donderdag, februari 20, 2003

Turkish Land For Rent

''I am not responsible for geography."
- Josef Stalin to Finland in 1938, when World War II was looming and Russia wanted territorial concessions.

Man, the price of real estate is skyrocketing. Not long after Liechtenstein offered itself up for rent like a harlot in a redlight district window, Turkey has announced that it too is for rent.

Whereas the Ruritanian statelet of Liechtenstein offered herself up at an estimated £1.2 million for a four-day conference of 900 delegates, Turkey's demands are a little bit higher; a reported $92 billion in economic assistance - aid and loan guarantees - as its price for co-operation in letting the U.S. base tens of thousands of soldiers in Turkey to open a possible northern front against Iraq.

Granted, when compared to allowing U.S. soldiers to deploy and possibly launch an invasion against a chemical and biological weapons despot posing as your neighbor, renting out your country for a four-day conference of 900 business delegates is roughly equivilent to renting it out to a Girl Scout Troop and should be much cheaper, but even to a spendthrift like Uncle Sam, $92 billion seemed a little too extortionary.

The original offer of the U.S. was around $30 billion but hey, even Turkey has some bills to pay. Turkish columnist Ferai Tinc reports that the last time Uncle Sam came was tossing around dollar bills like used kleenex back in 1990 for Gulf War One support, urgent aid to Turkey amounted to $82 billion. That seems like alot but according to Tinc, the "damage that Turkey suffered in the decade since ’91 amounted to $100 billion."

Naturally, at that rate, supporting the U.S. seems like a money losing proposition to say the least. Tinc goes on to cite a Turkish economy hit so hard following the last Gulf War that they were never able to recover. In 1990, Turkey’s growth rate was 9.5%, but just one year later it had plummeted to 0.5%. In addition, according to Tinc, contrary to Turkish expectations, the US didn’t overthrow Saddam Hussein, so Turkey had to continue its relations with Saddam’s administration, which remained its neighbor.

In this light, $92 billion seems like a bargain. So why is America so reticent about anteing up? Well, for one, they claim Ankara is seeking to exploit the Iraq crisis to address its financial needs. Those unconscionable bastards! Clearly they don't understand the altruistic and humanitarian nature of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Clearly they don't see how much the Bush Administration is willing to continue to hold its own economy hostage to its war efforts. Otherwise, the Turkish would act like good citizens of the world and put their economic self-interests behind the interests of the Bush Administration like every other nation of the world that isn't evil.

Rest assured though, America is not going to stand for this kind of self-centered cheekiness from Turkey much longer. The contemptuous little demagogue who continues to pose as White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, said as much when he postulated, in typically clear and concise Fleischerian English that "I think either an agreement will be reached, or no agreement will be reached," he said. "There comes a moment when plans must be made, decisions must be made, and cannot stretch on indefinitely." To emphasize those decisions needing to be made, in the typically diplomatic fashion of the Bush Administration, they then warned Turkey it would cancel a multi-billion-dollar aid package if Ankara did not immediately allow the US army to deploy troops intended for a military strike against northern Iraq.

And then, the Administration trotted out it's favorite little phrase, it's Administrative motto, so to speak, when it noted that "time is running out" for Ankara to make a decision, suggesting Washington was pressing for an agreement by the weekend.

In Turkey, Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis brushed aside U.S. warnings that time was running out. He said a vote in parliament to base tens of thousands of U.S. troops was unlikely before early next week.

By this afternoon, Secretary of State Colin Powell jumped into the act, saying "there may be some creative things we can do" to gain acceptance of a proposed U.S. aid package meant to pave the way for Turkey to help in a war against Iraq. Of course Powell did not elaborate on those refinements but said he expected to hear from Turkey by day's end. As for the United States, "Our position is firm," Powell said.

In the end, it seems highly unlikely that Turkey will buck a substantial financial package just because it isn't sufficient to meet their economic needs. Nevertheless, as Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized, "If Turkey makes a sacrifice, then its demands should not be considered as a simple bargain. We are not a country and nation who can make the issue of war an issue of bargain." 90% of Turkey's predominantly Muslim population, for example, is naturally against the war on Iraq. It isn't easy convincing 10% of the population that they can buy off 90% of the population with a bunch of empty economic aid promises.

Then again, if the Bush Administration would like to make a leeetle trade, perhaps the oil fields of Northern Iraq might be a more persuasive bargaining chip.

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