Thursday, November 26, 2009

Democratic Reform Process, EU Accession “Closely Linked”

The European Union praised Turkey’s efforts to grant its citizens of Kurdish origin more rights and to end the decades-old terror problem, linking it with the candidate country’s aspirations to join the union.

"The reform process in Turkey and the accession process are closely linked to each other," EU term president Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said during annual Turkey-EU Troika meeting in Istanbul. Bildt also praised the Turkish government’s pro-active foreign policy, especially in its region. “We appreciate the active Turkish role in foreign policy,” said Bildt.

The highest forum for political dialogue between the EU and Turkey convened Thursday with the participation of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış, the EU’s next term president, Spanish minister Diego Lopez Garrido, and EU representative in Ankara, Marc Pierini. EU Commissioner Olli Rehn could not make it to the meetings today.

Bildt has renewed the EU’s call for Turkey to open its ports and airspace to Greek Cyprus, but Davutoğlu said the issue would be addressed after a solution to the division of the island is reached.

Challenged by reporters over Turkey’s growing ties with Iran, Davutoğlu said that “all countries should be in a position to carry out” peaceful nuclear programs and that he wished to see “Iran better integrated with the world,” something he believes Turkey’s recent efforts will achieve.

Bildt supported Davutoglu’s statements, saying that “we do need to engage with Iran,” and that all countries have the “right to peaceful nuclear activities.”

Speaking on negative signals from the EU regarding Turkey’s EU accession process, Davutoglu said that the EU needs to “break down the Berlin wall that exists in the minds of people, not just politically, but socially and culturally”

“We will hopefully see the chapter on the environment open in December,” said Bağış. .

Diego Lopez Garrido, Secretary of State for the EU, expressed hopes for progress on Turkey’s EU accession while challenging Turkey to do more.

“Its clear that Spain is a country that believes in the accession process,” said Garrido, but “it depends on the political will. We have the political will…It depends mainly on the Turkish side.”

Asked how many negotiation chapters Garrido hopes will open under Spain’s EU presidency, he refused to give a definite answer, saying, “We can’t give a number now, because it’s not a question of mathematics.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkish University Awards Nobel Prize Winner Honorary Doctorate

Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Oscar Arias Sanchez was awarded an honorary doctorate from Bahçeşehir University on Tuesday in recognition of his personal achievements toward creating peace.

His speech was preceded by the signing of an agreement of cooperation between Bahçeşehir University and Costa Rica’s University of Peace to create a new Center for Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies in Istanbul.

Sanchez spoke to an audience of professors, deans, students and members of the press about the challenges of creating peace in the world and the specific need to focus on students. “Preparing students who not only understand what peace and freedom mean but also live these values in action should be the goal of every teacher and every classroom,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez also took the opportunity to promote global initiatives for peace that he is working on, including the Arms Trade Treaty, currently under consideration at the United Nations, which aims to regulate the flow of arms through trade.

“The destructive power of the 640 million small arms and light weapons in the world, 74 percent in the hands of civilians, is one of the primary threats to our shared security,” Sanchez said. “We must ensure that this treaty reaches the end of the journey it has begun.”

Offering Costa Rica as an example, Sanchez said in 1948 his country was the first in history to voluntarily abolish its army. He compared this with Atatürk’s vision, citing his quotation, “Yurtta barış, dünyada barış,” or, “Peace at home, peace in the world.”

Sanchez also spoke of his hopes for the future, announcing his dreams in bold, declarative phrases: “Victory of tolerance over cruelty. Victory of wisdom over violence. Victory of peace in our time.”

Turkish President Abdullah Gül welcomed his Costa Rican counterpart Oscar Arias in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Wednesday. Gül received Arias with full military honors at the Çankaya Presidential Residence. The two leaders are set to hold a tete-a-tete meeting before appearing at a joint press conference later on.

Transatlantic Academic Cooperation

The rector of the University of Peace, John J. Maresca, spoke briefly of his hopes for the new joint initiative between his university and Bahçeşehir. “We believe in peace, we believe it can be built,” said Maresca.

Article 2 of the agreement signed between the two universities outlines steps that will be taken to enhance cooperation. It includes student exchange, visiting professor exchange, joint research projects and the establishment of the Center for Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies, the details of which will be worked out between the University of Peace’s International Law and Human Rights Program and Bahçeşehir’s Faculty of Law.

Bahçeşehir University Vice President Erol Sezer told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that programs for student exchange can be put into practice very quickly. Five places at the University of Peace have already been reserved for Bahçeşehir exchange students with the signing of today’s agreement.

“The Center for Conflict Resolution can be established in the very near future because it is in our interest and we have experts like Vamık Volkan,” Sezer said. “Bahçeşehir would be a perfect place to establish such a center.”

Sezer hoped that a few international relations graduate students or law school graduates would take advantage of the program beginning next year. Costa Rican students from the University of Peace will also be able to take advantage of the program starting next year.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Israeli Trade Minister to Arrive in Turkey

Israel’s minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, is set to arrive in Turkey today for the annual Turkish-Israeli Economic Conference. He will hold talks with both the Turkish Agricultural Minister, Mehdi Eker, and Defense Minister, Vecdi Gonul.

Diplomatic tensions between the two countries have risen in the last few months following a host of spats. Turkey voiced its objections over Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last year, the most conspicuous of which was seen in January when Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan’s walked out of a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos after a disagreement with Israeli President Shimon Peres. In October, a joint military operation in Turkey, codenamed Anatolian Eagle, was cancelled, reportedly because Turkish officials had asked Israel not to participate. In the same month, a Turkish television show called “Ayrilik” caused an uproar in Israel after it portrayed Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian children.

Ben-Eliezer’s visit will be the first official visit to Turkey by an Israeli Minister since the events in October. Eliezer was the only Israeli official to attend a dinner at the Turkish Embassy for the celebrations of Turkey’s Republic Day.

Commenting on the upcoming visit, the Chairman of the Turkish chapter of the Turkish-Israeli Business Council, Ekrem Guvendiren, expressed his hopes.

“I am optimistic,” said Guvendiren. “It will go very well indeed. There is no reason it shouldn’t.”

Despite the recent diplomatic speed bumps, Guvendiren insists that trade between the countries has not suffered. He said that between 2007 and 2008, both trade and investment between the two countries had increased and that numbers for this year suggest it will rise even higher.

“Trade between the two countries were not affected by the [diplomatic] strain,” said Guvendiren. However, he admits that tourism from Israel to Turkey has fallen 40% in the wake of deteriorating bilateral ties.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, also commented on Ben-Eliezer’s trip, telling the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, that Eliezer’s “trip to Turkey is... an important trip, but has not been agreed upon by the Foreign Ministry.” Commenting on speculation that one of the goals of the visit is to discuss Turkey resuming its role as a mediator for talks between Israel and Syria, Lieberman said that “after all of Turkey's insults and tongue-lashing against Israel, they can't be a mediator”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Islamic Leaders Pledge Economic Cooperation

A piece of mine as published in Hurriyet Daily News- photos were not included in original publication:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gathering in Istanbul on Monday, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC’s, heads of state discussed economic cooperation during the world’s worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

In his opening statements, President Abdullah Gül urged leaders to sign the trade preferential system, or TPS-OIC. “I call upon the distinguished heads of state to once again precipitate the finalization of the signing and ratification process,” he said.

Four countries have so far ratified the proposed TPS-OIC, although at least six more must sign for the measure to pass.

Gül reiterated his support for increasing OIC cooperation, saying, “Turkey’s foreign trade volume with OIC countries increased fivefold during the last eight years. I would like to renew our resolve to maintain this trend.”

Furthermore, Gül said the important commercial and economic relations Turkey has with both the West and the Islamic world are not contradictory.

“The European Union accession process and our participation in the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the OIC support each other,” he said.

Gül offered his congratulations to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai on his recent election victory and pledged to continue economic support for the war-torn nation.

Karzai requested more support from fellow OIC nations, asking them to “open up markets to Afghan products.” He said the OIC’s 550-million-strong workforce was the organization’s strength.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, stressed the economic failures of capitalism and criticized Western financial systems based on “usury,” urging instead a new economic order based on Islamic models.

“The world, the planet, could witness the positive ramifications of a political system that is based on divine teachings,” he said.

Saturday’s OIC ministerial meetings proposed several other structural measures to facilitate economic cooperation. A report by the OIC’s research council proposed the establishment of an OIC commodities market to be based in Istanbul, Cairo or Dubai. The report also discussed the October agreements between OIC countries that called for the creation of a “Central Banks Association” that would hold annual meetings as well as a chairmanship based on a rotating “troika” system.

Monday, November 9, 2009

TOBB, IDB vow closer cooperation

I have a new piece in the Hurriyet Daily News, here is the article and some pictures that were not published to go with them:

Sunday, November 8, 2009
Fadil Aliriza
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

The head of Turkey’s Union of Chamber and Commodity Exchanges, or TOBB, met with the head of the Islamic Development Bank, or IDB, on Saturday to announce future cooperation plans.

Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, head of TOBB, pledged to increase joint projects, of which two were completed last year, to a total of six.

“We believe that we will do important work, beneficial work for the Islamic communities,” Hisarcıklıoğlu said

This cooperation follows the memorandum of understanding signed between the two organizations in Jeddah on Feb. 5.

Ahmed Muhammad Ali, head of the IDB, said he was grateful for the continued cooperation between the two organizations, telling his counterpart, “You are helping the IDB to achieve its goal and its mission.”

The projects outlined by Hisarcıklıoğlu focus on investments in Africa and the Middle East, including a “capacity-building program for Iranian chambers [of commerce] and knowledge-sharing of Turkey’s economic development progress.”

The regional, private sector and economic integration policy signaled by TOBB on Saturday comes on the heels of important diplomatic agreements between Turkey and Iran, including a large bilateral deal on natural gas transit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to arrive Monday for the OIC conference.

The Turkish government has a 7.7 percent stake in the IDB, while the IDB’s current operations in Turkey stand at $1.6 billion.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of Saturday’s meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s, or OIC, Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation, COMCEC. Ministerial meetings at the COMCEC conference looked at other broader issues affecting OIC countries, including the food crisis, the financial crisis and energy cooperation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Turkey's Foreign Policy Shifts

Istanbul, October 21-

At a conference in Istanbul, Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan spoke on Monday about the lead role he envisions Turkey taking in the Middle East.

“It is imperative to establish a new global order,” Erdogan said at the istanbul forum, a 2 day conference which brought policy makers and analysts from both the Middle East and the West to discuss regional issues.

“Turkey has a major role to play in the region,” said Erdogan. His soaring rhetoric, which vacillated between that of peacemaker and populist, appeared to place Turkey at the head of a new global power structure as “a shining star of this world.”

Responding to coverage of the diplomatic fraying between his country and Israel in recent months, Erdogan parried that “not everyone" in the region "has to feel trust for us.” This contrasts with his government's stated goal of acting as honest broker and once again hosting talks between Israel and Syria. Earlier talks broke down with the start of the 2008 Israel-Gaza War.

Relations between Turkey and Israel, which had always been strong, have begun to deteriorate. In the wake of the 2008 assault on Gaza, Turkey became an outspoken critic of Israel, particularly over the high number of civilian casualties which occurred during the conflict. In January, Erdogan walked out of a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland after a dispute with Israeli President Shimon Peres over the Gaza War. Tensions have risen in recent days following the cancellation of a joint NATO military operation, where Turkey reportedly had chosen to exclude Israel, prompting the U.S and other NATO members to withdraw. Despite official statements from all sides that the cancellation was due to technical problems, both Prime Minister Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have suggested in subsequent press conferences that the cancellation was in response to disagreements over the 2008 Gaza assault.

Congressman Robert Wexler, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe and an outspoken supporter of Israel, responded directly to the Prime Minister’s foreign policy program in a panel discussion at the istanbul forum.

“Why is it that warmer relations with Syria, why is it the new relationship with Iran, why is it that a more prominent Turkey has to, it seems, come at the expense of Turkey’s relationship with Israel?” said Wexler.

Ibrahim Kalin, foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Erdogan, countered Wexler in the panel and claimed that there was no black and white alignment into which Turkish foreign policy must fall. He went on to say that “you cannot have security of Israel at the expense of the security of Palestinians.”

Tension at the forum seemed to crescendo when Jamal Zahalka, an Arab member of the Knesset, viciously attacked President Obama’s approach to Middle East Peace, stating that “the main obstacle for any settlement in the Middle East is the American Policy,” citing Obama’s commitment to “unbreakable” relations between America and Israel, regardless of changes in Israeli policy.

The conference was sponsored by the German Marshall Fund, Stratim, and SETA (The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research) whose contributors often include members of Turkey's governing AK party.

Today, the American and Israeli militaries began joint exercises of the annual Juniper Cobra. This year, it is reported that the exercises will simulate possible missile attacks on Israel, presumably as a response to fears of Iranian nuclear ambitions. Turkey currently enjoys warm relations with Iran.

Friday, October 9, 2009

New Greek Prime Minister Arrives in Turkey

The newly elected Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou of the Greek Socialist party (PASOK), arrived in Turkey today on his first foreign visit. Mr. Papandreou also has the role of Foreign Minister and was greeted by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the airport. He is scheduled to meet with his other counterpart, Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan, later in the day.

"This is a very significant visit" said Davutoglu. "It shows the significance that [Mr. Papandreou] attributes to relations with Turkey."

Mr. Davutoglu said that Mr. Papandreou reiterated his support for Turkey's EU accession and that he is hopeful that there will be progress towards finding a solution to the Cyprus issue. He notes that the visit reinforces that this is a "period of peace" for Turkey. However, he hinted at possible conflict with his Greek counterpart when he noted that despite Turkey's commitment to finding a solution for the divided island, "we do not see the same commitment on the Greek side."

The Ministers attended a nearly three hour long meeting of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), of which Turkey currently holds the chair. The SEECP seeks to improve regional integration, particularly on energy, infrastructure, trade liberalization and the promotion of investments.

Both the Turkish Foreign Minister and the next-in-line chair of the SEECP, Milan Rocen, stressed that regional cooperation was, in the words of Rocen, "the fastest way to European and Atlantic integration."

While Turkey is set to sign a set of protocol with Armenia tomorrow that will attempt to normalize relations between the two countries, Mr. Davutoglu gave no new comments on the matter. He said rather, that he will focusing on the Balkans next week after he returns from trips to Damascus and Baghdad.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Post IMF protests

October 6-

Mass protests against the IMF and Worldbank took place this morning in Taksim Square. In the afternoon, there are still occasional skirmishes. Tear gas lingers in the air, red paint trickles down the trolley tracks after police had thrown it on protestors in order to identify them. The policeman pictured to the left, holding a tear gas gun in his left hand and wearing his gas mask on his head, is walking back to a temporary police rally point after a scuffle not far from the Mosque on Istiklal Caddesi.

Several shopwindows are smashed and graffiti is tagged on the main street saying "IMF DEFOL", or "IMF Go Away." Police are still posted at key points around the city in case of additional violence. Throughout the afternoon helicopters make sorties over the area, and different tributary streets of Istiklal are infrequently plagued by tear gas and protesting.

A police barricade set up in Elmadag, halfway between Taksim Square and the site of the IMF meetings less than half a mile away.

Police standing next to one of the armored vehicles used to spray high powered water on protestors.

Police set up a barricade around Taksim Square behind which they keep a fleet of patrol cars and armored vehicles.

At the mosque on Istiklal police remain ready for further confrontations.

A green armored car quickly paves its way through the busy street.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Istanbul Sketch

Istanbul, Oct-3:

On Saturday, several small press conferences were held at the annual IMF/Worldbank meetings. Three separate conferences targeted specific regions, Europe, Central Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and consisted of IMF officials prescribing economic medicine to reporters from their home countries.

A press conference for the G-24, an organization of developing countries that predates the G-7 failed to attract more than a dozen journalists and two unmanned cameras. Two of its very own panelists failed to turn up for the conference, despite the moderator’s insistence that they would show up soon.

The only exciting moment came when, failing to draw more than two questions from the reporters gathered, the Brazilian representative, Rogerio Studart, took it upon himself to add some commentary. Much his speech was international economic cooperation pablum. However, at the end, he seemed to suggest that the G-20 accept a representative from the G-24. Pushed by a reporter if he meant to call for the creation of a G-21, the Brazilian backed off. However, his counterpart Amar Bhattacharya piped up and said that it was an “efficient way to make the G-20 inclusive”

All this G-confusion led the U.S Secretary of Treasury, Timothy Giethner to announce at his press conference at night “no G-innovations,” and “no more!” G-questions after repeated queries from reporters.

Geithner’s press conference was by far the most frustrating for the gathered reporters. He was the first speaker of the day to use the podium, refusing to sit down. He was the first to appear on stage by himself. He was the first, and probably the only one at the meetings, to speak in the absence of translators. With his knuckles clenching the sides of his podium turning white, sweat glistening on his upper lip, Secretary Geithner marched through his prepared statement, adding the occasional flourish to the text to appear more down to earth, more like the common man, someone you can relate to.

Journalists didn’t bother to introduce themselves before asking questions. Dutifully, the gathered press posed questions and received no answers. Some questions highlighted contradictions in the Administration’s rhetoric, for example the desire to simultaneously keep a strong dollar and for trade balances to come together. Geithner obliged those gathered in weaving the rhetoric together without any apparent contradiction, or synthesis for that matter.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Preliminary IMF/Worldbank Meetings

Preliminary meetings were held yesterday in Istanbul on the eve of the IMF and World Bank annual meetings. Expectations are high for these leading international financial organizations bodies in the wake of the Pittsburgh G-20 summit and the continuing global economic downturn.

Global Economic Outlook

One day ahead of their annual meetings, the heads of the IMF and the World Bank said that despite positive developments in the global economy, their aim is to reinforce activist, stimulatory economic policies in the hopes that they will continue.

“We’ve broken the fall of the financial crisis,” said Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, in a morning press conference. Dominique Strauss Kahn, Managing Director of the IMF echoed Zoellick’s comments saying “The global economy has turned a corner.” However, both men acknowledged the long-term ramifications of the global recession. “Unemployment is going to continue going up, and it’s going to take a while to come down,” warned Zoellick.

The “long shadow” of unemployment, and the risk posed by a “premature withdrawal from the stimulus”, according to Kahn, require that countries maintain their current level of economic cooperation and work towards improving financial stability through better regulation.

Kahn sees the economic crisis as a mandate for greater IMF power, noting that “this annual meeting may be the start of a new IMF,” one that plays a lead role in this “defining moment in global governance.” In contrast, Zoellick believes that the legacy of this crisis will be “changed economic power relations,” a multi-polar economy that “will be more stable.”

IMF loan to Turkey

Turkey is hosting the meetings for a second time since the annual meetings began, a first for any country outside the United States. Looming over the conference is a potential IMF loan to Turkey, which has become a highly politicized issue.

Although the GDP is down, the public debt has risen sharply along with unemployment in Turkey since the financial crisis took hold. On September 26, Prime Minister Erdogan reinforced previous messages from his government to the IMF, reiterating that there should be no political conditions attached to a loan to Turkey. Economy Minister Ali Babacan, who unveiled Turkey’s medium-range economic plan on September 16, has been arguing that the Turkish economy is doing well without any IMF assistance.

“The Turkish banking system is sound,” Babacan reiterated today in his own press conference shortly after Kahn made his remarks.

Babacan argued that the global downturn has not deeply affected Turkey, and that Turkey was not in a “crisis psychology” because it “did not have any uncertainty in its financial structure”.

The Turkish minister refused to comment on a possible IMF loan, stating that negotiations have been suspended for the duration of the meetings.

Kahn also avoided the issue by saying “The Turkish economy is doing rather well. I’m happy with what’s going on in this country.” According to Kahn, the IMF is “not looking for customers” but was ready to help Turkey if it showed a need for economic assistance.

Istanbul Financial Center Project

Babacan used his press conference to promote a plan that the government is calling the “Istanbul Financial Center Project.” The move aims to capitalize on what Babacan sees as the shift of economic power from west to east. Accordingly, he sees Istanbul as an alternative financial center in the post-crisis climate.

A comprehensive report on the project is being produced by the Turkish Union of Banks. The plan, interestingly, calls for the expanded use of financial derivatives in Turkish markets at a time when many governments are calling for stricter regulations and oversight of complex financial products. Babacan justified the move by saying that this would allow Istanbul to “compete with other global financial centers.”

Five big Turkish unions rejected invitations to attend the IMF meetings to protest IMF political intervention.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

IMF comes to Istanbul

Istanbul is set to host the semiannual IMF and Worldbank meetings from October 4-7. Early preliminary meetings have begun to take place. Today the IMF presented its half-yearly Global Financial Stability Report, wherein it presented positive news about world economic recovery.

The meetings are being held Istanbul on Cumhurriyet Street between Taksim and Osmanbey, in the same complex as the Hilton hotel. Security can be seen all around downtown Istanbul.

Near Taksim, on Tarlabasi Street

Outside of the meetings

Even in Nisantasi, half a mile from the site, a public park was closed. Only bored policemen could be seen strolling within the confines they themselves had set up, sitting in benches across from busts of Ottoman rulers, and of course, Ataturk:

300 police are stationed around the area, but only about
100 people came out to demonstrate the meetings today. However, more are expected for the rest of the week and the weekend as the meetings continue. Five major labor unions rejected invitations from the IMF to attend.

The meetings come at a time when a possible IMF loan to Turkey looks like it may not take place. Ankara still has not signed on to the deal and last Saturday, Prime Minister Erdogan said that the IMF should not put any political conditions on a loan to Turkey. Others in the government have said that they don't need an IMF loan and that Turkey is performing well in the current global economic downturn. Economy minister Ali Babacan put forward a rather modest medium-term economic proposal on September 16th that intends to tackle public spending starting in 2011. The reasoning, Babacan said, was that a "premature exit from stimulus packages may risk the recovery." Many foreign observers view the proposal positively, although, it may have ultimately backfired as IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn said on September 20th that "there are no indications that Turkey's economy needs help for now. If in the future Turkey needs IMF help we will be happy to provide that."

Monday, September 14, 2009

U.S - Iranian policy and the Turkish factor

News Analysis

On Friday, the Obama administration notified Congress of a possible sale of missiles to Turkey, worth $7.8 billion. Two major reasons have been identified as motivating this deal. First, predictably, is to gain business from Turkey, which is also looking at potential missile purchases from Russian and Chinese arms manufacturers. However, the second reason is more interesting.

On July 26, speaking in Bangkok, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment, that if the United States extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon.

In line with this notion of a "defense umbrella", other large American arms deals in the region have been announced, including a "$220 million artillery rocket sale to Jordan and a possible $187 million sale of F-16 fighter-carried weapons to Morocco".

Of course, it is not clear that this approach is set policy. In fact, very little of the U.S policy is clearly defined. Questioned on Meet the Press, by David Gregory on her use of the term "defense umbrella" and overall U.S policy towards Iran, Mrs. Clinton went back and forth:

SEC'Y CLINTON: ...First, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent you from ever getting a nuclear weapon. But your pursuit is futile, because we will never let Iran–nuclear-armed, not nuclear-armed, it is something that we view with great concern, and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to prevent that from ever happening.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but let’s be specific. Are you talking about a nuclear umbrella?

SEC’Y CLINTON: We, we are, we are not talking in specifics, David, because, you know, that would come later, if at all. You know, my view is you hope for the best, you plan for the worst. Our hope is–that’s why we’re engaged in the president’s policy of engagement toward Iran–is that Iran will understand why it is in their interest to go along with the consensus of the international community

In the same program the Secretary (simultaneously) suggested pursuing diplomatic engagement, preventing nuclear weaponization at all costs ("we're going to do everything we can"), and a nuclear umbrella strategy. All three approaches are complicated by the Iranian government's lack of legitimacy after the disputed election as well as increasing pressure on the U.S from Israel's right-leaning government to take strong action on Iran.

However, with regards to the idea of a nuclear umbrella and its possible connection to the recent announcements of arms deals in the region, there is an additional problem. The missile sales were announced last Friday. On Sunday, Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu was in Iran. In addition to the impressive growth in bilateral trade, (estimated at $11 billion in 2008), relations between the two countries seems to be at a high point in other areas. According to the Tehran Times, Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mouttaki called the relations between his country and Turkey "strategic and comprehensive". At their meeting, the two ministers committed themselves to cooperating against Kurdish terrorists in Northern Iraq, implying a degree of military cooperation. Such cooperation between Turkey and Iran would surely hinder any U.S attempt to use Turkey in a "nuclear umbrella" strategy against Iran. This is especially true as Turkey believes that, according to Davutoglu quoted by the Tehran Times: "Access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes is the right of all nations, including Iran" .

If Turkey is unlikely to take part in a U.S attempt at a "nuclear umbrella", designed to mitigate the problem of a nuclear-armed Iran, would it participate in a U.S-led international attempt to squeeze Iran with additional sanctions should talks (if they ever occur) fail? According to the Fars News Agency, Mr. Davutoglu told his counterpart "All our attempts are aimed at campaigning against potential sanctions and removing the existing barriers so that Iran will not remain outside the regional and global economy". This is particularly important as Turkey currently holds a seat on the UN Security Council.

There is one avenue of potential cooperation amongst all parties according to the Turks. During his visit to Iran, Davutoglu offered to host G5 +1 (China, U.S, Russia, Britain, France + Germany) discussions with Iran on its nuclear program, praising Iran's recent package of proposals. However, Iran's new proposals have not been received with much enthusiasm either by the EU or the U.S. It is clear that Ankara and Washington are not on the same wavelength in the current, pre-talks phase of the elaborate diplomatic minuet. It remains to be seen whether they draw closer or drift further apart if engagement should fail.