- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 8, 2011


Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan said Thursday that his country is pressing the United States for more aid in its fight against separatist Kurdish rebels, who operate along Turkey’s mountainous border with northern Iraq.

“They know what we want, and we expect them to deliver,” he told reporters at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

The United States already has supplied Turkey with four Predator drones to track rebels who cross the border to mount attacks and then retreat into base camps in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

The ambassador declined to provide more details about the Turkish request for U.S. aid.

Mr. Tan also said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is counting on promises from Vice President Joseph R. Biden . He told the Turkish leader on a weekend visit that the United States will leave Iraq secure, after American combat troops withdraw by the end of the month.

“We think we should trust him,” Mr. Tan said of the vice president.

The ambassador also defended Turkey’s level of sanctions against Iran and called on the Islamic republic to stop trying to build a nuclear weapon.

“We want a good, neighborly relationship with Iran. That is all we want,” he said. “There is no place for nuclear weapons. Turkey cannot tolerate Iran with nuclear weapons.”

The United States has urged Turkey to impose stricter sanctions on Iran, but Mr. Tan said his country has leveled all economic measures approved by the United Nations.

He said his government has even blocked other countries from trying to break the sanctions by shipping parts for nuclear weapons through Turkey.

“Some other countries have tried to transport certain goods. We have stopped them,” he said, refusing to identify the nations.

Mr. Tan said Turkey’s relations with the United States are so good that he referred to the bilateral ties as a “Turkish-American Spring.”

Turkey, as a key U.S. ally and longtime NATO member, plays a key role in the Middle East as an Islamic democracy.

“There is no other country on earth like Turkey,” he said. “We are an asset for our Western allies, particularly the U.S.”


A top adviser to the Israeli prime minister marveled at the changes in the Middle East since he was last in Washington.

“Nobody could have predicted the Arab Spring, the meltdown of the euro or the change in America’s position in the world,” Zalman Shoval told old colleagues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s easier to predict the past than the future.”

Mr. Shoval served two tours as Israel’s ambassador to the United States and now is advising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He said his country’s government is worried about the upheaval in Arab countries - especially in Egypt, where deposed President Hosni Mubarak maintained peace with the Jewish state.

Islamist parties won the most seats in parliamentary elections in Egypt last week.

“The Arab Spring [is] much more an Islamist winter,” Mr. Shoval said, adding that the region increasingly has turned “topsy-turvy.”

He noted that Syria is the “indispensable link to Iran and Hezbollah” militants in Lebanon and that Syrian President Bashar Assad is “most likely” to fall in a civil war that has claimed 4,000 lives since protests began in January.

Mr. Shoval said the United States must stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. “Anything less will be seen as abject failure and a signal to some Arab allies that they cannot rely on [the United States].”

Mr. Shoval also dismissed critics who call on Israel to make more concessions to the Palestinians, blaming the Arabs for refusing to return to peace talks. He also said the region would remain in turmoil even if Israel did not exist.

“If Israel … were to disappear,” he said, “the Middle East would not be Scandinavia.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washington times.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.