Letter from Turkey
Jude Wanniski
September 10, 2002


Memo To: Website fans, browsers, clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Ahmet Atamer

Ahmet Atamer, a Turkish American who has lived most of his life abroad, commuting to Turkey, wrote me a note recently about his views on the crisis in the Middle East. I've never met Mr. Atamer, but the note was interesting enough that I suggested he write a "Letter from Turkey," to express his thoughts more fully. If I found it worthy of broadcasting, I told him I would run it as a memo on the margin, and he did come through better than I had expected. Here it is, as written:

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The Middle East continues to play an enormous role that affects us all world-wide. In Europe, the mood is, the War Cabinet that Bush has, is giving him bad advise and nobody will support such actions. As long as I can remember, there has never been a universal opinion (except the US and Israel) that bombing a country (Iraq) would be the best thing for the world. The whole world can not be wrong and just 2 countries right. We keep hearing the Bush Administration talk about protecting "Our friends in the region." These comments are a pure smokescreen. Who? All the Middle East without exception is against this latest strategy. This has enormous complications for Turkey (America's so called friend in the region).

Destabilizing Iraq would strengthen the Kurdish north that is presently being protected by the US and British. This would create another problem for Turkey that has suffered from terrorism for many years at the hands of the Kurds. No one in Turkey would like that to happen. Secondly, Turks have a good memory regarding the previous Iraqi invasion called Desert Storm. The world agreed that Iraq must be kicked out of Kuwait and that aggression should not stand and Turkey did its part. It was promised massive amounts of aid for its efforts. Unfortunately, they were left with very little and the economy suffered tremendously. The billions promised never came. Iraq, an extremely important trading partner of Turkey (one that Turkey relied on for it's demand of oil), was closed.

Today, we hear for the sake of the "World Democracy and Freedom", the US must do this. Turkey is asked to help or turn a blind eye. We are told that the US is helping to protect countries like Turkey against the evil empire, Iraq. Let me say one thing, Turkey has a huge army which is not at all afraid of the Iraqis and they have not requested any help from the US (against this Iraqi threat).

Turkey has a pivotal role to play in the Middle East dilemma. It is a Muslim nation based on a secular idea given by the Great Kemal Ataturk. But it also has close relations with Israel. This relationship was designed by the US to help Israel achieve "some friends in the neighborhood". Turkey provides Israeli jets airspace they need desperately to practise as well as a large population to sell their expertise and products. A recent example was Israel being rewarded a defense contract to modernise some equipment. This contract ran into the 100's of millions of dollars. What does Turkey get in return? No market penetration for it's wonderful produce, no market for it's products and no financial aid. It does receive the wrath of its Arab neighbors free. This relationship truly benefits just Israel and the US. The average person on the street and the more sophisticated business person realises Turkey is in a no win solution. Allow the US to use their land and airspace and lose more billions in economic activity. From the last Desert Storm, tourism which is an important element of the Turkish economy suffered tremendously. To this day, it suffers from all the turbulence in the Middle East. One more war and tourism will suffer further. As a country that has a large unemployment rate, this is a perfect atmosphere for extremists to cause trouble in Turkish society. As in all societies economic deprivation leads people to extremes.

Turkey is in a no win solution, if they say "No" to the use of their airbases their will be no World Bank or IMF loans. If they participate, the economy will take an adverse hit immediately. To stop the madness that is engulfing the whole region there has to be a new strategy in place. The UN has to be respected and an unbiased group should have access to all sites they believe Iraq is storing weapons of mass destruction. As well as having inspections of Israel's sites. Iraq should sign a letter and give it to the UN pledging not to develop these terrible bombs. A fair and unbiased policy can only lend itself to a proper solution to the troubled land.

This area has huge potential and I believe that the solution is with troops on the ground that are acceptable to both parties. That is where Turkey would be happy to play such an important role. The countries that were acceptable to both would send troops to defend the borders between the two belligerents based on UN Resolution 242 and 338. The funding of such an operation would be paid from deducting the amount from the 3.3 billion the US gives to Israel as foreign aid. Since this would reduce their defense expenditures they would need less. Also, if rich Arab countries want to spend their money on a cause they feel is important for their Muslim brothers they would chip in too.

Turkey would benefit tremendously from not having to chose which side is our friend and it could help move the Muslim community into a more open society that Turkey has developed. Also, the economies in the regions would increase trade and be able to improve the general well-being of its citizens. Economic expansion and belief in tomorrow are the extremists worst nightmares. From this renewed hope our "True Friends" could get on with the business with being "Our Friends".

Ahmet Atamer

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Ahmet Atamer, 43, works at a trading desk at Prumerica Financial(formerly Prudential Bache Securities). He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Economics, is married with two children. He is not involved in Turkish politics, but with Turkish clients retains a keen interest in it.

If you would like to contact Ahmet Atamer, send me a note at Polyconomics and I will pass it on to him.