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best-selling novel in turkey imagines war with the united states

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-turkey-fearing-america,0,5220335.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines Novel Exposes U.S.-Turkey Alliance
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2005
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      http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-turkey-fearing-america,0,5220335.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines

      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
      expansion.

      But now, the critical security issue to both countries
      is Iraq, where the two sides have vital interests that
      could conflict.

      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
      groups.

      "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
      against" America.

      "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,"
      Kohen said.

      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
      inflaming tensions.

      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
      daily Radikal.

      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
      States.

      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
      country.

      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
      this way."

      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
      sellers.

      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."
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