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Viewing cable 10ANKARA87, WHAT LIES BENEATH ANKARA'S NEW FOREIGN POLICY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10ANKARA87 2010-01-20 05:05 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
VZCZCXRO2532
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #0087/01 0200525
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 200525Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1747
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0003
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 0994
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 1550
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0581
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0511
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 1792
RUEHDO/AMEMBASSY DOHA 0250
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1082
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0170
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 0691
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0252
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 6792
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 0352
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5//
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 ANKARA 000087 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EUR/SE 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/19/2020 
TAGS: PREL TU
SUBJECT: WHAT LIES BENEATH ANKARA'S NEW FOREIGN POLICY 
 
REF: A. 09 ANKARA 1717 
     B. 09 ISTANBUL 466 
     C. 09 ANKARA 1561 (EXDIS) 
 
Classified By: Ambassador James Jeffrey for reasons 1.4 (b,d) 
 
INTRODUCTION/COMMENT 
-------------------- 
 
1. (C) There is much talk in chanceries and in the 
international media these days about Turkey's new, highly 
activist foreign policy, which unquestionably represents a 
transition not only from prior governments, but also from the 
AKP regime before the Gaza/Davos events, and before the 
ascent of Ahmet Davutoglu as Foreign Minister in April.  Some 
commentaries are upbeat, but others, including many experts 
and editorial writers in the US, have expressed concern.  The 
ruling AKP foreign policy is driven by both a desire to be 
more independently activist, and by a more Islamic 
orientation.  Frankly, rational national interest, 
particularly trade opportunities and stability 
considerations, also drives Turkey's new slant.  Major 
challenges with us in the coming months include the direction 
of Turkish-Israeli relations, the fate of the Protocols with 
Armenia, and the Turkish posture vis--vis Iran. 
 
2. (C) Does  all this mean that the country is becoming more 
focused on the Islamist world and its Muslim tradition in its 
foreign policy?  Absolutely.  Does it mean that it is 
"abandoning" or wants to abandon its traditional Western 
orientation and willingness to cooperate with us?  Absolutely 
not. At the end of the day we will have to live with a Turkey 
whose population is propelling much of what we see.  This 
calls for a more issue-by-issue approach, and recognition 
that Turkey will often go its own way.  In any case, sooner 
or later we will no longer have to deal with the current cast 
of political leaders, with their special yen for destructive 
drama and - rhetoric.  But we see no one better on the 
horizon, and Turkey will remain a complicated blend of world 
class "Western" institutions, competencies, and orientation, 
and Middle Eastern culture and religion.  END INTRODUCTION. 
 
COMPONENTS OF POLICY 
-------------------- 
 
"The Traditional Western" 
 
3. (C) Turkish policy today is a mix of "traditional Western" 
orientation, attitudes and interests, and two new elements, 
linked with new operational philosophies: "zero conflicts" 
and "neo-Ottomanism."  The traditional still represents the 
core of Turkish foreign policy, and is centered on 
cooperation and integration with the West. Its core is NATO, 
the customs union with the EU, and most significantly, the EU 
accession effort.  This all began with the Ottoman effort to 
emulate the European great powers, and was propelled 
powerfully forward by Ataturk.  Nevertheless the country was 
on the sidelines in World War II.  It was only the threat of 
the USSR, and the dominance (and outstretched hand) of the 
US, that led to the "Turkey we know":  tough combat partner 
in Korea, major NATO ally, US anchor in the Middle East. 
Much of this continues. 
 
4. (C) Europe is by far Turkey's most important economic 
partner in terms of investment and trade. The EU accounts for 
42 percent of Turkey,s total trade, while the US accounts 
for a bit less than 5 percent.  While the US is much less 
important in terms of trade statistics, it remains important 
in various sectors (e.g.energy, aviation, military), and in 
various ways.  NATO is essential to and much respected by 
 
ANKARA 00000087  002 OF 006 
 
 
Turkey.  (Note:  The fact that "only" about one-third of the 
Turkish population in one poll see NATO as important to 
Turkey's security is actually a plus; on any poll Turks 
usually are overwhelmingly negative about any foreign 
engagement or relationship.  But we should not be too 
sanguine here since support for NATO has been halved over the 
past decade.  End Note)  The military is armed by the US, and 
Turkey recognizes that many fires in its back yard -- from 
Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan -- can only be solved by 
close cooperation with and acceptance of US and NATO 
leadership.  Finally, even AKP leaders know that much of 
their allure or "wasta" in the Middle East and elsewhere 
stems from their privileged position in key Western clubs. 
This traditional orientation may be shaken, or reduced, but 
as it has both significant buy-in by elites of all 
philosophies, and many concrete advantages, Turkey will not 
abandon it. 
 
"Zero Problems with Turkey's Neighbors" 
 
5. (C) But this Turkey is trying to "post-modernize" itself. 
One major area of AKP effort has been to resolve problems 
with Turkey's immediate "near abroad."  This effort stands in 
contrast with the "traditional" Turkish policy of letting 
these frozen conflicts fester, and is much more compatible 
with US and European interests.  The list of Turkish 
initiatives under the AKP is impressive:  accepting the Annan 
Plan in 2004 to resolve Cyprus, continuing the 1999 
rapprochement with Greece, the opening to Armenia culminating 
in the signing of recognition protocols, warming and 
productive relations with both Baghdad and Erbil (the latter 
complemented by significant reforms in Turkey's relations 
with its own Kurdish population).  The signature 
accomplishment of this policy is the wooing of Syria.  While 
this road to Damascus in fact was paved by Syria's 
accommodation of prior Turkish governments' demands 
(relinquishing claims on Turkey's Hatay province, expelling 
Ocalan), it is touted by the Turks as a game-changer.  As 
noted below, they have leveraged it to tackle a number of 
regional problems, from Lebanon to Iran. 
 
6. (C) While this new approach is to be applauded, there is a 
fly in its ointment.  Little of true practical and final 
accomplishment has been achieved.  Cyprus is still split 
(albeit the fault, at least in terms of the Annan plan, lies 
more with the Greek Cypriots and the EU); tensions with 
Greece in the Aegean continue; the Protocols with Armenia 
have not been ratified due to Turkish concerns about 
Nagorno-Karabakh; Iraq's instability and the KRG's 
unwillingness to do more against the PKK raise questions 
about the sustainability of Turkey's constructive Iraq 
policy; the rapprochement with Syria has not really produced 
any Syrian "flip" away from Iran.  Granted, Turkey is dealing 
with some of the world's most difficult actors, and facing 
stiff opposition at home to making more concessions, but the 
proof of this pudding is yet to be seen. 
 
"Neo Ottomanism" 
 
7. (C) The idea of Turkey using its cultural and religious 
links to the Middle East to the advantage of both Turkish 
interests and regional stability is not new with the AKP, but 
has been given much more priority by it, in part because of 
the Islamic orientation of much of the party, including 
leaders Erdogan, Gul, and Davutoglu.  Moreover, the AKP's 
constant harping on its unique understanding of the region, 
and outreach to populations over the heads of conservative, 
pro-US governments, have led to accusations of 
"neo-Ottomanism."  Rather than deny, Davutoglu has embraced 
this accusation.  Himself the grandson of an Ottoman soldier 
 
ANKARA 00000087  003 OF 006 
 
 
who fought in Gaza, Davutoglu summed up the Davutoglu/AKP 
philosophy in an extraordinary speech in Sarajevo in late 
2009 (REF A).  His thesis: the Balkans, Caucasus, and Middle 
East were all better off when under Ottoman control or 
influence; peace and progress prevailed.  Alas the region has 
been ravaged by division and war ever since.  (He was too 
clever to explicitly blame all that on the imperialist 
western powers, but came close). However, now Turkey is back, 
ready to lead -- or even unite.  (Davutoglu: "We will 
re-establish this (Ottoman) Balkan"). 
 
8. (C) While this speech was given in the Balkans, most of 
its impact is in the Middle East.  Davutoglu's theory is that 
most of the regimes there are both undemocratic and 
illegitimate.  Turkey, building on the alleged admiration 
among Middle Eastern populations for its economic success and 
power, and willing to stand up for the interests of the 
people, reaches over the regimes to the "Arab street." 
Turkey's excoriating the Israelis over Gaza, culminating in 
the insulting treatment of President Peres by Erdogan at 
Davos in 2009, illustrates this trend.  To capitalize on its 
rapport with the people, and supposed diplomatic expertise 
and Ottoman experience, Turkey has thrown itself into a 
half-dozen conflicts as a mediator.  This has worked well, as 
noted above, with Iraq, and was quite successful in the 
Syrian-Israeli talks before Gaza.  Turkey has also achieved 
some limited success on Lebanon and in bringing Saudi Arabia 
and Syria together.  As noted below, however, this policy 
brings with it great frictions, not just with us and the 
Europeans but with many supposed beneficiaries of a return to 
Ottoman suzerainty.  Furthermore, it has not achieved any 
single success of note. 
 
WHY THE CHANGE? 
--------------- 
 
9. (C) Various factors explain the shifts we see in Turkish 
foreign policy beyond the personal views of the AKP 
leadership: 
 
-- Islamization:  As reported REF B, religiosity has been 
increasing in Turkey in past years, just as has been seen in 
many other Muslim societies.  The AKP is both a beneficiary 
of, and a stimulus for, this phenomenon.  However, bitter 
opposition within Turkey against domestic "pro-Islamic" 
reforms (e.g., head scarves) has frustrated the AKP, and a 
more "Islamic" or "Middle Eastern" foreign policy offers an 
alternative sop for the AKP's devout base. 
 
-- Success:  Despite its problems, Turkey over the past 50 
years has been a success story, rising to the 16th largest 
economy and membership in the G-20.  This, along with its 
extraordinary security situation compared to all other 
regional states, and democratic system, encourage a more 
active -- and more independent -- leadership role in regional 
and even global affairs. 
 
-- Economics:  one secret of Turkish success has been its 
trade and technology-led economic growth.  This growth is in 
good part thanks to its customs union with the EU, by far its 
biggest export market, and resulting investment from the EU, 
as well as decades of technology transfer and educational 
assistance from the U.S.  Nevertheless, with exports to the 
EU down due to the 2008-2009 crisis, Turkey is looking for 
new markets, particularly in the hydrocarbon rich Arab world, 
Iran, Russia, and Caucasus/Central Asia.  They have money, 
and strong import demand, and Turkey is dependent on them for 
its oil and gas.  These countries, however, (along with 
China-another Turkish export target) tend much more than the 
EU and North America to mix politics and trade.  To some 
 
ANKARA 00000087  004 OF 006 
 
 
degree the West thus is taken for granted and economic 
priority is directed towards relations with the Middle East 
and "Eurasia." 
 
-- Civilians ascendant: Erdogan's political success - 
together with a number of messy scandals resulting in public 
investigation - has meant that the Turkish General Staff now 
plays a much smaller role in defining Turkey's foreign 
policy.  Turkey's support to NATO is still strong, but it now 
lacks the suspicion of Russia which the cold-war instinct of 
General Staff brought to the mix. 
 
-- EU disillusionment:  Both popular and elite Turkish 
opinion has recently grown much more pessimistic about 
eventual EU membership -- or even its value.  The reasons for 
this are complex, but include the shifting mood in Europe 
towards Islam, the replacement of "pro-Turkey" leaders in 
France and Germany by Sarkozy and Merkel, both decidedly cool 
towards Turkey's EU membership, and a sense in Turkey of 
distance from and lack of sympathy for Europe. 
 
-- Relativization of the Western anchor.  An op-ed in the 
Financial Times by Gideon Rechman on January 4 noted 
correctly the tendency of the "young giants" -- South Africa, 
Brazil, India, and Turkey -- to pursue Third Worldish 
policies and rhetoric even while benefitting enormously from 
the globalized trade and international security created and 
maintained by the "West."  That certainly characterizes 
Turkey.  With the end of the cold war, relative success in 
the struggle with the PKK, and the "taming" of Syria, Iraq, 
and (at least from Turkey's point of view) Iran, Turkey's 
need for NATO and U.S. security is reduced.  Its dependence 
on Western trade, investment, technology transfer and 
educational exchange remains critical, but is regarded as a 
"free good" that Turkey deserves and does not have to expend 
effort for.  Relations with its various new friends in the 
North-East-South or on the other hand require effort which is 
facilitated by some downplaying of Turkey's Western anchor. 
 
DAVUTOGLU DISCONTENTS 
--------------------- 
 
10. (C) The AKP's new approach to international affairs 
receives mixed reviews inside and outside Turkey.  It is not 
a major factor in the AKP's relative popularity, but several 
elements of it (unfortunately, those we are least happy with) 
do appeal to voters.  Criticism of Israel post-Gaza is 
overwhelmingly popular, and the relatively soft Turkish 
position on Iran -- a country about which many Turks are 
skeptical -- is presumably helpful with a narrow, but for 
Erdogan's electoral fate important, group of Islamic voters 
associated with former PM Erbakan. 
 
11. (C) Nevertheless, many in Turkey's large westernized 
elite see the Islamic Outreach as a complement to the alleged 
AKP plan to Islamize Turkish society, and complain bitterly 
about their country's losing its western moorings.  The 
Nationalist segment in Turkey, mobilized most by the 
Nationalist Action Party (MHP), sees the AKP's compromises on 
Armenia, the KRG in northern Iraq, Cyprus, etc, as a betrayal 
of diaspora "Turks" (the Iraqi Turkomen, Azeris, Turkish 
Cypriots, etc) and charges that the AKP is trying to replace 
the Republic's organizing principle of "Turkism" with the 
broader Islamic "Umma."  The Republican People's Party (CHP), 
the lead opposition party, attacks AKP foreign policy 
relatively ineffectively with a mix of MHP-like nationalist 
rhetoric and "abandoning the west" criticism. 
 
12. (C) But it is in the EU that the Erdogan foreign policy 
of late has run into the heaviest of sailing.  To some degree 
 
ANKARA 00000087  005 OF 006 
 
 
European angst at Turkey's "new direction" is viewed as an 
excuse to pummel Turkey to score domestic points among 
anti-foreigner elements.  But there is real concern in 
Europe, made manifest by the Rasmussen NATO SecGen issue last 
April.  Europeans were furious with Turkey's presentng itself 
as the "Islamic" voice or conscience in NATO, having 
consulted with Middle Eastern States before talking to its 
NATO allies.  Extrapolating that behavior into the even more 
diversity-intolerant EU is a nightmare.  Erdogan's foreign 
(and domestic) policy orientation conjures up not just a 
clash of Christianity and Islam, but the spectre of a "meld" 
of Europe and the Middle East, and of Europe's secularlism 
with oriental religiosity.  Davutoglu and others argue that 
Turkey's "success" as a coming Middle East power makes it 
more attractive to the EU -- giving Europe a new foreign 
policy "market" through Turkey.  While some in Europe appear 
interested in this idea, ironically including Turkey EU 
membership skeptic France, this does not seem to carry much 
weight in most European capitals, let alone populations. 
 
13. (C) Finally, not all of the ex-Ottomans look with 
fondness on their past under the Pashas, or yearn for 
Turkey's return.  Reaction among many in the Balkans to 
Davutoglu's Sarejevo speech (REF A) was quite strong. In the 
Middle East itself, the Arab street might applaud Turkey's 
populistic and essentially cost-free support for more radical 
elements, but it's not particularly appreciated by rulers 
(although Turkey seems to have made some progress with Syria, 
brokered a rapprochement between President Bashir and Saudi 
King Abdullah, and has had some role in resolving the Lebanon 
cabinet stalemate).  Sooner or later, though, Turkey will 
have to produce results, take risks, commit real resources, 
and take hard decisions to augment a policy now consisting 
mainly of popular slogans, ceaseless trips, and innumerable 
signatures on MOUs of little importance.  The experience with 
Iran, which despite significant Turkish verbal support and 
wooing, appears uninterested in granting Turkey any 
concessions, or agreeing to a Turkish lead in mediation 
efforts, is telling. 
 
THE PROBLEM FOR THE US 
---------------------- 
 
14. (C) Turkey's new foreign policy is a mixed bag for us. 
Having regional heavyweights take on burdens, thereby 
relieving us, has long been a desired goal of US policy, but 
it comes with a certain loss of control.  Nevertheless, on a 
whole host of key issues of supreme importance to us -- 
Afghanistan and Pakistan, cooperation in and on Iraq, NATO 
efforts (although a leading Turkish role in Missile Defense 
will not be easy) -- Turkey is a crucial ally, and our use of 
Incirlik, Habur gate, and Turkish airspace for our Iraq and 
Afghanistan operations is indispensible.  Its "zero 
conflicts" initiatives, which have moved Turkey forward on 
more of the key bilateral spats -- Cyprus, Greece, Kurds, 
Northern Iraq, Armenia -- than we have seen with any other 
Turkish government, also support U.S. interests. 
 
15. (C) Nevertheless, these latter issues illustrate two 
problems.  At least in Turkish eyes, on this complex of 
issues the US , especially the media, interest groups, and 
Congress, default to a "blame Turkey" posture regardless of 
whatever it does.  Second, Turkey has repeatedly run into 
trouble actually consummating these various openings -- the 
Armenian protocols being the best example, but continued 
overflights of Greek islands and domestic opposition to the 
Kurdish opening are also relevant.  What we fear is that this 
inability to bring to conclusion foreign policy initiatives 
will affect not just the above, but most Turkish policy, 
given the over-extension of Davutoglu and his team, and a 
 
ANKARA 00000087  006 OF 006 
 
 
tendency to substitute rhetoric for long term investment of 
diplomatic, military, and assistance capital.  (Fortunately, 
Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq are the two major exceptions to 
this tendency.) 
 
16. (C) The greatest potential strategic problem for the US, 
however, and the one that has some of the commentators 
howling, is the Turks neo-Ottoman posturing around the Middle 
East and Balkans.  This "back to the past" attitude so clear 
in Davutoglu's Sarajevo speech, combined with the Turks' 
tendency to execute it through alliances with more Islamic or 
more worrisome local actors, constantly creates new problems. 
 Part of this is structural.  Despite their success and 
relative power, the Turks really can't compete on equal terms 
with either the US or regional "leaders" (EU in the Balkans, 
Russia in the Caucasus/Black Sea, Saudis, Egyptians and even 
Iranians in the ME).  With Rolls Royce ambitions but Rover 
resources, to cut themselves in on the action the Turks have 
to "cheat" by finding an underdog (this also plays to 
Erdogan's own worldview), a Siladjcic, Mish'al, or 
Ahmadinejad, who will be happy to have the Turks take up his 
cause.  The Turks then attempt to ram through revisions to at 
least the reigning "Western" position to the favor of their 
guy.  Given, again, the questioning of Western policy and 
motives by much of the Turkish public and the AKP, such an 
approach provides a relatively low cost and popular tool to 
demonstrate influence, power, and the "we're back" slogan. 
 
17. (C) This has been, so far, manageable, if at times high 
maintenance, in the Balkans and Mideast, although the damage 
to Israeli-Turkish relations remains serious.  If the Turks 
are genuine in their desire to draw Syria away from Iran, and 
if they begin achieving real success rather than telephone 
books worth of questionable protocols, then that will be of 
benefit to us all.  But with Iran itself it is a different 
story.  REF C  describes the background to the Turkish 
relationship with Iran, one more complicated than with their 
ex-Ottoman Arab and other subjects.  Trade/hydrocarbon 
interests, Turkish aversion to sanctions stemming from the 
first Gulf War, Erdogan's vocal "third worldism" and certain 
domestic political considerations all push Turkey in the 
wrong direction.   Unlike with many of the other issues, 
however, Turkey will have to stand and be counted on Iran, in 
the Security Council, with MD, and in implementation of UN or 
US sanctions.  This will have a profound effect on relations 
second only to the fate of the Armenian protocols over the 
next year. 
Jeffrey 
 
           "Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s 
gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey"