Turkey Plays the European Card

Elected with a parliamentary majority almost big enough to change the country's constitution, Turkey's new Islamist government faces daunting challenges. The most urgent is the looming war between America and Iraq. Will Turkey maintain its vital diplomatic and logistical support for its American ally? Or will religious solidarities reshape Turkey's orientation, as the new government joins other Muslim countries in opposing any invasion of Iraq?

Obviously, Turkey's Islamists are not the only ones with serious doubts about the war. Many Turks share the view that the war could have harsh consequences for their country, both in the short and long run.

The struggling economy does not need the disruption of even a rapidly resolved military conflict. The Turkish establishment (the military as well as the diplomatic corps) worries about the possibility that a war will fracture Iraq, leading to an independent Kurdish state on Turkey's southern border that would inevitably serve to strengthen Kurdish nationalism within Turkey, raising new threats to Turkey's unity and stability.

Turkey's secular bureaucratic establishment has traditionally been pro-West but with a strong dose of nationalism. Aside from the Kurdish issue, their attention is now focused on Cyprus as well. The Cyprus problem has reached a critical turning point, following a peace proposal put on the table by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan with a deadline impending at the end of February.