UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE
(HELSINKI COMMISSION) HOLDS HEARING: THE 2007 TURKISH ELECTIONS
JULY 26, 2007
REP. ALCEE L. HASTINGS, D-FLA., CHAIRMAN
REP. LOUISE M. SLAUGHTER, D-N.Y.
REP. MIKE MCINTYRE, D-N.C.
REP. HILDA L. SOLIS, D-CALIF.
REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD, D-N.C.
REP. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, R-N.J.
REP. ROBERT B. ADERHOLT, R-ALA.
REP. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.
REP. JOSEPH R. PITTS, R-PENN.
SEN. BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, D-MD., CO-CHAIRMAN
SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.
SEN. RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, D-WIS.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.
SEN. JOHN F. KERRY, D-MASS.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KAN.
SEN. GORDON H. SMITH, R-ORE.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-GA.
SEN. RICHARD BURR, R-N.C.
REP. ROBERT WEXLER, D-FLA.
TURKISH RESEARCH COUNCIL,
VICE PRESIDENT FOR POLICY,
AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY COUNCIL
[The hearing was held at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2226 House Office
Building, Washington, D.C., Rep. Alcee
HASTINGS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have a tradition of trying to
start our meetings on time,
and I can assure you my colleague, Congressman Wexler, will be along very
Good morning again to you, and thank you for your interest in this morning's
briefing on the recent
parliamentary elections in Turkey. Obviously, when Congressman Wexler arrives,
I will allow any statement that he
wishes to make to be made at that time. I'd like to welcome our panel of
speakers: Dr. Soner Cagaptay. Did I do
CAGAPTAY: Pretty good.
HASTINGS: I told him if he hadn't told me how to say it, I was going to mess
it up real bad. Dr. Cagaptay
is the director of the Turkish Research Council at the Washington Institute.
And we welcome Mr. Ilan Berman, the
vice president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council.
Before we begin this morning, I'd like to express my disappointment at the
State Department's refusal to
participate at today's briefing. An invitation was extended to them in an
effort to get the administration's view
on the elections, and they declined the offer. The excuse given to us, despite
much evidence to the contrary, was
that the State Department does not participate in public briefings.
Regardless, we have an excellent panel, and I'm certain this will be an
enlightening briefing. As I already
mentioned, over the next few moments we're going to examine Turkey's
parliamentary elections of this past Sunday and
what it means for the future of U.S.-Turkey relations.
I was pleased to see that Turkey held successful elections which were decreed
as free, fair and transparent.
With 80 percent of Turkey's 42 million eligible voters turning out to the
polls on Sunday, I would say that's a
successful election, and as an American citizen, I'm quite a bit envious that
we don't have that kind of turnout in
According to the OSCE's election assessment mission, the electoral process in
Turkey was characterized by
pluralism and a high level of public confidence underscored by the transparent,
professional and efficient
performance of the election administration.
I've had the good fortune of working with several Turkish parliamentarians in
election monitoring, and I can
tell you that when they go about the world, they perform excellently;
therefore, I'm sure that their influence was
felt in this election.
Even though Turkey held successful elections, one cannot forget some of the
reasons for these elections
being held in the first place. On Sunday I was reading an interesting article
in the Washington Post that many of
you may have read entitled, and I quote, "Islamic Attire Dominates Debate
Before Turkish Vote," end of quote, where
a very poignant statement was made in the opening of the article which said,
"It's the head scarf, stupid."
The article goes on to say -- I would quarrel with the author; it's always the
economy, stupid, but anyway
-- that "if it weren't for a three-foot square piece of fabric, sometimes black
and stark -- more often fancy or
lacy or rosy pink or flowery -- Turkey's 42 million voters wouldn't be going to
the polls." That's what the article
This argument, I believe, is going to be a continuing challenge for Turkey as
the Justice and Development
Party works to find a peaceful balance between the Islamic and secular
I'd also note the rising tensions between Turkey and the Kurds in northern Iraq
where currently significant
amounts of troops are amassed along the southeastern border. This is a very
tenuous situation and could be
potentially a problem for U.S.-Turkish relations and stability in that region.
It's my great hope, and I believe it
will allow, that calmer heads will prevail and that the tensions will ease.
Finally, Prime Minister Erdogan has accomplished a great deal for Turkey's
democracy. The first time I went
to Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan was the mayor of Istanbul, and he did some
rather remarkable things during that
tenure. He has pursued a pro-business agenda, which can be seen in Turkey's
thriving economy, as well as continuing
to push for Turkey's membership into the European Union.
The prime minister came from Germany at 4:00 in the morning for a meeting with
me when I was last there, and
he had been in Germany to receive a prize and at the very same time had been
told what Turkey's ascension to the
EU's possibilities were.
What I said to him then is what I say to you now, and that is tomorrow is today
on that subject for me, and
that entry into the European Union should be expedited. And I've also told
many of my European colleagues and my
American counterparts the same thing.
I believe that these are all positive steps in a correct and right direction,
and I look forward to
continuing a dialogue with our Turkish partners in an effort to strengthen this
historic partnership that we've
shared over the past 50 years.
I'm going to turn the floor over to my distinguished colleague and partner from
Wexler's and my districts abut each other in the area that we represent, and we
also are great friends of Turkey.
And when we are not in our districts sometimes we are in Turkey. I've been
there nine times. I think Robert has
been there 99 times, but not quite as many.
Ladies and gentlemen, Robert Wexler.
WEXLER: Thank you very much, especially to Chairman Hastings.
I just want to offer what I think is the obvious observation that there is no
one in this Congress, no one
in the United States government -- on the elected side, at least -- that has
spent more time and effort and devotion
to engaging Turkey from the point of view of enhancing American-Turkish
relations. And there is no one who is more
expert on these matters than Chairman Hastings, and I thank him very much for
permitting me the opportunity of
speaking this morning.
Chairman Hastings and others, I want to join you, along with many in the
American public, in expressing our
heartfelt congratulations to the Turkish people for conducting a model election
last Sunday. It was evident to
observers of the election that the Turkish electorate unequivocally expressed
its support for strengthening Turkey's
democracy and for continuing down a path toward full membership of the European
I especially want to congratulate Prime Minister Erdogan, Deputy Prime Minister
Gul, and the Justice and
Development Party, who increased their vote total from I believe what was 34
percent in the 2002 parliamentary
elections to 46 percent last Sunday and will now be called upon to form a new
Recognition should also be given to all of the Turkish political parties who
participated on Sunday,
including the CHP and the MHP, who will join the AKP, along with I believe it's
two dozen independently elected
candidates in the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
It is clear that many Turkish voters, despite political tensions in April, by
and large gravitated to the
AKP's policies that have led to record economic growth, as Chairman Hastings
pointed out. Passage of difficult
economic and political reform measures necessary for EU membership and
willingness to raise the sensitive issue of
the role of Islam in Turkey is part of a public dialogue.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the current government's policies, it is
apparent that they have
represented the will of a great many Turkish citizens -- at times to the
chagrin of some American policy-makers.
This development has greatly diminished a debilitating political disconnect
that has existed between Turkey's
leaders and her population.
Chairman Hastings spoke about visits to Turkey. My first visit to Turkey, and
particularly in Istanbul, was
in 1999. My primary impression when visiting Turkey for the first time and
meeting with a large group of young
entrepreneurs -- young men and women who were educated, patriotic Turkish
citizens who wanted very much to be a part
of an explosive economy, that very much wanted to take Turkey's democracy to
the next step, to the next level -- and
the emotion and the impression that I learned was that I had never been in a
country in 1999 that I felt there was
such an extraordinary disconnect between the population and the government.
And it wasn't a political partisan divide. It was the fact that many patriotic
Turks did not identify with
their own government and with the objectives of their own government. It
baffled me at the time.
But Sunday's elections, Mr. Chairman, reinforced the fact that whether one here
in America may agree or
disagree with Prime Minister Erdogan or with Deputy Minister Gul or with any of
the individuals that are leading the
government, it is clear that Prime Minister Erdogan represents a significantly
large measure of the public will in
And that needs to be respected, and I would argue even congratulated, because
it is only when in a democracy
the majority of people feel as if the government in fact responds to the public
will that in fact democracy will
flourish. I think it is an opportunity for the American-Turkish relationship
to be enhanced, to grow stronger,
understanding that at times there will be different positions and different
The only NATO country bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran, Turkey has hundreds of
its troops on the ground in
Lebanon, maintains a strong relationship with Israel -- an extremely important
relationship -- and it is an
essential component of the east-west energy corridor, providing America and
Europe with a critical alternative
energy supply route, other than gas and oil coming from the volatile Middle
East and Russia.
Furthermore, Turkish cooperation is essential for our troops in Iraq. A
substantial majority of the
military assets used by American troops are flown into Turkey and then
transported to Iraq. For example, 74 percent
of air cargo into Iraq transits through the Incirlik Air Base.
And I would respectfully point out for all of us here in the Congress and in
the American public -- whether
you agree with the president's position in Iraq or whether you disagree, as I
do and Chairman Hastings does -- that
we need to understand that as we begin -- and I believe -- to swiftly remove
our troops from Iraq in a responsible
way the very pivotal role that Turkey will play to enable the most efficient
and safe redeployment of our troops in
And it's not just Iraq. Even in Afghanistan an enormous percentage of the
resources, the assets, the
munitions that ultimately go to our troops in Afghanistan and NATO's troops in
Afghanistan travel through Turkey.
This relationship and this cooperation, particularly at a time when our troops
are in the field in Iraq and
Afghanistan, should never be underestimated.
I'm confident that Prime Minister Erdogan's government will continue to be
deeply involved in bringing
stability to Afghanistan and will continue to oppose Iran's nuclear weapons
program. To this end I urge Prime
Minister Erdogan's government to reconsider expanding its energy relationship
with Iran at a time when the United
States and Europe are seeking to isolate Iran over its dangerous nuclear
Despite the high level cooperation between the United States and Turkey, it's
undeniable that relations have
been strained at times. Most alarmingly, a recent Pew poll indicates that only
9 percent of Turks have a favorable
opinion of the United States. Incredibly, that is down from 12 percent in last
year's Pew poll. That same Pew poll
suggests that 77 percent of Turks see the United States as a potential military
threat to their country.
I don't doubt the findings in the poll; I'm sure they're accurate. But I know
that every time I visit
Turkey, there even is a disconnect between the poll numbers and when you meet
individual Turks. And when they ask
you where you're from and you say the United States, and oftentimes in limited
English, they'll say, "Good, good.
United States. Good."
Well, sometimes I think -- and Chairman Hastings, I think you have the same
impression -- we can learn more
from cab drivers in a country than you can from any polls, good as they may be.
And every time I step into a cab or
step into a cafe or just to get a cup of coffee in Turkey, it's almost the same
reaction. "Where are you from?"
"The United States." And there's always -- at least in my experience -- a
positive initial reaction on a
What I think these polls are showing -- and I don't doubt, again, their
accuracy -- is a disconnect between
the Turkish people and what they perceive to be the political and governmental
goals of the United States. That's
something that should never be underestimated in its importance, but I think it
needs to be put into perspective.
Mr. Chairman, the greatest challenge facing the United States and Turkey is the
chaos ensuing in Iraq and
the ongoing violence perpetrated by the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, which
is engaged in horrific acts of
violence. Since only 2004, the PKK has killed and injured more than 1,500
people in Turkey.
Given America's leading role in Iraq, there is undoubtedly a perception in
Turkey that America has not done
enough to remove the threat of the PKK terrorists whom we know are based in
northern Iraq. And while it might be
difficult for Americans to admit that, the truth of the matter is the Turkish
people have a good point. They're
right. The United States hasn't done enough to mitigate the threat from the
I share the people's frustration with what appears to be America's inaction at
times and the pains felt by
the Turkish people as a result of the PKK terror. To this end it is critical
that the United States, Iraqi leaders
and Iraqi Kurdish regional leaders do more to address the PKK threat.
While I strongly support the appointment of General Ralston as the PKK special
coordinator by the Bush
administration, and I believe he is exceptionally qualified and exceptionally
committed to addressing the issue and
he was kind enough to testify at the Europe subcommittee and gave a very strong
presentation recently, I think it is
still undeniable that while the United States largely occupies stretches of
area with our military in Iraq, we have
not done enough to mitigate the PKK threat.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, Turkey's historical elections and democratic
progress presents an opportunity
-- I believe, a very wonderful opportunity -- for the United States to renew
its relationship with Turkey. While
Turkish parliamentarians still must go through a political process to choose a
new president in the coming weeks, it
is incumbent on the United States to embrace our longstanding ally and create
the conditions that will lead to
continued dialogue and cooperation between our two companies.
And if I may say one other thing, in one of my more recent visits to Turkey, I
think at times there's a
discrepancy between America's global interests and what Turkey perceives to be
her regional interests. And while
allies can agree to disagree civilly, and that is fair and legitimate, I also
think that those who are so interested
in Turkey in this country should give great credibility and hope to the
aspirations of Turkish regional policy.
I may not always agree with the individual direction that Turkey may be taking
in her regional policy, but
if you look at it from a broader perspective, a Middle East -- Iraq, Iran,
Syria -- that is more influenced by
Turkey rather than Iran or rather than ultimately Saudi Arabia or rather than
extreme Islamic thought and ideology,
a region that is more influenced by Turkey must unconditionally be in the
better interests of the United States,
even though we don't absolutely agree with whatever direction Turkey may be
advocating in that precise moment.
Turkey is a democratic, moderate, secular country where a majority of the
citizens believe in the Muslim
faith, and to the degree that that nation can enhance its relations with
America, move closer to Europe and play a
more prominent role in a very volatile region, by definition that is good for
America. And it's also good for our
closest ally there, Israel. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for permitting me
HASTINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Tell us how you really feel.
I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize -- and if she wishes, to have
her make any comments -- a
member of the Helsinki Commission who recently was elected vice chair of the
second basket in the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. I used to be the
president of the Organization for
Security in Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, and I always say if you can say
that, you ought to be president. But
please welcome to our hearing Hilda Solis.
Hilda, if you'd just stand and be recognized -- we appreciate you being here.
Thank you, and I recognize
it's an extremely busy day for all of us. I hope you can stay as long as you
can, but we certainly understand if
you must leave.
I would invite also our staffers who are standing on the wall to take these.
If other persons come, then
you might relieve yourselves rather than continue to stand and make yourselves
Our first witness at our briefing is Dr. Soner Cagaptay. He is a senior fellow
and director of the
Washington Institute's Turkish Research Council.
Dr. Cagaptay has written extensively on U.S.-Turkish relations, Turkish
domestic politics and Turkish
nationalism, publishing in scholarly journals such as Middle East Quarterly,
Middle Eastern Studies, and Nations and
Nationalism. He frequently writes commentary in major international print
media, including many in the America
media, Voice of America and BBC as well.
He's a historian by training and wrote his doctoral dissertation at Yale
University on Turkish nationalism,
has taught courses at Yale and Princeton on the Middle East, Mediterranean and
Eastern Europe and his spring 2003
course on modern Turkish history was the first offered by Yale in three
Dr. Cagaptay is a recipient of numerous honors, grants and chairs, among them
the Smith-Richardson, Mellon,
Wright, and Leylan fellowships, as well as the Ertegun chair at Princeton. He
also serves as chair of the Turkey
Advanced Area Studies Program at the State Department Foreign Service
Dr. Cagaptay, you have the floor.
CAGAPTAY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and the commission for inviting
me to appear at this very
timely and important hearing on Turkey after the elections.
What I'd like to do for the sake of our discussion today in our briefing is to
focus on two issues --
mainly, Turkish domestic politics after the elections and Turkish electoral
relations after the elections.
In terms of Turkish domestic politics following last Sunday's elections, I
share -- Congressman Wexler is
not here any more -- his adulation for the Turkish democracy. After all, this
is a case of a liberal secular
democracy in a predominantly Muslim country, and yet we have seen another
smooth transition, despite much domestic
political turbulence in Turkey last May.
So it does indeed look like as yet another case of the democracies that we know
around the world. And I
should also add that it looks like all of these democracies -- indeed, our
democracy already as well -- because the
electorate seems to be split in the middle. While 47 percent of the population
voted for the ruling party, 37
percent voted for opposition secular leftist nationalists. So indeed it is
important for us to watch Turkish
politics in the days coming ahead.
In this regard, with the country being split into two opposing political views,
I think the election outcome
is probably the best outcome in terms of political stability, because what we
see is that the ruling party, AKP,
emerged with 340 seats in the 500-member parliament.
That means they can form a stable, lasting government, and in Turkish politics,
governments have done much better than coalition governments. We've seen
examples of that in the 90s both in terms
of economic performance as well as in terms of reform, so that's quite
promising for Turkey.
Another reason why I think the election results promise stability is because
the party, although it has
emerged with 340 seats in the 550-seat parliament, does not have the majority
needed to elect the next president.
The first mandate, the first job of the parliament is to elect the president.
In the Turkish system, the president, who has limited powers -- the chief
executive is the prime minister --
is elected in the parliament. There is a two-thirds majority that's required
for electing the president, and the
AKP is short of that majority, so that actually puts the AKP in the position of
having to seek for a consensus
candidate, a compromise candidate.
And I think the outcome is therefore the best outcome in terms of short-term
political stability, because on
the one hand you have a stable government and on the other hand, you have the
need for this government to talk to
the opposition to find the consensus candidate.
So hopefully, the two camps of the Turkish political spectrum, the AKP camp and
the nationalist secular
camp, will have to seek a compromise candidate, bridging the gap of Turkish
Having said this, I think what we're also facing is a new Turkish government,
therefore, one with a popular
mandate -- a landslide popular mandate, indeed -- which opens up the avenue for
a new phase in the U.S.-Turkish
So in the second part of my testimony here, I'd like to look at the likely
course of the U.S.-Turkish
relationship over the next year. And in this regard, the issue I'd like to
focus at is the issue that I think is
most important for our bilateral ties today, the issue of PKK, also known as
Kurdistan Workers Party, a group that
is currently carrying out attacks inside Turkey, but also from its bases in
northern Iraq, an issue that now I think
cannot be ignored anymore in the sense that it has become the most important
factor shaping the course of
In fact, I think the picture on the PKK is bigger than that. It's not just
about U.S.-Turkish relationship.
I think the PKK indeed brings not only Turkey and the U.S., but also Iraq and
Iran together. And I'd like to
explain that a little bit, but before that some background on what this
organization is about.
The PKK emerged as a group carrying out terror attacks inside Turkey in the
1980s. This was the background
of the Cold War, and it was supported by at that time the Soviet Union, which
felt Turkey would face the Soviet
Union at its southern flank, the south border of the Soviet Union, with anger.
And I think one of the reasons the Soviet Union supported the PKK was because
this was the Cold War and
Turkey not only neighbored the Soviet Union, but with the exception of Norway
north of the Arctic Circle, Turkey was
the only country that actually bordered the Soviet Union from NATO.
So you can imagine the importance of that country for strategic and
intelligence purposes. And you can
imagine how much that would anger the Soviets and what it could mean to
destabilize this country.
The PKK then emerged as a group with Soviet patronage based in Syria with
training camps in Lebanon, a
client state of a client state -- in other words Lebanon being a client state
of Syria and Syria being a client
state of the Soviet Union. The attacks continued into the 90s.
After the end of communism, though, the PKK switched to a nationalist ideology
and used some other
opportunities to carry out attacks into Turkey from other countries in that
region. It based itself at that time in
Iran. Iran provided the PKK with a number of camps, and it became a haven of
That all made sense within the context of Iranian and Turkish regimes. If you
think of them, Iran and
Turkey are neighboring countries, but they are also almost diametrically
opposed regimes. One is a democracy and
secular; the other one is a theocracy and an authoritarian regime. And I
think, therefore, Iran's efforts to use
the PKK as a destabilizing factor were also important in this regard for its
support for PKK.
The United States at this time, I think, saw the PKK not only as an issue of
terror, but also as a way of
fighting a successful public diplomacy to win Turkey's heart.
There was much American support extended to Turkey in this period against the
PKK -- intelligence and what
have you -- but the most important step came in the late 1990s when, according
to reports, the United States helped
Turkey capture the leader of PKK, Abdullah Ocalan. He was captured after a
long chase across Europe after he was
kicked out of Syria following Turkish pressures and sent to jail.
And this, I think, is an important event for us to look at, because it also
tells us how the PKK behaves
today. Ocalan's elimination did not mean the elimination of the membership of
this entire group, but yet it
crippled the group's ability to hurt Turkey.
The PKK is what I call an old generation of terror groups in the sense that
it's very hierarchical. It's
top-down, and it's leadership-based, unlike the new generation terror groups
such as Al Qaida, which are horizontal,
cell-based and can do autonomous stuff without necessarily having to be an
organic link with the quote-unquote
The PKK is very different. Its leadership is fundamental to the way it acts,
because it is, as I said
earlier, basically a Marxist-Leninist group with Maoist legacy, which means the
cult of the leadership is
Ocalan, therefore, was the brain of the organization, finding the PKK refuge
and safe haven and guns and
allies and money, and his capture meant that the brain of the organization was
taken out, despite the fact that the
body was still there. And the PKK, as a result of that, declared a unilateral
cease-fire, pulled most of its
members out of Turkey, and Turkey went into a period of quiet for the first
time since the mid-1980s.
What this meant for Turkey was a dramatic improvement in its human rights
record. Now that there was no
more fighting and terror attacks, the country was able to discuss issues that
had been considered taboo, and it
started debating the issue of what to do with Kurds and their demands.
This came at the same time with the start of Turkey's EU accession process. It
became a possibility in 1999
when the EU declared that Turkey would be treated as other candidate countries
that submitted applications, and it
became more of a reality in 2002 and 2004 when the EU started gradually
accession talks with the country.
That was the chief driving factor behind the reforms of liberalization and
further democratic consolidation.
But the EU factor being a catalyst, I think the landmark event, the watershed
event was the capture of Ocalan. It
opened up political space in Turkey that had not existed before. It made the
incredible amount of reforms possible.
Issues that would have been considered taboo became possible to discuss in
Turkish media. In fact, as a
result of that, no taboos remained in Turkish media. And finally, the
much-publicized reforms under Kurds,
including broadcasting in Kurdish language, became possible, as well as
education in Kurdish became possible.
All of that took place within the background of the peace and quiet after the
PKK's leader was captured and
the organization was so crippled that it basically went inactive. That lasted
Since 2004 we have seen the PKK resuming its old behavior, and hence, it is now
posing challenges once again
not only to Turkey, but also to U.S.-Turkish relationship, because the PKK is
acting out of northern Iraq, which is
technically under American control. So it has actually now become part of
U.S.-Turkish relationship in ways that it
The PKK's resort to violence has caused a massive amount of casualties,
according to State Department's
Country Report on Terrorism -- last year's report. Its violence caused 600
casualties last year, and not a day goes
that you hear news of yet more Turks killed by this group and its terror
And as a result of that, the political atmosphere in the country looks more
like the 1990s now than like the
period between 1999 and 2004 when there was no violence and much was done in
terms of political reform. So I think
in this sense the organization's comeback has had a negative impact on Turkey's
democratic liberalization and
consolidation, though it has not stopped the process.
But the second impact of the PKK, before I wrap up, is to look at this regional
picture that I suggested
existed earlier. It's how the PKK brings Turkey, Iran, Iraq and the United
Now we have all looked at how the PKK should bring Turkey and the United States
together, because the PKK is
active in northern Iraq. From the Turkish perspective, this is American
territory and whether or not people allow
this kind of activity to happen, the fact that it is taking place is making a
lot of Turks very angry.
Congressman Wexler referred earlier to shades of anti-Americanism in Turkey,
and I think the most
significant driving factor of that anti-Americanism is exactly this issue that
there are attacks being carried out
from northern Iraq.
And what is more important is that in the war on terror the PKK is an important
factor in the way the Turks
look on the war on terror, because their view is that the Turks help the United
States in the war on terror in
places such as Afghanistan.
Turkey has twice held the leadership of the International Security Assistance
Force in Afghanistan, but they
don't get any kind of support or help against the PKK themselves from the
United States, which is also a terror
So from the Turkish perspective for many Turks that you talk to on the street
-- cab drivers -- you get the
view that they think there are two standards. Al Qaida is a terror problem,
but the PKK is not, and they can't
quite understand why that is the case, given un-forthcoming U.S. action against
That's not where it stops, unfortunately. There is also the issue of how the
PKK is in a way poisoning
Turkish-Iraqi relations -- more importantly, Turkish-Iraqi-Kurdish relations.
Because the group is based in
northern Iraq and because it's been active in northern Iraq, attacking from
that area into Turkey, this has also cut
into Turkey's ability to develop better ties -- political, especially, with the
The two large Kurdish parties, KDP and PUK, are largely pro-Western and secular
parties, so they would be
Turkey's natural allies. Yet we can't see that kind of an alliance forming,
because it's a fact that the PKK
functions in northern Iraq (inaudible) are attacks into Turkey, and I think
from the U.S. perspective, what could be
an alliance of two U.S. allies is therefore not coming forth because of this
thorn that is there in their
relationship that needs to be taken out.
There is otherwise a thriving, booming economic relationship between Turkey and
the Iraqi Kurds. Turkey's
investments in northern Iraq are supposed to be in a range of $3 billion --
that's investments, not trade. If you
add trade, it's at a bigger number. And yet what is preventing a thriving
economic relationship from turning into a
good political relationship is the PKK issue, which has been around and been
simmering for a long time.
There's a third issue, which I think is even more important, and it's how the
PKK issue also brings Iran
into the picture. We're much familiar with how it's poisoned Turkey's
relations with Iraqi Kurds and the United
States, but not necessarily this third point. I think this should be
emphasized as well.
Iran, ironically, which supported the PKK and provided it with camps in the
1990s, is now the country that's
fighting the PKK. And Iran's change of behavior is not because it likes Turkey
suddenly or it feels sympathies for
Turkey's secular democracy or it has changed its internal attitudes toward
Turkey, but I think it sees that there's
an opportunity for it to use the PKK as a matter of public diplomacy. And I
use "public diplomacy" in quotation
marks. It's not exactly public diplomacy, but it's what's being done.
Iranians have realized that, given un-forthcoming U.S. action against PKK, many
Turks are very angry with
the United States, and that anger remains there. They've also realized that
this is an area for them where they can
actually step in and carry out actions against the PKK and win the Turks'
hearts. And this is exactly what they're
Since 2004 -- and this is when the Iranians changed their minds; exactly when
the PKK started violence again
and the Iranians realized that this was an avenue for them to make inroads into
Turkish public opinion -- Iranians
not only stopped supporting the PKK -- in other words, they had driven out PKK
camps that existed in their territory
since the mid-1990s -- but they also started actively fighting PKK both in Iran
and inside northern Iraq, according
to media reports.
It is ironic that every time -- and this is something I've sort of made a habit
of watching -- the U.S.
State Department says the right things on how we are together with Turks in the
fighting of the PKK and we will
deliver security, promising the right things, that same day the Iranians bomb
So this is how you read the news in the Turkish press: front page, big
headlines "Iranians Have Bombed PKK
Camps" - 12th page, one column, "The U.S. has said they'll support against the
PKK." And I think in this regard
Iranians, to use a term, walk the walk and they make it as if the Americans are
only talking the talk. And that's a
If you look at the recent Pew Center poll that was mentioned, around 64 percent
of the Turks now regard the
United States as a problematic country, I think, largely because of the PKK
issue. And guess the number of Iranians
who have the same attitude: 6 percent.
So this, I think, is a huge wedge issue right now. It is driving not only a
wedge between Turkey and the
United States, but it's also bringing Turkey and Iran quite closely together.
Before I finish, Mr. Chairman, what I'd like to do is look at what ought to be
done as a policy-maker. I
think action against the PKK at this stage is absolutely a must. It is no more
a suggestion, in the sense that now
there's a new government in Turkey.
I think it is possible for any government to open a new page in their
relationship, both on bilateral ties,
but also for Turkish public perception, and this is the right moment, the
opportune moment for the United States to
take action against the PKK.
If such action cannot be taken by the United States, there are many other ways
of carrying that out,
including through the Iraqi Kurds, who have much to benefit from better
relations with Turkey. In fact, the PKK
exists in areas of responsibility of the Iraqi Kurds, so it would be ultimately
their task to decide what they could
do with this organization, given their resources and their policy options.
But it would not only improve their relations with Turkey, but it would also
improve Turkey's relationship
with the United States. And it would also stop the PKK from being a wedge
issue between Turkey and Iran.
So I think at this stage the most rational policy suggestion, given how things
are on the ground, is that
the Iraqi Kurds should take a more active and personal interest in the PKK
problem. It's not something they can
avoid anymore. It is actually an issue that would bring them much closer to
Turkey than anybody can imagine.
I would like to stop here with this brief expose. I know there are many issues
to be discussed later on. I
believe my colleague will go into some of those questions. But I think this is
an opportune moment for the new
phase in Turkish-U.S. relations with a new government. And I'll now submit the
floor to my colleague.
HASTINGS: Thank you very much. And before going to Mr. Berman, I would say to
the media and our audience
that when Mr. Berman finishes, in the tradition of the briefings, we will turn
to the media for any questions that
might be put, and then to the audience. And we would invite our witnesses to
be responsive to them, if they will.
Ilan Berman is vice president for policy of the American Foreign Policy
Council. He's an expert on regional
security in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Russian Federation. He's
consulted for both the United States
Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Department of Defense and
provided assistance on foreign policy
and national security issues to a range of governmental issues.
He is a frequent guest on radio and television and lots of writings and
publications. He is the author of
"Tehran Rising: Iran's Challenge to the United States" and co-editor with
Michael Waller of "Dismantling Tyranny:
Transitioning Beyond Totalitarian Regimes."
Mr. Berman, you have the floor.
BERMAN: Thank you very much. And let me just start by thanking you, Chairman
Hastings, and thanking the
members of the commission for holding this briefing and inviting both myself
and my colleague, Dr. Cagaptay, to come
speak before you.
This is, I think, a very important time. Without rehashing too much of what's
been said before, I think
this is a very important time, because the Turkish elections set the stage for
what could potentially be a new
conversation between Washington and Ankara on security issues, on domestic
issues. It's not the end of the
conversation; it's the start of one.
And I think it's worthwhile to walk through, first, some general observations
about the election and also,
then, the issues that are unresolved, that are upcoming.
First of all, this was arguably the most anticipated and the most controversial
election in Turkish recent
history. The results of that vote as a direct correlation have very serious
implications, both for the future
disposition of Turkish domestic politics and also for the state of the
relationship between the United States and
By any yardstick, the outcome of the election was a major victory for the
Justice and Development Party, the
AKP, and a serious blow to the country's secularist forces. The AKP swept to
power in 2002 with 34 percent of the
electoral vote. They widened that lead by 12 percent and secured 340 or 341
seats in the country's 550-seat
This growing popularity, I think, should be seen as a barometer of what's going
in Turkish society as a
whole. Last year's Pew Poll attitude survey found that close to half of Turks
now identify themselves as primarily
Muslim, and that is up from just a third of those people polled when the AKP
took power in 2002. And as such, the
AKP's growing popularity is a good barometer of what's going on within Turkish
society as a whole.
Whether you like it or not, this is a trend that's taking place within Turkish
politics. It's very hard to
fight it. In fact, we shouldn't fight it. The AKP election is, therefore, a
The strong showing that they had in the polls, though, doesn't mean that there
are no constraints to their
rule. To the contrary, the significant gains by two other political factions
-- the Cumhuriyet Republican People's
Party and the Conservative National Movement Party, CHP and MHP, respectively
-- mean that the AKP will now face
greater opposition within the parliament than it did previously.
It's useful to remember that as part of Turkey's parliamentary system, there is
a 10 percent threshold that
parties have to reach, have to cross in order to have representation in the
parliament. In 2002 during the
elections, there was only one party, the CHP, that crossed that threshold along
with the AKP.
Today there are at least two additional ones, and there's also a smattering of
independent candidates that
gained representation by circumventing that requirement and by running as
independents. And the AKP will now have
to deal with these added variables.
These are more variables that are in play in the internal political discourse
in the parliament today than
there were previously. And as such, I second Dr. Cagaptay's assertion that
this is actually a formula for
stability. What you want is checks and balances. And you have the more
possibility counter-intuitively, of course,
but you have more chance for checks and balances now with the AKP garnering
more popular support than you did before
But if the AKP was the biggest beneficiary of Sunday's poll, the biggest loser
was, of course, the country's
military itself. It's useful to remember that back in April the Turkish
General Staff ignited a national political
firestorm when it issued a not so subtle warning to the AKP that it was still
willing, as it had in the past on
several occasions, to intervene in the country's political process to restore
And that ignited a fierce national debate over the country's future political
direction that dovetailed very
nicely with the AKP's victory. And as such, the fact that the AKP chartered
very substantial gains in Sunday's
election -- gains that exceeded even the assumptions of the most optimistic of
observers -- should be interpreted at
least in part as a backlash to the military's political interference.
It was simply a not so subtle slap on the wrist to the Turkish General Staff.
Essentially, business as
usual is not business anymore. You can't carry out the same sort of politics
that you did before.
So, as I said, this isn't the end of the discussion; this is just the beginning
of a different one. And
here it's useful to talk about issues that are going to be, I think, decisive
both in the internal context and the
external one, vis-a-vis the United States in the near term. There are a lot of
them, but I'll focus on six.
The first is the question of the Turkish president. The Turkish presidency is
actually not comparable to
the presidency in other parliamentary democracies. The Turkish presidency is a
major center of power. It has the
ability to appoint cabinet officials, to draft laws and convene referendums.
And as such, it is a very attractive
Back in May, Prime Minister Erdogan floated a package of constitutional reforms
that attempted to seize
control of that office by submitting it to a public vote to have the public
directly elect the president, rather
than the current process in which the parliament elects the president. That
proposal was quickly vetoed by the
sitting president, Ahmet Sezer, who deemed that there was no justifiable or
acceptable reason for such a step.
But the issue is not settled. The proposed measures were referred to the
constitutional court, and now
there's a referendum scheduled for October 21st, when it is expected to pass
There's an expectation that the transformation of the president's office from a
parliamentary elected to a
popular elected office is going to be approved, come that referendum in
And that creates a situation where the political contest over this office may
be mooted now -- there's
obviously going to be some back and forth between the AKP and the CHP and the
MHP over a compromise candidate; one
hopes there will be anyway -- but the political contest over this is not over.
If this referendum passes, which we think it will, there will be a renewed
political contest over the
position of the president between Islamist and secularist forces within the
Turkish body polity.
The second issue that should be of concern is the issue of what's been called
stealth Islamization. Since
it took office in late 2002, the Islamist AKP has been accused by many of
attempting to orchestrate a creeping coup
against Turkey's established secular order.
Now, the AKP is fully aware of this controversial image, and it's trying very
hard to shed it. Ahead of
Sunday's poll, it took pains to enlist and then to run a number of candidates
that were not religious --
demonstrably so -- as a way of muting its Islamist credentials.
And since the election, Prime Minister Erdogan has been quick to announce his
commitment to preserving
secularism. But as a practical matter, the track record of the last several
years in which we've seen a concerted
assault against secular institutions, including the military, including the
judiciary, including the media, provides
a fairly deep-seated impulse on the part of the AKP to erase the dividing lines
between mosque and state.
Now this is, as Congressman Wexler said, an internal discussion. We certainly
can have opinions about it,
but it's ultimately for the Turks to decide.
But where it becomes significant for the U.S. is that the outcome of Sunday's
election was it would be hard
to see it as anything other than a popular endorsement of this policy. And as
a result, the Islamization drive can
be expected to expand and strengthen in the months and years ahead, with all
sorts of implications for Turkey's role
as a partner of the United States.
The third and related issue is the upsurge in anti-American and anti-Semitic
sentiment that you've seen in
Turkey over the last several years. In the latest global attitude survey, as
Congressman Wexler said, only 9
percent of Turks polled expressed positive views of the United States.
Now, in 2002, right around the time when the AKP first took power, the number
of Turks that expressed
positive views of the United States was at around 43 percent. This doesn't
mean that the AKP is causally involved
in this decline. Obviously, the situation in Iraq has a pretty big role to
play, but the AKP can be said to be
complicit in it for a couple of reasons.
First of all, party officials have studiously avoided speaking out publicly in
favor of either the United
States or Israel, even while they conduct diplomatic and strategic contacts
behind the scenes. And they also fail
to curb the growing anti-American and anti-Semitic invective that emanates from
the country's Islamic center, that
center of the country's media over which the AKP has a fairly substantial
amount of power and leverage.
So the AKP has tended to -- if the question is, as Soner said, walking the walk
and talking the talk -- the
AKP has walked the walk very quietly away from the scenes, but they haven't
talked the talk about partnership with
the United States or about partnership with Israel. They have studiously
avoided the opportunity to do so.
The fourth issue is an eastward tilt that we've seen in Turkish foreign policy.
Now, anybody who's been to
Turkey knows that Turkish officials and politicians talk all the time about the
issue of strategic debt, about the
fact that as a result of Turkey's geopolitical orientation and strategic
geography, Turkey needs to look both east
As a practical matter, though, the AKP has shown a clear preference for looking
to the east rather than to
the west. Since taking office in 2002, under the guise of what they've called
a quote, unquote "independent foreign
policy," Ankara has drifted towards accommodation with traditional rivals in
the Middle East like Syria and Iran and
at the same time has shown a considerable cooling of its ties with both Europe
and the United States.
And this state of affairs should be deeply alarming for policy-makers here,
because a Turkey ever more
closely aligned with regimes that are hostile to the United States and to
American objectives in the Middle East
will not be -- indeed, it can't be -- a reliable ally in the war on terror.
So this is, I think, a very important trend to watch, because the closer Turkey
becomes aligned with
countries like Iran, the less likely they will be to supplement, or be willing
to supplement, American efforts in
the Middle East.
The fifth issue is attitudes towards Europe. And again, it's just my opinion,
but I think what we're on the
cusp of is a significant readjustment of Turkish attitudes towards Europe and
EU accession in general.
Turkey has been seeking to join the European Community of Nations for some two
decades, and particularly
since 2005, when the EU opened formal accession talks. But now you can see,
and it's pretty evident, that there's a
deep sense of distrust with Europe among all three of the country's political
power centers -- the Islamists, the
secular nationalists and the military.
Publicly, the AKP has expressed all sorts of glowing praise for European
membership, but on my recent trip
-- I was in Turkey a couple of months ago -- I had an observer say something
very interesting to me. He said that
the AKP is more interested in the process, but not the end goal, which is that
they're using the tools of European
accession -- reconfiguration of the relationship between the military and the
state or a reconfiguration between the
powers of the judiciary and the state -- as a tool to increase its own power at
the expense of its chief political
rival, which is the Turkish military.
Secular forces and the Turkish General Staff have soured on the European Union
for the same reason. They
now perceive -- at least in the connotation that I've had, it's come across
loud and clear -- that EU accession
criteria are a poison pill of sorts by which the AKP is progressively altering
the character of the Turkish state.
And that goes a long way towards explaining why in the latest Pew survey less
than a third of Turks now
support EU accession as an absolute goal. A lot of them support it with
reservations and qualifications, but this
is down from pretty high positive ratings just a decade ago.
And the sixth issue -- and this is the decisive one -- is the Kurdish issue.
Turkey's current threat
environment envisions a threat from three interrelated fronts. The first is
the (inaudible) class Kurdish minority
in the southeast of Turkey itself, of which the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK,
is the most active opponent.
The second is across the border in northern Iraq, where the Kurdish dominated
regional government is said to
condone anti-Turkish activities and even possibly to assist in them, although
the evidence there is anecdotal.
The third and the fourth fronts are the Kurdish enclaves in neighboring Syria
and Iran, respectively.
Of these, far and away the most important and the most acute at the moment is
the situation in northern
Iraq. So far the Turkish military has stopped short of decisive military
action against PKK elements that are
operating out of northern Iraq. Instead, they have created a number of
temporary security zones on the Iraqi border
as a way of interdicting cross border activities.
But Turkish officials make very, very clear to anybody who will listen that is
a step that isn't a permanent
solution, and more decisive measures are necessary. And how Turkey chooses to
ultimately do this is going to have a
decisive impact on Turkish-Iraqi relations and on Turkish relations with
And here I think it will be very hard to overstate the gravity of the situation
for these two reasons.
First of all is a credibility issue. As Soner said, the upsurge in PKK
activity against the Turkish citizenry is
undermining confidence in both the Turkish military and the Turkish government
in providing security for the Turkish
And as all of you know, security is the cardinal duty of every government, so
the idea that the Turkish
military simply can't seal that border because of political considerations with
the United States and anything else
is, I think, a very detrimental fact that is making its way now into the
The second issue is what happens as a result of the fact that the Turks are
constrained. International law
-- if I may digress for a second, because I am a lawyer -- posits a tri-fold
duty to any country. It's a duty to
prevent hostile acts from within their territory from emanating outward and
hurting neighbors by doing one of three
things: either legislating, making essentially terrorist activity
criminalized; and then enforcing those
(inaudible); police action, or if you're unable to do that, by looking for
The situation in Iraq currently doesn't meet any of those three standards.
There is a lot of reason to
suspect that the Kurdish regional government has a very good handle on what the
PKK are doing, and they're simply
not acting against them. And more than anything else, the central Iraqi
government, which has the cardinal
responsibility for this, isn't forcing the Kurdish regional government to act.
And the coalition has said for its part under the international law of
occupation, if the Turks cross over
the border, we'd then be forced to defend the Iraqis, which creates this sort
of nightmare scenario of if Turkey
chooses to defend itself, we may be seeing the first internal NATO war, which
is I think a very important point
that's often missed in the press.
The stakes on this go far beyond Iraq. The stakes on this extend to alliance
cohesion within NATO itself.
And because we have not moved decisively against the PKK, it's empowered other
countries to do so. There's an old
Russian proverb for those of you that know it (SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN), which
means, roughly, "A sacred place does not
remain empty for long."
And I think the same thing is happening in terms of Turkish counter-terrorism
policy. Since 2004, when
Turkey and Iran signed a mutual security accord in which they each pledged to
combat the main terrorist threat of
the other -- remember, there's a reciprocal agreement here; it's not just that
the Iranians are combating the PKK,
although they are; the Turks have pledged to combat the Mujhadin Khalq, which
is a terrorist group under U.S.
federal law, but it is the main armed opposition group to the Iranian regime.
So there is a sense of one hand
washes the other.
But since then, the Iranians have been walking the walk. And it's created a
situation where Turkish
counter-terrorism interaction with the United States is now overshadowed by the
growing strategic bonds between
Turkey and Iran. And they tend to manifest themselves not only on the
terrorism front, but on other fronts as well,
such as the recent energy deal.
So if there is an issue that will be able to change the current tenor of
Turkish-U.S. relations, the issue
of PKK activity in northern Iraq is it. And there are ways to actually do
that. Soner mentioned moving decisively
against the PKK. I think there's also an opportunity here to create, because
the coalition has greater authority
over northern Iraq today than it did in early May as a result of the security
arrangement that they signed in late
There is an ability to create a security mechanism that can actually serve as a
buffer that can supplement
the types of activities the Turks are doing and will also mute the impulse of
the Turkish military for intervention
in Iraq, because the result of that would be catastrophic for the U.S.-Turkish
The problem here, though, is that the time is running out, and because this
happens to be a briefing issue
in the Turkish body politic, both the AKP and the Turkish military tend to
understand the need for decisive action
against the Kurds in northern Iraq. This tends to be an issue where the
hourglass is running out, so I'll stop
here. Thank you.
HASTINGS: Thank you both very much for a very comprehensive perspective with
reference to the briefing
matter at hand. I'd invite any member of the media that might wish to put a
question to our witnesses to do so at
this time. Yes, ma'am? And would you say who you are?
You're asked to use the microphone so that the -- yes, you can come over.
(UNKNOWN) My name is Yasmin Chundra (ph), and I'm with the Turkish press with
Hurriyet and Semantric (ph),
and my question is to Dr. Cagaptay.
Soner, at the beginning of your remarks, you said this election outcome was in
a way the best outcome in the
short term that has created a stable government as it's also made it necessary
for that government to seek consensus
in the parliament because of the distribution of the seats. And I think you
mentioned the necessity of a consensus
candidate for the presidency as well.
Well, since yesterday in Turkey it looks like Foreign Minister Gul is very
likely to become the next
president with the maybe passing endorsement of MHP, because they also announce
that they will go and sit in the
parliament, even if they might be not working for him.
If Mr. Gul becomes the president, as is widely expected in Turkey now -- or
let's say if he runs, as is
widely expected now, how do you think the military will react to it, given what
they did on April 27th when Mr. Gul
And secondly, if Mr. Gul becomes the president, which is also widely expected
in Turkey, how do you think
that would affect the U.S.-Turkish relations, especially within the White House
and the presidency?
As you well know, Mr. Sezer, the current president was never invited to the
White House. There was not much
of a dialogue between the White House and Chang Payah (ph) during Mr. Sezer's
Given the fact that Mr. Gul is very well known in this town -- he was the
foreign minister for many years,
and he has a very good rapport with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for
example -- how would that change the
bilateral dialogue? Thank you.
CAGAPTAY: That might be a hypothetical question, so my answer is also going to
First of all, I don't think it's not that President Sezer was never invited;
it's that he never came. In
other words he's president for the last seven years and is known to not like
pomp and receptions and gala dinners,
and he's someone who does not travel overseas or appear at reception sort of
events. That's, I think, beside the
point, but he's not someone who traveled much anyway.
Much of what they're discussing is hypothetical, because the presidential
elections are not going to take
place this month; they're going to take place next month. Remember that the
parliament is now to elect the
president, but before that it has to elect a speaker first. Before that, it
has to convene, and the parliament is
likely to convene on August 3rd, Monday. Is that Monday? Yes.
It will take it, then, 10 days or so at least to elect a speaker. And then it
will start the presidential
election process on August 13th. It has 30 days to elect a president,
including a 10-day waiting period in the
beginning, so the earliest round could be in late August, in which you're going
to need a two-thirds quorum.
It's very likely that some opposition deputies will be in the parliament, but
they're not going to vote for
the candidate, so we're going to wait for the second or the third round. The
way it goes is in the first round, you
need two-thirds. In the second round, you need two-thirds. In the third
round, you can meet the majority. And AKP
has the majority, so in the third round it will elect a president, which will
be sometime in early to mid-September.
So I think we're so far down the road, and I think the next month and a half of
Turkish politics is going to
look like a century. That's why I canceled my vacation plans. I think every
day is going to last as long as a
month. It's going to be an incredibly intense period, and I think that the
signs that we see today I would not
consider to be mature signs. I think those are mostly trial balloons.
People are basically testing the political environment, trying to see how, A,
the media, B, the business
community, C, the opposition parties, D, the military, E, the European Union,
F, the United States will respond to
the likely candidacy of Abdullah Gul, and I think it will be a composite of
these six that will determine the AKP's
So that, I think, is the furthest I can see in the century that's lying ahead
HASTINGS: All right. Next question?
OK. Yes, ma'am?
Yes, if you would.
(UNKNOWN): I'm from Cox Newspapers. My question is for either of the
panelists. Both Robert Wexler and
Hastings said that the elections were overall good for the United States'
relationships with Turkey. Is it good
because the elections were democratic, fair and balanced, or is it good because
of who was elected and that would be
BERMAN: A little of both, I think. It's certainly very good that there was
very high participation, as
Chairman Hastings said -- much higher than we can expect in the United States.
There's an animated, involved body
And it's good not because of who was elected, but because a range of views was
elected, and there is an
ability to have these forces fight it out in the politic sphere to a great
extent -- at least in the parliamentary
side -- than there was recently, because what you had from 2002 until 2007 was
that even though the AKP came into
power with 34 percent of the popular vote, they had a super majority in the
And so you have a very interesting place where in absolute terms their
popularity increased, but in terms of
the ability of other parties to check them, that's actually become more
powerful now than it was before.
CAGAPTAY: First of all, I was born and raised in Istanbul, so you're going to
seem un-Turkish. I could not
vote in these elections, so I have no personal stakes involved.
My take on it is that this is good, as I said earlier, because it shows that,
despite much political
turmoil, Turkey is a functioning liberal democracy. We had six months of
incredible tensions -- demonstrations by
millions of Turks against the ruling party, intervention by the supreme court,
the constitutional court in the
presidential election process, a warning from the military with a spate of
words after that that went back and forth
literally for months between the government and the opposition parties.
It's encouraging that, despite this kind of incredible uncertainty, that Turkey
has once again gone through
its period of elections. This is the 16th time since Turkey became a
multi-party democracy when the Cold War
started. And that's why I think it's a good outcome. Turks are a mature
people who believe in democratic
traditions and can handle any kind of political crisis.
HASTINGS: Thank you.
And then you, ma'am.
(UNKNOWN): I'm not a member of the media, though.
HASTINGS: Is the lady from the media?
Then let's have the gentleman come forward, if you would.
And then you, you, then you.
XULAM: My name is Kani Xulam. I'm with the American Kurdish Information
Network. Yesterday's Indiyet
(ph), a Turkish daily, has an article by Ajet Knelkran (ph), a Turkish
columnist. She quoted from the victory
speech of Prime Minister Erdogan, saying that one people, one flag, on homeland
and one state. And then she
compared that -- she reminds her readers -- to the Nazi slogan, "Ein Stadt, ein
Volk, ein Fuhrer," and then she
translated that for her readers: "One state, one people, one leader."
Germany, as we know, didn't like the Jews and took measures to take care of
them. Turkey is allergic to the
words "Kurd" and "Kurdistan" and equates their freedom with its own debts and
unhappiness. How can you, Congressman
Hastings, as an African American member of this Congress, sing the praises of
Turkey, a racist state that practices
the jenko laws (ph)? Thank you.
HASTINGS: Well, you put the question to me, and what I can say to you is I've
been to Turkey nine times,
and I didn't experience personally as much racism in Turkey as I do in
Washington, D.C. But I gather that I'm
looking from an international perspective with reference to other countries.
I don't think I would be able to go anywhere if I was going to use racism as
the barometer for interaction
and dialogue with governments. I know very few totally tolerant, totally
accepting governments. Toward that end
Turkey fits into the category. If you wish that I should name a few, the last
time that I was overtly discriminated
against -- more than once -- was in Germany. The time previous to that was in
So racism is everywhere, and my job is to try and carry not only to Turkey, but
to Iraq and to Iran the
notion that none of us have any absolute designs on how governments function,
but all of us should be mindful and
When I am there, I use my civil rights experience in speaking with my
interlocutors and informing them that
they should get beyond the period that I lived in my life here in America.
I cite, for example, Cyprus always is not on the table in some of these
discussions, but I sat with both
leaders of the Cypriot Turks and the Greek Cypriots, and I said to them. I
used my personal experience. These two
men grew up together, and I'm referring to Mr. Denktash and his counterpart at
that time. They grew up together,
and I see no reason whatsoever why they should not be able to come together.
It is very easy to take the view that we shouldn't do business with anybody
because their policies are the
antithesis of tolerance. Then I would gather that we ought to take off all of
our Chinese clothes and get rid of
all of our Russian gas and go on about our business. No society that I've ever
been in or known did not have some
form of racism.
I'll accept your question in the spirit that it's offered, but for people like
me who recognize Turkey and
recognize the Kurdish part of Iraq and the need for them to get beyond their
differences and be about the business
of establishing a meaningful dialogue with each other, I haven't given up hope
on all of these countries all over
the world, that somewhere along the lines there may be a reduction in the
tensions that are produced because of
We are all God's children -- some god, however you look at it -- and in light
of that, it would be wise for
all of us to reduce the notions that we have of prejudice and intolerance
toward others because of their religion,
their national origin, or their race.
So I appreciate your question, but I'm very comfortable going to Turkey, but I
have a hell of a hard time
catching a cab sometimes in New York.
The lady over here.
And then you, sir.
CHOULDJIAN: Elizabeth Chouldjian with Horizon Armenian Television. My
question is to you, Mr. Berman.
Clearly, as Ms. (inaudible) also mentioned, we've seen democratic elections in
Turkey. There's no question
about that. That's a step forward and what not.
But Mr. Berman, you have painted a picture since the coming in of the AKP party
that clearly as an American
I'm concerned about. The Turkish government appears to be closer to Iran and
Syria than it's ever been before,
according to your statement.
It has not been even talking the talk when it comes to Turkish-U.S. relations
and Turkish-EU relations and
in fact has been manipulating the EU process in all of this in terms of human
rights issues, in terms of trying to
set up its own future in Turkey.
So my question, I guess, is should we as Americans not be concerned about this?
How close of an ally is
Turkey compared to, let's say, five years ago when the AKP party came in?
And isn't this in fact going to spell for us a much darker future in terms of
U.S.-Turkish relations, given
the fact that very likely, based on everything I've heard, whoever the next
president party is -- likely, an AKP
party supporter and following the same line as what we've been seeing in the
last several years?
BERMAN: Well, that's a fairly loaded question, but let me answer it however
I think there is ample reason to be concerned about the AKP party's intentions.
I think that the current
political climate creates an ability to put greater checks and balances on
their ability to achieve those objectives
I am concerned by the rising anti-Americanism, by the sort of growing proximity
between the AKP party and
Iran and Syria, but Turkey is going to be, for the foreseeable future, a
pivotal ally in the Middle East both in
terms of Iraq and sort of the broader strategic picture that we're looking at.
We need to have a number of levers that will more positively engage Turkey,
whether it's on security in
northern Iraq or other issues that will incentivize them to play a more
constructive role in U.S. policy. The
problem that we've had so far is that we simply haven't begun to talk on the
U.S. policy side.
Chairman Hastings and Congressman Wexler should be commended for their
continued interest in Turkey, but
that interest isn't really echoed in the executive branch, as near as I can
tell. And there's been very little
attention paid not only by the State Department, although there are people like
Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt
Bryza who spend a lot of time on Turkey, but in the larger picture, we really
haven't paid Turkey the attention that
it deserves in terms of its role in U.S. interests.
Ever since the Turkish parliament voted down the referendum authorizing a
northern front against Saddam
Hussein's regime, we've had this sort of chilling tie that both sides have been
working to correct, but we simply
haven't been able to overcome it.
Given this political situation and the propensity of the AKP party to look
elsewhere if we're not engaged,
the case for engagement is greater now than it was ever before.
CHOULDJIAN: May I ask a follow-up, sir?
HASTINGS: I'd like for Dr. Cagaptay to give a response, and then of course,
the follow-up and then what
will likely be our final question will come from the young man who had his hand
Yes, Dr. Cagaptay?
CAGAPTAY: It seems to me that what we're debating is in terms of the
relationship and the future effort and
if the United States should be worried about it. The answer to that lies in
analyzing where the relationship is
There is much anti-Americanism in Turkey, absolutely. That's the case. But on
the other hand, there is
also a thriving relationship. In fact, I would say "thriving" is not the word.
It's a booming relationship. There
is so much cooperation going on in many areas. Iraq is the key area.
It's not known to a lot of us because much of it does not get written up in the
press, but if you ever go
the field -- Iraq or Turkey -- and talk to people or just watch what's
happening, you're going to realize that kind
of cooperation taking place in Iraq between Turkey and the United States is
And by "incredible," I mean the following. There was a vote in March 1, 2003,
which failed in the Turkish
parliament. That was a vote so that Turkey would open up a northern front to
help the war in Iraq, and that vote
The people that I talk to in the U.S. military are suggesting that Turkish
support to the United States now
exceeds what Turkey would have delivered according to the March 1st accord, if
it had passed. In other words what
Turkey is doing has gone beyond what was asked for originally.
And Congressman Wexler referred to earlier in his comments about how
three-quarters of all logistics aid
going to both Iraq and Afghanistan is going through Turkey, and that's the part
that we can see. There's a lot that
we're not able to talk about or read in the media, and I think that's part of
that thriving relationship.
Afghanistan is the second front, which is not on our radar screen as much as
Iraq is. I think the Turkish
contribution is perhaps even bigger than Iraq, because Turkey actually has
troops, had troops in Afghanistan. It is
the only country that has led the international force in Afghanistan twice,
including the United States, and it's
the only country that has had a permanent presence there since the beginning of
The energy issue is a third area of cooperation. Turkey is now actually
helping both the United States and
the EU diversify from its access to dependence to Middle East oil by providing
channels and outlets such as the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline into Azerbaijan and from there with outlets into
the Caucasus for gas and energy
The list can go on and on and on, so the bottom line is there is a booming
relationship. Unfortunately, I
don't think that the government has done a good job of explaining that
relationship or standing behind it, and in
the second term, now that it has a clear mandate, it can do a better job in
that in terms of explaining to the Turks
and standing behind this booming and thriving relationship.
The flip side of it is two years of jargon again -- why the Turks are walking
the walk, but not talking the
talk. The flip side of it is that here we have the PKK issue, which is where
we're saying a lot, but we're not
doing enough. If only we could bring the two visions together, delivering and
talking at the same time, I think
that we could take this relationship to the next level.
HASTINGS: Very quickly.
CHOULDJIAN: Of course. But following up, at the end of the day, if you look
at the scenario now, isn't it
the negative reaction, let's say, of Turks to the U.S. in Turkey today -- isn't
it in some way enhanced by the AKP
party, the fact that that they aren't talking positively about the U.S. and
Turkey, the fact that they're not
talking about Israel, the fact that they're not doing everything that they need
to be doing within Turkey in order
to bolster this relationship?
We're asking the U.S. to go to Turkey and say, "Turkey, be our friend; stand
with us," and whatnot. And yet
on the other side, the leadership there, which appears to be the leadership in
the foreseeable future, doesn't seem
to be reciprocating, and yet we're supposed to be going all these extra miles
in order to befriend them in this
The concern is what are they supposed to be doing? In the larger scheme of
things, we're seeing a country
in that area that doesn't necessarily fit within U.S. interests at the moment,
given the fact that they continue to
go into northern Iraq, given the fact that they continue to have a blockade
with a neighboring country, Armenia, and
given the fact that they're having difficulties in terms of meeting even the
basic tenets that the EU is setting to
join the EU, which we all want to see.
So in that sense, what's the future looking at?
HASTINGS: Well, you know, also a certain part, a bit of what you have said is
not only loaded, I'll take it
off of our witnesses.
The simple fact of the matter is that the EU continues to move the ball, and
that needs to be dealt with.
Their incrementalism allows that those that would embrace Turkey in a
meaningful way are precluded from doing so.
The accession of Turkey -- let's use economic circumstances as a poor example.
Turkey's gross domestic
product is more than the last 10 countries that entered the EU, and yet they're
precluded, and there are good
Turkey also an extraordinary amount of problems, and I recognize that. But in
geopolitics -- now, this
briefing will style globalization, and it also was styled as something to look
at Ataturk's legacy.
Geopolitics will allow that there are very few in the way of permanent friends
in the world, and a lot of
times they're not permanent enemies either. Who would have thought that we
would have a trade agreement with
Vietnam? You think about it.
Or somewhere along the lines it has to be clearly understood that we live in a
great big old world that is
morphing into things that we are not quite ready for. I raise China again.
And I might add, I have no axes to
grind. I've been to China perhaps more times than any other country in the
world. But the simple fact of the
matter is, China is not a democracy, secular or otherwise, and yet we do an
immense amount of business with China.
So I don't want us to get out of the notion that sitting there in the Bosporus
Straits looking right over
into Asia, being in a position where, if you look at some of Turkey's losses,
they lost, because of the Iraq
intervention, an extraordinary stream of trade -- never mind all of this other
kind of thinking.
I don't want us to get down this path of thinking because a country internally
may be changing into whatever
it is that the majority feels that we should all of a sudden don't perceive
them as friends.
If you took Britain's statement, you would find that they spoke favorably of
this election. Even if you
look at the State Department -- and let me quote the State Department since I
criticized them earlier for not
attending this briefing -- "A U.S. State Department spokesman congratulated the
Turkish people on holding what he
said was a free and fair election."
I will point out that we have had a very good working relationship with Prime
Minister Erdogan and his
government and that we have faith in Turkey's secular democracy. As the former
president of the parliamentary
assembly and its now president emeritus, I have no greater supporters than the
parliamentarians from both parties,
AKP and otherwise, when I go into that particular region.
Turkey is very influential in the Balkans. Turkey has immense oil and gas
matters of significant interest
to those of us here. Sure, its domestic politics are going to change. There
are some who would argue that there
are Islamist designs. I think their social fabric is going to change.
But the last time I looked, the social fabric of the United States sure did
change when we got more
concerned about whether Lindsay Lohan got drunk or Anna Nicole's baby was born
than we have the issues that we're
briefing you today.
Thank you, ma'am.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman? My question is for Chairman Hastings. It's a
two-part question. It won't be too
The first part is: As Turkey is recognized as a democracy -- some have stated
as a liberal secular
democracy or whatnot; it is, however, still a democracy -- how important is the
democracy in Turkey for us here in
the United States?
And part two, knowing that, my understanding of secularism is the difference
between government and the
military. Should the military -- and I think it's probably I wouldn't say more
important, but it is an issue that
has not been presented here today, other than the PKK situation -- if there is
a situation where the military might
intervene with the anti-democratic situation that is current, should the U.S.
HASTINGS: When the military took action in previous times in Turkey's history,
the United States didn't get
involved. Sovereigns all have internal disputes, and Turkey is entitled to
theirs, just like we're entitled to
The ultimate question that you asked is one that's very easy to answer,
particularly as the chair of the
Helsinki Commission. Sixteen elections later, Turkey still stands, and to
date, aside from the intermittent
violence that seems to stem from those who have centuries of agendas
That said, this commission has as a part of its inherent mission, not only as
it pertains to Turkey, but in
the entire OSCE sphere, and I might add America's premise, to advance democracy
anywhere and everywhere in the
world. We are not successful in each instance in that regard, but Turkey's
democracy is particularly important.
Now, if the military were to take action, I'm certain that that would give
extraordinary heartburn. Both
our witnesses have addressed this subject, and it is something that must be
I think ultimately what we are crying out for and what this briefing, if
nothing else, has produced from the
stellar witnesses that put forward rather comprehensively what their views are
about how to best go about handling
matters as they arise in Turkey is first to have mutual respect, clearly define
America's strategic interests, work
cooperatively within the framework of dialogue, and enhance our diplomatic
relations, not only with Turkey, but with
other areas of the world.
If there is anybody here who thinks that the Iraq problem can be solved without
Turkey being at the table,
then I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I'll see you.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. The briefing is concluded.
[Whereupon the hearing ended at 11:32 a.m.]