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Turkey Redefines Chutzpah

From a Washington Post story on how the diplomatic dance with Turkey went so wrong:

The week before the parliamentary vote that U.S. officials expected on Feb. 18, a delegation led by [Yasir] Yakis [the former Turkish foreign minister who played a key role in the talks with the United States] arrived in Washington to discuss Turkey's financial package for agreeing to the troop request. The administration had offered $4 billion -- $2 billion in grants and $2 billion in military credits. But a day of negotiations went nowhere...

That night, at 9, Yakis called Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at home and insisted he had to see him. Powell was due to fly early the next morning to New York to haggle with France and other U.N. Security Council members over whether to continue weapons inspections in Iraq. But he agreed that Yakis and the Turkish economics minister could come to his spacious McLean home at 10:30. When they arrived, Powell, still dressed in jacket and tie, ushered them into his dining room, according to an official who was present. He didn't offer them food or a drink.

Yakis told Powell the $4 billion offer wasn't enough. He had consulted with Ankara and his government had decided to ask for $92 billion over five years, the official said. Failing that, Ankara wanted $22 billion in the first year.

Powell noted that the entire foreign aid budget for the United States was $18.5 billion. As the clock neared midnight, Powell told them he would ask Bush to raise the U.S. offer to $6 billion, with $1 billion that could be used immediately for a loan of $8 billion to $10 billion.

During the negotiations, Bush had made only a handful of calls on the troop request. U.S. officials more or less expected the Turkish delegation's meeting with the president in the Oval Office the following day would seal the deal. Bush told Yakis he would agree to Powell's $6 billion offer, but that was the maximum. "You are great negotiators," Bush said, according to U.S. and Turkish officials. "You got me to my top line. But it really is my top line."

Basically, Turkey offered the US a choice: five years to pay $92 billion, or $22 billion cash on the barrel head. They weren't going to get it, but they did manage to get the US from an offer of $4 billion in grants and credits up to $6 billion. Part of me is offended at the naked greed, and part of me admires their strategy. All of me thinks that the definition of the word chutzpah should be updated. I'm not sure it's a Yiddish word anymore.


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The whole US-Turkey thing has been ... straaange. For one thing, the new Turkish PM that was rushed into power wasn't even in the parliament before because he was banned from being elected. Why? Because he was found guilty by a court of law or encouraging religious revolt. But then the laws were changed and he was eligible for parliament again and he stepped right in without a new election.

So already the US' efforts toward multiple attack options resulted in a "regime change" that brought a convicted revolutionary, radical muslim to power in a NATO country.

BTW, only three groups in Turkey were opposed to helping the US against Iraq:

- First, the population. More than 90% of the population is against the war. They fear the political, economic and social consequences: Refugees will flood the country, there will be problems with the Kurds, and the Turks generally think of the Iraqies as muslim brothers.

- Second, the politicians. They've promised their population that they would remove the risk of war, and they've promised economic progress.

- Third, the military. They want to preserve the unity of the Turkish state and hinder the creation of a Kurdish state.

My source for this analysis is a reporter for the Danish national radio who has lived in Turkey for decades.

Jan, my post wasn't meant to voice approval or disapproval of Turkey's policy. My point was simply to express slack-jawed disbelief at their request for $92 billion in exchange for transit rights through their country. If we had agreed to such a request (which, of course, would have been impossible), if the Turkish parliament had then approved it, and if we had moved, say, two divisions through Turkey -- let's say 60,000 soldiers -- that would have represented a transit fee of $1,533,333 per soldier. Even at the final offer of $6 billion, that would have worked out to $100,000 per soldier.

As for Turkey's actions, I understand that the populace was overwhelmingly against allowing us use their country as a military staging area. I don't begrudge them the decision they made. However, the Turks must remember that in the six months prior to the invasion, the US had argued their case for EU membership (though to no avail) and had pushed NATO to the breaking point to get it to agree to Turkey's request for defensive assistance. The US will, in all likelihood, be less likely to support Turkey in the future. Moreover, the Turks have, in my opinion -- and keep in mind that I'm not a hawk when it comes to this war -- forfeited any right to a say in the political structures of post-war Iraq. They will just have to accept whatever government the US sets up and whatever provisions the US makes (if any) for limited autonomy on the part of the Kurds. Following one's conscience is admirable, but doing so often has consequences.

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