Talking Turkey

Human Race | Mr. Erdogan comes to Washington and leaves with what he calls a major victory

Issue: "Reinventing Hillary," Nov. 17, 2007

With 100,000 troops amassed on Turkey's southern border, poised to invade Iraq, it was no wonder that the Washington visit of Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan Nov. 5 drew so much interest.

Erdogan met with President Bush at the White House and arrived some 20 minutes late for a packed speech at the National Press Club. The U.S.-Turkish relationship, he said, is suffering a "serious series of tests." He labeled two crises straining the allies: the "so-called Armenian genocide," and the activities of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a group based in northern Iraq that often launches terrorist attacks inside Turkey.

Weeks after the diplomatic slight, Erdogan reiterated that the Armenian issue could "deeply damage" the U.S.-Turkish alliance. In 1915, as the Ottoman Empire crumbled during World War I, the Turks massacred an estimated 1.5 million minority Armenians, who are mostly Christian. Last month, the U.S. House tried to pass a since-stalled resolution declaring the massacre a genocide, alarming the Turks and the Bush administration, which is loath to offend a friendly Muslim nation in the Middle East. A peeved and defensive Erdogan said the Armenian deportation, which resulted in mass deaths, came at a turbulent time.

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More convincingly, Erdogan made his case for pursuing the PKK in Iraq. Turkey's parliament has authorized a strike on northern Iraq's Kurdish region-a move that could undo one of Iraq's few success stories. In one of the PKK's latest raids on Oct. 21, it killed 17 Turkish soldiers. Erdogan chided reporters for calling the PKK rebels and separatists, consistently labeling the group terrorists, as do many countries including the United States. "We are not after war," Erdogan said.

Turkish media later reported that Bush gave tacit approval to a Turkish incursion: "Praise be to God, we got what we came for," Erdogan told one TV channel, according to the Jamestown Foundation. In any case, the Bush administration cannot afford to ruffle Turkey right now.


POLITICS: Ron Paul last week cemented his status as the likely Howard Dean of this year's presidential race. Supporters of the Texas congressman celebrated Guy Fawkes Day-a commemoration for the 17th-century British terrorist-by raising $4.2 million dollars for Paul. The Nov. 5 online effort propelled the dark horse candidate into the headlines and ensured that he would have money to run ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

FRANCE: Diminutive French President Nicolas Sarkozy was barely visible as he trotted into the U.S. House to speak Nov. 7, dwarfed by cheering lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Referencing George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, World War II, and even Elvis Presley (he's a fan), his speech was a long eulogy to America that drew raucous applause and standing ovations. "I want to be your friend, your ally, and your partner," he said. "But a friend who stands on his own two feet."

HEALTH: A 2-year-old Indian girl with four legs and four arms is reportedly recovering after successful surgery last week to remove the extra limbs and other organs. The girl, named Lakshmi after a multi-limbed Hindu goddess, had absorbed the extra organs and body parts of an undeveloped twin in the womb. "She has withstood the operation," surgeon Sharan Patil said. "She is safe and doing well."


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