WikiLeaks: ‘Political Firestorm’ If Genocide Recognized

ANKARA, Turkey (A.W.)–In a letter leaked by WikiLeaks over the weekend, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey summarizes the “few key issues” that a U.S. diplomat visiting Turkey should raise.

In the letter dated Oct. 13, 2009, Jeffrey writes that Turkish officials constantly threaten an imminent “political firestorm” if the U.S. were to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

“Turkey consistently warns that any U.S. determination of the events of 1915 as ‘genocide’ would set off a political firestorm in Turkey, and the devastating effect on our bilateral relationship—including political, military, and commercial aspects—would be unavoidable,” writes Jeffrey.

Below is the full text of the letter.

S E C R E T ANKARA 001472

NOFORN
SIPDIS

OSD FOR ASD VERSHBOW FROM AMBASSADOR JEFFREY

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/07/2019
TAGS: PREL PARM PTER TU
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER:  YOUR VISIT TO TURKEY

Classified By: Ambassador James F. Jeffrey reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (S) Sandy, Glad you’ll be able to visit Turkey at this key
time. Your short visit will give you an opportunity to engage
with key Turkish leaders on, first and foremost in their
minds, missile defense.  The Turks are keen to learn more
about U.S. plans, in particular what role the U.S.
wants/expects Turkey and others in Europe to play.  The
Turkish General Staff (TGS) will be interested in our ideas
for HLDG reform, even if they may be slow to accept them.

¶2. (S) You know how broad our agenda is with Turkey.  As you
will have a short time in country, I suggest you focus on a
few key issues.

Be sure to raise:
——————
– Missile Defense, with emphasis on how the U.S. will look to
several Allies – not just Turkey – for help (para 3)
– Repeat our commitment to our intel and other support for
strikes against the PKK (para 5-6)
– Appreciation for Turkey’s efforts on Afghanistan/Pakistan
(para 13)
– Float the idea of HLDG reform and ensure Guner knows we
expect him in Washington (para 4)
– Press for a realistic assessment of Turkey’s view of the
threat assessment from Iran (para 10)

Watch Out For:
—————
– Pressure for direct U.S. milops against the PKK (paras
11-12)
– Conflation of Turkey’s exploration of air defense
capabilities with our Missile Defense needs (para 3)

Missile Defense
—————-

¶3. (S) The Turks will appreciate your update on U.S. missile
defense plans and in particular will expect you to have
specific ideas on how Turkey would contribute to the PAA.
While the top-level bureaucrats with whom you will meet will
understand the rationale for the PAA and will be ready to
explore ways Turkey can help, the political environment for a
request to base assets in Turkey is mixed, and Turkey’s
perception of the Iranian threat to its territory differs
from ours.  The GOT continues to tread a fine line in
managing its strong relationship with the U.S. and its ties
with both the Islamic world and Russia.  The government must
be able to demonstrate that any missile defense program is
not specifically anti-Iran, nor blatantly pro-Israel.

¶4. (S) Likewise, it will want to ensure that Russia is not
opposed to Turkey’s role.  Also important will be clarity on
the degree to which this system is a NATO one, under NATO
Command and Control (C2).  The PAA would presumably
complement Turkey’s effort to establish a domestic missile
defense capability that would protect Turkey’s major
population centers.  The PAC-3 has been offered in response
to Turkey’s air defense tender and you should highlight the
system’s ability to be interoperable with any future NATO
command and control architecture.

HLDG
—–

¶5. (C) You will need to outline U.S. views to streamline and
alter the current HLDG format to make it into a more
substantive discussion.  The Turks are shy to stray from the
status quo; you should emphasize why we feel this change is
necessary while underscoring that it is vitally important the
DCHOD Guner attend the upcoming HLDG in December, when
decisions about future dialogues will be agreed upon.  (We
have learned that the new position of TGS number three, a
four-star slot held by General Balanli (with a focus on
hardware), might get the nod for the HLDG representative.
We’ve told Guner it should be his.)  You should also be
prepared for the Turkish General Staff to raise the Shared
Defense Vision document, as they await a response to their
latest proposed text.

PKK
—-

¶6. (C) Turkey’s counter-terrorist efforts against the PKK
have evolved in the past year and have expanded beyond
military action alone.  Although the government’s Democratic
(i.e., Kurdish) Initiative is not yet fully developed, the
government has increased social and economic support to
ethnic Kurds in southeast Turkey, has dramatically broadened
the rights of Kurds to use their own language, and increased
educational opportunities as well.  It is our view that the
TGS military success against the PKK, supported by our
intelligence–sharing operation, has given the civilians the
political space to explore this “opening.”  Turkish military
operations against the PKK continue, however, and on  October
6 Parliament extended the government’s mandate to conduct
cross-border operations against the PKK in Iraq for another
year.

¶7. (C)  Our 2007 decision to share operational intelligence
was a turning point for the bilateral relationship, and
President Obama’s declaration before the Turkish Parliament
of our continuing commitment to support Turkey’s fight
against the PKK was warmly welcomed.  This cooperation has
helped to improve our bilateral relationship across the
board.  Turkey’s military leaders value this intelligence and
the advice our military leaders give them.  Our work has made
it difficult for PKK terrorists to use northern Iraq as a
safe haven.  Turkish causalities are still occurring,
however, and an increasing proportion are from IEDs.  Due to
pressure on Chief of Staff General Basbug and the Turkish
General Staff (TGS) to “finish off” the PKK this year, the
government wants and has requested direct U.S. kinetic action
against the PKK; we have refused this request to date due to
our own rules of engagement.  The GOT has also requested the
sale of armed MQ-9/Reaper UAVs, which will be a challenge to
fulfill (see para 10).

Northern Iraq
————–

¶8. (C) Turkey will not consider any alternative to the
political  unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, but has
become more flexible on how it engages “the local authorities
of northern Iraq” (how Turkey refers officially to the
Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)).  Turkey’s policy remains
focused on the government in Baghdad, but its outreach to the
KRG is expanding.  This outreach is reinforced by the
continued dominance of Turkish products and investments in
the KRG’s healthy economy.  It is also tied to turkey’s new
opening to its own Kurds, by far the biggest and most
controversial domestic political issue here.

¶9. (S) The U.S.-Turkey-Iraq Tripartite Security talks
continue regularly and a new Tripartite operational office in
Erbil, established to share counter-PKK intelligence was
established over the summer.  The Turks remain shy to share
data; they are not convinced that they can trust
Iraqi/Kurdish individuals to keep information concerning
operations secret.  Nevertheless, it is a step in the right
direction.  Turkish military officials have become more
strident in their calls for KRG officials to take action
against the PKK.

U.S. Drawdown through Turkey
—————————–

¶10. (S) Habur Gate and the Incirlik Cargo Hub — vital to our
sustainment operations — could be helpful in our drawdown if
other options prove too difficult.  Minister of National
Defense Vedci Gonul suggested to Secretary Gates in June that
Turkey was ready to agree to the increased use of Incirlik
for this purpose.  Using the surface route from Habur Gate to
Mediterranean ports (Iskenderun, Mersin) is also worth
exploring, and we may be able to involve Turkish commercial
shippers in support of the Northern Distribution Network.  We
caution that the rough terrain, security environment, and the
cantankerous nature of the Turkish government bureaucracy
will challenge any U.S. operation.  Nevertheless, we are
evaluating these options in cooperation with CENTCOM and
EUCOM partners.

Iran
——

¶11. (C) Turkey understands and partially shares U.S. and
international concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but is
hesitant to use harsh language in public statements, in part
due to its dependence on Iran as an energy supplier and as a
trade route to Central Asian markets.  PM Erdogan himself is
a particularly vocal skeptic of the U.S. position.  Turkey
believes international pressure against Iran only helps to
strengthen Ahmadinejad and the hard-liners.  However, it
continues to press Iran quietly to accept the P5 plus 1
offer.  The GOT is a strong partner in our non-proliferation
efforts, with several significant results.  Politically,
Turkey will try to position itself on Iran between wherever
we are and where Russia is.  In a pinch or if pressed, the
Turks will slant to us.

UAVs and Attack Helicopters
—————————-

¶12. (C) Turkey seeks to acquire, on an urgent basis, its own
UAV capability.  The administration has made clear at high
levels that we support this goal, and Turkey has pending
request to acquire armed Reaper UAVs.  Ultimate approval for
armed Reapers is complicated due to MTCR obligations and Hill
concerns.  However, even if those could be overcome, the
delivery pipeline for these systems is long, and Turkey’s
leaders have sought reassurance that we will not pull our
intelligence support until they can replace it.  We have not
made this commitment to date.

¶13. (C) Additionally, bad procurement decisions led Turkey to
a severe shortage of attack helicopters, desperately needed
for its fight against the PKK  Turkey has looked to us to
help them bridge the capability gap, asking to purchase
additional AH-1W Super Cobra aircraft.  These aircraft are in
short supply in our own inventory, but Secretary Gates and
VCJCS Cartwright have promised to try to support with request
within a few years (four each in 2011, 2012, and 2013).  The
Turks took this as an affirmative, and recently started
pressing for delivery in 2010 instead of 2011.

Afghanistan/Pakistan
———————-

¶14. (C) Turkey has commanded ISAF twice since its inception
and will take command of RC-Capital this November. Turkey
leads PRT Wardak and plans to open a second PRT in Jawzjan in
early 2010.  Turkey has sponsored the “Ankara Process”
dialogue, one of several efforts to encourage constructive
communications between Kabul and Islamabad and is a leading
participant in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan.  Turkey
pledged significant aid to both countries:  USD 200 million
to Afghanistan and USD 100 million to Pakistan.  Because of
its culture, history and religious orientation, as well as
Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s strategic ambition, Turkey is
well disposed to act as an agent of the international
community’s goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Constraining
Turkey’s potential is a lack of resources.  Our conversations
with Turkish interlocutors have helped us identify several
areas in which Turkey can be of particular help:  education
and health, military training and support, economics,
counter-narcotics, and trilateral engagement.  (Note:  Turkey
will not support any CT operations in Afghanistan.  They do
not believe there is a NATO/ISAF mandate to engage in these
operations, and they additionally have national caveats
preventing them from participating in NATO/ISAF CT
operations.  The GOT also believes that ISAF should not/not
be engaged in the counter-narcotics fight, believing that
foreign fighters who engage in this fight just produces
antipathy against foreign forces in the local population.  I
do, however, believe the GOT are willing to engage the
training of Afghan security forces.)

Caucasus
——–

¶15. (C) Turkey seeks to develop itself as a regional power
and recognizes that the Caucasus region, stymied in its
growth by frozen conflicts, could turn to Turkey for develop.
The signing of the Protocol document in Zurich on October 10
was a landmark for the region, and should serve as a starting
point for establishing bilateral relations and, ultimately,
the opening of its closed border.  Nevertheless, future
relations will still be heavily linked to the 1915 “genocide”
issue and the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  Turkey consistently warns
that any U.S. determination of the events of 1915 as
“genocide” would set off a political firestorm in Turkey, and
the devastating effect on our bilateral relationship —
including political, military, and commercial aspects —
would be unavoidable.

Political Environment
———————-

¶16. (C) PM Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning Justice and Development
(AK) Party is squarely in the driver’s seat, but fears an
erosion of its political base from more conservative/Islamist
parties.  Civilian-military relations remain complex.  Chief
of Staff General Basbug has worked out a modus vivendi with
PM Erdogan, but the long-running struggle between Turkey’s
secularists (with the Army as its champion) and Islamists
(represented by the government) naturally puts them at odds.
Erdogan has the clear upper hand, a fact with which Basbug
has seemingly learned to live.  Alleged past military
involvement in coup contingency planning or even deliberate
generation of internal chaos remains political theme number
one and preoccupies both Erdogan and Basbug and their
respective underlings.

Israel
——-

¶17. (C) While the Foreign Ministry and the Turkish General
Staff agree with us that a strong Turkey-Israel relationship
is essential for regional stability, PM Erdogan has sought to
shore up his domestic right political flank at the expense of
this relationship.  His outburst at Davos was the first in a
series of events the results of which we and his staff have
sought to contain.  The latest of these was Exercise
Anatolian Eagle.  Erdogan canceled Israel’s participation
hours before the exercise was to begin.  With an Israeli
strike – across Turkish airspace – against targets in Iran a
possibility, Erdogan decided he could not afford the
political risk of being accused of training the forces which
would carry out such a raid.  Through some remarkable work
with Allies and with the inter-agency, we engineered a public
“postponement” of the international portion of the exercise,
but the relationship has begun to sour.

JEFFREY

“Visit Ankara’s Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s
gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey”

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