rules have changed,
the field has changed,
and even the game has changed."
House, New York City, March 2000. Photo: Bircan Ünver
Speech by Nuri ÇOLAKOGLU *
American Turkish Society (ATS) organized a panel discussion
which titled, "Examining the Political Divide
in U.S. - Turkish Relations" on November 19,
2003 in New York City. The participants of the panel
were Nuri Çolakoglu, Dogan Media Group; Melih
Kaylan, The Wall Street Journal, and Asli Aydintasbas,
Sabah Daily Newspaper. The panel moderated by Dr.
Keith Weissman, American-Israel Public Affairs Committee
. with us
We are greatful to Mr. Çolakoglu for sharing
based on the panel
Since the days leading to the U.S.-Iraq War, U.S.
Turkish relations have experienced strains from failures
of statecraft and diplomacy on both sides. With
Turkish public opinion against the war and American
political cartoonists stirring ire on both sides of
the Atlantic, the atmosphere between the two long-time
allies had reached a low-point last spring. Recently,
however, the mood seems to be lifted. Both countries
face critical strategic issues in the region: the
struggle against terrorism, the stabilization of Iraq,
the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace, and the future
of democracy, to name a few. To deal with these, both
countries appear to have realized that they need each
relations have been going on a rollercoaster ride for
the last 40 years after a very strong commencement some
60 years ago. At the end of the Second World War US had
come to Turkey's help to fend off Stalin's territorial
demands on northeastern Anatolia and Truman Doctrine and
Marshall Plan helped to improve the living conditions
in the impoverished country. Turkey responded by sending
troops to Korea to fight side by side the American GIs.
Turkey had been labeled US's most loyal and staunch ally
and this continued until the events in Cyprus.
ride started in 67 when President Johnson's letter was
leaked to the Turkish press. Johnson was warning Turkey
not to use the American weapons in Cyprus if she wants
to exercise her right to intervene into the troublesome
island, the scene of clashes between Greek and Turkish
This came as
a shock and led to an escalation in the anti-American
riots already fueled by the War in Vietnam. But even more
severe crises erupted ten years later when the US imposed
an arms embargo on Turkey after Turkey’s intervention
to Cyprus in 74. The relations had never been the same.
Even one of the most pro-American politicians like Suleyman
Demirel pointed his finger at the CIA for the military
coup that toppled him and put an end to the parliamentary
regime in 1971.
were the years of making up and the Turkish American relations
got getter and better. During the first Gulf War Turkey
did not contribute troops but gave all the necessary logistic
support and played a major role as a base for surveillance
flights over Iraq. President Clinton's visit to Turkey
after the earthquake of 99 the amelioration in the relations
hit the peak.
developments followed. Washington's leaning heavily on
the EU members to recognize the candidature of Turkey
for full membership to EU went down well. US came along
like a knight on a white horse to help Turkey out of its
most severe economic crises two years ago. All these reflected
positively on bilateral relations.
American Business Council meetings in Washington were
the most crowded of all the similar happenings. Turkey
was at US's side during the Afghan War and accepted to
take over the command of the peace keeping force while
all NATO allies were shying away.
Then came the
Iraqi War – In the Iraqi crises when US's top priority
was to remove Saddam Hussein, the question that boggled
Turkey's mind was what was to happen after Saddam?
The main element
in Turkey's policy in Iraq has always been what will come
of the northern Iraq. Lack of a central authority in Iraq
could have led to independent Kurdish state which in due
time could come up with territorial demands from Turkey.
no fly zone of 90s in the north had given the Kurds a
semi autonomous status with their own militia, flag and
money. Turkey has always been worried about these developments.
Looking back in history and remembering the chain of events
from 1925 Sheikh Said revolt to PKK insurgency of 80s
that cost 35,000 lives - she was right in doing so.
At the beginning
of the year, US was in a dilemma - she needed both the
Turks and Kurds for a second front in the north but neither
of her potential partners wanted the other. As Washington
was trying to negotiate a formula that would be acceptable
by all parties, Turkish parliament helped her out by refusing
to give permission to Turkish army's participation in
the military operation. And the war developed far more
swiftly than anybody had expected. Of course the Kurds
in the north had their way as partners of the victors.
over the non recognition of the Turcoman entity in the
north, attempts to change the population structure, raiding
of the public records offices to destroy evidences that
can substantiate Turcoman claims all sent bad signals
to Ankara. But the worst of all was the event in Suleymaniyah.
Turkish troops had been there for nearly two decades to
monitor and control the activities of the PKK militants.
And the raid of one of their headquarters and taking away
some officers and soldiers handcuffed and with a bag over
their heads was too much.
But still goodwill
prevailed and when the US asked for troops, Turkish government
after a little hesitation but with a nicely planned parliamentary
tactic managed to secure the authorization to send troops
to Iraq as peacekeepers. But as the Turkish parliament
was taking a vote on the issue news reached Ankara from
Baghdad that the provisional government of Iraq did not
want any Turkish troops on its soil. This put the US on
a hot seat and after lengthy negotiations to persuade
Iraqis, the US administration was forced to turn around
to Turkey and say that they do not really need Turkish
So we have
a problematic situation and this is reflected on the recent
polls. I would like to quote a poll by Pew Research Center
for the people & the Press. Pew has been carrying
these polls for the last two years in many countries including
Turkey. It also uses the State Department's polls for
When we look
at the percentage of Turks who look at the US favorably
we see that it was 52% in 1999/2000 but came down to 30%
in summer of 2002, in March with Iraqi War it went down
even further to 12% and in June 2003 after the war was
over, it picked up very little - 15%.
because 88% of the Turks believe that the allies did not
care too much for civilian causalities.
While 37% of
Turks believe that Iraq will better with Saddam, those
who believe it will be worse off are 45%.
Those who believe
allies are addressing the people’s needs are 23%
while those who think the opposite is 63%.
Then what is
the problem – Those who say America in general is
the problem is 33%, those who say the problem is the Bush
administration is 52% and 12% believe both of them are
to be blamed.
Two days ago
I was sitting on panel in NY with some ten distinguished
international journalists from UK, France, India, Africa
etc and some leading figures of the American media discussing
Most of the
international journalists indicated that the unilateralism,
arrogance of the American administration had played an
adverse role in this negative image of the US. When I
can do it on my own why bother to ask others attitude
seemed to be the problem for many.
of Washington is not helping a lot in the Turkish-American
relations as well. Bringing down all the pre-war negotiations
to horse trading and giving the impression of it’s
all about money did not go down well in Turkey.
At the beginning
of the war some columnists like William Safire had said
that the high death toll among the US troops would be
result of Turkey’s attitude. And today as the US
meets more problems in Iraq there will be some to blame
But the situation
in the world has changed dramatically. At the end of the
Second World War US set its strategic goals as doing away
with communism, doing away with Soviet Union and doing
away with the Warsaw Bloc. In 1990 much to the surprise
of everybody including the Americans all these took place
nearly overnight. That left us with a single super power
world. The rules have changed, the field has changed,
and even the game has changed. I believe it will take
time for this situation to sink in not only on the world
but also on the Americans as well. How quickly everybody
will adapt to this new situation can show us how quickly
the peace, prosperity and better relations we all yearn
* * *
* A Brief Biography of Nuri ÇOLAKOGLU
Colakoglu completed high school at Robert College, Istanbul,
Turkey and got his BA degree in International Relations
at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara University.
He has been working as a professional journalist and broadcaster
began his career in the public broadcaster TRT’s
newsroom; went on to work as foreing ediot of a local
(news agency; served as stringer to German news agency
DPA, Swedish Television and German radio WDR; worked in
London at the BBC World Service between 1980-1986; and
was appointed as the news editor of the leading Turkish
1989 Mr. Çolakoglu has been involved solely with
television. He was appointed as number two to TRT (Turkish
Radio Television), the public broadcaster; launched Show
TV, the second private TV in Turkey (1992); then launched
Cine 5, the only pay-TV in Turkey (1993); worked as moderator
to political debate shows, and launched NTV news channel.
July 2000, Mr. Çolakoglu has been Chairman &
CEO of the NMC New Media Company TV & Advertisement
Co., based in Istanbul, Turkey. In October 2001, Mr. Çolakoglu
became general director of CNN-Turk, based in Istanbul,
Turkey. Today he is Broadcast and Print Media Coordinator
at Dogan Media Group.
. _Presentation by Nuri Çolakoglu
TV in Turkey
TV in Turkey & NTV,