Turkey, The EU and – Oh, Yes – Cyprus

“This half-a-country, this incomplete country will take over the EU Presidency. There will be a half-presidency leading a miserable union.”

The partial country?  Cyprus.  The speaker?  Turkish President Abdullah Gul in remarks to Turkish journalists during his recent official visit to Great Britain, as quoted by Reuters and published in the newspaper Cyprus Mail of November 23.  The Head of State of Turkey, an applicant for EU membership while for thirty-seven years the occupier and colonizer of much of EU member state Cyprus, in the absence of any official correction or contradiction would seem to have dropped the bid and set back hopes for Cypriot reunification.  But, let’s hope not: in politics, as elsewhere, action often speaks louder than words.

European purists, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, will welcome Gul’s pronouncement, taking them off the hook for killing Turkish accession to the EU while at the same time justifying their conviction that Turks and their like simply do not belong in the club.  Merkel, Sarkozy and their like, but the two of them in particular, had surely been outraged by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s (undated) response to the final question posed by an interviewer from Time magazine (see the October 10 issue) as to whether Turkey no longer planned to join Europe: “We’re still determined, because no leader in the EU will be there forever.  But Turkey is getting stronger as time goes by, and the situation of many European states is quite obvious.”

It is also quite obvious that the principal actors in the multi-faceted drama on stage today are going for sound bites over policy, as often as not for reasons of domestic politics and survival.  Sarkozy was widely quoted as saying the following on October 7, during a visit to Armenia:  “France doesn’t see Turkey in the EU…. Turkey is a kind of bridge between the East and the West.  Being a part of Asia Minor, it has an important role in the world, but that role is not for the EU.”  The intended nail in the coffin, if one were needed, was his public call for Turkish recognition of and apology for the Armenian Genocide of 1915, but he failed to mention the importance of the votes of the Armenian diaspora in France, said to number more than 300,000, when presidential elections are held next Spring.

Sarkozy is not alone, for Merkel and Erdogan/Gul (along with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu) are playing in large part to home audiences as they seek to prolong their presence on the scene.  What they shout now from center stage may be trumped in the end by those diplomats working hard in the wings (and with no worries about upcoming elections) for peaceful resolutions of potentially dangerous disputes.  As recently as October 12, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, introducing the publication of the latest annual progress report on Turkey’s accession process, spoke calmly but firmly about measures remaining to be addressed by that country in advance of EU membership, and he did not hesitate to speak of Cyprus in several respects.  Likewise, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Special Advisor on Cyprus Alexander Downer continue to promote talks under UN auspices between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities aimed at a federal solution agreeable to all parties concerned.  In short, while we must be wary of the big words shouted by the leaders, we ought not let their big mouths convince us that progress on several fronts is impossible.  Nevertheless, it was discouraging and scarcely comprehensible to read the eight-page cover story on Erdogan and Turkey in the November 28 edition of Time without finding a single reference to Cyprus – not even when the EU accession topic comes up.

The American role in the 1974 events that led to the long-standing military occupation by Turkish troops of some 40% of EU and UN member Cyprus, discussed here under the heading “Cyprus and National Security” on October 25, has been treated in two articles appearing in the July-August 2011 issue of the Foreign Service Journal (FSJ).  In an excerpt from her forthcoming book, The Dissent Papers: The Voice of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond, Hannah Gurman writes that, before the coup launched by the Greek military junta that overthrew the Cypriot Government, State Department Cyprus Desk Officer Thomas Boyatt had warned in official channels of the consequences of US inaction, to wit, that continued passive support of Cypriot rebels would result in an overthrow of the government and give Turkey an excuse to invade the island on behalf of the Turkish-Cypriot minority.  While Gurman does not say so explicitly, it is extremely difficult to imagine that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was unaware of Boyatt’s views, which cannot have failed to work their way up through the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, Gurman is careless enough to write that Cyprus experts agree that “Kissinger was willfully ignorant of the area’s complex political dynamic” (emphasis added).  In supposed support of this judgment, she quotes former Under Secretary of State George Ball as having written that Kissinger “knew nothing about Cyprus and did not bother to inform himself”, but she does not explain how Ball’s apparent attempt to excuse Kissinger meets the definition of “willfully”, which means nothing other than “deliberately” or “intentionally”.

The second FSJ article is by Boyatt himself, and he leaves no doubt concerning the warnings he had given, with support of fellow officers working on Greek and Turkish affairs:  “The Greek junta was planning to overthrow (Cypriot) President Makarios, notwithstanding their denials of such intent; if the Greek colonels established a puppet regime in Cyprus, the Turkish Army would invade and partition the island; and such an outcome would be disastrous for the United States, for it would destabilize NATO’s eastern flank, giving the Soviets a chance to intervene, and turn the Cyprus problem into a permanent irritant.”  Boyatt goes on to say that he had argued further for confronting the junta and telling them to stay out of Cyprus, but that his recommendations had been ignored.  Kissinger’s public admission thirty years later that Boyatt’s views had not received the attention they deserved, cited by Boyatt in his article, did nothing to relieve his guilt, tarnish his reputation or help the small country he had sold down the river to keep the Turkish generals happy.  Instead, it served only to confirm the sad truism that holds that “old new is no news” and carries no threat for the exposed party no matter how guilty.

Once again, the criminal goes free and the interests of the United States suffer.

Footnote:  A greatly expanded, well-researched and totally convincing account of Kissinger’s absolute responsibility for both the Cyprus events of 1974 and the situation in which that country finds itself in 2011 can be found at the following site: http://hellenicantidote.blogspot.com/2011/04/exposing-kissingers-cyprus-lies.html

By Alan Berlind.

Kissinger and Afghanistan and Regional Strategy

Kissinger some five months ago wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post (June 7, 20011) giving his approach to an exit strategy from Afghanistan. I commented on that article here on June 13th.  I agreed with his basic premise that there was a need to try for a diplomatic and regional solution to ensure long term stability and prevent worse conflicts in the region. (See Kissinger and the Exit Strategy from Afghanistan for my comments then.)

On November 1st the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington hosted a discussion of our Afghanistan strategy which I attended, that featured Secretary Kissinger in person along with a panel of experts. Kissinger again argued for a regional diplomatic solution and argued that trying to establish a democratic and modern society in Afghanistan was beyond our reach. Other panelists gave alternative views which, frankly, were discouraging in regards to demonstrating that there were participants from the region willing to play our diplomatic game.

Most on the panel agreed that Pakistan was the key actor but that other regional players were necessary or potentially helpful to ensure an outcome acceptable to all and in which they would have an interest to protect.

The problem that some participants pointed out was that it appeared increasingly that Pakistan had no interest in following an American led restructure and deal, and indeed neither did the Taliban or al-Qaeda. These latter groups are not ethnic or political groups seeking a fair role in a democratic polity or even seeking compromise with those whom they consider to be their enemies including the present Afghan government.  Their chosen instrument is deadly force, suicide, and mindless terrorism. Their perspective is religious fanaticism and unrelenting brutality. Even when they were in power, brutal force was used on those who did not share their view of society.  We must expect that even after we leave Afghanistan, acts of terrorism will continue.

The challenge, in my view, is to change the “playing board” rules in such a way that Pakistan recognizes it can’t gain its key objectives by the use of terrorist surrogates. One way, which we are trying without enough heft and too much acquiescence, is to prop up the indefeasible and inept Karzai regime. The other is to find a better model by “impeachment” of Karzai and his henchmen and replacing him with an honest and able government of technocrats and administrators to form a new “national government” of all the leading regions and ethnic groups. Failing or rejecting that large, risky task, we should not let another American die to help a rotten regime.

America’s strategy so far has proved that, even with the surge – which did produce some very limited gains – American and other foreign military forces can’t gain long-term stable security or even a non-corrupt Afghan government able to maintain security or make peace. We have paid a massive price for an effort to achieve these goals, and in some ways lost ground supporting a hated, crooked regime in Kabul.

The problem is that over time our capacity to induce powers in the region to follow our lead has diminished. This is not due to our military withdrawal, which was inevitable, but rather to fundamental shifts in assessments of self-interest, and especially Pakistan’s desire to destroy not only Western and Indian influence in the region but to supplant it via the bloody instrument of al-Qaeda and Pakistani supported terrorist groups rather than via a “regional” accommodation. There needs to be a compromise in which all sides gain some but also permit others to play a balancing role.  The “alignment of forces” indicates that regional countries simply are playing a “zero sum game.” Pakistan believes it can pick up all the marbles after we leave and need not share the “spoils.” The same may be true of Iran and China.

The conundrum remains of how to withdraw from a war that we can’t “win” fully and which continuing would cost more than any likely outcome so long as the Afghan landscape continues to foster a corrupt government and terrorism sanctuaries, which ensure a costly stalemate on the ground.  Yet we still have a responsibility to try to create some framework both within Afghanistan and in the region which might sustain some measure of security for the region and contain the violence.

At the end of the panel discussion Sec. Kissinger said one overarching concern was that the political debate and culture in America had become so polarized that finding common ground in foreign policy discussions in terms of even goals – let alone tactics and process – seemed to be impossible and is a major roadblock towards America being effective in facing its global challenges.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

Cyprus and National Security

The ongoing harsh dispute between Turkey and Israel has been treated in the media as if only those two countries, plus the United States and the European Union, were involved.  There has been mention of the Cypriot angle, since one major aspect of the dispute involves seabed exploration for hydrocarbons in the area composed of the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Israel located between the shores of those two states.  But otherwise, if one judges from “the news”, Cyprus is a bit player in the Israeli-Turkish drama that may yet produce an unhappy ending for all actors mentioned above and a tragic one for Cyprus itself.

Former American Ambassador to Turkey Morton Abramowitz, who knows better, is among those who give Cyprus short shrift, witness the op-ed he co-authored for the September 17 edition of the Washington Post entitled “Obama must deal with Turkey-Israel crisis”.  Cyprus gets only quick mention in the eighth paragraph.  Reuters news agency on September 22 hinted at the importance of Cyprus with the following dramatic report:  “Cyprus has said it will block negotiations Turkey began in 2005 to join the European Union if Ankara continues to oppose its gas exploration. Turkey has said it will freeze relations with the EU Presidency if Cyprus is given the rotating role next July before a settlement over the island is reached.”  Nevertheless, the emphasis is clearly on the question of Turkey’s application for EU membership, with little Cyprus just a technical, albeit annoying, stumbling block.  Little though it may be, the Republic of Cyprus is a member in good standing of the United Nations and the EU and, as Turkey has fretfully acknowledged, will assume the EU presidency next July.

For reasons given below, a little history is in order. Following a bitter struggle, Cyprus won its independence in 1960 from Great Britain, with the departing colonial power retaining small sovereign air bases in the southern part of the island.  Serious and often bloody strife between the majority Greek-speaking community and its Turkish-speaking  counterpart led to a UN military presence and the establishment in 1964 of a “green line” to prevent inter-communal violence. 

Ten years later, on July 15, 1974, a faltering Greek military/police regime in Athens participated in a rightist coup attempt aimed at incorporating the island into Greece.  In just over a week, a cease-fire had been declared, the coup had collapsed, civilian rule had been restored, and the reign of the Greek junta, which had mounted its own coup in 1967, had ended.  But, three days before this potentially happy ending, Turkey had dispatched its own troops to nip the Cypriot coup in the bud and, it claimed, to protect the minority Turkish-Cypriot population. 

Finally, while talks were under way in Geneva among the ludicrously labeled “protective powers” (Great Britain, Turkey and Greece), Turkey on August 14 launched a massive invasion and occupied 37% of the island’s territory, from which 180,000 Greek-Cypriots were expelled, their homes and properties to be given to Turkish settlers imported mostly from the plains of Anatolia.  In 1983, Turkey and its vassal proclaimed the establishment of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, which as of this writing has never been recognized by any nation on earth but the new colonial power itself.  Today, thirty-seven years after the invasion, and in disregard of dozens of UN Security Council resolutions, some 30,000 Turkish troops remain in armed occupation.  (This of course makes an absurd mockery of Turkey’s repeated recent references, otherwise valid, to Israel’s disregard of an even larger number of UNSC resolutions.)

Why was this little history in order?  The focus of this blog is on “rethinking national security”.  President Obama’s recent decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of this year brings to mind his absolute failure to call his predecessor to account for the illegal, unprovoked and disastrous invasion of that country.  The conviction here is that accountability and honesty go hand in hand with America’s standing and influence throughout the world and, accordingly, its security.  It is in that context that the role of America in the history recounted above is recorded below.  These are not revelations by any means; it is all on the public record.

When Greek colonels on April 21, 1967 mounted their lightening coup, ostensibly to pre-empt the election of a liberal, or leftist, prime minister, the administration of President Lyndon Johnson did absolutely nothing other than impose a mostly cosmetic reduction in military aid to its long-standing ally.  The debate continues to this day as to whether the U.S. was taken by surprise, knew of the coup in advance or was in fact more actively involved.  In any case, when Richard Nixon was inaugurated in 1969, he and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, dispatched a new ambassador, Henry Tasca, to Greece with instructions to report back in six months on the progress of the military junta in restoring democratic norms to Greece – the unstated expectation being that such would be the case.  In the absence of any evidence whatsoever, Tasca dutifully complied.  Aid was restored to former levels, and the junta carried on with no civilizing reforms and scant opposition to speak of until a major demonstration in Athens in 1973 paved the way for that pitiful attempt to overthrow the Cypriot Government.

Kissinger, now dual-hatted as Secretary of State and in total control of American foreign policy, was warned explicitly by Cyprus experts in the Department about the dangers of a Greek coup attempt in Cyprus and a decisive counter-attack by Turkey.  Some wish to blame Kissinger for no more than unfamiliarity with the territory, or for personal antagonism toward Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios, or for the enormous weight on his shoulders following Nixon’s resignation. Whichever excuse is offered, he certainly let it all happen.  There is every reason to assign the blame to this genius of realpolitik for consciously permitting the desperate Greek junta to kick off the fight and thereby furnish Turkey with an excuse for intervening and then colonizing a large part of an independent UN member state.

Will Henry Kissinger ever be called to account for his role in events that paved the way to the current situation in Cyprus, still suffering today from the longest military occupation in memory, by a force the largest ever in relation to the local population?  (One can of course ask the same question concerning other crucial decisions made on his watch, for example, immediately excusing Yassir Arafat after the latter in early 1973 ordered that American diplomats in Khartoum be slaughtered in cold blood, or agreeing to delay the end of the Vietnam War so as to ensure Nixon’s re-election in 1974.)

The greater misfortune, however, lies not just in the sins of one man.  Kissinger’s actions and policies, given his authority, were the actions and policies of the United States Government, which itself therefore shoulders much of the blame for the dilemma facing Cyprus today and the closely related problems involving Turkey, the EU and, given its own national interests, the United States.  This history, in combination with the current threat to U.S. interests stemming from the Turkish-Israeli-Cypriot-EU imbroglio, requires attention on the part of Washington. 

More on the Cyprus question will follow.  In the meantime, all comments will be welcomed.

By Alan Berlind.