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Cablegate: Turkish Security Challenges: Domestic Pressures

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DE RUEHIT #1005/01 3270842
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230842Z NOV 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7686
INFO RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 7276
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0042
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 001005

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER TU
SUBJECT: TURKISH SECURITY CHALLENGES: DOMESTIC PRESSURES
AND KURDISH AUTONOMY

1.(SBU) On November 8, ARI Movement -- an independent
Turkish NGO promoting civil society participation in both
domestic and international affairs -- held a conference on
Turkish security challenges: the likelihood of a Turkish
military incursion into Northern Iraq, the changing domestic
political balance within Turkey, and the future of regional
security. The conference, held at Bilgi University in
Istanbul, was timed to correspond with the release of the new
Turkish Policy Quarterly issue concerning the same topics.
While the speakers were varied and impressive, it was the
commentary by Turkish media personality Mehmet Ali Birand,
former Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin, and University
professor Soli Ozel, which best illustrates the complexities
behind the decision to conduct a cross-border operation (CBO)
and the ramifications such an operation would have on
long-term regional security.

2.(SBU) Mehmet Ali Birand, Turkish media personality and
regular columnist for the Turkish Daily News, claimed Prime
Minister Erdogan told him, following the November 5 meeting
with President Bush, that while he is satisfied with the
assurances he was given in Washington, he is preoccupied with
public pressure calling for military action against the
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Iraq. The situation, Birand
said, is further complicated by a frustrated military; they
want to show their strength, yet they realize even a
successful CBO will not live up to public expectations (i.e.
the end of PKK terrorism). The only way the military can
both avoid conducting a CBO and save face is to have the
administration order them to stand down, according to Birand.
This is unlikely to happen when the Justice and Development
Party (AKP) is concerned with the same need to appear strong
before its grumbling constituents.

3.(SBU) Hikmet Cetin, former Turkish Foreign Minister and
former NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan,
spoke of Turkey's need to move forward on Iraq. "It is not
constructive to speak against the United States' presence in
Iraq; they are there," he said. Rather, one should talk
about how Turkey, as a nation and as a NATO member, can help
to achieve a peaceful outcome. Cetin noted, "...it is
evident that a federation, within a unified Iraq, will
ultimately have to be tolerated." He added that despite
short-term animosity towards the idea, Turkey has to plan
long-term for regional stability. He suggested that any
military action should be coupled with social programming in
the South East, tax incentives for business development, and
similar actions.

4.(SBU) Soli Ozel, a professor at Bilgi University, agreed
with Cetin that an autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq was
inevitable: "It appears that the U.S. will not sell out the
Kurds this time, so what is left but federalism?" He went on
to say that in the end Turkey's decision to either accept or
to reject the idea of federalism in Iraq would be based on
Turkish interests -- part of a domestic rebalancing between
East and West. As a part of that shift, Turkey is learning
to depend more on itself and its neighbors in the East,
rather than on Western powers, said Ozel. "When the military
issued its midnight e-posta, there was very little pressure
on the military from the European Union (EU) and the U.S. was
nowhere to be found. It was domestic pressure, in the form
of overwhelming support for AKP, that made the military back
down, and it will be domestic pressure that pushes for the
acceptance of an autonomous region."

5.(SBU) COMMENT: While participants discussed a variety of
security issues initially, talk of a CBO soon monopolized the
conversation. The discussion regarding domestic stability in
Turkey was couched in terms of conducting a CBO and whether
the AKP government and/or military could continue to deny
popular calls to strike the PKK in Iraq. The future of
U.S.-Turkey and E.U.-Turkey relations were also viewed
through the CBO prism. Lastly, even Hikmet Cetin -- a
proponent of long-term planning -- was only willing to
discuss long-term stabilization of the South East and of
Northern Iraq in conjunction with, as opposed to apart from,
military engagement. In this case, the elite appear to
reflect the people: their fears, their demands, and perhaps
their short-sightedness. END COMMENT


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