A war on two fronts

I happened to observe President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan from close range all day long on Sunday, and what I saw did not help to boost my morale. They were understandably very apprehensive.

The occasion was a merry one: The daughter of President Gül was getting married, and we were there to witness the happiness of the young couple. The invitees at the daytime reception did not seem to be enjoying themselves as is more customary for such festive occasions. All gave the impression that more important business was awaiting them afterwards. The relatively smaller crowd of dinner invitees was in no better mood, either, speaking among themselves of all the likely scenarios and giving little attention to the cause for their gathering there.

Turkey is engaged in an undeclared war on two fronts, and the people who will lead the country in a time of crises of this magnitude were at the wedding reception trying to look carefree and jubilant and failing to do so.

The Armenian resolution that is being pushed through US Congress by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house, is the first war front for Turkey. The claim that the Turks killed huge numbers of Armenians during World War I and that the act constituted one of “genocide” is not acceptable in Turkey. What happened in 1915 was a sorry page in our history books, but it was nothing more than mutual killings by two communities, one betraying the other''s trust and the other trying to save the country in combat on all fronts. Forgetting one party''s murderous atrocities and accusing the other party of “genocide” is considered blasphemous in Turkey.

All previous governments struggled very hard to block passage of the “Armenian resolution” in Congress and were successful in their quest; the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Erdoğan does not want to be the first to fail to stop the resolution.

If this happens, the country''s warmest government to the US in recent Turkish history would be penalized by the US Congress.

Is this the retribution for an act by the Turkish Parliament when the US demanded assistance of Turkey for opening a second front from southeastern Anatolia in its quest to topple Saddam Hussein and that demand was denied? Or a simple political maneuver by Democrats who gained the upper hand in Congress at the last election and are after cornering President George W. Bush and using Turkey as a tool?

The answer is not that important really since in both alternatives Turkey is the one that suffers.

Maybe the proposed Armenian resolution is not retribution for the Turkish Parliament''s decision not to allow US troops to be stationed on Turkish soil, but the retribution would be the renewed PKK terrorist activities against Turkey. The PKK militants found safe haven in northern Iraq after Iraq came under US occupation, and now the militants have been making deadly incursions into Turkey. Ankara''s grievances on the issue of the terrorist activities by the PKK militants who use Iraqi territory as a sanctuary always fall on deaf ears in Washington.

Well, this is the second front Turkey is fighting.

A story proving the American connivance is vivid in my memory. I remember the day when David Satterfield, US State Department special advisor to Iraq, met with three Turkish journalists after his visit to the headquarters of Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. He was in Turkey to allay the misgivings of the Turkish public about US reluctance to go against PKK terrorist cells in Iraq. He did not mince his words but said very clearly that the PKK is a terrorist organization and that the US will use all its political and military force to make good its promises soon: the promises to stop every terrorist activity towards Turkey stemming from Iraqi territory, closing down the PKK offices in northern Iraq and delivering its leaders... “How soon?” I asked. “Within weeks, not months” Mr. Satterfield replied.

This was in late April, and from that time on the situation has worsened. In the last two weeks alone at least 30 people have fallen victim to PKK terrorist activities.

Fighting on two fronts Turkey is doing everything to block a resolution that is in the process of going through the US Congress and at the same time it is trying to pass a resolution in Turkish Parliament giving a mandate to the TSK to combat terrorists on foreign soil that has been under occupation by the US military.

Although the US and Turkey are supposedly allies, not adversaries, they are nevertheless at loggerheads in this two-front battle.

Which war is retribution for the Turkish Parliament''s refusal to assist the US military before the Iraqi occupation: the passage of a resolution by the US Congress accusing Turkey of “genocide,” or the allowing of PKK militants to conduct deadly raids into Turkey from Iraqi territory under US army occupation? Who do you think will lose in this war and which of the two will benefit from this confrontation?

The high-level Turkish politicians I observed from a safe distance on Sunday gave me the impression they were thinking over these questions very hard, on a day when everybody was supposed to be joyous.

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A war on two fronts
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