- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2006

ANKARA, Turkey.

Turkey faces an exceptional dilemma: retaining its cultural heritage while maintaining the character of its majority-Muslim population and making sure that its secular principles and foundation remain aligned with the goals of a modernized Western future.

The Turkish public distrusts all traditionally accepted Western alliances, from the U.S. and NATO to the U.N. and the EU. Turks looked to the U.N. for approval of the Iraq war, yet still feel the organization is ineffective and rarely solves conflicts. Turkish officials say they will abide by any U.N. Security Council decision on Iran, if and when one passes. Turks, however, wonder whether the U.N. will help Turkey when its economy is threatened by possible radical Islamist attacks. Cyprus is a good example.

Greek Cypriots rejected the U.N.’s 2004 plan to end the separation of the island. Turkish Cypriots accepted it, and neither the U.N. nor the EU seems to care. They seem to not care whether they promised to lift economic sanctions, which would boost Turkish Cypriot economy and eventually eliminate one of the main reasons the Greek Cypriots did not accept the unification plan. The image of Turks as barbarians is so pervasive and so harmful that EU member countries forget that north Cyprus is a working democracy.

Germans were similarly concerned about the economic gap between East Germany and West Germany when the Berlin wall came down, with the added complication of Communism. The difference was in how Germany approached it — determined to close the gap rather than making it an obstacle.

Yet Oli Rehn, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, recently warned Ankara that talks could come to a crashing halt if Turkey fails to implement a customs union with Cyprus. Turks question thegrounds on which the EU accepted Greek Cypriots, especially after Turkish Cypriots accepted the U.N. plan despite its heavy price.

The EU’s demands on Turkey are endless, from explicit conditions demanded by signed agreements to pressure to recognize the so-called Armenian genocide. Turks admit that the country’s politics are problematic to say the very least — but the country should not be treated this way, with its culture insulted and its people treated as second-class citizens. Turks feel that the West is Turk-bashing.

Before the second Iraq war began, it took NATO more than a month to decide to plan to help Turkey if Saddam Hussein launched retaliatory attacks against it. That lag time left Turks with the impression that the other NATO members think their lives are less valuable than those of others in the coalition. But if Turkey does not send its troops into combat in places like Afghanistan and refuses to be the “proof” that the war on terror is not a fight between Christians and Muslims, it faces condemnation.

Turkey had led ISAF twice and has proven its capabilities. But according to Turkish media reports, CENTCOM commander, Gen. John Abizaid, said he would not allow Turkey to cross the border to Northern Iraq — even at a time when he was visiting Kandahar, Afghanistan. Turkey’s only motivation for going into Northern Iraq is to defend itself against attacks from separatist Kurdish terrorists. Turks conflict with Kurdish nationalists who claim Turkish sovereign land, and they are continually suspicious about whether the U.S. supports such an independent Kurdistan.

The debates about the future of NATO, the relevance of the U.N. and the possibility of the EU’s dissolution have the potential to make all local politics global. The international community has a responsibility to be clear about the future of these institutions.The West also has a responsibility to keep its ally from falling victim to political Islam. It is important — indeed, fundamental to the character and principles of the Turkish nation — to focus on how Turks’ present actions will affect their future.

It is time for Turkey to think hard about the consequences of anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism within its own borders, and really look at what allowing those conditions to continue will cost the country as a whole.

A Turkey pushed away from the Western alliance will turn old friends into foes, and radical Islamists will reap the benefits. Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer should issue warnings about the republic’s threatened principles and radical Islamists on the rise. He should lay out clear and constructive plans to fight those conditions before his term ends in May — or the consequences that will follow if the next president represents political Islam could prove devastating.

Tulin Daloglu is a free-lance writer.


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