Cooling relations and the role of the Kurds

Despite their public avowals of support for Turkey, Washington’s political and, above all, military establishment have not forgiven Ankara for its refusal to allow American forces to transit Turkish territory in the Iraq war. Some Pentagon sources speak cynically about their «close ally» and blame it for the deaths of American soldiers, arguing that if they had opened a second front in the north early enough during the invasion of Iraq, they would have put down the insurgency that followed and dealt much more effectively with the ongoing attacks on Iraqi and American forces. Observers of Turkish-American relations note a rapid deterioration in Turkey’s image over the past four years. To the Greek observer, the climate is reminiscent – though the details are very different – of the tricky period in Greek-American relations in the early 1980s, when the anti-American rhetoric of the then prime minister Andreas Papandreou, the US travel directive of 1985, and the refusal by Ronald Reagan to meet the Greek premier. A significant factor in the decline of American-Turkish relations is Washington’s refusal to allow Ankara to hit the PKK in northern Iraq. The US deems the PKK to be a terrorist organization, but «Kurdistan,» as Rice significantly referred to northern Iraq recently, is probably the most pro-American place on Earth. The Kurds who were liberated from the yoke of Saddam Hussein were the only ones to give the Americans an enthusiastic welcome. Washington knows that in Kurdistan it has acquired a faithful friend and military ally, in contrast with the growing anti-Americanism it gets from Turkey, with the government’s silent toleration. And that reality will be reflected in its behavior.

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