best-selling novel in turkey imagines war with the united states
Novel Exposes U.S.-Turkey Alliance Fears
By LOUIS MEIXLER
Associated Press Writer
February 25, 2005, 2:14 PM EST
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- In one of Turkey's best-selling
thrillers, U.S. troops in northern Iraq open fire on a
group of Turkish commandos, setting off a war between
the NATO allies.
The book is "Metal Storm," and although pure fiction
set in the year 2007, it highlights the deep fears
many Turks harbor that the U.S. invasion of Iraq will
put the decades-long allies on a collision course.
The suspicion has become so serious that Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, in a meeting with Turkish
leaders earlier this month, raised concerns about the
negative image of the United States in Turkey,
American and Turkish diplomats said.
During the Cold War, Turkey and the United States saw
their alliance as crucial to stopping Soviet
But now, the critical security issue to both countries
is Iraq, where the two sides have vital interests that
Washington sees Iraqi Kurds as key allies in bringing
stability to the country. Turkey, however, is
terrified that growing Iraqi Kurdish power could
inspire Kurds in Turkey, where the army has battled
autonomy-seeking Kurdish insurgents for decades.
A turning point for Turkey came in 2003 when U.S.
forces seized 11 Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq
whom they suspected of plotting to assassinate a top
Iraqi Kurdish official. U.S. soldiers handcuffed the
Turks and put sacks on over their heads, which many
Turks considered an extreme humiliation.
In the United States, officials felt an important ally
let them down when Turkey balked at allowing in U.S.
troops for the Iraq invasion. The Turkish government
also took so long to come to a clear decision that
ships carrying weapons and equipment for a U.S.
infantry division slated to take part in the Iraq
attack circled for weeks off the coast of the country.
The book is "fiction but in Turkey everyone is
questioning whether there will eventually be a
conflict between America and Turkey," Cem Kucuk, an
editor at Timas Yayinlari, the book's publisher, said
in an interview Tuesday.
Criticism of U.S. policies is hardly new in Turkey and
has long been championed by leftist and pro-Islamic
"What is new and what makes this anti-Americanism so
widespread now and so strong is the large mass which
includes the elite and the intellectuals ... and some
of the military," said Sami Kohen, a columnist for the
Milliyet newspaper. "All of these elements who ... had
a lot of sympathy for the United States are turning
"There is a perception that the United States is
encouraging ... Kurds in Iraq and they are not taking
into account the concerns of the Turkish government,"
Turkish newspapers have been filled with stories of
the increasing tensions. Kohen said that in questions
that he has fielded at university lectures and
conferences, the United States "is being portrayed
more as a hostile country than an ally."
Also Turkey's ruling party, the Justice and
Development Party, has its roots in the Islamic
movement, whose members have sometimes identified more
with besieged Iraqis than with the United States.
"The (party's) base is radically anti-American and is
very sensitive to populist policies," columnist Cuneyt
Ulsever wrote in the Turkish Daily News.
Many Turks also fear the United States may soon
provoke a conflict with neighboring Iran, further
A BBC World Service Poll taken in 21 countries, showed
a chart-topping 82 percent of Turks felt that
President Bush's re-election was a negative for global
peace and security. In France, the figure was 75
percent. The poll of 21,953 people was conducted from
Nov. 15- Jan. 3 by the international polling group
GlobeScan together with the Program on International
Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. It has
a margin of error per country that ranged from 2.5
percent to 4 percent.
"It is impossible not to see the anti-American
movement's rise," columnist Ismet Berkan wrote in the
Turkish officials have been working hard to blunt the
hostility on the street and have recently emphasized
the importance of the relationship with the United
In Brussels, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was
asked about anti-American sentiments.
"Let's not focus on this but on making friends,"
Erdogan said after meeting Tuesday with Bush. "At the
moment, our relations are just fine."
While criticism of Bush and U.S. policy has
skyrocketed, there is little hostility toward
Americans on the streets and officials have taken
pains to point out that just a few years ago,
President Bill Clinton was enormously popular in the
Burak Turna, co-author of the book, says he wrote
"Metal Storm" to try to prevent a U.S.-Turkish clash.
"Our message to the United States is that we don't
want chaos in the region," said Turna. "The book is
not anti-American but is a criticism of U.S. policy
and shows how things could end up if we continue on
In the book, U.S. tanks quickly pour across the Iraqi
border into Turkey, annihilating Turkish forces while
U.S. warplanes target Istanbul. A Turkish agent,
acting on his own initiative, exacts his revenge. He
detonates a nuclear bomb in a park in Washington that
levels the U.S. capital.
The book has sold 100,000 copies in just two months, a
record in Turkey, Kucuk said, and six of Turkey's
largest bookstores say it is one of their top 10
Turna urged the United States to review its policies
and consult more with its allies but said he was not
confident that Bush's just concluded reconciliation
trip to Europe will have much impact.
"It is a very desperate attempt to mend fences," Turna
said. "As long as the U.S. goes on its way it is not
possible to mend fences."