Turkey’s bargaining tactics and threats

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul last week warned of an anti-Western climate in Turkish public opinion among the «moderate, educated, dynamic and economically active» young people in his country in an effort to direct a new warning to both the US and Europe. In an interview with Britain’s Financial Times, Gul intimates that the aversion Turkey’s young elite feel toward Europe is linked to the Cyprus problem while their burgeoning distaste for the US is being fueled by American support for Israeli strikes on Lebanon and by Washington’s ambiguous stance on the Kurdish question. Gul stopped short of reiterating Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threats of a military incursion into northern Iraq, the springboard of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, perhaps because he assumes that a Turkish incursion into another country is justifiable in view of Israel’s current tactics. Of course, at this time of upheaval in the Middle East, Ankara is particularly concerned about northern Iraq, which is controlled by Iraqi Kurds and where an independent Kurdish state has been forming over the past few years, with America’s blessing. And so Erdogan decided to speak out. «The limits of our tolerance have been exhausted,» he told US President Bush, referring to the «Turkish martyrs» who have died in Kurdish rebel attacks. This time, Erdogan did not propose military intervention but suggested cooperating with Baghdad. Turkey’s maneuvers are reminiscent of its traditional use of bargaining tactics and threats. As usual, it wants to have its cake and eat it, too. But it may be forced to change its tactics.