Turkey has price for war support

Turkey has price for war support

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

President Bush’s efforts to build a coalition in support of his war on Iraq is not proceeding without a price. In a recent meeting with a Turkish official, Bush White House staffers learned that country’s price for cooperation.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party, the ruling group in Turkey, made a pitch for U.S. economic assistance to his country.

He expressed concern about the economic effects of an invasion of Iraq. “Turkey suffered a lot from the Gulf crisis,” said one diplomat, “and rumors of an invasion of Iraq are already affecting the Turkish economy, tourism and international trade…the figure the Americans have been talking about is not our figure.”

Brookings Institute defense analyst Philip Gordon observed: “Turkey has about $5 billion in military debt to the U.S., and that will be on the table. Turkey is throwing big numbers around, of about $25 billion in assistance, but that does not seem realistic. They will be wanting to address foreign military sales from the U.S., economic aid and IMF support. If the U.S. wants ground troops in Turkey, they will have to pay a price.”

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute in Washington, told the Washington Financial Times: “The single most important thing is unfettered U.S. access to the Incirlik air base in south central Turkey.

“In addition, they want Turkey to allow the use of their territory as a staging area for ground operations, most likely a small unit of about 4,000 personnel. The third most important thing is that the Turks show some constraint in how they deal with the Kurds on both sides of the border.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, one of the most hawkish of the warhawks in the Bush administration, was in Turkey recently. He was attempting to win strong support for U.S. war plans. He did not get it.

Turkey’s attitude seems to be, “If you want to play, you’ve got to pay.”

Recent estimates by the international media put approximately 50,000 U.S. military personnel in the region surrounding Iraq, with another 50,000 deployment planned.

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