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Cablegate: Greater Middle East Initiative: Young

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000530

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


E.O 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO KDEM KMPI XF TU
SUBJECT: GREATER MIDDLE EAST INITIATIVE: YOUNG
TURKISH FOREIGN-POLICY ACADEMICS SKEPTICAL NOT OF
U.S. MOTIVES BUT OF SUCCESS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: AMBASSADOR EDELMAN'S MEETING
WITH A GROUP OF ISTANBUL ACADEMICS PROVIDED AN
OPPORTUNITY TO GAUGE REACTIONS OF INFORMED
INTERLOCUTORS TO THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST
INITIATIVE. SEVERAL WARNED OF UNINTENDED
CONSEQUENCES, AND OTHERS WONDERED IF THE PROPOSED
COMMITMENT COULD BE SUSTAINED. NOTABLE FOR THEIR
ABSENCE WERE EXPRESSIONS OF MORAL INDIGNATION
ABOUT THE ARAB/ISRAELI PROBLEM AND SUSPICIONS OF
U.S. MOTIVES IN WANTING TO TRANSFORM THE GREATER
MIDDLE EAST. "GOOD LUCK!" THEY SAID, IN EFFECT.
END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) AT A FEBRUARY 27 BREAKFAST HOSTED BY THE
CONSUL GENERAL, SIX RISING STARS OF TURKISH
UNIVERSITY FOREIGN-POLICY/INTERNATIONAL-RELATIONS
FACULTIES MET WITH AMBASSADOR EDELMAN, WHO
SKETCHED OUT FOR THEM THE GENESIS OF THE GREATER
MIDDLE EAST INTIATIVE AND INVITED THEIR REACTIONS.


3. (SBU) HAKAN YILMAZ (BOGAZICI UNIVERSITY; PH.D
IN POLITICAL SCIENCE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, 1996)
RECALLED THE ANNULMENT OF ALGERIA'S ELECTIONS AND
THE SUBSEQUENT BLOODSHED IN ASKING THE RHETORICAL
QUESTION: "IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT'S IN THE BOX, DO
YOU WANT TO OPEN IT?" THERE IS NO RELIABLE
OPINION POLLING IN THE ARAB WORLD, HE SAID. THE
RESULTS OF ELECTIONS MIGHT NOT BE TO THE U.S.'S
LIKING. THAT SAID, IT IS MORALLY A GOOD THING TO
TRY TO BRING DEMOCRACY TO THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST.
THE QUESTION IS WHETHER WE IN THE WEST (NOTE: HE
INCLUDED TURKEY. END NOTE.) HAVE THE WILL, THE
MONEY, AND THE STAYING POWER FOR THE "SOCIAL
ENGINEERING" THAT WOULD BE REQUIRED. AN OSCE-TYPE
ORGANIZATION FOR THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST MIGHT
HELP, BUT EXPERIENCE IS NOT ENCOURAGING; NOTHING
HAS COME OF SIMILAR EFFORTS BEFORE, BE THEY IN SUB-
SAHARAN AFRICA OR THE ARAB WORLD ITSELF.


4. (SBU) GUL SOSAY (BOGAZICI UNIVERSIY; PH.D. IN
POLITICAL SCIENCE, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY, 1999)
COMMENTED THAT "DEMOCRACY" - I.E. A SYSTEM FOR
ELECTING OFFICEHOLDERS - IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO
TRANSFORM THE GME COUNTRIES INTO HAPPIER PLACES.
THEY NEED JOBS, EDUCATION, AND INFRASTRUCTURE.
HOW IS THE U.S. GOING TO IMPLANT DEMOCRATIC
VALUES/SYSTEMS IN SOCIETIES BEREFT OF THEM?
EVIDENTLY, IRAQIS COULD NOT BE MADE TO APPRECIATE
THE VALUE OF "CAUCUSES." ONE CAN PRAISE AND
PROMOTE GRASS-ROOTS INSTITUTIONS AND NGO'S, BUT
HOW DOES ONE FOSTER THEM AMONG PEOPLE WHO ARE
CONDITIONED BY DECADES, IF NOT CENTURIES, OF
LOOKING ONLY TO THE STATE FOR SOLUTIONS? IF THE
U.S. IS SERIOUS ABOUT BRINGING LITERACY, ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT, GOOD GOVERNANCE, ETC. TO THE REGION,
WHAT ROLE IN THAT EFFORT DOES IT ENVISION FOR THE
UNITED NATIONS?


5. (SBU) UMUT OZKIRIMLI (ISTANBUL BILGI
UNIVERSITY; PH.D IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,
ISTANBUL UNIVERSITY, 1998) ASKED HOW THE GREATER
MIDDLE EAST INITIATIVE WOULD TAKE ACCOUNT OF
LATENT AND WIDESPREAD ANTI-AMERICANISM, ESPECIALLY
IF DEMOCRATIC REFORMS BRING ANTI-AMERICAN ELEMENTS
TO POWER? HAS THE U.S. WEIGHED THE CHANCES OF
SUCH AN OUTCOME? WHY WILL THE U.S.'S CLAIM TO BE
HELPING THESE COUNTRIES BE TAKEN AT FACE VALUE,
RATHER THAN VIEWED WITH SUSPICION? SOME EUROPEAN
INTELLECTUALS NOW EVEN TALK OF "DEMOCRATIC
COLONIALISM."


6. (SBU) AHMET HAN (ISTANBUL BILGI UNIVERSITY;
PH.D, ISTANBUL UNIVERSITY, 2001) EXPRESSED CONCERN
ABOUT THE POTENTIAL OF THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST
INITIATIVE TO UNLEASH IRREDENTISM. IF YOU BRING
DEMOCRACY, YOU WILL INVITE PEOPLE TO QUESTION
THEIR COMMITMENT TO CURRENT BORDERS OF NATION-
STATES; HE SPECIFICALLY CITED JORDAN AND KUWAIT.
HE ALSO OPINED THAT AMERICANS' PSYCHOLOGY
TRADITIONALLY UNDERESTIMATES THE SALIENCE OF
HISTORICAL GRIEVANCES. HE ILLUSTRATED HIS POINT
WITH AN ANALOGY: GIVE A SURPRISE "INFUSION" OF
$100 TO A COUPLE OF AMERICANS; TO THE AMERICANS,
ALMOST ANY DIVISION OF IT WILL BE CONSIDERED
ACCEPTABLE, BECAUSE BOTH PARTIES WILL BE GETTING A
NET BENEFIT. IN THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST, HOWEVER,
RECIPIENTS WILL PRIMARILY CONSIDER THEIR FEELINGS
ABOUT THE OTHER RECIPIENT IN DECIDING WHAT IS FAIR
AND THUS ACCEPTABLE.


7. (SBU) BULENT ARAS (FATIH UNIVERSITY; PH.D,
BOGAZICI UNIVERSITY, 1998) ALSO SPOKE OF THE
POSSIBILITY OF BORDER DISPUTES ERUPTING AS A
CONSEQUENCE OF DEMOCRATIZATION IN THE GREATER
MIDDLE EAST. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT PEOPLE
THINK, DON'T BE OBSESSED WITH POLLS; GO TO THE
MOSQUES. (NOTE: FATIH IS AN ISLAMIST-ORIENTED
UNIVERSITY. END NOTE.) IT IS HARD TO APPEAR
CONSISTENT, AND THEREBY AVOID THE ACCUSATION OF
DOUBLE STANDARDS, WHEN CHOOSING BETWEEN SECURITY
AND DEMOCRACY. IF YOU REALLY WANT SECURITY, YOU
WILL ULTIMATELY LET KARIMOV DO WHAT HE WANTS IN
UZBEKISTAN. IF YOU REALLY WANT DEMOCRACY, YOU
WILL SUPPORT DISSIDENTS ONLY TO FIND THAT THEIR
EFFECTIVENESS DIMINISHES IN PROPORTION TO THEIR
IDENTIFICATION WITH THE U.S. "YOU SHOULD HAVE
LEFT SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM IN JAIL A LITTLE WHILE
LONGER," HE QUIPPED, REFERRING TO THE CASE OF THE
EGYPTIAN-AMERICAN SCHOLAR.


8. (SBU) IN RESPONDING TO THESE AND OTHER
OBSERVATIONS MADE BY THE TURKISH ACADEMICS, THE
AMBASSADOR HIGHLIGHTED SEVERAL THEMES. FOR A
VARIETY OF REASONS, GME COUNTRIES WERE FOR A LONG
TIME NOT HELD TO THE SAME STANDARDS OF DEMOCRACY
AND GOOD GOVERNANCE. THIS HAS NOW CHANGED. IN
THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST, WE ALL DIAGNOSE THE SAME
PROBLEMS; TO DO NOTHING ABOUT THEM IS NOT AN
OPTION. AMERICANS ARE NOT GOING TO BE DISSUADED
BY THE "PROBLEMATIC" NATURE OF THE INITIATIVE. WE
ARE NOT ATTEMPTING TO IMPOSE ANYTHING ON THE
REGION. THERE IS NO DETAILED BLUEPRINT FOR THE
INITIATIVE. RATHER, THERE IS A COMMITMENT TO
FINDING WAYS AND MEANS TO HELP WHERE WE CAN BY
CREATING AN INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT CONDUCIVE
TO, AND SUPPORTIVE OF, CHANGE EMANATING FROM THE
REGION. IN ORDER TO DO THAT, WE NEED TO ADAPT
EXISTING INSTRUMENTS TO SUPPORT DEMOCRATIC REFORM
AND DEVELOP NEW ONES. THE AMBASSADOR RECOUNTED AN
ANECDOTE FROM AN ARAB AMBASSADOR IN ANKARA, WHO
WAS LISTENING TO A HARANGUE ABOUT U.S. MEDDLING IN
THE REGION WHEN HE INTERRUPTED TO ASK: ARE WE
HAPPY WITH THE STATE OF AFFAIRS IN OUR COUNTRIES,
WITH OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS, OUR ECONOMIES, OUR
HEALTH-CARE SYSTEMS? IF SOMEBODY IS OFFERING TO
HELP US, SHOULDN'T WE BE GRATEFUL FOR THE OFFER?


9. (SBU) COMMENT: A HESITANT, QUIZZICAL AND
SOMEWHAT SKEPTICAL REACTION BY TURKISH ACADEMICS
TO THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST INITIATIVE IS TO BE
EXPECTED. IT IS PARALLELED IN THE TURKISH MEDIA.
THIS IS PARTLY BECAUSE THE GME INITIATIVE HAS NOT
YET BEEN DEFINED IN DETAIL. WE SAW SOMETHING
SIMILAR AT AN EARLIER MEETING BETWEEN THE
AMBASSADOR AND ELEVEN REPRESENTATIVES FROM
PROMINENT ISTANBUL-BASED NGOS. AFTER THE
AMBASSADOR HAD EXPLAINED THE ADMINISTRATION'S
THINKING BEHIND THE GME INITIATIVE, HE WAS MET BY
AN INITIAL SILENCE THAT SEEMED TO UNDERSCORE THE
REPRESENTATIVES' HESITATION TO ENGAGE ON THE
TOPIC. HOWEVER, THEY SOON WARMED UP TO IT. WHAT
IS WORTH NOTING IS THAT AMONG TURKISH FOREIGN
POLICY THINKERS THE GME INITIATIVE IS NOT
REFLEXIVELY VIEWED IN KNEE-JERK FASHION AS SOME
KIND OF PLOY DESIGNED TO SIDETRACK THE ARAB-
ISRAELI DISPUTE OR INFILTRATE FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS.
THE FOCUS IS ON SECURING TURKEY'S INTERESTS - NOT
THE INTERESTS OF ARABS OR THE INTERESTS OF
FUNDAMENTALIST MUSLIMS. END COMMENT.
MINIMIZE CONSIDERED
ARNETT

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