Monday, July 23, 2007

More on Turkey

Talked with James Coyle, who directs Chapman University's Global Education Project (U.S. students studying abroad, foreign students coming to Chapman) and before that served two years with the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. His view is that Turkish voters were not voting for an Islamic philosophy/theology so much as for continued prosperity. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has instituted numerous economic reforms, in part to make Turkey eligible to join the European Union (which might or might not ever happen) and Turkey has experienced remarkable economic growth, up to 7 percent a year. A lot of Turks with better jobs than they had before or more prosperous businesses didn't want to mess with that. The AK party has fewer seats in the parliament than before because three parties rather than one passed the 10 percent benchmark to gain representation, but increassed its vote percentage from 34 percent in 2002 to 46 percent in 2007.

Jim also believes the election results will not make it more likely that Turkey will eventually undertake cross-border military action into Iraq -- the Turkish military will make such a decision and the nationalist parties didn't gain ground -- but he figures there's a 50/50 chance that will happen unless the PKK Kurdish separatists stop their cross-border raids. That would present U.S. government and military officials, the de facto ruling power in Iraq, with a dilemma. Do they pull forces from other conflicts in Iraq to subdue the PKK, which would probably be Turkey's preference? Do they pressure the Kurds, who aren't currently giving them trouble, to subdue the PKK? If Turkey attacks, do they support a military opposition or content themselves with s stern note through diplomatic channels, which would mean se facto acquiescence in a Turkish military incursion into Iraq? None of the choices is especially attractive.

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