MIDDLE EAST BULLETIN: A Publication of Middle East Progress
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
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Today's News

Tripartite Summit of Turkey-Afghanistan- Pakistan Ends
by Asia Pulse

The presidents of Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday stressed their determination to strengthen tripartite cooperation to deal with terrorism.

The joint statement adopted at the end of a tripartite summit held among Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said, "the three presidents, together with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held cordial and fruitful talks on regional and international issues, and expressed their political will to expand and strengthen the scope of their cooperation within the framework of the trilateral Ankara Process, initiated on April 30, 2007."

Turkish President Plans to Visit Israel Next Month
by Zvi Bar'el (Haaretz)

Turkish President Abdullah Gul is planning to visit Israel in early January. This will be his first visit as president, though he came here three times in his previous role as foreign minister.

A senior Turkish official told Haaretz that Gul will meet with President Shimon Peres, and that they will discuss advancing the indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria. They will also discuss the Iranian nuclear threat, an issue on which they disagreed sharply when Peres visited Ankara last year.

Turkish President to Visit Iraq, Meet Talabani Late December
by Hurriyet

Turkish President Abdullah Gul will visit Iraq late in December, a news service associated with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani reported on Monday. The Turkish president will meet his Iraqi counterpart, and the two are also expected to visit both Kirkuk and Arbil, PUKmedia reported.

Presidential sources confirm visit is on the agenda, adding there is no clear date.

Kurdish Rebels Halt Attacks for Muslim Holiday
by Reuters

Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq will halt attacks within Turkey in a week-long ceasefire in honor of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday, an official said on Monday.

Ruz Walat, an official with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), said the ceasefire for the separatist group, which has fought for years with Turkish forces in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey, would last until Saturday.

Report: IMF Team Expected in Turkey This Month
by The Associated Press

A team from the International Monetary Fund is expected in Turkey following an upcoming Muslim religious holiday, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported Friday.

Turkey is discussing a possible loan deal with the IMF to help the country weather the effects of the global financial crisis.

Setting the Record Straight

Convergent Interests, Essential Partnership

"In a Middle East valedictory speech today, summing up the nearly eight years of his two administrations, George W. Bush declared that 'the Middle East in 2008 is a freer, more hopeful, and more promising place than it was in 2001.' I disagree. Count some of the important ways things are now worse ... Turkey has gone from being a stalwart ally to the most anti- American country in the world."
—Daniel Pipes, blog, "Is the Middle East 'Freer, More Hopeful, and More Promising'?" December 5, 2008


"Ankara's foreign policy objectives ... remain largely convergent with our own. The Turks know our actions can have enormous impact on their interests and therefore want neither to get on the wrong side of Washington nor to be surprised by us ... [T]he essential convergence of U.S. and Turkish interests in the region provides ample scope for fruitful, genuinely strategic cooperation that will inevitably be more than in the past a partnership of equals. Our interest lies in embracing that partnership."
—Mark R. Parris, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey (1997-2001), "Memorandum to the President-Elect Re: Turkey," Private View, Autumn 2008

Rebuilding U.S.-Turkish Relations

Turkish PM Erdogan (AP)

"A healthy U.S.- Turkey relationship can help calm the Middle East, while continued drift and estrangement will leave the region and both Turkey and the United States worse off."

The Neglected Alliance

Straddling Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean, Turkey’s central position makes it a crucial actor in each of these regions. Whether working with our European allies through NATO in Afghanistan and the Balkans, hosting peace talks between Israel and Syria, or serving as the critical transit point for oil and natural gas flowing from Central Asia to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey is a pivotal power whose future will directly impact the United States. ... This important relationship, however, has suffered strains in recent years and is in need of repair. ...

While security cooperation—the cornerstone of the U.S.-Turkey relationship—will remain important, the United States should look increasingly at political, diplomatic, and economic tools to alter the future of the Middle East to the benefit of the United States and the vast majority of the citizens of the region. Working to advance common interests in the Middle East and address common threats, the two countries can partner with others in the Middle East to advance stability and prosperity. Access the full report>>


Turkey and Iraqi Kurds: Conflict Or Cooperation?

by International Crisis Group, Middle East Report N°81

Responding to the perceived threat of increased Kurdish strength in Iraq, Turkey adopted a succession of diplomatic, military and economic strategies to promote its interests. ... Turkey’s policy emerged amid divisions between the ruling party and the country’s traditional establishment, particularly over how to deal with the PKK insurgency. ... The resulting policy has mostly been a pragmatic and, by and large, effective compromise between the government and the more traditional establishment.

The current AKP government believes that a stable Kurdish buffer on its border with Arab Iraq would be a good investment, given uncertainties over the neighboring country’s future, so long as such a region were dependent on Turkey. It also banks on the fact that a landlocked Kurdistan federal region needs Turkey as a channel to the outside world. Moreover, Turkey not only covets the income from the trans-shipment of Kurdish crude to its Mediterranean port facility at Ceyhan, it also seeks Kurdish oil and gas to satisfy its own pressing energy needs.

To further its aims, the government, with the support of the Kemalist-nationalist establishment, has forged a new relationship with Iraq’s central government, both to curb Iranian influence and to cement the Kurdistan federal region more firmly into Iraq; mounted limited military cross-border operations against the PKK, designed more to mobilize Washington and Baghdad than to crush the Kurdish movement; and staged fresh overtures toward the KRG, which have been reciprocated. Crucially, if Turkey can make this relationship attractive to the Kurds, the KRG might be more responsive to its demands to crack down on the PKK, a far more effective way of dealing with the problem than Turkish military might. Access the full report>>

Crisis May Have Dramatic Effect on Turkey’s Relations

by Ian O. Lesser, senior transatlantic fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

A few months ago, many Turks were optimistic about the country’s ability to “decouple” itself from the deepening crisis on Wall Street. Today, observers of the Turkish scene are far less sanguine about the prospects for emerging economies, including Turkey. ... Turkish exporters are especially vulnerable to the effects of a serious recession in Europe, and other facets of the economy will suffer if the recent surge of foreign capital turns to a trickle. Lower energy prices could work in Turkey’s favor, but a sharp drop in oil and gas revenues coupled with financial turmoil, could mean far less money flowing to Turkey from Russia and the Gulf. Under these conditions, the trend toward closer Turkish commercial and political ties with Eurasia and the Middle East may not be sustainable. ...

Turkey’s EU candidacy is already troubled, with little prospect of improvement in the near term. A deep and prolonged recession in Europe could further complicate Turkish relations with Europe. Job losses and financial stress in Europe could reinforce existing concerns over immigration and the costs of future large-scale enlargements. A poorer Europe may also be a more xenophobic Europe, with obvious and negative implications for Turkey’s European aspirations. ...

The change of leadership in Washington offers an opportunity for a change of course in U.S.- Turkish relations. There will be a chance to repair at least some of the damage in­flicted by the Iraq experience and the more general climate of friction and mistrust that has characterized the bilateral relationship in recent years. But here, too, the economic crisis could interfere with progress in U.S.-Turkish relations. ... To be sure, Turkish cooperation will be essential on Iraq. Turkey’s rotating seat on the UN Security Council will make Ankara an even more important partner in dealing with Iran and other questions. Russia policy will also be a key topic for discussion. The list of issues for bilateral discussion is long. But the outlook for developing new and more imaginative approaches to U.S.-Turkish relations will not be helped by competing domestic demands on all sides. Access the full article>>

Turkey in Arab Eyes

by Mustafa El-Labbad, director, Al-Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies (Al-Ahram Weekly)

After an absence of many decades, Turkey has returned as a major player in the Middle East. ... Despite its relatively long absence, the ideological prism through which Arab politicians and intellectuals of all shades of the political spectrum view Turkey has hampered an objective view of that great and ancient country that had such a profound historical impact on the region. ...

Turkey is no angel. But it is certainly no devil either. Nor is it some alien implant. It is no longer the great powers' façade in the region, as it may have been in the past. It is a regional power that is gaining in strength and that has national interests that it hopes to further through regional and international alliances. Turkey is currently striving to strengthen its regional influence by a means of a new foreign policy strategy intended to take Turkey from a partisan position as a member of one camp or pact against another to a more independent or neutral position from which it can maintain contact with diverse parties simultaneously. ...

The Arabs would be better equipped to avail themselves of Ankara's closer interest in the region if they attempted to appreciate the diverse aspects of Turkey, instead of reducing that multi-faceted country to its "secular" or "oriental" face. They should attempt to see Turkey as it is: a country that borders their region by virtue of geographical happenstance, and a neighbor with which are shared strong historical and cultural links, but one which may variously see eye-to-eye with or differ from us, depending on its perception of its national interests. Access the full article>>

Heard on the Street

Looking Ahead: Turkey's Growing Regional Role

National Intelligence Council, “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World,” November 2008:

“Turkey’s recent economic track record of increased growth, the vitality of Turkey’s emerging middle class and its geostrategic locale raise the prospect of a growing regional role in the Middle East. Economic weaknesses such as its heavy dependence on external energy sources may help to spur it toward a greater international role as Turkish authorities seek to develop their ties with energy suppliers—including close neighbors Russia and Iran—and bolster its position as a transit hub. Over the next 15 years, Turkey’s most likely course involves a blending of Islamic and nationalist strains, which could serve as a model for other rapidly modernizing countries in the Middle East.”

Background Basics

Turkey's Energy Pipelines

Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline - Oil
Countries: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Turkmenistan
Capacity: Pumps up to 1 million barrels per day (bpd)
Notes: The first direct pipeline link between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean, the BTC aims to diversify energy supply for Western Europe beyond the Middle East by transmitting oil from Central Asian sources without passing through Russia or Iran.

Blue Stream Pipeline - Gas
Countries: Russia and Turkey
Capacity: Supplied nearly 9.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2007; eventually will supply 16 bcm annually
Notes: The pipeline, officially launched in 2005, was intended to provide Turkey with natural gas at a reduced price. At the time of its launch, the United States cautioned Turkey about being too reliant on Russia for its energy.

Kirkuk-Ceyhan Pipeline - Oil
Countries: Iraq and Turkey
Capacity: Transported 480,000 bpd in October; ultimate capacity of 1.5 bpd
Notes: The 600-mile structure, which consists of two parallel pipelines, stretches from Iraq's oil fields in Kirkuk to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq the pipeline shipped nearly 800,000 bpd; however, frequent insurgent attacks and smuggling operations caused the pipeline to largely shut down from 2003 until late summer 2007. In July 2008, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said that the countries planned on expanding the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline as well as constructing a gas export line parallel to the oil line, a point reinforced by Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani in October.

South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP) - Gas
Countries: Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey
Capacity: Currently 6 bcm per year; estimated to ultimately reach throughput capacity of 20 bcm per year
Notes: The 430-mile pipeline was built jointly and runs in the same corridor with the BTC oil pipeline. It broke Russia’s monopoly on Caspian gas exports to Europe and was briefly shut down during the conflict between Georgia and Russia.

Tabriz-Ankara Pipeline - Gas
Countries: Iran and Turkey
Capacity: Turkey has purchased approximately 10 bcm per year; total capacity of 20 bcm per year
: The pipeline, inaugurated in January 2002, has experienced disruptions at times due to attacks blamed on Kurdish militants, Iranian demand and price and quality negotiations. The pipeline closed in May for five days following an attack in Turkey close to the Iranian border.

In November 2008, Iran and Turkey signed an agreement reinforcing earlier deals that allow for joint construction of a pipeline from Iran to Turkey that will annually supply up to 35-36 bcm of natural gas to Europe. The November accord, which calls for $3.5 billion in Turkish investment in Iran, also allows Turkey to develop Iran’s South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf. In August, the U.S. State Department cautioned Turkey not to reach any energy deals that would hurt U.S. efforts to impose sanctions on Iran. According to the U.S. Iran Sanctions Act, the president can impose sanctions on a person that makes an investment of $20 million or more that significantly helps Iran’s ability to develop its own petroleum resources.

Turkey-Greece Interconnector - Gas
Countries: Greece, Turkey and Italy (planned extension by 2012)
Capacity: Maximum capacity of 11.5 bcm
Notes: The pipeline, inaugurated in November 2007, bypasses Russia by receiving gas from the SCP.

Samsun-Cehyan Pipeline (Under Construction) - Oil

Countries: Turkey
Capacity: Expected supply of 1.5 million bpd by 2010
Notes: Construction of the pipeline, which is designed to ease traffic on the Bosporus Straits, began in April 2007 with oil transports expected to begin in 2011.

Nabucco Pipeline (Proposed) - Gas
Countries: Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Iran, Romania, Turkey and Turkmenistan
Capacity: 31 bcm per year (projected)
Notes: The United States and European Union support the project as an alternative to Russian-owned Gazprom, which holds a virtual monopoly on gas pipelines from Russia and Central Asia to Europe. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will supply much of the gas, with Iran eventually coming into the fold if disputes over its nuclear program are resolved. Turkey’s insistence on retaining 15 percent of the gas coming through the pipeline, instead of paying the normal transit fee, has hindered negotiations.

At the same time, Gazprom is planning on constructing the South Stream pipeline. This pipeline would create competition for the Nabucco line, as it would transfer natural gas to different points in Europe. On December 5, Gazprom and Serbia signed a deal ensuring the construction of the pipeline through Serbian land.

Middle East Progress appreciates the support and cooperation of Americans for Peace Now, Geneva Initiative, Israel Policy Forum, and New Israel Fund.