Turkey's Davutoğlu 'warned' US about Iraq strategy, new book reveals

The Turkish FM warned the US over its Iraq transit request, a new book reveals. Claims that Turkey misled the United States about its willingness to allow Washington to use Turkish soil to invade Iraq in 2003 have been disputed by information revealed in a recently published book.
According to journalist Gürkan Zengin, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, then an advisor to the prime minister, warned Washington not to be disappointed if its request to allow U.S. soldiers to enter Iraq through Turkey was turned down.
Following the Turkish Parliament’s rejection March 1, 2003, of the resolution that would have allowed such a deployment, several U.S. officials expressed their disappointment and claimed that Turkey had misled its ally.
“The argument that Turkey passed the first resolution and gave hope to the United States, but then fooled it by refusing the second resolution will lose its validity following the surfacing of this dialogue” with Davutoğlu, Zengin wrote in his book, “Hoca: Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Impact on Turkish Foreign Policy.”
The new book provides the details of a meeting between then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gül on the process involved in getting the Turkish Parliament to pass the resolution Washington sought. At the meeting, which took place in Davos nearly two months prior to the parliamentary vote in March, Powell suggested requesting the authority in two phases.
“How about you get a resolution from the Turkish Parliament to start construction on the military bases and ports? This way the facilities will be ready by the time the second resolution comes out,” the book quotes Powell saying.
At this point, Davutoğlu, who was present at the talks as an advisor, spoke up. “The problem here is this: The first resolution might come out and you start your preparations, but then if the second resolution does not pass, you might be disappointed,” he said. “This could create problems in our relations, which could be damaged.”
According to Zengin’s account, Powell responded: “No, we will not be disappointed; why should we? After all you are a democratic country and we will respect that decision.”
The March 1 vote was a major turning point in Turkish-U.S. relations and has been cited by many who argue Turkey is drifting apart from the West as the start of that change. Extremely influential in decision-making even as an advisor, Davutoğlu’s importance only grew once he became foreign minister, to the point where Turkey’s new foreign policy cannot be fully understood without understanding Davutoğlu.
Journalist Zengin met the subject of his book in March 2001, when Davutoğlu was working as an academic and had not yet been appointed as an advisor. Zengin was working at CNNTürk and was trying to find someone to comment on the pope’s visit to Damascus; one of his staff members suggested his professor, Davutoğlu. “He is one of the guests who most impressed me,” Zengin told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “He immediately makes his difference clear. He is very impressive and informative. You ask him one thing, you learn many things.”
Davutoğlu's book “Strategic Depth” came out a few months later and Zengin read it immediately. “Few books have impressed me like that,” the journalist said, adding that the book lays down a strategy for Turkey that started to be shaped following the end of the Cold War. In this sense Davutoğlu is unique as a foreign minister in that he is working on an already-thought-out strategy, Zengin said, adding that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is simply implementing the principles stated in Davutoğlu’s book.
“I am not surprised by any of the government’s decisions. To the contrary, the government’s steps have become predictable because they are based on policies that are the implementation of those principles,” Zengin said, adding that he was not surprised to see President Abdullah Gül go to Armenia, a country with which Turkey lacks diplomatic ties, because one of Davutoğlu’s principles is to “never close doors to dialogue.” Instead, the foreign minister says it is important to “maintain the dialogue and have it at the highest level possible.” That is why Zengin was also not surprised to see the Turkish government resist U.S. pressure to isolate Syria, pressure that accelerated after the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
While Zengin emphasizes Davutoğlu’s personal impact on Turkish foreign policy, he also makes clear that the transformation began before the AKP came to power, but that the earlier coalition governments had difficulty generating enough political will to consistently implement an assertive, ambitious policy vision.
“I have heard arguments similar to those of Davutoğlu from the former foreign minister, the late İsmail Cem,” Zengin told the Daily News. “Davutoğlu’s luck was to work with a single-party government that had the political will.”
The fact that Davutoğlu is on good terms with both Prime Minister Erdoğan and President Gül contributes to the successful implementation of foreign policy under the AKP, Zengin added, dismissing critics’ arguments that Turkey is shifting its axis or trying to revive the Ottoman Empire.
“Of course there is some identification with the Ottoman past. But [Davutoğlu] does not harbor Ottoman dreams,” Zengin said. “To the contrary Davutoğlu is basing his policies on a realist analysis.”
The early chapters of Zengin’s book deal with Davutoğlu’s educational and professional formation, explaining why he chose to go to Malaysia after studying at Bosphorus University, where he became familiar with the Western way of thinking. His deep knowledge of both East and West gives the Foreign Ministry a new advantage, Zengin said. In the book, he quotes a Turkish diplomat as saying: “As Turkish diplomats we are used to talking with the West. We know their codes very well. But we did not have such an ease with the East. Davutoğlu knows the codes of the West but also the codes of the East. When he talks with Eastern leaders he can behave just like them. This is comforting for us.”
When Davutoğlu found out about Zengin’s book, “he was not very happy about it,” the author said. “He always had a distanced stance toward the book while it was being written.” Despite the fact that he only criticizes Davutoğlu on his time-management skills and the lengthy meetings he holds with his counterparts, Zengin said, he still is not sure whether the foreign minister was happy to see the book published.
Putting theory into practice
Journalist Gürkan Zengin’s new book about Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also explains how the top diplomat’s theories have been implemented. It gives a detailed account of how the dramatic change in Turkey’s policy on the Cyprus issue under the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, gained it the moral upper hand. It explains how Turkey played a behind-the-scenes role to get the Sunnis back in parliament in Iraq, and to mend fences between hostile players in Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Many criticize the AKP for straining relations with the United States and Israel, but Zengin puts the blame on Washington and Tel Aviv. “Which one is posing a bigger threat? Iran, which is suspected of building a nuclear weapon, or Israel, which is known to possess nuclear weapons and has murdered nine Turks?” he said. He emphasizes that Turkey does not want to see Iran acquire nuclear weapons, but argues it is ethically inconsistent to single out Iran simply based on “doubts.”
“There needs to be credible evidence against Iran. We all know how the U.S. tried to convince the world with forged documents that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” Zengin wrote. “Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell calls the day he went to convince the U.N. Security Council a stain on his career.”
The journalist also dismisses arguments that Turkey cannot claim to be the “game maker” it aspires to be in the region after straining relations with an important player such as Israel. “Turkey cannot of course be a game maker if it does not raise objections to the murder of 1,400 people, including women and children, in Gaza,” he said. “No one is questioning the existence of Israel. But while Turkey wants peace in the Middle East, Israel is destabilizing it.”

 26 Kasım 2010, Hürriyet Daily News

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