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Turkey's Role in the New Emerging World

A  Presentation by Stephen Kinzer
8 June 2006, Istanbul
(Photo: Light Millennium)

by Yuksel OKTAY


Mr. Stephen Kinzer, the former New York Times Bureau chief in Istanbul, now a lecturer at the Northwestern University in Illinois, was a guest at a luncheon arranged by Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) where he spoke about "Turkey's Role in the New Emerging World." After a brief introduction, Rona Yircali of DEIK stated that the author of "Crescent and Star; Turkey Between Two Worldsand  "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror" had written another book "Overthrow; America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq."

Kinzer began his speech by stating that he was intimidated by having so many dignitaries in the audience, including two former Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Referring to his tenure in Istanbul, he said that four years is not enough time to get to know a country and its people, and wished he could have stayed two more years to complete his long list of things to do. He said he is often asked which country of over fifty that he has visited is his most favorite, and said that it is like choosing between your children and admitted that, with its many layers of culture, Turkey is the most interesting. He said that although he lives in the US, he feels most at home in Turkey.

Kinzer said "Politics is back in Turkey and political conflict is emerging, just like in the US." Than he added that the opposition in Turkey is pitiful. Referring to the politics in the US, Kinzer made reference to the war in Iraq which has captured the attention of the American people with a lot of questioning. Referring to the old times in the US, Kinzer stated that the main emphasis is the "can do mentality" which led to the populating of America and the discovery of the light bulb.

Kinzer than spoke about the rising crisis in Iran, which he said is also getting the attention of the US public, although they are also concerned on domestic issues, including the health care crisis, and the 9-11 incident that shook the self-confidences of Americans. The events afterwards gave rise to Islamic extremism and anti-American feelings. The main question on Iraq is the possibility of its disintegration and the creation of an almost independent Kurdistan, which can not and will not be tolerated in Turkey, when in reality people should be asking how to deal with it. US and Turkey will have work together to manage the outcome although Turkish American relations has been strained due to a number of reasons, from the March 1 Referndum to the making of the movie, "The Valley of the Wolves."

On Turkey's role in the new emerging world order, Kinzer stated that Turkey in the past did not have to have a foreign policy, but now things are changing with a mandate for Turkey's own version of foreign policy, which is emerging.  

Kinzer stated that the military actions against the PKK were not realistic and Tayyip Erdogan's new look at the issue by giving more rights to the Kurds was not appreciated by the European Union, which is doing nothing about the issue and which was also not carried forward in Turkey.

Referring to the power vacuum in the Middle east, Kinzer suggested that Turkey could fill this role, although domestically, there is a concern about the present government, which he said he also shared, although Turkey is much more free and the economy in a much better shape. Kinzer said that Turkey is lagging far behind other nations in its educational policies and the track record of the press, which should be trained to deliver the news as it is done in other counties, rather than dishing out a collection of pictures and columns. On the European Union negotiations, Kinzer stated that, despite bumps, negotiations was more or less on track, although recent EU proposals on the Cyprus issue is not acceptable to Turkey, suggesting that EU has to find another way.

On the selection of the Presidential candidate, Kinzer stated that he hopes, along with the members in the audience, the debate will be resolved by Tayyip Erdogan, bringing a consensus to the Turkish society by eliminating polarization, suggesting that winning one third of the votes which allowed the ruling party two thirds of the deputies, does not mean one hundred percent power share.  In summary, Kinzer stated that although US influence has decreased, no other country can rival its military and economic superiority and that Turkey, as the junior partner, has the ability to play more important role and suggested that the next US administration will pay more attention to Turkey, and seek Turkey's advise.

The guests, numbering around 50, included the US Consul General and six members from the Consulate, two former Foreign Ministers, several retired Turkish Ambassadors, including Gunduz Aktan, several newspaper and hotel representatives. There was a short question and answer session where Kinzer was asked if the US had anything to do with the three coups in Turkey, a question that was left unanswered during a recent interview with Light Millenium in the States. His response was, "nobody really knows."

Yuksel Oktay, PE

More on the Light Millennium:

Summer 2006
Issue# 18
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