- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Turkey’s often virulent anti-American media campaign appears to be ebbing somewhat, but diplomats say considerable damage has been done to the relationship between the two allies.

Signals from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are regarded as confusing — one day minimizing the differences with Washington, and another day warning about their impact.

“The United States wants Turkey to cooperate with it unconditionally. Should such a cooperation be rejected, then [Washington] is threatening to isolate Turkey, and going even further, to turn it into a target country. … The situation is every bit this serious,” commented Istanbul’s left-leaning Cumhuriyet daily.

At the same time, “Metal Storm,” the best-selling novel describing an imaginary U.S. invasion of Turkey, already has been printed in a third edition. Much to the concern of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the book is particularly appreciated in Turkish military and government circles.

According to a recent opinion poll, 82 percent of Turks consider U.S. policies under the Bush administration to be negative.

“The peace and freedom loving country of the Cold War period has now become the enemy of peace and freedom,” wrote columnist Ahmet Cakar in Istanbul Ortadogu, a newspaper supporting the right-wing Nationalist Action Party. “The United States, which dreams of dominating the entire world, is especially attacking Muslim countries and shedding Muslim blood in streams.”

The main points of friction between Ankara and Washington are the Turkish perception of U.S. support for the Kurdish rebels, the fear of American backing of a separate Kurdish state in Iraq and Turkish criticism of the situation in Iraq.

Ankara also resents the lack of U.S. restraints on the Kurdish leadership in the oil-producing areas of northern Iraq. According to the prevailing Turkish view, any form of Kurdish independence in the region would inflame nationalism among Turkey’s own Kurdish minority.

The United States is still smarting from Turkey’s refusal to allow the use of its territory as a staging area for a northern front in the Iraq invasion in March 2003.

But amid propaganda broadsides, diplomats noted an unusually sober appeal to “respect mutual sensitivities” in the English-language Ankara Turkish Daily News.

The relationship between the two countries “rests on mutual respect and national interests,” the newspaper said. “The two countries should take cognizance of their common interests and United Nations resolutions. Both countries should be more calm and more collected in relating incidents and events that occur in wartime.”

The appeal was echoed by the mass-circulation Istanbul Milliyet, which reminded its readers that “the United States is not Turkey’s enemy. On the contrary, it is a friendly country, it is our ally.”

“There is no doubt that the United States is also making mistakes that should be criticized. And it is being criticized,” the newspaper added.

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