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Explaining Anti-American Turkey's Plea for U.S. Intervention in Syria (Zaman, Turkey)


"Washington come under fire whether it intervenes in the region (in Libya) or it does not (in Syria). ... Pleas to the United States for help toppling Assad, in particular from Turkey, stand out against the backdrop of continuing strong anti-Americanism. The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project has, for many years, listed Turks as among the world champions of anti-Americanism."


By Joost Lagendijk



Translated By Papatya Cevahir


May 15, 2013


Turkey - Zaman - Original Article (Turkish)

Pew Center polls consistently show Turks as some of the world's most anti-American people. Why do Turks so dislike America? And why is their government seeking U.S. intervention right next door? Columnist Joost Lagendijk investigates.

AL-JAZEERA, QATAR: Turkey arrests nine suspects linked to car bomb attacks that killed 46; say attacks were carried out by Syrian intelligence, May 12, 00:02:46RealVideo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and other ministers will visit the United States this week. It is obvious that the main agenda items will have to do with the situation in Syria.


The Turkish government will, once again, try to convince their American counterparts of the need to supply the moderate wing of the Syrian resistance with weapons and guarantee the establishment of safe corridors or a no-fly zone along the Turkish-Syrian border. The Obama Administration, once again, will explain that they are deeply concerned about Syria's bloody civil war, understand Turkey's concerns, but are unable or willing to respond positively to Turkey's requests. This is either because they don't trust the Syrian rebels or because establishing Assad-free zones in northern Syria would be too complicated. Washington has settled on a new diplomatic initiative with Moscow, and most likely, at the end of their U.S. visit, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu will reluctantly express their support for this initiative - and which deep down, they don't believe in.


In my view, it is less remarkable that U.S. President Obama wants to stay out of the Syrian swamp than that Ankara is so insistent on American intervention. This once again shows how rapidly and impetuously expectations change about U.S. Middle East policy. Ten years ago, for good reason, an overwhelming majority of Turks protested the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Two years ago, the Turkish government, responding to popular criticism, initially spoke out against joint U.S.-European military intervention to save Libya's opposition in Benghazi, then suddenly change its mind. Washington come under fire whether it intervenes in the region (in Libya) or it does not (in Syria).


Pleas to the United States for help toppling Assad, in particular from Turkey, stand out against the backdrop of continuing strong anti-Americanism. The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project has, for many years, listed Turks as among the world champions of anti-Americanism. A survey from 2012 showed that 72 percent of Turks rate the U.S. unfavorably, with only 15 percent holding positive perceptions. Only Pakistan and Jordan are more critical of Americans.


Mush has been said and written about the incredible unpopularity of the United States in the eyes of so many Turks over the last few years. While some analysts point toward a deep hatred of American culture and civilization, most observers believe anti-Americanism in Turkey is tied directly to extremely detested U.S. policies in the region, first and foremost the 2003 Iraq invasion, which caused a precipitous rise in Turkish disapproval.


Washington insider Ömer Taşpınar knows his way around this issue, and in one of his Zaman columns last year, added an interesting dimension, linking anti-Americanism to Turkey's own issues of identity regarding the Kurdish question and political Islam. According to Taşpınar, across the board, Turks accuse America of nurturing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and harboring plans to create an independent Kurdistan. Taşpınar wrote: “Most secular Turks blame America for promoting "moderate Islam" in Turkey, and using the AKP [Justice and Development Party] to erode Kemalist secularism. Pious Turks are equally angry at the U.S. because of its anti-Muslim policies and support for military coups.”

Posted By Worldmeets.US


In a recent article on Arab anti-Americanism in Foreign Affairs magazine, Marc Lynch, director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, gave a unique twist to Taşpınar's argument. According to Lynch, Islamists are in the process of changing their position on the U.S. He writes: “For all their cultural and political antipathy toward the United States, the Islamists are becoming the regime-incumbents benefiting from American support. They no longer represent the vanguard of anti-American sentiment: that role has fallen, ironically, to leftist and liberal opposition movements who might abstractly identify with American values, but remain marginalized in a U.S.-backed status quo [translated quote]."


Lynch's observations, combined with Taşpınar's, may corrspond to the specific situation in Turkey. If not, explain why the AKP, assisted by Washington in its effort to resolve the Kurdish issue, is so keen on U.S. involvement in Syria; and the Republican People's Party (Turkey's opposition) is so vehemently opposed?



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Posted By Worldmeets.US May 15, 2013, 8:33pm