- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said he has "great concern" that Turkey is trying to blackmail the United States by reversing an agreement to let Turkey be a staging area for ground troops in any Iraq invasion.
The Texas Republican also lamented that the drawn-out diplomatic route through the United Nations has hurt the U.S. ability to topple Saddam Hussein.
"This is one of the results of taking so long to do what we knew last summer we had to do," Mr. DeLay said Wednesday. "I support trying to build an international coalition, but this has dragged on for so long now that you're running into these kinds of situations. And I think that inhibits the president's ability to fight this war."
The Turkish parliament, by three votes Saturday, declined to allow thousands of U.S. troops to station there in preparation for establishing a northern front in the event of war with Iraq.
The vote, which caught the Bush administration off guard, came after the Turkish government negotiated for $6 billion in U.S. aid to support stationing troops, and as much as $20 billion in additional economic aid.
Turkish officials have said in published reports that at least part of the motivation behind the parliamentary defeat was to punish the United States for not offering more money and concessions.
Mr. DeLay said that would be a disturbing development.
"I have no problems paying for what we use, or asking particular governments to do certain infrastructure construction and those kinds of things we need to do to support our armed forces," Mr. DeLay said. "But I do have great concern if their intention is to blackmail us."
But, Mr. DeLay added, "I can't say Turkey is doing that."
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said rejection in the Turkish parliament was a "diplomatic blunder" for the Bush administration because it put "undue pressure" on that country's fragile democracy.
"The idea that we would be in a position where an ally that we had gone to the wall for in terms of getting NATO-guaranteed protection if war broke out in Iraq, and then turn around and say we could not base American forces to jump out of Turkey into Iraq that's a diplomatic nightmare, a diplomatic blunder," Mr. Biden said. "We could have avoided that by being much more clear and done much more planning" for what would befall a post-Saddam Iraq.
Mr. Biden faulted the influence of "hawks" in the Bush administration, whose rhetoric told the world that President Bush never took international diplomacy seriously, but always intended to go to war.
"It has been one series of mistakes after another," Mr. Biden said. "They've been rescued repeatedly by [Secretary of State Colin L.] Powell but almost always put into a position where it's too late."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and member of the House International Relations Committee, said the vote in the Turkish parliament was a "crass" attempt to get more American aid.
"There was a certain crudeness in Turkey maneuvering to try to get more and more out of us in order to allow our troops to use their area," Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said. "It certainly smacked of very crass manipulation."
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen also disagrees that the Bush administration is to blame for the diplomatic breakdown and said U.S. troops should be sent in soon.
"President Bush tried to pave the way through diplomatic channels and it didn't work," Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said. Waiting "is giving the war protesters more energy and at the same time the troops are ready to go. It's not good for the morale of the military to be standing around, and it's costing a lot of money."

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