Turkey’s Role Still Unclear In Possible War With Iraq

The Turkish cabinet met for six hours straight, debating whether or not to allow the U.S. to use Turkey as a “launch pad” for troops. The highly contested American suggestion was to station 62,000 troops in Turkey and then launch them into Iraq in the event of a possible war. Turkey, which borders Iraq to its southeast, would receive 5 billion dollars in grants and then an additional 10 billion in loans if they complied with the U.S. offer.

Just this past Saturday, March 1st, Turkey’s parliament suddenly threw out the proposal, a move few had anticipated. Apparently, the plan was too controversial of an issue and no real national decision could be made on the matter. Officials report that the bill was only three votes short of being passed. As of this past Monday, March 3rd, an agreement had still not be met as to whether or not to re-evaluate the rejected bill.

The entire country seemed to be divided on the issue of assisting the U.S. in building a war against Iraq. Turkey’s economy is weakening and the U.S. offer of 15 billion dollars is very attractive to many. Sources say that Turkey would most likely approve of the proposal if the U.S. gave further compensation.

Still many feel that Turkey’s position on the issue is not so superficial. Anti-war sentiment in Turkey has steadily mounted over the past few months, culminating in a huge demonstration in Ankara, with anti-war protesters chanting: “We are all Iraqis. We will not kill, we will not die.”

A possible war could damage Turkey’s already delicate economy and, in event of an attack, Turkey would have the burden of tens of thousand Iraqi refugees. Turkish prime minister Abdullah Gul also fears that Iraq will launch a counterattack. Yet he expresses hope Turkey’s diplomatic relations will not be damaged by the nation’s refusal to accept the American offer, as he says, “Turkish-U.S. are strategic ties. They are not linked to a single motion- of course they will continue.” President Bush seems to be unconcerned about Turkey’s refusal to support war against Iraq.

He announced to the American public in his Thursday evening news conference, “I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons….and when it comes to our security, we really don’t need anybody’s permission.” While the U.S. could still launch an attack without the base in Turkey, it would be much more difficult and time-consuming.