- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey is trying to reassure the key NATO ally that Washington stands with Ankara in its confrontations with Syria and its fight against Kurdish terrorists.

“Your enemies are our enemies,” Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told Turkish reporters at a recent news conference at the Ankara News TV bureau in the capital.

Mr. Ricciardone denounced the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad as a “criminal regime condemned by all countries of the world except three.”

China, Iran and Russia still support Mr. Assad in a 19-month-old uprising that the has claimed more than 20,000 lives.

The ambassador also recounted U.S. support for Turkey against the rebels of the Kurdish People’s Party, which the United States lists as a terrorist group.

He challenged “Turkish public opinion” that believes the U.S. has abandoned Turkey in its confrontation with Mr. Assad.

Turkey has fired artillery into Syria since Oct. 3 in retaliation for Syrian shelling of Turkish border villages.

A Syrian anti-aircraft shell on Tuesday hit an empty room in a Turkish health center in a town about 200 yards from the Syrian border.

No injuries were reported, according to a Turkish news agency.

Mr. Ricciardone said that Turkey’s “enemies are isolated, not Turkey.”

The ambassador dismissed talk of a full-fledged war between Syrian and Turkey, which as a NATO member could call on the United States and the other 26 members of the alliance for armed support.

“I do not see a large probability of war. The Assad regime cannot survive at war with its own population. It’s military forces are no match for Turkey’s, alone, never mind for Turkey and its allies,” he said. “So we [the United States] do not see a likelihood of war, but I admit many Turks do.”

Mr. Ricciardone also revealed that the United States has offered to share its expertise in hunting terrorists so Turkey can better target theKurdish People’s Party.

He described how U.S. special operations forces, civilian intelligence analysts and law enforcement agents worked together to track down al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a Navy SEAL raid last year at his hideout in Pakistan.

“The power of the multidisciplinary approach is what got bin Laden in the end, and we would like to share that and exploit that intimately,” he said.

Mr. Ricciardone sidestepped a question about U.S. policy toward Turkey in a second term for President Obama or a first one for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. He declined to predict the outcome of the Nov. 6 presidential election.

“I am merely an ambassador,” he said, “not a prophet.”


Bahrain’s ambassador to the U.S. is blaming terrorists for detonating a roadside bomb that killed a police officer and critically wounded another in a restive village just south of the capital, Manama, last week.

Ambassador Houda Nonoo denounced the “unprovoked and unwarranted terrorist attack” in Eker, now under a security clampdown.

Police fired tear gas Monday to disperse about 200 demonstrators who tried to enter the village about 12 miles south of Manama.

Authorities announced Sunday the arrest of seven suspects in the attack.

Mrs. Nonoo, writing on her blog, said: “Attacks like these seek to undermine the spirit of peaceful reconciliation we are working to bring about in Bahrain, serve to sow dissension among Bahrainis and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

Bahrain, the strategic Persian Gulf home of the U.S. 5th Fleet, has been shaken for nearly 16 months by demonstrations against the minority Sunni Muslim monarchy.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

• James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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