Just before the U.N. voted on a final shot at disarming Iraq, the leader of the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Turkey would not help in an attack on neighboring Iraq. Erdogan can’t hold the prime minister post of Turkey, but he runs the party and is the most powerful politician in Turkey. If he’s saying that Turkey won’t take part in an operation against Iraq, that represents one of two things:
1) AKP has made a colossal mistake before it ever takes office, and is heading for a confrontation with the military establishment of Turkey. If this is the case, AKP’s days as the ruling party are numbered. The military, while not enthusiastic about a campaign against Iraq, will not endanger its relationship with the United States or with Israel. Incirlik will be used heavily in any air campaign against Iraq. Or…
2) Erdogan is playing a dangerous game at extracting concessions from the United States. The sanctions against Iraq have cost Turkey billions of dollars over the last decade and exacerbated the poverty of southeast Turkey, fueling the ire of the Kurdish Workers Party. I think more likely that Erdogan is trying to squeeze the United States for cash, backing with the IMF for loans and, more significantly, a free hand in northern Iraq against the Kurds. However, if the AKP miscalculates and asks for too much, the military might step in and remove the AKP from power.
Erdogan made his comments yesterday to the Lebanese daily al-Mustaqbal. He also expressed support for the Palestinians and the establishment of an independnet state for them. How comments such as this might affect Turkey’s tight relationship with Israel is unknown.