Cablegate: Turkish Public Opinion: What It Means and What We

DE RUEHAK #1992/01 2150606
P 030606Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: This year's Pew poll confirmed what many
already knew -- Turks are angry about US policies. Negative
opinion has increased over the past four years, exacerbated
by the situation in Iraq and perceived US inaction toward the
PKK. Negative Turkish public opinion has gone beyond policy
to criticism of American intentions and society, but it is
not yet endemic anti-Americanism. Reversing this trend will
not be easy or quick. We will pursue a three-pronged effort
combining policy advocacy, broader engagement, and practical
projects that build on the continued draw of US strengths in
science, business and education. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) A LITANY OF NEGATIVE VIEWS: The Pew poll reported
that only nine percent of Turks had favorable views of the
U.S., three percent less than in 2006 and a 43 percent drop
from 2000. This placed Turkey last among the 47 nations
surveyed, below even the most critical European nation
(Germany, with 30 percent) and Muslim-majority communities
(the Palestinian Territories with 13 percent, and Pakistan
and Morocco at 15 percent). Eighty-nine percent of the
polled Turks said they had little or no confidence in
President Bush to do what is right in foreign affairs.
Seventy-seven percent worried that the US could become a
military threat to Turkey, and 64 percent named the US as the
country that poses the greatest threat to Turkey in the

3. (SBU) Turkish anger toward the US is fuelled by a belief
that the United States is at best indifferent or ineffective
-- and at worst, working deliberately against Turkey's
interests -- on the top two issues of concern to Turkey right
now: the PKK and Iraq. Long-standing Turkish hostility to
the PKK has been exacerbated this year by renewed PKK
violence resulting in further Turkish civilian and military
casualties. Turkish contacts across the spectrum of opinion
are united in their strong desire for immediate and visible
measures against the PKK. They firmly believe that the
United States is able but unwilling to take direct action
against the PKK, but simultaneously refuses to allow Turkey
to take action on its own through a cross-border military
operation into northern Iraq.

4. (SBU) On Iraq, Turkish public opinion leaders argue that
the United States failed to listen to Turkey's advice before
2003 and has now created a serious situation in Iraq which
has a direct and negative impact on neighboring Turkey. They
believe that the US strategy in Iraq has resulted in greater
suffering for the Iraqi people, greater instability in Iraq,
and greater potential for a breakup which could lead to the
creation of an independent Kurdish nation (something feared
by most Turks).

5. (SBU) While Turks are particularly critical of the United
States, they have little love for any foreign leader, nation,
or entity. In the Pew poll, Turks voiced little or no
confidence in leaders ranging from Putin and Merkel (ten
percent confidence rating for each) to Osama bin Laden (five
percent rating) and Ahmedinejad (21 percent), Only
twenty-seven percent of the Turks polled were favorable
toward the EU (a 31 percent decrease from 2004) and 23
percent were favorable toward the UN (a 28 percent drop from
three years ago). When asked to name Turkey's top three
allies, the number one choice (Pakistan) only received 11
percent of the "vote" -- but the US was nowhere on the list.

6. (SBU) Negative Turkish public opinion has also expanded
beyond policy issues to more critical opinions of Americans
and American society. Only 13 percent of Turks polled by Pew
are now favorable toward "Americans," and they expressed
negative views of "American Ideas About Democracy" (81
percent against) and "American Ways of Doing Business" (83
percent). Eighty-six percent agreed with the statement, "It's
bad that American ideas and customs are spreading here."
Current Turkish public opinion is not yet equal to endemic,
long-lasting anti-Americanism -- many Turkish citizens are
voicing their opinions while simultaneously purchasing
American products, applying to American universities, and
seeking visas to visit the United States. It is also worth
noting that U.S.-Turkish relations have recovered from
similar low points in past decades. However, if the current
trend continues, it could result in a generation of Turks who
find it much easier to assume the worst about American
policies, priorities and actions.

7. (SBU) In response, Mission Turkey proposes the following
focus for its FY-08 public diplomacy efforts:

ANKARA 00001992 002 OF 003

A. (SBU) POLICY ADVOCACY: Policy explication and advocacy
will remain an essential component of our public diplomacy
efforts, primarily through Turkey-based officers but also
involving senior USG officials in Washington and other
locations. We will conduct advocacy through a sustained mix
of public appearances and statements; television and print
media interviews; private group discussions and digital video
conferences (DVCs); and outreach efforts to institutions and
communities beyond our Mission locations in Ankara, Istanbul,
and Adana.

(SBU) PRIORITY REQUEST: Embassy Ankara will launch a monthly
series of "Ambassador's Forum" policy-focused DVCs, to bring
together State Department officials with Turkish opinion
leaders on key topics including U.S policy in Iraq, Europe,
South and Central Asia (particularly Afghanistan and regional
energy cooperation issues), the Middle East Peace Process,
and Iran. We will seek the support and assistance of EUR, R
and other geographic bureaus and posts to ensure USG
participation at the appropriate level in these programs.

B. (SBU) BROADER ENGAGEMENT: Policy advocacy is critical --
but we cannot succeed only through policy advocacy. In the
current environment, programs that strengthen US-Turkish
cultural and social ties will be of even greater importance
for countering general negative perceptions of America. We
will therefore work with our colleagues in Washington and
non-governmental partners across the United States to
increase our cultural events, youth activities, and programs
on economic and social issues of interest to both nations.
We will also want to further expand the reach and capacity of
US-Turkish academic, professional, and youth exchange
programs, including projects designed to bring newly elected
Turkish parliamentarians to the United States. Our Consulate
General in Istanbul plans to broaden its successful
engagement with public schools on the subject of Internet
literacy, while Mission outreach programs will include more
events involving youth audiences.

(SBU) PRIORITY REQUESTS: We are eager to implement R's
"Pilot Country" initiative in Turkey, as soon as anticipated
supplemental funds are made available. We also ask that R
expand its valuable summer YEP (Youth Enrichment Program)
initiative into a year-round effort in Turkey, that includes
programs involving music and other cultural/artistic fields
as well as sports and English-language activities.
Furthermore, we strongly support initial efforts by R and PD
bureaus in Washington to create new USG public diplomacy
products and programs which reach out -- directly and
effectively -- to the important youth audience in Turkey and
other nations, and ask that these efforts be accelerated.
Finally, we note the special value of American cultural
performers in the current environment, and would welcome
enhanced opportunities to program American cultural
performances in Turkey.

C. (SBU) BUILD ON OUR STRENGTHS: Despite the generally
negative poll numbers, many Turkish scientists, business
entrepreneurs, and students are eager for further engagement
with their American counterparts. Mission Turkey will seek
to build on this interest in FY-08 through a series of
targeted activities in partnership with appropriate American
and Turkish private-sector organizations, NGOs, and
government departments. These could include a
science/innovation fair initiative for Turkish students, in
partnership with one or more American hi-tech firms; a
program to encourage entrepreneurship in Turkey, developed
with American innovation/investment companies; and increased
school-to-school partnerships between Turkish and American
high schools.

(SBU) PRIORITY REQUESTS: We will discuss these program
ideas with American business leaders and organizations in
Turkey, but would also appreciate guidance from R and EUR/PPD
on US-based public diplomacy partnerships with such groups in
these fields.

DEVELOPMENTS: Public diplomacy is a vital component of our
diplomatic strategy in Turkey -- but it works best when
paired with concrete policy achievements. We will position
our public diplomacy staff and capabilities to take immediate
advantage of any positive developments related to the issues
of primary concern in Turkey -- countering the PKK and
improving the situation in Iraq. At the same time, we will
stay prepared for the unpleasant alternative -- that the
bilateral relationship could get even more challenging in the

ANKARA 00001992 003 OF 003

near future due to negative developments related to the PKK,
Iraq, or the possible passage of an Armenian Genocide
Resolution by the House of Representatives. In that
situation, our public diplomacy efforts will focus on
minimizing the immediate damage while preserving contacts and
activities for future progress.

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