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June 2000 Prepared for FOREIGN POLICY REVIEW, CALIFORNIA - page 15 / 17





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incompetent in the Chechen war. On Iraq, Turkey seems to have accepted, though grudgingly, that Baghdad will not restore its authority over northern Iraq and that sanctions will not be fully lifted until Iraq complies with all UN resolutions.

The U.S. strongly lobbied for the customs union between Turkey and the EU and for Turkey's inclusion in the list of candidates for membership in the EU. American intelligence services are widely believed to have assisted Turkey in the apprehension of Abdullah Öcalan in Kenya. Turkey continues to allow the "Operation Northern Watch"21, while Washington gives Turkey almost unqualified support in the fight against separatist terrorism. These facts, however, tell only part of the story. Of course, convergence has not been total. But, even where some differences of vision, policy, or emphasis exist - whether on Russia, Nagorno- Karabagh, or Iraq - these differences seem less emotive today than they were five years ago and less threatening to the overall health of Turkish-American relations. Washington's rising appreciation of Turkey's value in the 1990s does not mean that all is, or will be, smooth sailing in bilateral ties.

Although American-Turkish dialogue on energy, trade, and security issues has expanded considerably since the beginning of 1998, the list of achievements leaves much to be desired. The two countries have not seen eye to eye on Cyprus and Aegean issues; and Turkey's human rights record had long been a major concern for Washington. Yet it was usually possible for Turkey and the U.S. to address these problems without much public friction. Something changed in 1996. Washington cautiously watched former Prime Minister Erbakan's overtures to Iran and Libya, but was relieved to see Turkey's foreign policy would not be significantly tilted away from its alliances with NATO, Israel, and the West.

It is not uncommon to hear Turkish diplomats complaining publicly about "the alien factors that harm Turkish-American relations". In the Turkish media, one can often find references to "evil lobbies" in Washington. The target, of course, is the Greek American, the Armenian American, and as a more recent phenomenon, the pro-Kurdish lobbies. There is no doubt that all three are groups taking an adversarial approach to Turkey's past and present policies. They tend to work together in their campaigns against initiatives aimed at improving American- Turkish cooperation. They reflect the strong feelings of ethnic and religious pride and nationalism typical of any diaspora. Occasionally, these lobbies persuade the U.S. Congress to adopt decisions that do not serve Turkey's best interests. Yet these lobbies are essentially what American democracy is about. What Turkey has called "an alien factor," is in fact "an indigenous factor" of American policy-making for Americans.

How Much Do We Know Each Other? Although this is difficult to quantify (and somewhat sensitive to discuss), Turkish-American relations still suffer from the fact that most Americans see Turkey as an unfamiliar terrain, culturally and politically. In part, this situation is a function of the fact that Turkish- Americans are relatively few in number, an estimated 300-400,000. Moreover, those who have been visibly successful are not widely known as Turkish-Americans. Turkey can compensate significantly for this disadvantage in two ways: through stepped-up people-to- people contacts and through reforms that lead to what Americans will more readily recognize as a Western standard of democratic performance. On the first, there have been steady

21 The difficulty in reconciling the respective national interests of Turkey and the US vis à vis Iraq continued as an ever- present source of friction. Although Turkey continues to support “Operation Northern Watch”, and the US has been tolerant of Turkish incursions into northern Iraq, the two allies differ in their regional threat assessments. For the US, Saddam Hussein is the primary threat to stability and peace in the region. For Turkey, the biggest source of instability is a self- governing Kurdish entity in northern Iraq.

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