Which Way is West for Turkey?

When Turkey's parliament voted in March 2003 against allowing American troops to open a northern front against Iraq, Turkey's traditional strategic partnership with the United States ended. The two countries still recognize many mutual interests, but now they manage these interests on a far different basis.

The vote shocked "old Europe" and the Arab world as much as the Bush administration. Europeans who considered Turkey a potential Trojan horse for America within the European Union were forced to reconsider. For many Arabs, the vote showed that Turkey was not an American lackey and would not cooperate with American imperial designs, despite close Turkish-Israeli relations.

Long-simmering disagreements between Turkey and the US came to a boil with the emergence of the Kurds of northern Iraq as the Pentagon's main allies in the Iraq War. The American administration made it clear that military intervention by Turkey in Northern Iraq would not be tolerated.

That message was confirmed on July 4, 2003, when American forces arrested several Turkish Special Forces troops in the town of Sulaimaniya, humiliating them by putting sacks over their head as they took them into custody. Only intervention by US Vice President Dick Cheney two and a half days later secured the release of the soldiers, who were alleged to have been planning clandestine operations within the Kurdish zone.