Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Prior to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, the #3 at State - Marc Grossman - and the #2 at Defense - Paul Wolfowitz - went to Turkey, to secure permission to move US troops through Turkey into northern Iraq.
The short story is Turkey said, "No."
Don't be mis-led.
The long story is that Marc Grossman purposefully mis-handled the negotiations in order to get a "no" - in order to make the war impossible. The top guys at State were making their own policy decision, to oppose and undermine the President. Isn't that special!
Paul Grossman served seven years as a diplomat in Turkey - three in Adana as consul (where he married a Turk) and four in Ankara as ambassador. He knew very well that, in Turkey, the military is a fourth branch of government. Yet, Grossman excluded the military from consulations and argued for his superior knowledge of the country against suggestions/objections put forth by the Defense Department that the Turkish military should be consulted.
Hurriyet, Turkey's highest circulation daily newspaper, reported the results in the paper of December 4, 2002: 8:30 pm Foreign Minister says okay; 11:15 pm Turkish General Staff says we made no such decision; 12:30am Foreign Ministry spokesman says Turkey has not agreed. As one 3-star general told me, "Ankara is boiling."
Marc Grossman risked creating a military coup in order to sow the confusion and discord that flowed copiously from his actions. He played a three-cushion billiard shot and pulled it off.
At that time the new religous Ak Party government had been in power for only 18 days. The leader of the party, Tayyip Erdoğan, had previously been mayor of Istanbul and had no experience in national government. The new government was caught unprepared.
The new Turkish government haggled. The party leaders came to Washington. They were eventually offered incentives worth more than $2 billion.
The party leader, Tayyip Erdoğan, decided to be clever. He announced that the Parliament must decide "yes" or "no" so that he could distance himself from the approval if events called for such a tactic. Nothing in Turkish law or government practice called for a Parliamentary vote. Further, Erdoğan announced that he would not enforce party discipline - that each representative could vote as he chose. Erdogan never imagined that the vote would be "no."
And the vote was "no." The Foreign Secretary, who had initially said "yes" had voted "no." So, Turkey was stuck with a decision no one wanted.
The US went ahead with the invasion anyway.
The Turks lost $2 billion in aid. The Turks lost long-term strategic importance, since the US now had bases in Iraq and other countries beyond Turkey. And, very important, the Kurds who supported US troops, The Peshmerga, became folk heroes in the American press. This undermined important Turkish diplomatic positions concerning the Kurdish terrorists, the PKK, and Kurdish efforts to create their own country from territory now party of Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
Without a doubt, this was all engineered by Marc Grossman. Would Marc Grossman have acted without consulting his Secretary of State, Colin Powell. I don't think so.
There are important lessons here for how Washington really works and how the Turkish government made a mess through lack of astute leadership . . .as well as how this particular set of decisions came to be made.