A message from a former Arnold & Porter lawyer who represented the Turkish government in 1995.
Dear Embassy of Turkey —
In early 1995 as an associate lawyer at Arnold & Porter (I was later elected a partner, and eventually left practicing law in early 2006), I had the pleasure and honor of representing the Government of Turkey to defend against an effort by the Motion Picture Assn. of America to have certain U.S. government import and trade preferences taken away from Turkey to punish Turkey for alleged failures to enforce copyright protections over motion pictures — especially videotape sales. I had the pleasure of meeting two of your trade attachés in your embassy on Massachusetts Ave.
Shortly after I was brought into the case, your Prime Minister at the time, Ms. Tansu Çiller, visited Washington and met with President Clinton. President Clinton issued statements very supportive of Turkey, and I advised that in the trade dispute, our primary argument ought not to be on the complexities of the copyright law or on the details of video sales, but on the larger international political priorities of the U.S. government: that at a time when the President was praising Turkey and promoting close ties, his own Department of Commerce would be contradicting the President’s own broad policy if it were to take trade action against Turkey. It was at my initiative that we submitted and highlighted to the Commerce Dept. the President’s own official White House statement, which I obtained from the White House Press Office officially and authoritatively.
While I was not privy to the internal deliberations inside the Clinton Administration Commerce Dept., the fact is that the Commerce Dept. took no action against Turkey, denying the MPAA request.
Since that time I have always had fond feelings towards Turkey, although I cannot say that I have ever been there, nor have I ever represented any Turkish interest since then. Nor am I a Muslim (I am a mainstream U.S. Episcopalian). However, as a partner, on a pro bono basis, I represented the Boroumand Foundation (which you can find on-line) which provides educational resources for persons in (or interested in) Iran who wish to see that country become more democratic and peace-oriented.
I am contacting you today because the actions of the current Turkish government with respect to the Gaza fleet, and announced possible future actions of the current Turkish government, present the greatest threat of war in the Middle East since 1948. I hope that you can get my message through to the Ambassador and to proper persons in Ankara.
The entry of Turkey into the Palestine conflict is very significant — it is the first new open national ally that the proponents of violence have obtained since 1948 — in 62 years. This has happened for two major reasons, the loss of the Russian “stick” and of the European “carrot”:
(1) The weakness of Russia means that the Russian threat to Turkey, which is historical and based in geography (the Russian desire for warm-water ports) is the lowest it has been in about 150 years. Thus Turkey no longer feels the need to have a strong alliance with the U.S. This first manifested itself in the Iraq war when Turkey prevented transit of our planned northern invasion army. Russia no longer threatens Turkey with its “stick.”
(2) The rejection by the European Union of Turkey as a member. Turkey has been trying for many years to become a member, and Europe has always dallied and then said no. I do not say whether Europe had or had not good reasons for this; but it has become obvious that it will not allow Turkey in, for a good many years to come. This is the loss of the European “carrot.”
There is a third, more minor (at least I think more minor) reason, the loss of another “stick”:
(3) Greece has for centuries (ever since the Byzantine Empire) been the historic enemy of Turkey. But Greece today is very weak, wracked as it is by its debt crisis and the evident refusal of Germany, France, et al., to help Greece out of it. This is the loss of the Greek “stick.”
The Obama Administration’s anti-Jewish (and I do mean anti-Jewish, not just anti-Israel) words and policies (I would like to see President Obama bow to the Prime Minister of Israel to balance-out his bow to the King of Saudi Arabia) has given the religiously-oriented government of Turkey the opening that has released it to pursue openly a state anti-Israel policy.
Had the Obama opening not been given, Turkey would not have acted, despite all the other changes (items 1, 2, and 3 above) that made it easier for Turkey to act.
I have been following the Israel-Palestine issue since 1974 when as a student at Pomona College, I participated in the “Model United Nations – Far West” program. In 1973 the PLO had made a big push to be admitted to the UN as a member state, and the organizers of the Model UN Far West decided that to reflect this, a college participating in the Model UN Far West would be asked to “represent” the PLO. Pomona was the college chosen, and I volunteered to be a member of the PLO delegation, and was assigned as the PLO representative on the Special Committee for Refugees. It was in this context that I first undertook to research the political and sociological and legal and religious history of this dispute.
In my opinion we are now on the verge of the most dangerous threat of war in that region since 1948. Turkey’s open entry, combined with the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and with Iran under a violence-oriented government as it is, present a far greater threat than ever before, even if Egypt sits on the sidelines — and it probably will not just sit, as things heat up.
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