compromising" sanctions against Iraq, but conveniently omits the fact (as reported by the New York Times less than a month ago) that Turkey is actively engaged in smuggling millions of tons of petroleum products from Iraq, enriching and empowering Saddam Hussein's clique and allowing a resurgent Iraq to rebuild its armed forces.

Clinton Administration officials conservatively estimate that 50,000 to 60,000 barrels of Iraqi oil are transported through Turkey daily, and the Turks have, characteristically, turned a deaf ear to American protests, citing their losses during the Persian Gulf War -- a conflict to which they contributed not one combat soldier.

Mr. Perlmutter also cites Turkey's government as an example for the newly independent, oil-rich Caspian and Central Asian republics to follow. Turkey' s history of military coups, the summary replacement of democratically elected governments (the latest just last year), a brutal and costly war against its own citizens of Kurdish origin and an abysmal human rights record at or near the bottom of the global list have given those fledgling republics justifiable doubts about the benefits of following Turkey's example.

Rather than serving as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism, Turkey's betrayal of democratic governance has increased religious tension and the polarization of its society. These new republics with ethnic and religious tensions of their own are well aware, even if Mr. Perlmutter is not, that they can scarce afford the radicalization of their populace that Turkish-style "democracy" would create.

According to Mr. Perlmutter, Israel also stands to benefit from an alliance with Turkey. He expects this from a country that refused American overflights of its territory during the Six Day and Yom Kippur wars, allowed unrestricted Soviet shipping resupplying Israel's adversaries during those conflicts and whose prior Islamist government found great public support for closer ties with its brethren in states such as Libya and Iran? Given the inconsistency and shifting definition of self-interest in Turkish foreign policy, the Israelis may find great disappointment in their role as Turkey's ally du jour.

Moreover, Turkey's policies contribute to, rather than reduce, the possibility of conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey's unquestioning support of its puppet government in northern Cyprus contributes to the intransigence of this outlaw regime. In fact, this is the reason cited by special envoy Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton Accords, for the failure of his recent peace mission to the area.

Likewise, Turkey's bellicose attitude toward fellow NATO member Greece, culminating in an armed intrusion on the Greek islet of Imia in 1996 -- which required emergency diplomatic intervention by the United States in order to avert war -- is hardly a source of the stability that is an objective of American policy

Turkey has been a primary beneficiary of Western, particularly American, largesse. During the Cold War it enjoyed the protection of the United States nuclear umbrella and of NATO membership. Turkey received and continues to receive billions in military and economic aid from this country, making it the third largest recipient of American dollars. It has used its geographic position to extract maximum benefit from the West while expending a minimum of its resources on Western policy goals. It has pursued a repressive, undemocratic agenda at home and a reckless, expansionist one abroad.

Clearly, it is Turkey, not the West, which has been the beneficiary of these misshapen policies. With sophomoric analyses like those in Mr. Perlmutter's article, the balance sheet is unlikely to change.

Associate director
American Hellenic Media Project
New York