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Many Turks see US as greatest threat January 16, 2011

Posted by Yilan in America, Turkey, US.
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A new survey finds that 42.6% of Turks see Washington as the “greatest external threat”.

 

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A woman attends the funeral of her son, a Kurdish rebel allegedly killed by Turkish soldiers. Many Turks view the US as not doing enough about Kurdish rebels operating out of northern Iraq. 

In a recent poll by Metropoll, which is alleged to have connections with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), 23.7% of the 1,500 respondents cited Israel as the country’s biggest threat. However, more than 42% cited the United States.

In comparison, 3% of Turks named Iran, 2.3% said Greece, 2.1% cited Iraq and 1.7% said Russia.

The survey appeared to give credence to the frequently espoused view that Turkey, a longtime NATO member, is drifting away from the West. Since the AKP first took power in 2002, the party has been accused of harboring a secret plan to establish an Islamic state within Turkey, orienting the country eastward, and increasing relations with Iran.

Little evidence has appeared to substantiate this. The AKP’s plans are likely exaggerated as the world struggles to create a new vocabulary to discuss the rapid changes taking place with the rise of emerging countries and power shifts within Turkey.

“It is no longer possible to sustain the current world order, which, based as it is on a skewed notion of centre-periphery relations, merely produces injustice and inequality,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote recently in an op-ed for New Europe magazine.

While the AKP espouses a foreign policy of “zero problems” with its neighbours, such as Iran, and seeks to build a range of largely trade-based relationships around the world, Turkey still maintains that it is a Western partner.

Why then did Turks name the United States as their number one threat?

The results of the survey could stem from a belief that the US is only the country with the capabilities and presence in the region to hurt Turkey, some analysts said.

Klaus Jurgens, a columnist for the local newspaper Today’s Zaman, says he is concerned by the survey’s results. “Is it a general hostility, or is [it] that the US does not support Turkey?” he said.

Many Turks perceive the US as not doing enough to aid the country’s fight against Kurdish rebels who operate from bases in northern Iraq.

Jurgens says the perceived threat from the US comes, in part, from a failure by the Turkish government to explain it foreign policy adequately to the public.

 

“This is a chance for the government to wake up and tell them we live in an international community,” Jurgens said.

According to Metropoll, the main concern of Turkish citizens is the economy. Jurgens cited democratisation as Turk’s second chief concern. Understanding foreign policy was a distant third or fourth priority. “The US as a threat, [Turks] would know better only if someone tells them,” he said.

This is unlikely as the country begins an election year.

“Until after the next election in June, the prime minister will focus on domestic issues,” Jurgens said.

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