Cablegate: Criticism of U.S. Policy in Iraq Pervades Bmneai

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




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: Linkage of the BMENAI with U.S. policy in
Iraq was a common theme of speakers at a Cultural Initiative
Symposium on the Greater Middle East and North Africa Project
(BMENAI) in Istanbul in November. A wide range of Turkish
academics, former GOT officials, and European diplomats and
journalists presented papers, but there was a noticeable
absence of panelists from Middle Eastern countries due to the
late start in organizing the conference. While a number of
speakers discussed in general terms Turkey,s contribution to
BMENAI, few referred to Turkey,s participation in the
Democracy Assistance Dialogue. Former MFA U/S and panel
chair Ozdem Sanberk explained on the margins that the GOT had
done virtually nothing to move the process forward since late
June, pending the results of the U.S. elections. Panelists
in general downplayed or ignored questions critical of
Turkey's progress in reforms. The anti-American tone of the
conference set by former General Kemal Yavuz reflected
suspicion of BMENAI. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Istanbul Cultural and Artistic Foundation,
chaired by Sakir Eczacibasi, sponsored a Cultural Initiative
Symposium in Istanbul on the Greater Middle East and North
Africa Project (BMENAI) November 8-10. Conference panelists
included a wide range of Turkish academics, former ministers
and generals, European diplomats, journalists, and
professors. A number of attendees commented on the lack of
participation from the Islamic countries represented in the
BMENAI. According to a chairman of one of the panels, Dr.
Ahmet Evin of Sabanci University, the conference organizers
had a late start in organizing the conference and were unable
to confirm speakers from the Middle East and North African

3. (SBU) In the opening session, former Deputy PM Erdal Inonu
stressed that terror was the motivating factor for the
BMNEAI. Minister of Culture Erkan Mumcu underlined that
peace, not terror, should be its theme. Mumcu was confident
that Turkey, with its experience in democratic reforms, could
contribute a great deal to the initiative, and added that
Turkey should express itself as an Islamic country.

4. (SBU) Michael Lake, former EU Ambassador to Turkey,
stressed that BMNEAI,s commitment to shared values of
democracy, human rights, and a market economy contributes to
resolution of conflicts in the region. He was positive about
Turkey,s accession prospects, and hopeful about prospects of
reform for partner GOP countries. Richard Falk of
Princeton,s Center for International Studies underlined the
shift of the U.S. post-cold war strategy from Europe to the
Middle East/Islamic world, as the region that will determine
the shape of the future )- and noted Turkey,s central role
in the resolution of regional tensions. He added that it is
impossible to separate the BMNEAI from the post 9/11 global
setting, and questioned whether democracy could be achieved,
in light of U.S. policies to build long-range bases in Iraq,
and its relations with Turkey and Israel.

5. (SBU) William Hale of the University of London noted that
the current AKP government,s introduction of legislation
based on Islamic principles has stirred up opposition among
secularists and in democratic countries, but has not broken
democratic rules. Former BBC Turkish bureau chief Andrew
Mango commented that the BMNEAI has similarities with the
Marshall Plan )- but instead of transferring funds, the
BMENAI transfers skills. Mango pointed out that the Turkish
experience demonstrates the advantages the BMENAI offers to
countries in the region.

6. (SBU) Retired general Kemal Yavuz was sharply critical of
the U.S. in his speech on the first day of the conference,
linking the BMENAI with U.S. policy in Iraq, and calling the
project &unrealistic, mistaken, and irresponsible -- a
threat to Turkey and to humanity.8 Yavuz asserted that
Israel manages U.S. Middle East policy, that the U.S. goal is
control of the flow of oil, and that the U.S. Secretary of
Treasury promoted the current Iraq policy prior to 9/11.
Yavuz noted that in the last one and a half years, 100,000
Iraqis have been killed in war and occupation ) which will
lead to extremism in the region. He also criticized U.S.
policy in Afghanistan as a plan to rule Asia. Noting that
every political project has a psychological component in
order to create allies, Yavuz implied that the U.S. strategy
in creating BMNEAI is to create allies for its Middle Eastern
policy. He added that until 10 years ago, foreigners used to
implement destructive policies in Turkey. Yavuz, speech
received huge applause, and most questioners supported his
anti-U.S. rhetoric.

7. (SBU) This anti-American tone continued throughout much of
the conference; in his presentation on the Asian view of the
BMENAI at the end of day two of the conference, former OIC
Assistant SecGen Arshad Zaman was openly hostile, criticizing
the U.S. for using BMENAI to divert attention from Iraq.
However, the Russian Ambassador in Ankara, Petr Stegniy,
delivered a very thoughtful speech, in which he defended
BMENAI and U.S. policy in Iraq, noting that key historical
events (such as the French and Russian revolutions) are never
understood until many years later. After the panel, Stegniy
commented that Russia is assisting the U.S. in promoting
BMENAI in the region.

8. (SBU) Yusuf Isik, an economist and Kemal Dervis' advisor,
referred to Turkey's role in the Democracy Assistance
Dialogue (DAD) in a panel on the final day of the conference
on Turkey's obligations vis a vis BMNEAI. However, in
general many panelists and questioners reflected a lack of
detailed information about Turkey,s role in the DAD
(reftel). While speakers referred to Turkey,s contribution
to the BMNEAI, in a number of instances throughout the
seminar, questions regarding Turkey's role in the BMENAI and
comments critical of its progress in democratic reforms were
often downplayed or ignored by the panel chairs. Former MFA
Undersecretary Ozdem Sanberk acknowledged the lack of
information about the Democracy Assistance Dialogue in
official circles by early November. He explained that
virtually nothing had been done to move the process forward
since late June, citing a desire to wait and see if the U.S.
elections would bring a change in policy.

9. (SBU) Comment: In the leadup to the 12/11 Forum for the
Future in Morocco, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
the lead agency for BMENAI, has made progress toward
publicizing Turkey,s role in the Democracy Assistance
Dialogue, as noted in the MFA,s November 18 statement and
questions and answers. However, Yavuz,s diatribe, the
favorable reaction to it, panelists, lack of detailed
information, and the anti-American tone of much of the
Istanbul conference reveal that ignorance and suspicion about
BMENAI remain high. End comment.

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