Are U.S.-Turkey Ties Seriously Frayed? As Turkey faces off with Kurdish guerrillas operating from neighboring Iraq, a state of unease exists between the U.S. and Turkey. Is a serious rift emerging? Bulent Ali Riza of the Center for Strategic and International Studies offers his thoughts.
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Are U.S.-Turkey Ties Seriously Frayed?

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Are U.S.-Turkey Ties Seriously Frayed?

Are U.S.-Turkey Ties Seriously Frayed?

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ANDREA SEABROOK, HOST:

I'm joined now by Bulent Aliriza, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington.

And Dr. Aliriza, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Turkey's defense minister today. They were both in Ukraine. The Turkish minister was talking about a possible Turkish response to the guerrilla attacks and he said, we'd like to do these things with the Americans. What did he mean by that?

Dr. BULENT ALIRIZA (Director, Turkey Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies): The Turks have long been bothered by the threat of PKK terrorism emanating from northern Iraq. The U.S. has great leverage over the Iraqi Kurds, who have their own regional government in the north of Iraq. And the Turks have very much wanted either the U.S. or the Iraqi Kurds or the weak central government in Baghdad to do something about this. But with the escalation of the PKK terrorism, they're looking to the U.S. as a final resort before they have to act unilaterally themselves.

SEABROOK: This is an incredibly complicated political situation - what with the U.S. operations in Iraq, the Kurds in the north of Iraq are allies of U.S. forces, so are the Turks. What can the U.S. do about these Kurdish guerrilla attacks in northern Iraq beyond just condemning them as President Bush did today or calling them unacceptable as he did today?

Dr. ALIRIZA: Well, it's a very difficult situation for the U.S. government. Cleary, the U.S. has not found the magic formula to try and satisfy both sides.

About a year ago, when the Turks were threatening to intervene, President Bush called Prime Minister Erdogan and said don't do that. What we're going to do is appoint a special envoy for - retired General Joseph Ralston, who'll be reporting to the Secretary of State here in Washington and he would meet with a counterpart to be appointed by you. And this will be our way of coming out with practical solutions to deal with the PKK issue. Well, that broke down a few months ago with first the Turkish representatives resigning and then General Ralston also resigned.

So the channel - the designated channel for the maximization of the U.S. diplomatic leverage is no longer there. And with the increase in violence, the situation is moving towards a nightmare scenario for the U.S. because not only are the Turks unhappy with the activities of terrorists groups based in northern Iraq but so are the Iranian. The Iranians have been shelling northern Iraq because of a group known as Pajak, which has been attacking Iran. So the U.S officials have been constant restraint to the Turks, who's been saying please don't do this because the Iranians may look to it as a precedent.

I think the time for diplomacy is almost over. The U.S. really has to do something to satisfy the Turks because the pressure is building up on the Turkish side for Turkish troops to be sent into northern Iraq, in accordance to a resolution that was past a few days ago permitting the deployment of forces abroad.

SEABROOK: Now, at the same time, a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that called the killing of Armenians in Ottoman, Turkey early in the 20th century - genocide. Turkey was very upset about this, obviously. Is what happening now mixed up in that resolution in the House of Representatives?

Dr. ALIRIZA: Unfortunately, the two issues, which are not related to each other in any way, have served to make the U.S. service diplomacy that much more difficult. Frankly, I don't think that the resolution permitting the deployment of forces in northern Iraq would have been passed if it hadn't been for the heightened sense of tension on the part of the Turks following the passage of the resolution. Now, even if the resolution is not passed, the damage has been done. And the ability of the U.S. to influence the Turks is being reduced.

SEABROOK: Bulent Aliriza of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, thank you very much.

Dr. ALIRIZA: Thank you.

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