Turkish anxiety

The victory of American and British forces in Iraq has been succeeded by a sense of expectation rather than relief. There are serious indications that the American model will be pushed further into other countries in the region; the Kurdish advance is rekindling Turkish fears of Kurdish secessionism making Ankara dangerously unpredictable, and it is still premature to make any safe predictions about the future of the rift in relations between Washington and the European Union. A first safe conclusion that may be drawn is that the central European powers that had fiercely objected to the US-led war plans against Iraq are now seeking ways for a rapprochement with Washington. According to reliable sources in Athens, the chasm between the hard core of the European Union and the United States is not as deep as it looked when the two sides clashed in the UN Security Council. Moreover, it is very unlikely that the crisis in US-EU relations will prompt a strategic partnership between Russia and the Franco-German axis. In the nascent multi-polar system, in which the USA stands at the top and at a safe distance from the other powers, it makes sense for Russia to try to maintain independent status and avoid being incorporated into a European system. Nevertheless, these three European powers may still come closer together should Washington continue its interventionism in the nations of the Middle East. It is essential, therefore, that the future shape of international relations and the nature of the relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic not depend on France, Germany or Russia, but on the USA where an odd dogma seems to be in vogue, that is, that the constant expansion and consolidation of American principles on a global scale is the only way to guarantee security for Americans at home and abroad. However, the Iraq crisis will also have serious repercussions on the realm of Greek interests, mainly due to Ankara’s nervousness over developments in northern Iraq. The reactions of the Turkish government to date have been predominantly precautionary and it’s certain that the USA will not concede control of the oil fields to Kurdish forces nor will it allow the formation of any independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq – at least for the foreseeable future. But this is of little comfort to the Turkish administration because even a self-ruled northern Iraq – with Kurdish representatives in a central assembly (when this comes into force), with the Kurdish language being taught freely, with the area being designed to serve the needs of US troops and with Kurdish television shows reaching the eastern parts of Turkey – will be a major challenge that Turkey will hardly be able to meet. The threat to Turkey, at this stage, is not a territorial one, nor is it related to control of northern Iraq’s oil fields. The main threat, rather, comes from the prospect of economic growth that will benefit American firms, as well as the regional population encouraging unhampered development of an Iraqi-Kurd identity. In effect, Turkish nervousness will be constant and the attention of Greece’s political elite will be more than ever be concentrated on the Turkish issue.