FETHIYE, TURKEY—Arriving to a Turkish friend’s house in the middle of last evening’s public television newscast, I was given a recap of national accomplishments reported thus far. According to Mehmet these included:
- Turkish qualification to the final round of the Eurovision Song Contest.
- Turkish emancipation of the Gaza Strip.
- Turkish defiance of U.S. attempts to monopolize the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The premature claim of Gazan emancipation was, it turned out, a result of Mehmet’s misinterpretation of news footage of a port scene comprising the Mavi Marmara, a critical Turkish component of the Freedom Flotilla currently attempting to break the siege of Gaza. The timeline was rectified when Mehmet accepted that Gaza would presumably not be in such dire need of help if it resembled the Turkish port of Antalya, and that the Turkish flag was perhaps not the predominant feature of the contemporary Gazan landscape.
As for defiance of the U.S. on issues of nuclear proliferation, Mehmet cited the nuclear fuel swap with Iran brokered by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in order to defuse concerns over Iranian uranium-related schemes. He denied the presence at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, however, of an estimated 90 B61 gravity bombs belonging to the country that was supposedly being defied.
According to an April article in the English-language daily Today’s Zaman, “[t]he existence of the [U.S.] nuclear arsenal on Turkish soil has neither been debated by the Turkish Parliament nor has there been much public awareness of the topic.” The lack of awareness is potentially underscored by the April publication in the same newspaper of an article entitled “Turkish PM does not want any country to have nukes,” which fails to mention the U.S. arsenal; as for other historically-downplayed U.S. weaponry, the installation of Jupiter missiles on Turkish soil predated Soviet construction of missile bases in Cuba.
Ambiguity over present-day cause and effect relationships in the area of weapons proliferation is resolved by The New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, whose previous clarifications have included establishing the culpability of Hummer owners in the Fallujah deaths of their neighbors’ sons, whose funerals the drivers then disingenuously attend in between stopping at gas stations—none of which impedes Friedman’s ability to ride around Budapest in a limo.
In his latest dispatch, Friedman implies that Erdoğan and Lula have pursued the fuel swap deal with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a means of congratulating him for executing members of the political opposition in Iran, among other exploits, and in order to challenge U.S. power by permitting Iran to continue its bomb programs under the guise of the swap agreement. Not factoring into Friedman’s clarification is that it is clearly not in Turkey’s interest to risk Iranian nuclear capabilities given the possibility that future military confrontations in the region will involve symbols of U.S. power stockpiled at Incirlik.