Briefing :: The 2007 Turkish Elections: Globalization and Atatürk’s Legacy

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UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE 
(HELSINKI COMMISSION) HOLDS HEARING:  THE 2007 TURKISH ELECTIONS


JULY 26, 2007

               COMMISSIONERS:

               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.


WITNESSES/PANELISTS:

REP. ROBERT WEXLER, D-FLA.

SONER CAGAPTAY, 
DIRECTOR, 
TURKISH RESEARCH COUNCIL, 
WASHINGTON INSTITUTE

ILAN BERMAN, 
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, moderating.]

     [*]
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 
shortly.  

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 

pretty good?  

CAGAPTAY:  Pretty good.  

(LAUGHTER)  

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 

our country.  

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 

says.  

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 
establishment.  

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 
Florida.  Congressman 

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 
Union.  

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 
government.  

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 

Turkey.  

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 
views.  

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 

Iraq.  

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 
aspirations.  

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 

people-to-people level.  

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 
PKK.  

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 
to testify.  

HASTINGS:  Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  Tell us how you really feel.  

(LAUGHTER)

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 
tired.  

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 
decades.  

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 
Institute.  

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, 
generally, single-party 

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 
politics.

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 

relationship.  

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 

U.S.-Turkish relationship.  

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 
anti-Turkish activity.  

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 

"leadership."  

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 

fundamentally important.  

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 
until 2004.  

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 

was not.  

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 
attacks.  

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 
States together.  

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 

problem.  

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 
the PKK.  

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 
Iraqi Kurds.  

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 

doing.  

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 
PKK camps.  

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 

huge problem.  

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 

Turkey.  

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 

parliament.  

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 
logical evolution.  

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 

in 2002.  

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 
secularism.  

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 

political prize.  

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 
handily.  

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 
October.  

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 

and west.  

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 
Washington.  

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 

citizens.  

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 
Turkish media.  

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 
international assistance.  

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 

May.  

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 
relationship.  

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?  

(OFF-MIKE)  

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 

was running?  

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 
term.  

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 
be hypothetical.  

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 

final posture.  

So that, I think, is the furthest I can see in the century that's lying ahead 
of us.  

HASTINGS:  All right.  Next question?  

OK.  Yes, ma'am?  

(OFF-MIKE)  

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 

helpful?  

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 

politic. 

 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 
parliament.  

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.  

Yes, sir?  

And then you, ma'am.  

Yes, sir?  

(UNKNOWN):  I'm not a member of the media, though.  

HASTINGS:  Is the lady from the media?  

(OFF-MIKE)  

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 
Denmark.  

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 

tolerant.  

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 

alleged differences.  

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 can.  

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 

than otherwise.  

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 
up.  

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 

today.  

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 
incredible.  

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 

failed.  

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 war.  

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 

projects.  

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 

case.  

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 

economic reasons.  

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.  

You, sir?  

(UNKNOWN):  Mr. Chairman?  My question is for Chairman Hastings.  It's a 
two-part question.  It won't be too 

long.  

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. 
be involved?  

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 

ours.  

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 
attended.  

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.]

END