ANKARA Ñ Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is looking for a change in relations between the United States and Turkey. And he has made clear that the Bush administration is not pleased by Ankara's warming relations with Iran and Syria.
"I'd like to see a different sort of attitude [on Ankara's part] than I
have yet detected," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
told the private Turkish CNN-Turk television on Monday. "Maybe it's there, I haven't been to
Turkey in a while."
"Let's have a Turkey that steps up and says 'we made a mistake,' "
The Pentagon has repeatedly criticized Turkey for its refusal to allow
the United States to form a northern front in the war against Iraq. After
months of negotiations, Ankara rejected a U.S. request for the right to move
up to 62,000 troops through Turkey and into northern Iraq. The Bush
administration had offered Ankara more than $10 billion in loans and grants
for the access rights, Middle East Newsline reported.
"I think for whatever reason, they did not play the strong leadership
role that we would have expected," Wolfowitz said.
Last year, Turkey launched military relations with Syria. The two
countries agreed to hold joint exercises and exchange technical expertise.
Wolfowitz urged Ankara not to establish close military or security ties with Iran and Syria,
saying both are nations that support terrorism. He said a U.S.-Turkish
reconciliation in wake of the Iraqi war would depend on Ankara's
relationship with Damascus and Teheran.
Turkish officials said Washington has told Ankara that Congress would
not approve the sale of any advanced weaponry to Turkey if it maintains or
expands military or security relations with Damascus. The officials
quoted their U.S. counterparts as saying that Turkey's relations with Syria
as well as Iran have become a leading source of concern for the Defense
But Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said Turkey has not formed any alliance
with either Iran or Syria. He told the Washington-based Center for
Strategic and International Studies that Ankara remains solidly Western
despite its failure to allow access to Turkish territory for the U.S war in
"Nobody can change this reality, and nobody has any intention of doing
so," Gonul said.
Turkish officials said Ankara had asked the U.S. military to end its
presence at the Incerlik air base. U.S. aircraft and military personnel were
based at Incerlik since 1991 as part of Operation Northern Watch.
"The forces in Incirlik had to be withdrawn as Operation Northern Watch
automatically ended after starting of operation in Iraq.," Turkish Air Force
commander Gen. Cumhur Asparuk said.
Turkish analysts said Ankara no longer plays a major role in
strategy. They said the future of northern Iraq will be a key
factor in Turkish-U.S. relations.
"If Ankara and Washington cannot see eye-to-eye, a new Iraq crisis might
lead to a very bumpy road in future bilateral relations," Turkish analyst
and columnist Sami Kohen said.
In an unrelated development, Turkey is hosting a NATO submarine exercise
entitled Poseidon 2003. The exercise is composed largely of simulation and
includes observers from Middle East states.